Trump Era: the Best or Worst Years of the Miss Universe Pageant?

The years 1996 to 2014 are effectively known as the Trump Era of the Miss Universe pageant. In those years, there was a marked change in how the pageant is managed under the stewardship of Trump. In the span of 18 years, the MU pageant has undergone a massive overhaul in its image and branding.
The trump era in Miss Universe was an era of triumphs, changes, controversies and scandals. It has adopted a number of changes in terms of format, selection of winners, and entertainment. Pageant fans might have opposing thoughts whether Trump’s legacy in the MU pageant hurt or helped to better the image of the pageant but one this is for certain, he made sure that the pageant will always be talked about.
The hallmarks of the Trump Era has kept the MU under his tenure both famous and notorious. They are the lasting legacy that have made the Miss Universe pageant synonymous with fame/notoriety and fortune.

* Musical Performances & Celebrities– under the Trump era, we saw emerging talents and world renowned musical guests perform in the finals of the pageant. Everyone remembers how Lady Gaga was a musical guest in 2008 before being catapulted to international stardom. We also saw Ricky Martin shake his booty at the pageant back when he was more famous for his singing than for his sexuality. There were countless other superstars as musical guest under that era: from Gloria Estefan, brothers Enrique Iglesias (1997) and Julio Iglesias Jr (1999), K-Ci & JoJo (1998), Montell Jordan, Flo Rida, the string quartet Bond, Marc Anthony, Chayanne, Robin Thicke, Kelly Rowland, John Legend, Train, Panic! at the Disco, the legendary Steven Tyler, Nick Jonas, Gavin DeGraw, among others… The entertainment value was amped up with these music superstars that really boosted the pageant’s image. Naomi Campbell, Elle MacPherson, Jerry Springer, Mel B, Bret Michaels, Carlos Ponce, Jack Wagner, just a few names who have hosted the pageant. Add to that list are numerous sports superstar, tv celebrities, former MU winners, Hollywood superstars that have comprised of the judging panel providing a more rounded panel.

* Pageant Choreography – lend it to Scott Grossman to create a complex swimsuit and evening gown choreography that incorporated twists, steps up and down stairs, walking over on-stage pool, between fire dancers and limbo dancers, twirls with the sarong, walking the maze of mutiple stairs and blocking… or Michael Schwandt’s “Commander” opening choreography, his theatrics in dance with the guest performers and candidates… you can say that the MU in this era was the best in terms of production numbers. Couple this with the flawless camera panning and you get a major spectacle. All girls got to dance and appear onstage, plus there was a synchronization of the camera panning with how the girls walk onstage so they get maximum camera time. There were Cirque de Soleil, carnival dancers, fire-eaters, drum ensembles, capoeiristas, etc… that provided awe and shock to the dazzling and dizzying pace of the pageant. The entertainment factor was at an all-time high.

* Glamshots, Visuals and Photography – during the Trump years we saw the evolution of how the simple program souvenir evolved to the glamshots we all are familiar today. Pageant photography back then was a simple straight up shot of the girls. Now it has become more fashion, more glamorous, more modern. The glamshot has become a major tool for publicity for the pageant as the girls got more social media following based on how they nailed their photoshoots. This has also become a tool for promotions for the pageant as these pictures get shared and become viral on all corners of social media, as well as being used by traditional print and broadcast media for news articles.
* Sly Business Decisions – under Trump we saw how business deals and sponsorships became the name of the game in pageants. He gave us Chinese Laundry, Chi, Yamamay, OPI, Sherri Hill, Mikimoto, MAC cosmetics, etc… This allowed for the internal funding of the pageant to float it over the years. Then came the landmark selling of the pageant to NBC in 2002 which the network owned 51% of the pageant with Trump. Such selling allowed the pageant to have a stable home at a time when airing pageants almost became a thing of the past.

* Crown Evolution: Mikimoto, Diamond Nexus and DIC – under Trump, we saw three changes of the MU crown from the iconic Sarah Coventry crown. Such change was another sponsorship package that earned more money for the pageant. While there were initial resistance to the crown changes, it nevertheless came together at the time that the pageant was trying to modernize itself.
* Trump Picks/ Trump Cards – this was a controversial issue among pageant fans as it is said that Trump would handpick some girls to make it into the semifinalists. It is rumored that he didn’t want ‘ugly’ girls in the semis even if those girls were part of the original list or no matter how accomplished she was. All that matters is beauty, sex appeal and physical attributes. There was no actual number of Trump picks that was actually proven but it is generally believed among pageant fans that 5-6 girls are usually picked to make semis based on Trump’s selection. Nobody can actually prove this but it was quite an accepted rumor by fans that several girls are hand-picked (for whatever reasons such as physical beauty, sponsorship tie-ups, hosting privileges, etc…)

* Lack of Diversity in Winners – during the Trump tenure, only a handful women of color were ever crowned as MU, most winners are either Caucasian or Latina. In the 18 years of the Trump leadership, 13* of them were either Latina or Caucasian with only 6 women of color (3 with Asian ancestry and 3 dark skinned winners). It was also during his tenure that the Latina domination at MU was clearly evident with at least 4 Latinas making it to the top 15  semifinalist every year. 
* Knack for Controversy – whether its his feud with the Miss World organization, his media frenzied Alicia Machado gym stunt, or his firing of a Miss Universe winner, Donald knows how to keep the media at its toes for the pageant.

