It was indeed a night of beauty, glitter, and glamor as the 86 candidates of the 65th Miss Universe pageant put their best stilettos forward at Thursday night’s Preliminary Competition.
The scores of the candidates in the swimsuit and long gown competitions will be added to the previous days’ closed-door interview results to determine the Top 12 who will be known on the grand coronation on Monday.
The Philippines’ bet, Maxine Medina, enjoyed home court advantage from her very first appearance on stage during the candidates’ introduction, drawing the loudest cheers from the packed Mall of Asia Arena. She looked elegant in a silken fuchsia gown.
During the swimsuit competition, tan and toned beauties Miss Australia Caris Tiivel, Miss Brazil Raissa Santana, Miss Curacao Chanelle de Lau, Miss Indonesia Kezia Warouw and Miss Thailand Chalita Suansane, who had the second largest number of fans at the Arena next to Miss Philippine, had the strongest presence.
At the long gown competition the ladies serpentined and sparkled with Miss Colombia Andrea Tovar owning the moment as a vision in gold. A stand out too was Miss Sierra Leone Hawa Kamara, who was stunning in an hourglass silhouette by Filipino designer Jian Lasala. But it was Miss Venezula Mariam Habach who stole the show when she gracefully detached the skirt of her silver and blue ball gown to reveal a simple yet extremely elegant design that sparkled and hugged her every curve like a glove.
The finale was the national costume parade where the candidates donned creative executions of an element or two that best represent their respective countries. While only mounted as an exhibition—no scores were given out for this portion—the candidates went all out in their national wear.
Myanmar’s Htet Htet Htun worked hard to bring out an entire puppet show in a nod to her country’s puppetry tradition; while Germany’s Johanna Ace wore a castle headdress as an ode to the Brothers Grimm. Venezuela’s Habach channeled the sea goddess Yamaya but had difficulty getting on and off the stage with her elaborate garb.
Medina also showed a strong presence in all three segments of the preliminaries. She was sweet and sexy in her green and white Yamamay swimsuit, and breathtaking and regal in an emerald Rhett Eala number, now famed for its fringe-layered skirt. A possible front-runner, Medina was a vision as she sashayed onto the stage to ear-splitting applause.
Meanwhile, her Vinta-inspired national costume, designed again by Eala, was a golden showstopper paired with a reportedly million-dollar, coral-inspired headdress of South Sea pearls.
But as much as fans loved Medina’s performance inside the Arena, netizens were quick to react to an error in her pre-recorded interview where she introduced the fashion showcase in Vigan, and credited former First Lady Imelda Marcos as the “inventor” of the Terno.
“Omg Maxine pls , bawiin mo sinabi mo na si Imelda ng invent ng terno gown,” user @giankarlo__ tweeted.
Another user who goes by user name @cluelesster said, “Pwede bang sisihin natin yung writer na nag feed kay Maxine na Imelda invented the terno? Also, girl bakit di ka kasi nag fact-check??”
While historians have never identified the actual creator of the national dress, authors Gino Gonzales and Mark Lewis Higgins cited in their book Fashionable Filipinas: An Evolution of the Philippine National Dress in Photographs, 1860-1960 that the iconic Filipino ensemble was first seen in the 1890s, while its modern counterpart with its butterfly sleeves—which Marcos continues to wear in her public appearances—were worn as early as 1910. The former First Lady was born on July 2, 1929.
“Miss Imelda Marcos popularized, just popularized the butterfly sleeves—not invent! So sorry for that,” Medina said in a television interview.
Reigning Miss Universe Pia Wurtzbach was also quick to defend Medina and encouraged Filipinos to support and vote for the country’s candidate.
“It’s a mistake, it wasn’t done intentionally. She honestly did not know. Are we really going to put our girl down because of a statement like that?” Wurtzbach said in an interview with CNN Philippines.
Derek Ramsay and Wurtzbach hosted the night’s competition while Miss Universe 1993 Dayanara Torres, Miss Universe 2007 Riyo Mori, American TV Star Cynthia Bailey and Emmy and Tony award-winning producer Francine LeFrak, international marketing director Rob Goldstone; People’s Choice Awards President and Executive Producer Fred Nelson sat at the judges’ table.