Miss Universe 2017 Review Pt.4

I thought of doing my Miss Universe review a bit earlier to cover a whole new range of issues and points that needs to be discussed. But I never thought that it would come up to four parts…

Pre-Pageant Activities – let’s face it, this is the part of the pageant that is a  dud! Now the problem with the Miss Universe 2017 edition is that it succeeds the 2016 edition within just months. Hence, the comparison is inevitable. One is held in January of this year and then 10 months later we get to see another girl being crowned Miss Universe. People saw the major activities made during the MU in Manila. Everyday, we see news of girls going somewhere for activities for the 65th edition. There is no point of comparison as most of the activities this MU2017 is held in-doors at the hotel. And there are no high-profile activities where the girls get to go around Nevada. Their farthest trip was perhaps within the Vegas Strip. It felt like this edition is too enclosed (kulob sa hotel) that some girls might feel trapped.
There was no Miss Universe after party as well. And we saw some candidates checking out the same evening as the pageant’s finals. Which all the more gave the feeling that this edition was rushed.

Preliminary & National Costume Show – this is the most humbling part of the pageant this year. While I do commend the MUOrg for trying to make the Mezzanine of the Planet Hollywood hotel into a make-shift stage, it was really an ugly stage. The lights was the most ‘challenging’ part, the bottom lit stage with not much overhead lights created unflattering photos of the girls. Unfortunately, this is the best that the MUOrg can do under such tight circumstances. With all the arenas & theaters booked for other acts there are no other location that they could use within Planet Hollywood. If they did venture out to other venues, they would have to pay an additional sum.

Photography and glamshots – the glamshot photos were mainly used on the MU app and weren’t circulated online. There is also a scarce source of photos on the Miss Universe Facebook page unlike the Trump years. And unlike in those years, all candidates didn’t get to be posted with their swimsuit, evening and glamshots on the MU page and social media sites. Any pageant should be very visible on Facebook/ Instagram as this is where pageant fans are.
Let’s not also forget to mention some of the fashions in the glamshots. Was is just me who thought that some of the dresses worn looked more like quinceneara dresses instead of glamorous gowns?  Even the opening dresses looked inexpensive, despite looking fabulous onstage.

This posts a major question: is the pageant loosing sponsorship money to do all these shoots? Or is this the direction of the new owners WME| IMG? Or perhaps the reason that the pageant is so eager for the Philippines to host it is because they can get more sponsors if the pageant is being held there? It is sad to say that perhaps Donald Trump maybe the best thing that happened to MU that added glamour and prestige into the pageant.
Thankfully, the candidate videos can be found on the MU website which allows pageant fans to get to know the girls closer. It may not have gone viral and shared multiple times over social media but it nonetheless is present.
Overall, I would be giving the pageant a 2 & 1/2 star rating out of a possible 5 stars. There were a lot of areas that could have gone better. The pageant’s saving graces were the finals telecast and the crowning of a deserving winner…

Miss Universe 2017 Review Pt.3

In this part of the review we will be discussing several points including some behind the scenes stuff that pageant fans might not be privy to.

Press Coverage – unlike the over saturation of news and updates of the 65th Miss Universe edition, the Las Vegas edition felt more austere. There was no press-junket this year. Which was a huge deviation from the previous years and is IMHO a major mistake by the org since this is the time where the press would publicize the pageant via their channels and publications. There was no red carpet for the rest of the media except for the MUO press/ photographers and the big networks in the US. This is quite saddening for online pageant media and other smaller publications. But this was the prerogative of the org. Perhaps, the time-table is too tight to accommodate everyone and they had to make do with cuts here and there.
Press attendance wasn’t as high as I have previously encountered. I still remember the MU pageant in Doral and Manila where mediamen are elbowing brushing against each other in tight spaces for the best angles. Press rooms were always packed. Had the Hawaii hosting pushed thru, the expenses to do coverage there would be even more expensive and there would be even less press.

