Bb. Pilipinas Pia Wurtzbach takes crown after live TV mix-up
It was a night that rocked the universe, but had the Filipino people rejoicing in the end.
Sunday night in Las Vegas, Nevada [Monday morning, Manila time] saw what might well be remembered as the most controversial night of the Miss Universe Pageant’s 64-year history.
Miss Colombia, Ariadna Gutierrez, was wrongly named Miss Universe in a dramatic mix-up in front of a global television audience of millions, before the rightful winner Miss Philippines, Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach, was finally handed the glittering crown.
The pageant’s host, American comedian Steve Harvey, misread his cue card and initially announced Miss Colombia had triumphed. Gutierrez was fleetingly crowned and congratulated at the ceremony in Las Vegas and started waving to fans. But as she blew kisses to an adoring crowd, Harvey was forced to come clean and announce the real winner.
ABS-CBN cut off a live broadcast of President Benigno Aquino 3rd’s speech in the Armed Forces Day celebration in Clark, Pampanga, to air Harvey’s apology.
“OK folks, I have to apologize. The first runner-up is Colombia.”
“Miss Universe 2015 is Philippines,” he added as the music began anew, with the actual winner, Wurtzbach, looking stunned and mouthing, “What?”
Harvey attempted to explain the error to a perplexed audience, who greeted the news with both cheers and boos.
“This is exactly what’s on the card. I will take responsibility for this. It was my mistake, it was on the card,” he said.
“It was my mistake, still a great night,” added the talk show host, saying the audience should not “hold it against the ladies.”
The glittering crown was then promptly placed on Wurtzbach’s head. She later told reporters she wished Miss Colombia the best.
“I’m very sorry, I did not take the crown from her and I wish her well in whatever she wants to pursue after this pageant,” she said.
Wurtzbach—who had joined the Bb. Pilipinas pageant three times to finally fulfill her dream of representing the country in the most prominent global competition of beauty and brains—won the crown in a reformatted Miss Universe that saw plot twists to the very last minute of live, world-wide event.
‘New’ Miss U
This 64th edition is the pageant’s first outing since controversial American businessman and presidential candidate Donald Trump sold the organization to American talent management agency WIM-IMG.
As expected, many changes were implemented for the pageant. First off, Miss Universe announced that besides deciding on the winning candidate with a panel of just four judges [comprised of Miss Universe 2012 Olivia Culpo, football legend Emmitt Smith, celebrity blogger Perez Hilton and TV host Niecy Nash], fans from around the world will have their hand in the final scores as a “sixth judge” through live, online voting.
Also, this year, candidates were whittled down from 15, 10 to five and then to three finalists, as compared to previous years, which announced the winners from just the magic circle of five.
Early on in pageant proper, Wurtzbach already emerged as the fan favorite, as she made it to the Top 15 after the swimsuit competition. Miss Colombia was a close second.
Miss Philippines kept her placing through to the following segment in her long gown, which landed her a Top 10 spot, and still very much No. 1 via online voting.
Next came the first question and answer portion, where Wurtzbach was asked if indeed the US should have a military base in the Philippines. She replied, “I think that the US and the Philippines have always had a good relationship with each other. We’ve been colonized by the Americans, and we have their culture in our traditions up to this day. The Philippines is very welcoming with the Americans, and I don’t see any problem with that at all.”
With that, Miss Philippines went on to become a Top 3 finalist along with Miss USA Oliva Jones and Miss Colombia.
Having told ABS-CBN News reporter Dyan Castillejo once that her favorite part of beauty pageants is the often dreaded Q&A portion, Wurtzbach was indeed confident in her reply, especially so in answering the final question on why she believes she should win as the next Miss Universe.
“To be a Miss Universe is both an honor and a responsibility. If I were to be Miss Universe, I will use my voice to influence the youth and I will raise awareness to certain causes like HIV awareness, that is timely and relevant to my country. I want to show the world, the universe, rather, that I am confidently beautiful with a heart.”
Recipes for victory
According to beauty pageant coach Macoy Manlapaz, who gave his analysis over radio station dzBB, Wurtzbach won because of her “subtle grace.” With the new management best known for handling the careers of models, the usually grand and oftentimes exaggerated poses and walkabouts of the Miss Universe pageant contestants have been set aside throughout the competition.
Wurtzbach—who was styled very regally throughout the competition, with her hair in a neat Pijuan even during the swimsuit competition and in her Filipino-designed Albert Andrada royal blue gown—was certainly a perfect fit.
