Say what you will about Donald Trump, he runs a pretty good pageant. I didn’t live-blog tonight’s Miss Universe show, but I kept notes as it went along, and so what follows are my impressions as the event unfolded. With a lot of stuff left out, like how mediocre the music was, and who in the world are the judges, anyway? So here goes:
There are always some contestants who look more impressive in the flesh than in photographs (and vice versa). When the contestants all came out at the beginning, in swimsuits, two of them struck me: Miss Kosovo, who unbeknownst to me had already been named Miss Photogenic, and Miss Philippines. Since we haven’t pictured them before, here they are. Miss Kosovo:
And Miss Philippines:
When Miss Venezuela came out, she looked like the winner. She made a gesture to the crowd that I translated as, Now the party can begin! In case you have forgotten, here she is. Miss Venezuela is the one whose family owns a cocoa plantation, or a chocolate factory, or maybe both:
The pageant went quickly to the top sixteen, who actually were selected during the preliminary round last week, but not announced. They were Venezuela, Turkey, France, Peru, Russia, Mexico, Poland, Hungary, South Africa, Philippines, Croatia, Brazil, Kosovo, Australia, India and USA. As usually happens, a few of the betting favorites didn’t make it, including Miss Ecuador, who was rated number two by the bookmakers but about whom I expressed early skepticism. Also Miss Czech Republic, who was tied for third in the betting odds.
The swimsuit competition featuring the top 16 followed. Misses Venezuela, Philippines, Kosovo and Australia looked great, while the betting favorite, Miss South Africa, didn’t look quite as good as her photos, in my opinion.
Next they did the top ten, in evening gowns: Australia, Russia, Brazil, France, Venezuela, USA, Hungary, South Africa, Mexico, and the Philippines. Miss USA sported the dreaded “up” hairdo, which would have doomed her chances if the judges were men. Miss Venezuela looked like she was having a high old time; in fact, she looked as though she might have been high. But still, at that point, the favorite, I thought.
Finally the top five: Venezuela, Philippines, Australia, USA and Brazil. Now we came to the evening’s tensest moments, when the contestants are asked questions by the judges. I mumbled a prayer–please, God, no questions about gun control.
The question round often has a major impact on the competition, and I am convinced that happened tonight. First up was Miss Venezuela, and she got a question that could have gone down the gun control road: If you could make a new law, what would it be, and why? Miss Venezuela made, I am afraid, two errors. First, she undertook to answer in English, which was probably a mistake. Because she doesn’t really speak English. I mean, it’s better than my Spanish, but barely. That still would have been OK, probably, if she had given a politically correct answer. But beauty queens from Venezuela are nearly all conservatives because they have experienced Hugo Chavez firsthand. Her answer, to the extent that I could make it out, was that we already have too many laws and could do with fewer. She then went on to talk about surfing, at which she excels. I think it was about surfing, anyway.
The rest of the questions and answers were uneventful. Miss Philippines: Should speaking English be a prerequisite for being Miss Universe? Certainly not, she said, in perfect English. Miss Australia: What would you do if you were working as a model and someone told you to lose weight? Tell them to get stuffed (my paraphrase). Miss USA: What is something you have done that you would never do again? Let me begin by saying that we learn from all our experiences, good and bad… Miss Brazil: What do you say to people who disapprove of wearing bikinis in public? Are you kidding, I’m from Brazil! No, not really, she said that your character can shine through whether you are wearing an evening gown or a swimsuit.
So, with the exception of Miss Venezuela, ho hum.
They then announced the winners: 5th place, Miss Brazil; 4th place, Miss Australia, whom I picked to win the pageant; 3rd place, Miss Venezuela, who would have won, I am convinced, if she had talked about gun control in Spanish; 2nd place, Miss Philippines; and first place, Olivia Culpo, Miss USA.
Was it a home town decision? Yes, probably. That happens fairly often in pageantry. But I like Miss Culpo; for one thing, she is “only” 5′ 7″, so she makes the lineup look a little less like a basketball team. Here she is, just after being awarded the crown:
OK, one more: here is Donald Trump as Santa Claus; he opened the show–briefly!–in a Santa costume:
He may be a goof, but he’s our goof! And, as I said, he puts on a pretty good pageant.