Commentaries of Lu Sierra and Carson Kressley – while I am all up for the addition of the two for the final telecast, I thought it would have been safer to have Carson teamed up with a past Miss Universe. Don’t get me wrong I love Lu as much as every pageant fan, but her link to the MUOrg might overshadow being objective in her commentary. What she says could be deemed/ misinterpreted as what the MUOrg might be collectively thinking. So if she is favoring one candidate, others might interpret that the MUOrg is favoring that candidate simply because Lu is too identified with her role in the MUOrg. Other than that, I love the two faboosh pageant girls! Carson adds an image of high fashion while Lu has insights on the pageant itself.
I only have one suggestion though, get someone else to do the backstage correspondence, and get Carson and Ashley Graham together to provide the commentary. That would have been an explosive idea! Ashley is too high profile to do only backstage correspondence IMHO.

More to come tomorrow, so stay tuned!

Miss Universe 2017 Review Pt.2

As mentioned in previous post, there is a lot to cover this year despite to what feels like a rushed Miss Universe pageant in Las Vegas.

Continental Selection of Semi-finalists – I have a feeling that this “gimmick” will only last a year or two. Specially with the backlash that the pageant has received. What I do not like about this is how heavily unbalanced the groupings were with several weak Europeans making it into the list over girls like Misses Panama, Dominican Republic, Paraguay, Peru, Korea, Cambodia, Tanzania, and Mauritius. The selection seemed uneven as it left other more worthy competitors in favor of a more “equally diverse selection of semi-finalists“. This novelty in MU is something that Miss Earth and Miss Intercontinental has done more successfully in their pageants. Pageant fans of ME deem it as a copycat move by MU. The idea is good, the execution though is sloppy.

Another thing, why can’t the MU award the ladies that won Miss Congeniality and Best in National costume onstage as it used to? It was a disservice to Panama that she didn’t have her time at the limelight onstage just like Japan’s win for Best National Costume.
The Top 10 & Top 5 Finalists – IMHO I felt like Miss Philippines Rachel Peters should have been in the top 5, I thought she delivered in the evening gown competition. I believe that three strong communicators (Philippines, USA and Canada) were purposely left behind because it would spell doom for a couple of favorites. They would have definitely made it harder for the top 5 to make top 3.

I was glad that Jamaica’s Davina Bennett  made top 5 as she was the only black girl to be called. Davina was one of the strongest girls in the interviews and nailed it every time she spoke. The mulatta Keysi Sayago added variety in a decidedly Caucasian-looking top 5.  She added lots of energy and fire and I personally prefer her to make top 3 than Colombia.  Laura, however, delivered a stronger answer with conviction than Keysi that allowed her to take the lead. It was a disappointment to see Maria Poonlertlarp Ehren of Thailand to choke the Q&A. I thought that she had one of the easy questions that night which was quite similar to Maxine Medina’s question last MU in January. Demi-Leigh delivered a solid performance at the Q&A as expected.

Miss Universe Runners Upwhat is it about Jamaica that the MU doesn’t seem to give high placements to their girls despite performing well in the final Q&A? This happened with Yendi, Kaci and now Davina. I have no issues with Laura placing higher than Davina, though I believe that Davina delivered a much more meaningful, compassionate and heartfelt response to the question. And yes, there were boos because people in the theatre felt that she deserved to be in the top 2.

Guess what? The candidates split themselves in congratulating Demi versus Davina. Davine seemed to get the larger chunk of well-wishers. This is exactly the scenario in 2014 with Kasi Fennell. Davina was also given by the crowd a huge wave of cheers when she stood onstage for a moment. Now that is a queenly treatment! Seems like had the candidates been allowed to cast their votes for a winner, they would have hands down chosen Jamaica. That would have changed the game entirely and perhaps to Davina’s favor. IMHO, I believed that Jamaica should have ended with a top 2 finish.

I believe that the only reason perhaps that she ended up on 3rd place was because Laura and Demi were more “commercial and marketable” in terms of their beauty. Demi owned the night, and the multiple videos showcasing her was evidence of that. She delivered consistently throughout the evening but Davina and Laura gave her a run for her money.

Miss Universe 2017 Review Pt.1

The Miss Universe pageant has just finished several hours ago. And I have so many I wanted to cover and I wanted to start with the most obvious ones: the finals night!