Whether the pageant was better with or without Donald trump is up to you. Judging how subjective this topic is, one may vary in opinion if whether the Trump Era was the best/ worst years of the pageant.

The Reason why the Miss Universe Pageant Hosting was a No-Go

I wrote yesterday about the rumored Miss Universe hosting not pushing through in Manila. Today, it was finally confirmed by no less than Department of Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo. So What happened? How did it fall apart?

According to a Rappler report, “the pageant will not push through because Solar Entertainment’s Wilson Tieng and other investors advised against it.” Which means that the sponsors had reservations in funding the pageant. It was that simple, no sponsor support means no funding for the pageant. But that was not because there was no budget to go around. It is said that the Marawi incident with terrorist group Maute has something to do with it. The report further stated that, “Wilson [Tieng] advised Sec not to hold the pageant yet, because of the success of Miss Universe last year, [it’s] hard to… hard to get even with. If we can’t hold an event that is at par with 2016’s, if we can’t surpass that, especially now that there’s a Marawi incident, there might be a lot of people who will be offended.” Such sensitivity to the current political situation shows that even investors/ sponsors are self-aware of implications.
There is still a light at the end of the rainbow though, Secretary offers this glimmer of hope: “No Miss Universe this year. Baka (Maybe) next year.”


Rachel Peters & Why Pinoy Pageant Fans should Chillax

I have a bone to pick with some of our kababayans who would just love to criticize without offering any helpful tips or advise. When Rachel Peter’s MetroMag.Ph article and several of the behind the scenes photos of her pictorial was made available to the public, a lot of naysayers immediately had something negative to say.

Here’s my take on those…
1. There are comments from Pinoy fans saying “she still doesn’t have the spark”, “parang may kulang”, “mukhang tumanda”, “not looking fresh”, etc… Rachel is not as photogenic like other girls in her BBP batch. Well fact is even the reigning Miss Universe Iris Mittenaere isn’t that photogenic as well. Which means that these girls look better in person. Trust me when I say that the judges won’t be looking at stationary glam-shot photos of the girls and select the winner just by their pictures. Lemme ask you one thing, how many Miss Photogenic winners eventually become Miss Universe? Not even 10% of them do, in fact only 4 of them actually became MU. Yes, that’s 4 out of 65…

2. Comments comparing how her camp Kagandahang Flores isn’t training her enough or isn’t preparing her is just bull. With all due respect, before you criticize, know first that Rachel’s official training doesn’t start until next month. Why is that? Because she is still busy with public appearances that is part of her duties as Miss Universe Philippines. And please stop with the comparison how KF and A&Q train their girls. We don’t want a camp war when we already have a rep selected for MU. 
3. Rachel still has 4 months to prepare for the MU pageant. Add to that is the year-long preparations she made for Binibining Pilipinas. There isn’t anything major for her to do in terms of body transformation as she is in tip-top shape. If you haven’t seen her swimsuit pictorial then head over to her IG account and look for yourself. Styling can easily be done within the 3-4 months timeframe. Surely with these photoshoots around she is experimenting makeup looks for her together with her personal glamsquad and KF camp.

To assuage your fears, I was able to ask Rachel personally about her preparations weeks ago and here is what she had to say:
“Hi Jesson, I’ve been well thank you. Thoroughly enjoying my reign and of course all the appearances and guestings we’ve been doing thus far! Still can’t believe it but I’m so grateful for the opportunities coming my way!
I get asked how I’m dealing with the pressure quite often and I always say (truthfully) that I’m actually not feeling much pressure at this point in time. I’m still so overwhelmed and excited about everything that’s been happening to me and I really want to enjoy it and take it all in. I think it’s important to go into the pageant with a very positive mindset so I’ll just keep training, doing my best and try not to stress myself out by comparing myself to the queens before me or to the girls I’m competing against. After all, my advocacy is all about celebrating ones individuality 😉”
There is no need to panic. So chillax people, she got this…

Is It a Wise Decision to Have the Miss Universe Pageant again in Manila?