Her answers were also considered “safe,” even in such a controversial question such as the presence of US military bases in the Philippines.
“As pageant coaches, we teach candidates to give uncontroversial answers, the questions can be as controversial as they can get but contestants must always play on the safe side, ” Manlapaz said.
However uncontroversial Miss Philippines’ answers were, the final seconds of Miss Universe 2015 were far from it. Thanks to the pageant’s Emmy Award-winning host Steve Harvey’s honest mistake, the Philippines, which had been waiting for a Miss Universe win for 42 long years, felt a huge letdown when Miss Colombia was declared the winner.
But, just as the 21-year-old South American completed her victory walk for the world to see—what was initially a back-to-back win for Colombia, as well as their third Miss Universe crow—Harvey returned to the stage and regretfully announced he had made a mistake.
It was Wurtzbach, whom everyone had expected to win in the first place, who should have been crowned Miss Universe 2015.
The camera quickly panned to the beautiful Miss Philippines who appeared to be just as stunned as the audience. Not knowing what to do—whether she should walk to center stage or even smile at her victory—Wurtzbach showed great propriety, and only made her way next to Miss Colombia after Miss USA gave her a gentle push toward that direction.
Still in disbelief, the stunning German-Filipina beauty queen walked calmly to center stage, neither looking too eager nor too excited to snag the crown—a reaction most pageant observers positively noted and applauded.
According to them, Wurtzbach showed grace and compassion, and clearly taking into consideration the feeling of the bereaved fellow candidate who had to endure the embarrassment of giving away the crown within two minutes of wearing it on her head.
Another ABS-CBN reporter MJ Felipe, meanwhile, posted on his Instagram account a photo of the host, Harvey, approaching Wurtzbach and personally apologizing to her.
In his Twitter account, on the other hand, the disgraced host tweeted, “I’d like to apologize wholeheartedly to Miss Colombia & Miss Philippines for my huge mistake. I feel terrible.
Secondly, I’d like to apologize to the viewers that I disappointed as well. Again it was an honest mistake. I don’t want to take away from this amazing night and pageant. As well as the wonderful contestants. They were all amazing.”
In a video released by Miss Universe, Wurtzbach called her crowning moment as “a very… non-traditional crowning moment, very 2015.”
Miss Colombia, for her part, graciously said, “Everything happens for a reason.”
42 years in the making
Wurtzbach’s win is historical for this pageant-crazy nation, whose last Miss Universe win was in 1973 by Margie Moran. The Miss Universe crown was first bagged by Gloria Diaz in 1969.
In Miss Universe history, the Philippines had placed 19 times since joining the competition. After Moran’s win, the country’s closest encounters with the crown came when Miriam Quiambao finished 1st runner-up in 1999 and when Janine Tugonon was given the same award in 2012.
For the last six years, the Philippines has been constantly included among the Top 10 finalists, almost all of whom (except for Lastimosa in 2014) made runners-up finishes: Venus Raj, 4th runner up (2010); Shamcey Supsup 3rd (2011); Tugonon, 1st (2012); and Ariella Arida, 3rd (2013).
Moran: It’s been a long time
Meanwhile, in an interview with CNN Philippines, 1973 Miss Universe Pia Moran-Floirendo commended Wurtzbach for her “confidence, her walk, and knowledge of which pose works for her face and body.”
Moran-Floirendo noted that Wurtzbach answered well, especially during the Top 5 question and answer segment.
“She answered very well. The questions were political in nature, where there was no right or wrong answer. It’s how you answered and if you answered well, and she did.”
Moran-Floirendo admitted that she is excited about the new Miss Universe’s homecoming.
“The Philippines will rejoice at her winning. It’s been a long time since my time and I am sure people will rejoice,” she said.
“I felt sorry for both candidates… and for all the Filipinos… who were watching live. It took away from the experience,” Moran-Florendo added.
News of the error spread rapidly on social media, with the #MissUniverse2015 hashtag trending.
“People are human, mistakes can happen. Luckily some have the bravery to own it & take a step to correct it. Hugs to #MissUniverse2015 wow,” tweeted Audrey Bolte, who described herself as Miss Ohio USA 2012.
Some viewers appeared to be gloating.
“It’s okay Miss Colombia. At least you know how it feels to be Miss Universe, at least for a few minutes,” one Filipino said on Twitter.
The contest is wildly popular in Latin America and much of Asia.