It was a dark day on September 23rd, 2002, when the heaven-sent beauty by the name of Oxana Fedorova was dethroned as Miss Universe. If anyone proved that anyone could actually be "too good" for the Miss Universe title, it certainly was Oxana. Oxana was indisputably one of the most beautiful women ever to hold the title. Her face and body were near flawless and with her level of education, she exemplified all the qualities that a true Miss Universe should possess. But alas, she was stripped of her title because the Miss Universe organization said she was "unable to fulfill her duties." Although, Oxana maintains that she resigned because she had to complete her dissertation and look after a sick relative. We've heard two different stories. Which one to believe remains a question. But what doesn't remain a question is that Oxana was truly one of the most beautiful Miss Universes and it was a shame that she could not complete her reign. Enter Justine Pasek of Panama who conveniently was 1st runner up last year and conveniently became the new Miss Universe representing the host country of the following year's pageant. Another thing that makes me go, 'hmmm...' We all know Oxana could not be matched but Justine stepped in and she completed the rest of the year graciously. At least in the final telecast, they didn't deny Oxana's existence. They did address the fact that Justine was happy with just being the runner-up.
Farewell, Oxana.
On to the show, which was a delightful show. The GuyRex team has made the Miss Universe pageant look like such a classy event and they really have brought into modern times. And how about the beautiful music from Bond? Wasn't it great?? Not only was their music pleasantly intoxicating but also Bond is a great all-girl act that you just can't stop looking at! This is the kind of music act I like to see. They are not boring to watch. Even Chayanne's high-energy performance was good. I have said in the past that I hate when a pageant turns into a concert but this year the music choices were right on. The hosts Billy Bush and Daisy Fuentes were good. Billy was definitely better than Phil Simms last year and Daisy wasn't quite the same as last year. She was still good but it almost seemed like she was trying to show off her Spanish a bit, particularly with her little statements like 'Que paso' and what not.

The opening introduction needed captions. I like when the delegates say their name and country but I prefer the way it was done in 2002 with delegates wearing their national costumes. The little national costumes segment they showed in this pageant seemed pointless particularly because it was hard to focus on any one delegate and not every delegate had close-ups. The ways the girls say their openings were fun. The words 'Serbia and Montenegro' never sounded so sexy until they were uttered by Sanja Papic. The dancing was nice and even though the stage caused a few slip-ups during the night, it looked exquisite.