I have heard from some reliable sources that the Miss Universe pageant hosting in Manila is not going to push thru. Either it did not get the thumbs up from the President or it did not get enough financial backers & sponsors to fill in the budget. While this is still yet to be confirmed, we ask the question: Is it a wise decision for the government/ Department of Tourism to host the pageant again in Manila?

This is a question that clearly has pros and cons and to come up with one definitive answer might not be easy. I have reason to believe that Filipinos are split in their opinion regarding this matter.
The Miss Universe Organization is clearly happy with the pageant being held in manila last January 2017. So happy that they offered the country to host it twice in a row. So what do we need to consider if we are to host the pageant once again? What gains are we looking at? And more importantly what are our risks in hosting the pageant once again?
1. Draw on Tourism – initially Tourism Undersecretary Kat de Castro said “not yet, maybe in 2020” but now the entire DOT is singing an entirely different tune. Criticisms abound that the only thing that the DOT has made under the leadership of Secretary Wanda Teo is the hosting of the MU pageant (a clear disregard to other tourism activities done). The country has much to offer, but the country is also wanting in more infrastructures for the tourism industry to truly explode at a global competitive scale.
But hosting the pageant in the country can possibly correct the mistakes that was done in the 65th edition where the country only received 40-60 second videos of what the Filipino culture is about. No Filipino touches on the stage or production, which has left Filipino pageant fans wanting. Perhaps those can be corrected this time around and actually see something similar to what Moscow and Bangkok has delivered. And if we were to base the tourist turnout during the first quarter, a 10.9% increase in tourist arrivals* (on the first 2 months of 2017 versus the same period in 2016) is nothing to sneeze at. Of course, we cannot attribute it all to the MU hosting but the double-digit growth is nothing to frown upon. That 10% increase was significant compared to the global average of 4%. In fact it can be leveraged as a success factor for tourism.

2. Security and Safety – with the country hosting the ASEAN Summit on the same month that the MUOrg wants the pageant to be staged, security forces and resources have to be divided…and perhaps a bigger chunk going to the ASEAN Summit. The Miss Universe could not be allowed to play second fiddle when it comes to these concerns as an estimated 90 reps from different countries are there to bear witness should something go wrong. Is the MU taking place in Manila something that could put the country’s image at a global platform? Yes definitely! But so is disturbance in the proceedings if it gets marred by security and safety issues. Could you just imagine the embarrassment we will face if this happens? As of now, we still have the Martial Law in place in Mindanao and the case of the Resorts World recent attack is still fresh. We cannot be hasty in our decision to host the MU pageant again when internal threats have to be neutralized first.
It is clear that the focus would be on the ASEAN Summit as it brings more long term gains to the country’s economy with more concrete deals and investments. This could guarantee continued growth to fuel more infrastructure developments. Filipino pageant fanaticism has to do some counter checks and balance on this issue. We all should look at the bigger and more long term picture. Let the ASEAN Summit go on without any glitch and show world leaders that we have our priorities straight.

On a personal note, I would have loved to see the pageant held back in Las Vegas for this year. This would give less stress and pressure on our bet, Rachel Peters. And it would give us enough time to convince more companies to sponsor the pageant through a longer planning time. Besides, we can host the pageant in Manila after a year or two…Clearly a win-win situation for all.
I have no problems if the pageant is to be held again in Manila but I have reservations on how the pageant will be run, how the Philippines will be featured on the MU stage, how the peace and order be secured prior to the pageant and most importantly how will private entities and companies fund the pageant’s estimated USD 15-18 million budget.


Maria Poonlertlarp Ehren: Why I think She is Miss Universe Thailand 2017

If you mix Marion Cottilard, Sarah Meier and a tiny bit of Farida Waller together, you get Maria Poonlertlarp Ehren.

I say that she is definitely my early pick for the Miss Universe Thailand title this year. This 5’11” model is born to a Thai mother and a Swedish father. She  speaks a number of languages: English, Thai, Chinese (not sure if it’s Mandarin) and Vietnamese. The 25 year old has taken a the MUT screenings with a storm, which is unsurprising with her interesting caucasian-oriental mix. She is currently garnering a lot of buzz and we can’t help but to want to get to know her better.

Last year my early favorite, Kusuma Chawdon, was overtaken by the gorgeous Chalita Suansane during the last legs of the competition. I hope that Maria can sustain the initial hype and maintain her lead in the competition.
If she manages to be named Miss Universe Thailand this year, it is safe to say that she (together with Miss Universe Philippines Rachel Peters) would probably be the strongest girls from Asia this year.

#PhotoCollage of the Day: Lauriela Marcia Martins, Miss Angola 2017

19 year old Lauriela Márcia Martins was crowned as the winner of Miss Angola 2017. The 5’11” student of architecture defeated 22 other contenders to clinch the title for the honor to represent Angola at the Miss Universe 2017 pageant.