The Show Production – this is the saving grace of the entire competition! Had it not for a fabulous finals night, it would have been one of the most forgettable editions. The stage was the same LED stage we have seen since 2015 and I am inclined that this will be the direction that the pageant will more forwards to. It’s cost efficient, easy logistics-wise, and the stage designers can come up with million new ideas. I just hope that pageant fans wouldn’t get tired and bored of this kind of stage in the future.
The performers were superb! Fergie and Rachel Platten did gave outstanding performances that night. The opening numbers I felt was dragging although it allowed me to get hundreds of shots. I felt that the music selection was okay since some of them has been used in another international pageant *coughmissearthcough*. The dancers were appropriate in the swimsuits though I don’t find them useful in the intro/ opening. They seemed to be just placed in the opening to maximize their pays. The 92 candidates would just be enough actually.

The pacing was quite good this year as we get to see a real feel of a competition. Thankfully they brought back the one by one pasarela of the girls unlike the horrendous groups of threes in the previous edition.
The Winner, Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters – don’t get me wrong, I love Demi-Leigh and she was actually my #1 pick for the title. But I felt that her victory was conveniently set-up with countless exposures during the finals (a couple of video interviews plus a backstage interview by Ashley Graham). We get it! She is supposedly/ rumored to be one of the  Miss Universe org’s favorites to win, you don’t have to shove it down our throats! Lols. Demi could win it on her own merits! Demi was gorgeous that night and she nailed every interview.

So the next time that the pageant is being held, it is so easy to point out now who is the org’s favorite, just look at who gets a huge chunk of airtime. They did this with Deshauna in USA 2016, Kara in USA 2017 and now Demi in Universe 2017. If the org doesn’t think we notice, well it has become a pattern. I think this is a disservice to Demi because it throws a bit of shade on her victory that she worked hard for. This is exactly what I have overheard on some fans talking about in the elevators going back to our hotel rooms. This is just like another deja vu of the controversy surrounding her win as Miss South Africa. And honestly, this girls needs to get a breather with all the controversies that surrounded her. Nevertheless, I expect a lot of good things coming out from Demi’s reign. I truly wish that she would have a more meaningful reign compared to Iris and that the Miss Universe org and owners set a meaningful reign for her.

There will be more to discuss so watch out for the next installments of Sashes&Scripts’ Miss Universe review.

The Questions Every Miss Universe Hopeful Have to Answer

These days, it is no longer enough to be beautiful and smart to become Miss Universe. Every pageant girl aspiring to conquer the title has to be more than just skin-deep pretty. You have to be someone with substance, one with a story to tell, one with an advocacy to show for, one who should be able to easily answer any of these questions…

* Describe what your aspirations are and why you are competing for the Miss Universe title?
* What have you done in your community to show leadership?
* How would you use your title or the Miss Universe crown to impact society?
* What social group/ advocacy would be your focus and why?
* How would you help solve issues in the world, not just in your home country?
* How can you make this world a better place if you were crowned Miss Universe
In an era where pageants are redefining themselves to be relevant and modern, pageant girls are asked to bring something more to the table. And that is where personal triumphs, accomplishments (whether in their local communities or at a national scale), volunteer work and charity work counts. If you want to become Miss Universe these days, you have to stand for something.

Sashes&Scripts’ 3 Favorites for Miss Universe

My 2017 Miss Universe picks is gonna be a real nail-biter. And since I have been covering here in Las Vegas, seeing the girls up-close adds a different dimension to their personality which just reinforced by belief that it will boil down to just three girls…

