Has it really been almost a year?
It’s been 10 months since we experienced Miss Universe in Manila first hand – more specifically, had the pleasure of scoring a gig with one of its local broadcasters. Truth be told, it’s actually why we’re starting Pageant Geeks.
Now, this forthcoming pageant was actually almost déjà vu. It can be recalled that the Philippines was initially offered to serve as host country for the second year in a row, following the amazing local reception and reportedly nearly overshadowing the 2017 Super Bowl. But scheduling conflicts, specifically with the recently-concluded ASEAN Summit, ultimately prompted the MUO to return to Las Vegas.
It’s the 4th time Sin City‘s hosting this decade, and 6th all in all. Compared to the break-neck frenzy that was the recent Philippine staging, however, this one feels rushed and subdued – uneventful, even, if you’re only scratching the surface.A highlight, if there’s one, was the Welcome Event held at the Miracle Mile shops last November 16. The contestants, together with MUO President Paula Shugart and incumbent titleholder Iris Mittanaere, wore identical black shirts with the hashtag, #VegasStrong, in solidarity with the victims of the Route 91 Harvest shooting that occurred last October 1. But other than that, there are no day-trips to surrounding cities, no Governor’s Ball, and no swarms of starstruck locals waving different flags, just the ladies smiling over burgers and Instagram stories and lounging by the pool in their Yamamay swimwear.
This year, everything seems to be confined within one strip and, more noticeably, compressed within a shorter, two-week timeframe. If there’s any consolation, at least the pageant is happening within the calendar year, and not spilled over to the next (Don’t do that again, please!).
Seven from last year’s roster sat out this year: Belize and Denmark, due to issues in their respective organizations; Kosovo, Hungary, and Switzerland, which didn’t hold bother fielding reps; and Kenya, despite finally achieving a breakthrough last year. But then, they could be gathering momentum. With Mary Esther Were, the first Kenyan semifinalist-in-question, rumored to be taking over National Director reins, expect them to be back soon, stronger than ever.
Sierra Leone was also supposed to send its second delegate in the person of Adama Lakoh Kargbo. She was crowned last August 27, but couldn’t obtain a U.S. visa in time due to lack of funding. In her Instagram post dated November 16, Kargbo vented out her frustration, revealing that her necessary travel documents would have been available on the 20th, which was too late for her to participate. Only time will tell if she’ll be allowed to compete next year instead.
Yet despite the drop-outs, there’s also a substantial increase in delegation. Cambodia, Laos, and Nepal mark their auspicious debuts this year and 10 other countries return after a period of absence. This brings the total count to a record number of 92. This means that for the first time ever, the Miss Universe delegation has crossed the 90 mark and has officially surpassed the previous record of 89 (2011 and 2012).
This year’s most notable returnee is Iraq, represented for the first time in 45 years by US-based Sarah Idan. With her presence, it’s hard not to dismiss any publicity attempt. She wasn’t even officially sashed yet, when a friendly selfie of her with Miss Israel, Adar Gandelsman, drew mixed reactions.
Idan defended the photo, saying, “She asked if I would like to take a picture together. I told her I would be glad to help spread the message. The aim of the photo was an expression of hope for world peace.” She further clarified that the gesture wasn’t an invalidation of the Palestinian cause, but rather “a call to peace and hope for a solution to the crisis”. What ever the case, Idan can be commended for handling the matter diplomatically and gracefully. Compare that to the selfie incident between Israel and Lebanon in 2014, which resulted to finger-pointing.
To many a crazed pageant follower, everything that’s transpired so far feels like a colossal letdown, considering the success of the previous tilt. (Don’t get us started yet on how haphazardly the National Costume and Preliminary competitions were mounted. We’ll get to that in later entries.)
At this point, fans are now left with no recourse but to hope the organization is only going through a fallow period and, of course, look forward to a new titleholder.
Who will succeed the spectacular Iris Mittanaere as the new reine? We’ll find out in 4 days!
NEXT: National Costume and Full Candidate Reviews, plus our Official Miss Universe 2017 picks!