Winner=Dominican Republic-Amelia Vega

Winner=Czech Republic-Katerina Smrzova*

1st Runner Up=Venezuela-Mariangel Ruiz

1st Runner Up=Canada-Leanne Cecile*

2nd Runner Up=South Africa-Cindy Nell

2nd Runner Up=Venezuela-Mariangel Ruiz*

3rd Runner Up=Serbia & Montenegro-Sanja Papic

3rd Runner Up=Japan-Miyako Miyasaki*

4th Runner Up=Japan-Miyako Miyasaki

4th Runner Up=South Africa-Cindy Nell*



Brazil-Gislaine Rodrigues Ferreira

Australia-Ashlea Talbot

Canada-Leanne Cecile

Colombia-Diana Lucia Mantilla Prada

Czech Republic-Katerina Smrzova

France-Emmanuelle Chossat

Namibia-Ndapewa Alfons

Brazil-Gislaine Rodrigues Ferreira*

Trinidad & Tobago-Faye Alibocas

USA-Susie Castillo*



Angola-Ana Jose Sebastiao

Serbia & Montenegro-Sanja Papic*

Greece-Marietta Chrousala

Philippines-Carla Gay Balingit

Panama-Stefanie de Roux

Peru-Claudia Ortiz de Zevallos*

Peru-Claudia Ortiz de Zevallos

China-Wei Wu

USA-Susie Castillo

India-Nikita Anand



Greece*, Italy, Namibia*, Barbados, Panama*



Malaysia, Nicaragua, Angola*, Israel, Albania

I think everyone loved having a top 15 this year. It gives 5 more countries a time to shine. With the announcement of the top 15, the use of Bond's song "Allegretto" really heightened the suspense of the moment. As shown in my predictions this year, I got 9 of the 15 semifinalists, plus 3 alternates and 1 honorable mention missing out on picking Dominican Republic (the eventual winner) and Trinidad & Tobago. Trinidad was the surprise of the night but then when you recall that Wendy Fitzwilliam was one of the prelim judges, it doesn't seem like that much of a surprise. These ladies' choices for gowns were what kept them off my list. Dominican Republic wore this awful blue gown and Trinidad's gown was too busy and I didn't really like the florae on the bodice. It distracted me a little. As for my 6 girls that didn't make it, Australia was nice but I guess she wasn't strong enough in interview. Colombia's gown had mixed reactions. France's look may have been a little too sexy for the semifinals. Philippines had a heavenly gown pose but I guess that's all she had. And the world's most populated countries; China and India were both snubbed this year. China needed a bit more polishing and India was out of shape with an ill-fitting gown. India's 11-year streak in the semifinals has now unfortunately been broken but one streak that still goes strong is Venezuela's. Every year since 1983, Venezuela has made the semifinals and they have made the top 6 every year since 1991. That's 13 years in the finals bringing the total to an astounding 21 years in the semifinals. Of course, the fact that Venezuela almost didn't compete this year due to financial problems made headlines. But the money came through and I'll say it again - an international pageant without Venezuela is like a cake without icing.
On to the evening gown competition where Bond's amazing songs "Shine" and "Strange Paradise" followed by the not-as-good song "Libertango" were played. Last year's "Dancing with the Muse" by Chris Spheeris also had that ethnic feel to it. First was South Africa and yes, we all saw the slip at the top of the stairs. The world collectively gasped but Cindy held on and recovered nicely. She did seem a bit shaken afterwards but she handled it well. Trinidad's flora-cluttered gown was a mess. I didn't like it and I kind of question how she advanced to the top 10. Venezuela's regal red gown looked nice. It wasn't as stiff as I originally thought it was and she looked much better with her hair down. Venezuela broke tradition and chose a non-pastel colored gown, which hasn't been done since 1993. Greece had a sea-green silky gown that draped over her. I didn't think it was the best choice but you gotta love that beat of the music when she's walking out. I didn't care for Panama's orange-red gown but I did like the skirt toss and she certainly worked it. Czech Republic wore a very sexy black lace gown but I was expecting a little more from her presentation. Namibia's white gown was safe and simple. Canada had a nice, tasteful gown that seemed similar to the one Tashina Kastigar wore at Miss USA this year. Brazil also had your traditional safe white gown. I liked how Serbia and Montenegro's gown caught the light. Other people thought it looked too furniture-ish. The gown certainly did accentuate her form and I liked when she walked with her hands on her hips but she did seem to have trouble walking in it at some points. USA had a rather risky gown choice which was borderline tacky but she certainly knows how to present herself. Angola had a pleasant aura about her in her white gown with blue designs on it. I think I would have liked it if she advanced to top 10 rather than Trinidad. Japan showed us that she is a woman of the times. She wore a sexy, daring gown and it was stunning. It showed off her great body and she took off the jacket at the right time. It looked like she wasn't even wearing a bra from the back. This kind of gown takes guts to wear. Dominican Republic made a much better choice than her preliminary gown. This gown really fit her form well. It showed off her long legs and the jangles on each arm were a nice touch. Peru had an interesting one-sleeve semi-transparent gown but she needed a little more to her presentation.

As the top 10 advanced to compete in swimsuit accompanied by Bond's "Fuego," the ladies showed off some great bodies starting with that of Czech Republic. Her divine catwalk combined with her excellent body made for a great presentation. Canada, although she slid a bit as she was walking, easily had the best abs in the competition. Brazil didn't quite have the best body. I would have liked to have seen a little more lengthening of the legs but she did what she could. Trinidad was pretty fit. I'll give her that and I did like the way she pulled apart the sarong but this was as far as she was going to go. Serbia and Montenegro looked very nice with a natural model-like body. Gasp! A mistake?? Daisy calls out 'South Africa' and onstage is Miss Venezuela. It was an uncomfortable moment as Mariangel was sent onstage at the wrong time and she stood still a little while with a nervous look on her face but then she decided to go for it and Daisy again says 'South Africa' but then Scott Grossman tells Daisy that Miss Venezuela is on stage. (Sighs of relief, we're all smiles now.) Namibia comes on stage with her lean body but she didn't really have as much presence as I was expecting but it was nice to see Namibia in the semis seeing how their only other semifinalist (Michelle McLean in 1992) went on to win Miss Universe that year. Okay, now South Africa, who, of course, looked divine. Dominican Republic appeared working that body to full extent. Didn't you love her pose when she did a quick toss of the sarong and confidently placed her fists on her hips? It was lovely. Finally, Japan comes out and shows us that she knows how to work that fit body.

