What in the world happened in Miss World 2018?

SANYA, China – Philippine beauty queens are fortunate to have the support of the entire country – their victory or defeat can either bring national celebration or commiseration. And when it comes to the Miss World beauty pageant, there have been few celebrations but mostly, commiserations.

Even the most die-hard Filipino fans find little excitement over the Miss World pageant. They support both the local and international queens of the Miss World franchise, but the pageant itself carries little relevance and doesn’t bring the excitement of its rival pageant Miss Universe.

For years, many have been asking if the Philippines will host the Miss World pageant. But whoever the organizers of this endeavor will be, they’ll soon find out that the lack of interest from the general public and the pageant fans will create huge obstacles in attracting sponsors.

The disdain towards Miss World is, perhaps, rooted in the perceived pageant injustices towards Evangeline Pascual (Miss World 1973 1st Princess), Ruffa Gutierrez (Miss World 1993 2nd Princess), and Catriona Gray (Miss World 2016 3rd Runner-up).

The only glimmer of hope was Megan Young, Miss World 2013. She is our first and only Miss World to date. She has also been hosting the Miss World pageant for the past few years now. Megan Young’s reign should have served as an indication of how dedicated and hard working Filipina queens are.

After the Miss World 2018 pageant last December 8, 2018 in Sanya, China, many pageant observers were left to wonder what in the world happened to Miss World?

This year, the Philippines sent pageant veteran Katarina Rodriguez. Hopes were running high because Katarina had everything it takes to win the crown. But those were dashed early on in the pageant when she failed to make it into the Top 30.

Many were befuddled, disappointed and shocked as to why this happened to such a deserving and strong candidate. (READ: Katarina Rodriguez’s Miss World journey: Taking risks, staying true to herself)

BEST. The author (right) with Miss World Philippines Katarina Rodriguez, Miss World Philippines director Arnold Vegafria, and her father Antonio Rodriguez. Photo by Voltaire Tayag/Rappler

BEST. The author (right) with Miss World Philippines Katarina Rodriguez, Miss World Philippines director Arnold Vegafria, and her father Antonio Rodriguez. Photo by Voltaire Tayag/Rappler

After the initial shock, for some it becomes a witch hunt for who’s to blame for the loss. Sadly, the very people who have sacrificed alot, spent countless hours and their own resources to help the candidate are the first to be burned at the social media stake.

Angry fans who lose objectivity resort to cursing, name calling, and any other means to direct their dismay. Ironically, the very people they are blaming were the same ones who they celebrated a year ago when the results were more favorable.

After pondering on what I had witnessed first hand, I kept asking myself what the Miss World Organization is doing right and what it was doing wrong.

CONTINENTAL QUEENS. Miss Mexico Vanessa Ponce de Leon (C)  is jopined by runner-up Miss Thailand Nicolene Pichapa Limsnukan (L), Miss Belarus Maria Vasilevich (2L), Miss Jamaica Kadijah Robinson (3R), Miss Panama Solaris Barba (2R) and Miss Uganda Quiin Abenakyo (R) in Sanya on the tropical Chinese island of Hainan on December 8, 2018. Photo by Greg Baker / AFP

CONTINENTAL QUEENS. Miss Mexico Vanessa Ponce de Leon (C) is jopined by runner-up Miss Thailand Nicolene Pichapa Limsnukan (L), Miss Belarus Maria Vasilevich (2L), Miss Jamaica Kadijah Robinson (3R), Miss Panama Solaris Barba (2R) and Miss Uganda Quiin Abenakyo (R) in Sanya on the tropical Chinese island of Hainan on December 8, 2018. Photo by Greg Baker / AFP

The Show

The best part of the evening was the on-stage stadium seating where all the candidates sat with their respective flags. It looked like a very beautiful version of the United Nations Assembly – an element I had long wanted pageants to do: showcase the world united even for a brief moment. It also gave countries who did not make it more air time.

With 118 countries represented, it must be a logistical and production dilemma to feature all the ladies. In my mind, that should be the main priority. These ladies went there to compete in a pageant and at the very least, they should be seen competing. Sadly, many didn’t even make the pre-pageant activities video montage.

It would have been a better use of time to eliminate the opening act that turned the candidates into back-up dancers. Instead, combine the time alloted for the Dances of the World and Opening into one but allow each delegate to yell out their countries proudly.

DANCES OF THE WORLD. Instead of backup dancing, this segment would have been better. Photo by Voltaire Tayag/Rappler

The show badly needs a warm-up guy who can get the audience going and not some random MWO staff or crew. The crowd was very quiet and tame compared to other international pageants. There simply was no excitement in general, except maybe for Jamaica’s and Uganda’s relatives who were so enthusiastic.

