Friday, January 27, 2017

The Poise and the Pageantry: The Miss Universe Preliminary Competition in Swimsuits, Long Gowns and National Costumes

The Miss Universe 2016 preliminary competition at the MOA Arena in Pasay City on January 26, 2017
Before, the Miss Universe Beauty Pageant opened with the Parade of Nations, where contestants in their national costumes came out, introduced themselves and their countries and sashayed in magnificent and intriguing costumes inspired by their cultures. It was an exhilarating and intoxicating spectacle that set the tone for the rest of the pageant, which is sadly not being done anymore. It was this portion that drew many to Miss Universe, including me as a child.  Now, it is part of the preliminary competition show.
The 65th Miss Universe preliminary competition was held on January 26, 2017, at the Mall of Asia Arena, where all the 86 candidates competed in the swimsuit and long gown portions.  They also appeared in their national costumes as finale, but this the most fun and entertaining segment is not part of the judging. This preliminary competition plus days of interviews will determine the semi-finalists during the coronation night, which will happen on January 30.
The hosts for the preliminary competition were actor Derek Ramsey and Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach. The judges were Miss Universe 1993 from Puerto Rico Dayanara Torres; Miss Universe 2007 from Japan Riyo Mori;  Cynthia Bailey of The Real Housewives of Atlanta; international marketing director Rob Goldstone; Fred Nelson, president and executive producer of the People's Choice Awards; and Francine LeFrak, activist and founder of Same Sky.
The competition started with the introductions and then the swimsuit segment, where the women wore Yamamay swimsuits. Next was the long gown segment. Expectedly, host country bet, Miss Philippines Maxine Medina, elicited the loudest cheers. Medina wore an emerald gown designed by Rhett Eala, which has a fringe skirt that bounced and danced as she walked.
Other candidates who received loud cheers were Miss Colombia Andrea Tovar, Miss Thailand Chalita Suansane and Miss Venezuela Mariam Habach, all top favorites.
For the national costume segment, Medina wore another Eala creation—a glimmering gold gown said to be inspired by Mindanao and the vinta sails of Zamboanga City. She was crowned with a headdress studded with South Sea pearls, the national gem, from Jewelmer, which reportedly is worth, together with the earrings, about P1 million.
While Medina generated cheers inside the arena, she also drew flak. During the show, a video was shown on their trip to Vigan, Ilocos Sur, and the terno fashion show. In the interview, Medina erroneously said that the terno was invented by former First Lady Imelda Marcos. While the terno with puffed or butterfly sleeves became a signature look for Marcos, the terno has long been worn by Filipinos as a formal version of the baro’t saya, and it was reinvented and brought to high fashion by National Artist for design Ramon Valera.  
Aside from Medina, the most applauded national costume was from Miss Myanmar, Htet Htet Htun, which depicted the traditional Burmese puppetry or marionette show called yoke the. She carried a whole stage, or at least a backdrop, on her back and simulated the movement of a puppet on strings.
        The national costumes ranged from the simple to the showy. Several simple-looking costumes must not be discounted because it also entailed hard work and reflects traditional culture such as the ones with handmade textiles and intricate beadworks which are not readily evident onstage. 
        Miss Barbados Shannon Harris appeared as a windsurfer, carrying a sail. Miss Austria Dajanic Dzinic’s costume was inspired The Sound of Music, as the setting of the movie is her hometown. Miss Indonesia Kezia Warouw’s costume depicted their mythical Garuda bird, while Miss Malaysia Kiran Jassal’s depicted their iconic Petronas Towers, the “towers” perched on her shoulders.  Miss Thailand’s costume was shimmering traditional Thai dress which was also reminiscent of its Buddhist temples. Miss Canada Siera Birchell wore a giant maple leaf, a national icon, in white. Miss Germany Johanna Arcs wore a headdress of castle and carried a book, meant to depict fairy tales, many of the world-famous ones coming from her country and written down by the Grimm brothers. Miss Vietnam Le Hang’s costume depicted her countries traditional crafts and livelihoods with as a three-dimensional back-piece made of baskets. There are many more worth mentioning, all giving us a colorful and enjoyable way to know a little of their countries and cultures and deserving more airtime that they were given.

        The national costume provided a thrilling conclusion to the preliminary competition and an exciting prelude to the coronation night of the 65th Miss Universe Pageant.

Miss Philippines Maxine Medina in a gown by Rhett Eala
Miss Argentina
Miss Ausria
Miss Aruba
Miss Belize
Miss Canada
Miss Colombia
Miss Barbados
Miss Georgia
Miss Georgia
Miss Great Britain
Miss Guam
Miss Iceland
Miss India 
Miss Indonesia
Miss Korea
Miss Myanmar

Miss Philippines
Miss Singapore
Miss Sweden
Miss Thailand
Miss Venezuela
Miss Vietnam

Miss Bolivia
Miss Dominican Republic
Miss Ecuador
Miss Guyana 

Miss Hungary
Miss Nicaragua 
Miss Panama

Miss Uruguay
Miss USA 
Miss US Virgin Islands

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