Here are my thoughts on these girls:
3. Philippines, Rachel Peters – definitely the Miss Universe prototype. She is perhaps the most well-rounded girl that the Philippines have sent to the pageant. How she performs on the finals will rely on how she will handle the pressure onstage. Rachel has to gather all her strength and focus on the task at hand and deliver an explosive performance as she did during the Binibining Pilipinas finals.
2. Thailand, Maria Poonlertlarp Ehren – an academic achiever whose advocacy is about education. The Thai rep this year is one of the rumored favorites of the MUOrg just like how Pia was in 2015. Nevertheless it will be a tough competition as it will be the panel of judges who will pick the eventual winner. Maria just needs to stick to her gameplan and execute it flawlessly.
1. South Africa, Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters – the girl who kills it in the interviews. She is most likely the real threat to the crown with her sweet and bubbly disposition. She seems to be someone that you would like to befriend because of genuine smile and lovely personality. Demi needs to make sure that she minimizes her weak areas by maximizing her strong assets. If genuineness is the main criteria of being a MU winner, then she would runaway with it without much effort.
Back when I covered the Binibini send-off of Miss Universe Philippines Rachel Peters in Novotel, I asked her this question: who do you think is your biggest competitor aside from yourself? She mentioned Thailand and South Africa. I observed here in Las Vegas that she is right. Maria is very on point in everyday styling and has always been very accommodating to fans. Demi-Leigh is showing her genuine personality day in and day out. Rachel on the other hand is the quiet darkhorse that will slay come finals. I believe that the title is going to be a triple-battle between the Rachel Peters, Maria Poonlertlarp Ehren and Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters. It will all boil down to the judges’ picks now…
All I can say now is good luck to these three girls. May the best lady win!

Miss Universe 2017 Update #2!

Here are some of the happenings in the Miss Universe pageant in Las Vegas!

* The girls didn’t do their rehearsals at the Axis Theatre today. Instead they rehearsed at one of the function rooms on the mezzanine floor of Planet Hollywood.
* They were then split into two groups for the dinner tonight (in an hour or two). The first group will be at Tequila Taqueria of Ballys (they will be mostly be the Latinas) while the second group will be dining at the Planet Hollywood Restaurant at the Forum Shops of Caesar’s Palace.

* The candidates are getting only around 3-4 hours of sleep and the strain of the competition is getting into the girls. Some of the girls have already getting the strain of the competition with at least one candidate getting sick.
* According to an insider, some of the candidates are disappointed with the lack of activities in this year’s competition. More so with the make-shift stage of the national costume show and preliminaries at the mezzanine area of the hotel. Compared to the Philippine edition of the pageant, the candidates rarely get to go outside of the Planet Hollywood hotel.

* There is no press junket this year compared to previous editions.
* During Thanksgiving, the candidates still squeezed one set of rehearsals before being released for a free schedule with their families.

Qualities that Make Rachel Peters Miss Universe Material

It is a rarity for the Philippines to have a Miss Universe Philippines that have the perfect combo of brain, body and beauty. And that is what Rachel Peters exactly is. For the most of the past 2 decades, we have been sending  gorgeous ladies that have some weak areas. Not with Rachel, as she covers all areas quite strongly: height, body proportions, intellect and articulateness, face, strong background and personal achievements, and most importantly presence.

1. Interviews and Public Speaking Skills– with Miss Universe looking for an effective spokesperson for the organization, the old formulaic beauty over brains gets a new incarnation. It’s beauty and brains nowadays. An alleged 60% of the preliminary scores in MU taken from the one-on-one interviews. Rachel interviews and speaks quite well so there are no worries on that aspect. She won’t clam up when the crucial moment arrives.
A good conversationalist, Rachel has the ability to speak without sounding rehearsed or insincere. This is an important quality in the age when MU values ‘real-ness’ over the manufactured dolls that dominated the 2000’s.
2. The Miss Universe Body – I don’t get tired of saying this but Rachel truly has the Miss Universe body. Just look at similarities in her proportions with those of Dayana Mendoza, Gabriela Isler and Paulina Vega. Rachel has mile long legs that looks great in a swimsuit. When was the last time we sent a 5’10” beauty in Miss Universe? The tallest we ever sent in the past decade are perhaps Venus Raj and Bianca Manalo at 5’9”. With Rachel’s statuesque height, she won’t easily get dwarfed by the rest of the Latinas on the P group.