Dominican Republic won Best in National Costume (I seriously question the judging of this competition), Antigua won Congeniality and Puerto Rico won Photogenic for the fourth time in five years. This is why Internet voting just doesn't work. 99 and 01 were deserving, 02 and 03 weren't. Bias and Internet voting go hand in hand. Anyway, on to the final five. Venezuela was asked what extreme sports she has done as they somehow heard it was her hobby and Mariangel said that they all got confused and she never has taken part in extreme sports, loves her life dearly, and takes care of it. Ah, well, who knows how such a mistake happened? Hey, it's our first year on NBC so we'll forgive a few mishaps here and there. Japan explained how being right handed is favorable but she still eats with her left hand and plays with balls in her left hand. So, Daisy and Billy concluded that she's only right handed when people are watching. South Africa said she worked with Nelson Mandela and was invited for lunch with him as Miss South Africa and that started an idea to create HIV projects and she learned that you do not need to be a phenomenal person to create phenomenal things. What a lovely statement. This is exactly why South Africans do so well in the interviews. Dominican Republic helped out at her grandmother's store ('I did too!' exclaims Daisy.) and her first job as a child was to invite tourists for coffee. Serbia and Montenegro said she likes to travel to interesting places, including Oriental places like Dubai. It wasn't just at that moment but whenever Sanja spoke, she came across as incredibly ditzy.

For the final questions, Venezuela chose South Africa's question asking what event in history she would change. Mariangel said she would do away with all world wars. She added that we have destroyed humanity as well as dehumanized it and that every day, we should try to be more humane and take steps forward to give love in order to have world peace. It was a magnificent answer. Japan chose Justine Pasek's questions which asked if she could only have one of the five senses, which one would it be and why? Japan seemed to have trouble thinking about this question. She said it would be hearing but as for the reason why she kind of mumbled that "even if I couldn't see, if I hear something that would leave an impression on my heart." It was an okay answer but the way she expressed it wasn't really confident enough. South Africa chose Japan's question asking what is the most important thing in her life. Cindy said family is and should be the foundation of everything that we build in life. If we try to get that message across to young people, many other problems will be resolved within themselves. Another lovely answer but it may have come across as sounding a bit clichéd and those types of answers are being punished these days for some reason. Dominican Republic chose Venezuela's question asking what is the most precious gift she gave to someone. The translator switched it around a bit but she said according to her grandmother, it was a letter that she gave her when she was young and it made her feel emotion. It's not what you write; it's the feeling behind it. Finally, Serbia and Montenegro proved she desperately needed some interview training when she picked Dominican Republic's question asking whether she would rather be water or fire. Sanja doesn't dare to be creative and simply says, "I'm a human being and I don't know how is it (possible) to be fire or water and from that reason, I don't have answer. I'm a girl with emotion and fire and water doesn't have." Someone trained would have been able to say something like water makes up a considerable portion of the world and our bodies and it quenches thirst in its liquid form and provides homes in its solid form. Or fire provides light but both have disadvantages since excessive water or fire can kill a person. I'm just throwing out ideas but I really hate hearing answers like the one Sanja gave, particularly to a very interesting question.

At the finale, Justine Pasek did her farewell staying remarkably humble and gracious. Although, I would have given Serbia and Montenegro 4th runner up, they gave it to Japan, Serbia and Montenegro managed to place 4th overall. South Africa was 3rd. Venezuela was 1st runner up and the Dominican Republic claimed its first Miss Universe title. The national director rushed on stage to hug Amelia and blow a kiss obviously feeling an uncontrollable range of emotions.

So, now you're all asking if I heard the nasty rumors about Amelia prior to pageant. Rumor has it that Amelia said some very mean things to the other contestants, including calling Miss Spain fat right before she competed in the preliminary swimsuit competition. This may have been true as we did see only a handful of delegates congratulating Amelia when she won. Of course, I wasn't backstage but I do get that vibe from Amelia. I usually tell pageant contestants to be confident but there is a fine line between attractive confidence and unattractive conceit and Amelia may have tipped the balance slightly towards conceit. Of course, any form of bullying is immature and is very unbecoming of any good competitor but in any event, Amelia is Miss Universe and she now has the year to prove herself.