The best kind of beauty
DIRECT LINE - Boy Abunda (The Philippine Star) - January 11, 2016 - 9:00am

Much has been said about the Miss Universe fracas where host Steve Harvey blundered in announcing the rightful winner who was Pia Wurtzbach of the Philippines. He instead barked that Miss Colombia was Miss Universe 2015.

People weighed in into the chaos and how! Republican front runner Donald Trump suggested that Miss Colombia/Miss Philippines be co-winners. Of course, a whole army of Pianatics (including this one) howled in protest! “No way! Pia won the contest! It was clear as the sunniest daylight! It was Steve Harvey’s faux pas.” The Donald was offering what he thought was a Solomonic solution. “Demonic,” my friend ranted.

I caught Perez Hilton’s interview in Good Morning America where he said that Pia was a unanimous choice of all four judges. He was averse to the “co-winner” idea of The Donald. Miss Philippines won, he matter-of-factly declared. He was also quoted to have said that Miss Philippines went to Las Vegas to win while Miss Colombia went to the Miss Universe contest to lose. In the same interview, he recalled that Steve was said to have had too much fun in Las Vegas, missing some important rehearsals.

I saw the replay of the contest and watched Mr. Harvey intently and I thought he was sober and far from being in a drunken stupor. It was not flawless hosting but he had clarity, he was in control, he was reading the prompters fairly well, some of his ad-libs were funny. I didn’t like the oft-repeated “swimsuit” jokes! I thought it was passé and misplaced.

But what happened? What went wrong? Until he tells us his true version of the story, the world can only guess, with many offering a myriad of possible scenarios. I said on my show Tonight with Boy Abunda (TwBA) that his right thumb which could have been on the side where the Miss Universe 2015/Philippines was written could have covered it. And if you’re not beauty contest savvy, you may think that -First (Runner-Up) is equivalent to being the winner. Remember, he got the cue card from the gentleman from Ernst &Young while he was onstage. I would assume that he didn’t have enough time to read it in order to familiarize himself on how he was going to announce the winners.

It was to my mind an honest mistake of Steve. I don’t buy into the imputation that WME/IMG purposely maneuvered the chaos in order to create global noise, it being their first Miss Universe pageant after Donald was disconnected from the franchise after his rancid slur against Mexicans.

No fault of Miss Colombia. No fault of Pia, our Miss Philippines. The girls were both victims of this imbroglio. Miss Colombia was humiliated before almost a billion people in the world. She didn’t read the cue card. She didn’t self-proclaim that she was the winner. She genuinely thought she won the crown. It was heartbreaking to watch her — being deprived of the crown which she wore for some good four minutes. Yes she didn’t own it but neither did she steal it. It was announced that she won. And it was a major, major gaffe! A weaker soul would have died onstage. I would have staged a harakiri or I would have feigned insanity and ran out and away with the crown to the streets of Las Vegas. I would have placed the crown in the middle of the street and waited for cars and cabs to crush the $300,000 crown.

Meanwhile, our Pia was in limbo — confused with what was happening. It took Miss USA and some girls to egg her to go centerstage. In an interview much later, she said, she was looking for a staff member of the pageant to signal her to move forward. She didn’t see anyone. She, too, was robbed of her Miss Universe moment — the one where the winner opens her mouth, covers it with her hands and cry. Pia was lost for some minutes. But when people realized she was the true winner, there was jubilation in the theater and around the world.

It was touching to see Miss Colombia bend a little to allow Paulina Vega (Miss Universe 2014) to take the crown from her head so she could put it on Queen Pia’s head who looked majestic and confidently beautiful with a heart. After a few minutes on TV, we saw Pia being surrounded by Asians while Miss Colombia was being consoled by the Latinas. Pia at one point walked towards Miss Colombia who was then very emotional. Someone in black shirt (presumably a staff member of the pageant) led Pia away from a potential hair-pulling incident. Some can be nasty in highly-emotional moments. I didn’t see the traditional Miss Universe winner walk but I was so happy for Pia, for the Philippines, for me and my friends who all fervently prayed to God, to Mama Mary and all the saints in heaven for her victory. The stars and the heavens connived and God listened.

Pia is a testament that beauty with a heart — which is tenacious, courageous, and determined — is the best kind of beauty. Let’s not forget that when she won Miss Universe-Philippines, she was competing for the third time. Indeed, winners are losers who don’t quit!

Back to Steve and IMG, the pageant’s organizer, I thought it was laudable that Mr. Harvey owned up to his mistake, apologized and corrected the wrong that was committed. Had it been done later, it would have been a bigger disaster. It was the longest four minutes in the history of beauty contests but worth the wait — it produced our third Miss  Universe winner. Bravo! Long live Queen of the Universe, Pia Wurtzbach!

Postscript: Arnel Natividad, my director for TwBA, offered this explanation that supported the idea that Pia indeed was the winner. Arnel, a veteran beauty contest director, explained that when Steve announced the wrong winner, Miss Colombia, the camera shot a close-up of Pia. Why? Because the cameramen, as it is practiced, were instructed to focus on the winner — who in this case was Miss Philippines. It made a lot of sense! If you have the chance, watch it again.

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