3. An Arresting Face – she is often compared to celebrity Solenn Heusaff in terms of her facial features. Both are blessed with faces that is considered ‘alta sociedad’ or very high society. Both are uniquely beautiful in the sense that they do not fit into the cookie cutter mold of what is considered pretty by the masses. But both are considered high caliber beauties by those people who can identify girls with X-factor.
While she may not be very photogenic as her previous predecessors are, she nonetheless has the same facial qualities of Iris Mittenaere, Nina Ricci Alagao and Gabriela Isler. All of them have defined jawlines, prominent cheekbones and arresting eyes. IMHO, Rachel should utilize her eyes more often to project a sense of confidence and warmth. I would also want her to create fuller lips through lining the edges of her lips like how Maxine did last year. But most importantly, I would want her to shine and be unique despite all these references to past beauty queens.
4. Personality and Stage Presence – warm and friendly, she is a delight to converse with. And I am witness to that. People close to her say that she has no hang-ups and is easy to get along with. This is something that is going to be handy in the competition proper. Being a diva no longer has a place in the IMG|WME era of the pageant. The MUorg wouldn’t want to have another nightmarish experience with a difficult MU winner.  In MU, a good personality comes a long way, just as professionalism bolster a career.
I would be confident to say that Rachel is arguably the most well-rounded rep the Philippines will send to the Miss Universe pageant. And we would have to wait what she will be delivering come Miss Universe finals this November 27th (Manila time)…

Sashes&Scripts’ Thoughts on the New Miss Universe Format

It has been circulating for more than a day that the Miss Universe format would be somewhat similar to that of Miss Intercontinental. Although we have reliable sources that confirmed this news to us, we opted to get more information on the matter before dipping our toes in the pool, so to speak. Being in Las Vegas to watch the rehearsals live and getting to seat alongside national directors in the rehearsals allowed us to get more accurate info on the proceedings.

Earlier I have published an article update on how the top 16 semifinalists are chosen. The top 16 will comprise of 4 girls from North and South America, 4 from the Europe, 4 girls from Africa and Asia-Oceania with the last 4 wildcard girls coming from any of the continents. This new format is met with hesitancy by pageant fans.
And these are my thoughts on it:
* Biggest disadvantage of the new format would be the girls from the Americas (North & South America plus the Caribbean). They have strong representation this year with Canada, USA, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Panama, Jamaica, Paraguay, Brazil, Colombia, & Venezuela. It would be a bloody torture to see some of these strong girls clap behind the stage come finals.

* Biggest advantage of the new format would be Europe because they only have a handful of strong girls (Russia, Spain, Great Britain,  Sweden & Iceland) who performed strongly at the preliminary swimsuit and gown competitions. IMHO in this group, they should have also added Lebanon, Turkey and Israel since they are mostly Caucasian looking and these countries are part of the Mediterranean.
* Aside from the major frontrunners of Asia & Africa (South Africa, Philippines, & Thailand), there are other strong competitors from this group such as Ghana, Tanzania, Mauritius, Cambodia, Indonesia and Korea.
* It would be interesting to see if the wildcards will mainly comprise of girls from Asia and the Americas. Because this is where I believe the girls who are so thirsty to win are grouped.
* I also think that allowing the weakest group more slots into the semis is just a play to make that group get interested more with the Miss Universe pageant. Which I would say not much of a good investment. In my humble opinion, Asia should be afforded a separate grouping since it is Asia that has a growing market for pageants.

You may or may not agree with my thoughts on this matter but I wanna get you thinking more critically. I welcome this new innovation from Miss Universe but I am not much of a fan of how the girls are grouped. I believe there is a much better way to group them much more evenly to level the playing field.

Rumor Mill: Diamond Nexus Crown to be Used for MU Crowning

There is a strong buzz here in Las Vegas that the Miss Universe 2017 will be crowned with the Diamond Nexus crown as it is the one currently being used by reigning queen Iris Mittenaere.

The DIC crown is rumored to be on hold until the lawsuit between IMG| WME and the crown-makers is settled. We currently have no further information on the status of the lawsuit but it is safe to assume that its use will be kept on hold until the matter is settled in court.

Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters: Social Media Savvy

Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters is one of the most talked about candidates in Miss Universe 2017 since winning Miss South Africa  2017. Rightfully so she is arguably one of the best faces in the competition.