Selection Process

This organization began in 1951 as a bikini contest. It is one year older than the Miss Universe pageant, which was also started to promote the Catalina swimwear brand. Both pageants have become venues for women to pursue their dreams and be of service to others.

Whereas Miss Universe continues to be a more traditional beauty pageant in its true sense for the confidently beautiful and empowered woman, what Miss World has evolved into is debatable.

Thankfully, the winners of Miss World have been excellent ambassadors. There is no denying of the good work they have contributed to many parts of the world. There is no question on the noble aspiration of an organization wanting to spread kindness, generosity and goodwill to those in need.

But the Miss World Organization has its responsibilities to all its franchise holders that keep it afloat. It won’t be able to to do good without all these countries. The organization needs to ask itself fundamental questions of who and what they represent.

UNITED NATIONS STYLE. The candidates are seated in continents. Photo by Voltaire Tayag/Rappler

Fast track challenges

The Top Model, Sports, Multimedia, Beauty with a Purpose and Talent make-up most of the candidates pageant activities. Oddly enough, these obviously aren’t significant enough because none of the winners went on to become Miss World. In the case of Miss Nepal, Shrinkhala Khatiwada, winning both the Multimedia and BWAP wasn’t even enough for her to win Continental Queen of Asia. Heavy fan favorite France, Maeve Coucke, won the Top Model Challenge but lost to Belarus, Maria Vasilevich as Continental Queen of Europe.

Head to Head Challenge

The Head to Head Challenge is more of a head scratcher than anything. First, there was no need to subject Miss World queens, Megan Young, Manushi Chhillar, and Stephanie del Valle, to public and social media scrutiny by having them say their votes out loud. Secondly, I find it ridiculous that this very specific challenge determined 10 of the Top 30 finalists. If any, only one winner should have progressed to the Top 30 in this challenge. It eliminated the very essence of beauty pageants and turned it into an oratorical competition.

These fast track challenges may have been introduced years ago in order to differentiate Miss World from Miss Universe. However, I feel that it has done more damage than benefit.

Let’s suppose that Wimbledon implemented the same gimmicky elimination procedure. Imagine the likes of Roger Federer, Pete Sampras, Rafael Nadal, and Novak Djokovic having to go through the head to head challenge first where they have to talk about their charities. The winner goes onto the next round and so forth. Then the Top 8 go into the quarter-finals where they have to play tennis. Then the Top 4 go into the semifinals and finals and that’s the only time they will play tennis.

That’s essentially what Miss World is doing – having beauty pageant contestants compete in events that does not consider their physical beauty.

Like Miss America, Miss World has succumbed to the belief that swimsuit competitions objectify women – that is why there is no longer a Beach Beauty Challenge. But it isn’t it also wrong to be telling women what to wear and what not to wear?

The women of today work hard to have active and healthy lifestyles, so they should be able to flaunt their bodies and celebrate them. Besides, the objectification of women is not coming from those women. It comes from men who do not value the totality of these women. The problem isn’t women in swimsuits, it’s the men who objectify them.

Has the pendulum struck too far away from pageantry and to appease feminists and to address relevance, they resort to this advocacy? If that’s the case, then they might as well do away completely with gender, age and height requirements.

Most of the so-called changes in Miss World were due to addressing pressures of feminists, political correctness, and wanting to remain relevant. But appeasing these sectors will do very little to improve the pageant’s marketability or image.

These people are predisposed to believe that anything remotely associated with pageantry is frivolous and a waste of time. Why pander to groups that won’t watch pageants to begin with?

FORMAT AND STYLE. The format this year has been changed, causing a lot of confusion for many. Photo by Voltaire Tayag/Rappler

Doing so just turns the organization away from those that have supported it from the beginning. By that, I mean the pageant fans, the beauty queens, and the national franchises that signed up for a beauty pageant.

It is a disservice to the nations that pay franchise fees to be part of the Miss World Organization and pageantry is downplayed to the point of non-existence.

Miss World doesn’t need anymore gimmickry, continental awards to get more people interested and the entire list of countries in existence to participate. Sadly, its efforts to promote inclusivity and diversity has alienated the aspect of beauty in its initial selection process. It really needs to bring back the beauty pageant element. Miss World needs a serious make-over and transform it into an amazing beauty pageant spectacular that has worldwide appeal to bring it back to its glory days.

As the longest running beauty pageant in the world, Miss World should strive to remain aspirational and universal rather than regional and continental. – Rappler.com

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