Why The Philippines lost at Miss Universe 2022: 3 expert analyses

Bernard Decloedt - Philstar.com
Why The Philippines lost at Miss Universe 2022: 3 expert analyses
From left: Luis Portelles, Tita Lavinia and Norman Tinio
Photos provided by Luis Portelles, Tita Lavinia and Norman Tinio

MANILA, Philippines — Filipino pageant fans never saw it coming: The Philippines ended its longest streak in the semifinals of Miss Universe after 12 years.

We are the “El Tocuyo” award at this year’s edition, which in pageant jargon, means a frontrunner is booted out of a race for many reasons.

Unexpected 'El Tocuyo' 

It was more heartbreaking that it happened with such a very strong representative, Celeste Cortesi. 

In an exclusive interview with Philstar.com, beauty pageant analyst TIta Lavinia said: “It was the thought at the back of our heads because Celeste is of course one of the frontrunners of this edition. And when you are one of the frontrunners, you also have a strong sash factor. The chances of getting that 'El Tocuyo' award is a lot higher. So, in our situation, it definitely could swing both ways. We could either head on to the semifinals, the way we have been in years or the flip side is, we could really get that 'El Tocuyo' award. The chances are really higher this year because this is a new management. We do not know what the game plan is. We don’t exactly know what they are looking for.”

The shock and disappointment was even bigger for both pageant expert Norman Tinio and international pageant blogger, Luis Portelles, who both placed Celeste as their winner in their final picks. The former was confident that: “I was of the strong impression that Celeste will breeze through the Top 16.” 

Portelles, who has covered Cortesi’s journey way back before she started her comeback in pageantry at Miss Universe Philippines, added: “I was definitely in shock. El Tocuyo now but it’s something I never saw coming.”

Achilles' heel: The closed-door interview

Celeste’s Miss Universe campaign was always trending in social media, making her one of this year’s frontrunners and final picks of most pageant media.

The closed-door interviews, however, comprise 60% of the preliminary scores.

As Tinio explained: “Her performance during the closed-door preliminaries was something we are not privy to. Whatever transpired during those precious minutes with the panel is something that might have spelled the difference between making the Top 16 cut or not. Those surprise semifinalists (like Haiti, Australia, Portugal and Trinidad & Tobago) are possibly the ones who scored well during the closed-door interviews. As for the Latinas, they are thoroughbreds ever since.”

When asked on the shutout of Southeast Asian Powerhouses, he added: “I don’t think of it as a conscious effort from the Thai owner or the organization to have none among the battling Southeast Asian countries make it to Top 16. The tally might have been cumulative overall and it’s simply a case of 16 other delegates scoring higher.”

Celeste after Miss U

The three pageant analysts are nothing but optimistic on Celeste’s future.

Portelles believes that she doesn’t need to join another pageant just for the purpose of proving something. He encourages Celeste to “Move on on the next stage of her life... as the options are endless for her.”

Tita Lavinia mused: “She could be a really good brand ambassador for skincare, yes for jewelry even more. There is more to her. And, if they’re smart enough, maybe they can also market this 'El Tocuyo' title. Turn it around. Make it transformational!”

Norman commented: “At age 25, I advice her to rest for a year or two before rethinking her next options. After all, the age limit of international pageants these days are gradually being adjusted to include those in their late 20s or even early 30s.”

Deserving win for USA

TIta Lavinia, who accurately predicted USA as the eventual winner, said: “Based on the preliminaries, Miss USA was definitely my favorite. Based on the buzz on social media, USA is really the favorite. But personally, had it been my way, I would have really want Celeste Cortesi to win because she is my bias and I have been very honest about it. But now that we have R’Bonney Gabriel as the declared winner, let’s go ahead and check out what’s with her. First off, a compelling story. Being a daughter of an immigrant and living her life in the US. She has always been very active with representing for roots.

Furthermore, Tita Lavinia added: “She does have a story and if you’ll dig into her bio. It pretty much checks out. Hers is a more practical approach and it just seems that whatever she was saying in all of her interviews, in all of are practiced in real life, so everything checks out with her.”

Portelles also gave this very valuable insight: “This is a very important year because it’s the transition, not only of the owners but the pageant is transitioning from one country to another, it’s moving from USA to Thailand... I’m not saying that they crowned Miss USA on purpose, but it just makes sense to have a reigning queen from the US that will facilitate that transition between these two countries and make it more smooth.”

Wake up call

All of the three pageant analysts unanimously agree that this is definitely a wake-up call.

Portelles pointed out that at some point, something like this is going to happen as “It’s impossible to keep it going forever.”

Lavinia further elaborated: “This is a wake-up call 'cause we’re no longer the apple of the eyes of the pageant community. Like everybody else, we have to work extra hard for their attention. And the sash factor still has some magic, but now, we have to go beyond that. Which means that our sash factor is working against us.”

For Tinio: “I guess this is a wake-up call to the spoiled Filipino pageant fans who have long been feeling 'entitled' as a pageant powerhouse nation. Let us always manage our expectations. For the organization, it should be back to the drawing board before giving MUPH2023 the full steam ahead."

Lessons from this year's edition

When asked on what lessons we can learn from this edition, Lavinia pointed out the need for serious campaigning for voting not only by the Filipinos but also the candidates themselves. She also advised to view social media as a friend and show the real humanity of it.

Tinio perfectly encapsulated the similar sentiments of both Lavinia and Portelles: “Miss Universe 2022 is the official start of a new era in international pageantry - something that has been started in the last few, but signed, sealed and delivered from hereon now. The search is for a new breed of ladies who go beyond good looks, lip service and the weight of the sash.”

As what 2018 Miss Universe Catriona said during her behind-the-scenes commentator stint during this year’s finals: “I know you might be feeling a little bit of disappointment right now but we always have next year."

And yes, the Philippines will come back stronger at the next Miss Universe edition in El Salvador at the end of 2023!

Norman Tinio is a permanent fixture in Philippine pageantry. He has a widely followed pageant blog: https://normannorman.com/.

Luis Portelles is an international pageant content creator. Follow him on his YT channel: https://www.youtube.com/@LuisPortelles.

TIta Lavinia is a popular pageant analyst and a certified cat lover. Follow and subscribe to her widely popular YT channel: https://www.youtube.com/@TitaLavinia.

RELATED: Siera Bearchell, Tita Lavinia bare final picks for Miss Universe 2022

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