The 22 year-old Demi-Leigh is tagged by most pageant enthusiasts as a frontrunner for the Miss Universe title. And she has been very visible on social media since the beginning of the competition. She seems to have a very well-planned game plan socmed-wise. There are a huge number of her photos available on IG being shared by numerous accounts.

She has lightened her hair to a softer brown recently with some lighter highlights for the competition in Vegas. Which is a good plan as she jumps out on photos when she is besides Misses Russia, Colombia and Sri Lanka. She has been seen photographed with a number of candidates as well which means that other candidates see her as one of the fan favorites and it would serve them well to be associated with other strong girls.
Whether this was pre-planned or she just improvised it on Vegas, Demi is surely going to be on everyone’s radar…

Miss Universe 2017 Update #1!

There has been a lot of confusion regarding the Miss Universe format. So here are some clarification on several matters of confusion.

* The stage will have a small “T” runway stage aside from the main stage. The stage is mainly LED screens that changes from
* There will be three groups for the introduction: Americas, Europe and Asia/Africa (grouped together). Each of the candidates are to be introduced via voice over.
* The top 16 will comprise of 4 girls from North and South America, 4 from the Europe, 4 girls from Africa and Asia-Oceania with the last 4 wildcard girls coming from any of the continents.

* The stage will change flag color when the candidates are called into the top 16 semi-finalists.
* There will be a short interview with the host when the girls are called into the top 16.
* The girls will not walk the ramp in groups. They will walk individually this time. This is a great news considering how the group walking was not readily accepted by pageant fans.

More to come soon, so stay tuned!

Sashes&Scripts’ Picks for Preliminary Evening Gown Round

99.99% of this year’s preliminary gowns this year were beaded until the costureras/ beaders went blind! But despite that there were a number of standouts in this segment.

In alphabetical order:
* Canada – not your usual pageant gown but it definitely made enough impact with the way she carried the gown.
* Dominican Republic – black is always unforgiving in pageants but she selected an Oscar red-carpet-worthy  gown for the prelims.
* Guyana – the yellow gown made her a standout, you remember her in her gown pick due to the dashing hue of her dress.
* Korea – looks better in motion than in photos, one of the best pageant gowns of the night.
* Panama – not the best gown overall but she carried it with aplomb.
* Philippines – gold is her color. Hopefully if she does change her gown for the finals, it will still be in gold.

* South Africa – a “love it or hate it gown”, it was a daring choice and it was haute couture perfect. It reminded me of a John Galliano design worn by Linda Evangelista in the late 90’s.
* Sweden – if the snow queen would pick a pageant gown, this would be it. It wasn’t overwhelming that it allowed the wearer to be on focus.

* Thailand – arguably the best sparkly gown of the evening.  The back bustle with the tulle train beaded with thousands of Swarovski crystals was a throwback to the father of modern day haute couture, Charles Frederick Worth.
* Venezuela – the best performer of the night. She gown wasn’t the best gown but she carried it with charisma.
For more on my personal picks on the evening gown and swimsuit preliminaries just head over to the Sash Factor Live video below:

The Miss Universe 2017 Song Selection!

This post is to put to rest the speculations on the Miss Universe soundtrack/song speculations this year.

Instead of the usual opening, there will be a change in the opening number. The candidates will be split into 3 groups: the Americas, Europe with a special video presentation, then Africa with Asia and the Pacific countries.
The Americas will include the continental North and South American countries plus the Caribbean to be accompanied by the popular Luis Fonsi song, “Despacito”.

Candidates from Europe will comprise of the second portion of the introductions accompanied by Ed Sheeran’s “Castle on the Hill”.

After Europe, then comes Africa with Asia and the Pacific countries with K’naan’s “Wavin’ Flag”. We don’t have enough information yet on the swimsuit song or if the rumored J. Balvin song “Mi Gente” will be used. What is sure though is that superstar Fergie will be performing her song “A Little Work” for the evening gown.

For the final look, Rachel Platten’s “Broken Glass” will be used with her performing the song.

EDIT: Jax Jones and Demi Lovato’s “Instruction” was used for the swimsuit competition.