Final Preview: Miss Universe 2014

The finale of the 2014 Miss Universe pageant is Sunday evening on NBC, at 8:00 Eastern, 7:00 Central. And no, that isn’t a typo. They must know it’s 2015, but this is indeed the 2014 Miss Universe pageant.

And a good one it has been. The contestants have been in Miami for the last three weeks engaging in a variety of activities, which are documented at the Miss Universe site. If you have somehow missed our prior posts on the pageant, we have featured some of our favorite contestants and covered the only political controversy to arise so far here, here, here and here. Why so much coverage? Two reasons: First, Miss Universe is now the premier international beauty pageant, by far, in part because, unlike Miss World, it retains the traditional swimsuit competition. Also, it excels in social media and marketing generally. Whether the fact that Donald Trump owns it is a plus or a minus is up to you. Second, whom would you rather write about, Barack Obama or Miss Puerto Rico? I rest my case.

You can actually waste quite a bit of time following the Miss Universe pageant. Not only can you look at photos of all of the contestants and a multitude of videos on the pageant’s site, you also can watch brief interviews with all of the contestants on YouTube. The preliminary evening gown and swimsuit competition was on Wednesday, and you can watch the whole thing here. It is around two hours long; the swimsuit portion starts about midway through.

You can also bet on the competition. I am not sure who does that, but the action seems to be pretty lively. And we have a news flash: there is a new betting favorite, supplanting the home country entrant, Miss USA. Miss Colombia, Paulina Vega, is now the favorite, at odds ranging from 2 1/2 to 5 to 1, which seem like awfully short odds for such a strong field. Here is Miss Colombia during the preliminary competition on Wednesday:

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Like a lot of Latin American beauty queens, Miss Vega is not exactly an underdog: she is the daughter of a cardiologist and the granddaughter of a famous tenor. Her grandmother was Miss Atlántico 1953. She has been a model since she was eight and speaks several languages. Nothing wrong with that, of course.

The next betting favorites are contestants we have already pictured and profiled: Miss USA, Miss Venezuela, Miss India. I don’t think we have pictured Miss Spain:

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By the way, if you have ever wondered: surgical enhancement is not against the rules of the major international beauty pageants.

Miss Philippines is the next favorite among bettors:

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Those are all terrific contestants, and probably one of them will win the crown. There are lots of other strong competitors. For example, Miss Czech Republic:

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Miss Angola has zoomed up the leader board and now sits at 24-1. I am not sure how serious a contender she is, but if they gave an award for most impressive physique, she might win it:

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This year, as is usually the case, my personal favorites are not among those preferred by bettors. What’s more, they haven’t changed since the first post I did on this year’s pageant. Miss Gabon, Maggaly Nguema–cutest entrant in this year’s pageant? I say yes. Plus, how can you not like someone who generally goes barefoot and campaigns for equal treatment for victims of leprosy?

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Then we have Miss Puerto Rico, Gabriela Berrios. In her official, glamorous pageant shots, she looks great, but pretty much like a generic beauty contestant:

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But if you check out her candid shots on Instagram, she is pretty angelic:

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One more:

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By the way: if you have never been to Puerto Rico? You should go.

And, finally, we have Miss Israel, Doron Matalon. She is a legitimate beauty queen but also a formidable character: she is a former assistant to the Commander of Israeli Central Command and has been pictured rock climbing as well as frolicking in Miami pools. Miss Matalon is a bit of a trouble-maker, having been involved in the pageant’s only political controversy. She published on her Instagram feed a photo of herself with, among others, Miss Lebanon. Consternation in the Arab world ensued. We wrote about that controversy here. Still, apart from anything else, Miss Matalon is a strong contender. Like Miss Puerto Rico, she is a master of social media and has made a big impression over the last few weeks:

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So there you have it. Tune in Sunday evening to see who wins the Miss Universe crown.

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