The Fix Is In: Miss Universe 2016

To me there are three High Holy Days of Pageantry each year: Miss America is the apex (with a Holy Week to go along with it), then Miss Universe, and Miss USA. It's no secret that my favorite part of Miss Universe are the national costumes. I actually missed them live this year because I was on a train ride to the North Pole with my kids in New Hampshire (again, see that previous link for my feelings on the lack of traditions and rituals in Miss USA/Universe, because who would have ever thought Miss Universe would be on a Sunday in late December?!). 10656353_10205232723284251_863363905_nMy eldest son's face clearly presages people's reactions to the crowning moment a few hours later...

Because of the important trip to see Santa and his elves, and then getting our intrepid travelers abed, I didn't turn on Fox until 9:30ish last night. The Top 3 were being announced and I immediately thought Miss Philippines would win. I gasped when I saw her dress and the history with Miss USA and Miss Colombia with Miss Universe (recent winners, etc.) told me that the pageant-happy Philippines would be celebrating in half an hour.

I only half paid attention during the Seal song and the long walks, though I do think it was nice that they Top 3 got so much attention and time to shine. As for the final question it was *such* a softball and I thought Miss USA was too rehearsed/Patty and that Miss Philippines continued to exude grace. All I could think during Colombia's answer was how much she looked like Sofia Vergara's unknown younger sister...

When Miss USA was announced second-runner-up, I think the only one truly shocked was her:


And then the real weirdness began. I have seen over 100 pageants (for research and over my life course watching all three Pageants each year). When the winner is called from the final two (which doesn't always happen, as I briefly explain here), the usual protocol is to announce the name of the first-runner-up, so by default you know who the winner is. Then a few seconds later you introduce the new queen by her old title and new title. When it didn't go down this way I actually thought, "Huh, that was odd." I also thought it odd that there was a pause before the outgoing Miss Universe (also from Colombia) came out, although they then jumped excitedly together. I assume there was some frantic movement off camera that the television audience couldn't see.

When Harvey came back out I was shocked and immediately knew what happened, even though this was unprecedented. I honestly initially thought, along with many others, that this may have been a publicity stunt. Some pageant fans still believe this for some interesting reasons. But I have now watched the press conferences after and if it was I don't think Harvey was in on it and it appears to be a terrible mistake from someone who I don't believe has ever hosted a pageant before. There was a reason people like Bert Parks, and now Chris Harrison (who hosts another elimination show filled with emotion and anxiety), needed longevity to perform their iconic roles well.

As I write at the end of my Psychology Today article on this (which covers more the sociological analysis of why me might care so much), "As this story continues to dominate social media and major news sites (and sadly not other pageant-related stories like the tragic car accident right outside the hotel after Miss Universe last night (link is external), Miss Canada World being denied the opportunity to compete earlier in the weekend over political issues with China (link is external), and the appearance of Miss Slovenia at Miss Universe after a health crisis (link is external)) it is clear that pageantry and dream fulfillment still exert a powerful hold on a diverse group of people worldwide."

(And after you read my Psych Today piece you will understand that whenever I see my own mother's crowning moment, that up-close dream fulfillment, it makes me tear up because it is amazing to see the moment when her life changed, and by extension mine as well [I wish in some ways I had a video of when I tore open my college acceptance letter, in the dark ages before email, etc.]. Note that this was her reaction to NOT being called FIRST-RUNNER-UP, since that name is always read first!58d20194b899c4f88c2fece95b541ce9One final aside: They de-crowmned Colombia, but left the sash on her. How awkward was it to get that sash off?! Anyone know of any photos of this?)

And as I explain in this thoughtful article at Christian Science Monitor, "'Miss Philippines and Miss Colombia displayed grace under pressure in an unexpected and unprecedented situation,' says Friedman. 'What happens in the next few days will show what may or may not have occurred behind the scenes. For better or for worse both contestants, along with emcee Harvey, will live on in social media infamy.'"

I'm guessing that for the next Pageant (and all the preliminaries and state contests leading up to it), a new ritual may be added to the crowning ceremony: SHOWING THE WINNER AND AUDIENCE THE RESULTS CARD!