She is amazing, outstanding, gorgeous, glamourous, breathtaking and just perfect. She is Shandi Finnessey. She was my prediction to win Miss Universe...and she was first runner-up :-(
Needless to say, I'm quite disappointed that Miss USA, Shandi Finnessey came so close to catching the Miss Universe crown but alas, it was not meant to be and we all know, I've been disappointed before. Not taking anything away from the actual winner, Australia's Jennifer Hawkins, who is a beautiful woman in her own right but Shandi Finnessey looked exactly like a Miss Universe should look and she had the formula down but in the end it was just the luck of the draw. I thought Shandi was miles ahead of the competition this year. She just looked that perfect. And then some thoughts came to my mind about how the political situation in the U.S. (i.e. the war in Iraq) may have affected the USA's chances of winning this year. A lot of people have also said that not winning Universe would be better for Shandi in the long run because she has more opportunities to network while traveling in her country as opposed to foreign countries where she can't really parlay her title into a great career. Take for example, the case of Chelsi Smith, Ali Landry, and Brook Lee-Chelsi and Brook both won Miss Universe but Ali Landry is the most well-known of these three titleholders and she stayed as Miss USA. I thought Chelsi Smith was bound for stardom but she seems to have stayed pretty low-key which disappoints me and Brook Lee has made a few returns to the pageant and made several appearances during her reign on shows like Oprah Winfrey and Wheel of Fortune but I haven't heard much of her outside of that after her reign. Ali Landry has a decent acting career going though and her quick divorce soon after her marriage to Mario Lopez made headlines. Speaking of pageant divorces, I should also address the recent double divorce of Miss Universe 1993, Dayanara Torres and singer Marc Anthony. They looked all smiles at the 2001 and 2002 Miss Universe pageants but then they divorced and re-married right at the same time as the 2003 Miss Universe pageant but on the day of the 2004 Miss Universe pageant, they get divorced again so that Marc Anthony could marry Jennifer Lopez. It's really a bizarre thing since Dayanara has given birth to two of Marc Anthony's sons and she received some really nice things after her divorce. Dayanara deserves better anyway. I always thought Marc Anthony was a scrawny runt and Jennifer Lopez couldn't hold a marriage together if she tried. Her past two divorces prove it. Okay, moving along, I must give a heartfelt congratulations to Jennifer Hawkins of Australia for getting their second Miss Universe crown 32 years after Kerry Anne Wells won the crown for the land down-under in 1972. That is the longest gap between wins for one country in Miss Universe history so far. What made this win even more triumphant was the fact that Australia hadn't made the semifinals since 1993 and then they came back strong with a win to remember.

It all began in the land where the hemispheres meet, Ecuador. In the introductory segment, we saw almost all of this year's delegates introduce themselves in a similar fashion to last year's pageant stating their name, age, and title (in some cases, the country like Canada and Italy since they technically don't own the titles "Miss Canada" or "Miss Italy", rather it is "Miss Universe Canada" but they just decided to drop the "Miss", which works for me if people are going to bitch about something that nobody really cares about.) There were waaaaay too many audio glitches throughout this pageant. First, when we get to Miss Bulgaria in the intros, the pre-recorded applause track faded, as did her voice and the music and it just ruined the effect of having continuous applause throughout the intros. Sometimes this pre-recorded applause can get a little much. I remember in the 1999 pageant, hearing one distinct long scream several times throughout the pageant, especially during the evening gown competition. The worst glitch of them all was the "Georgia-Germany" broken record effect. I remember thinking when it happened that it was funny the way Miss Georgia said "Miss Georgeeeyaaa" and then we went to Miss Germany's intro and I was wishing I could hear the "Georgeeeyaaa" again because I thought it was funny, well I got my wish four more times but at about the fourth one, I was getting very disturbed and then the madness finally stopped and we cut to Miss Guyana's intro but oh-ho, we missed Ghana, Greece, and Guatemala. And those three delegates weren't really showcased at all during the pageant either even in the little segments when they were all in gowns or swimsuits. That's pre-recorded live television for you. Miss India's introduction was very sultry. I loved it. After the intros, we saw a little fun dance with all the delegates and I enjoyed it.

Billy Bush and Daisy Fuentes returned this year as hosts and I just must reiterate how much I love Daisy Fuentes as a host. She just does it better than anyone else does. She just has that style and her genuine interest makes you really interested. The national costume segment was good. I particularly liked the fact that they announced the top 10 this year, which has never been done before but I still think the national costumes would be more effective to be used in the intros but that probably would be difficult if they wanted to showcase the scenery of Ecuador in the background. The flashback of Amelia Vega's reign during the last year was great and when she came on stage she looked great and seemed to be a little more humble this time around and I found it convenient that Daisy described Amelia as "Preciosa" which happens to be the name of a sponsor of this year's pageant. It was also funny when Billy said he felt like Napoleon next to all the tall girls. And then we met the judges. Speaking of the judges, the pre-pageant controversy generated to publicize the pageant in all the Entertainment news shows was that Kwame Jackson (runner-up on NBC's The Apprentice) was supposed to be a judge but was conveniently videotaped waving and talking to some of the contestants which he was not supposed to do and he claimed that he didn't know that. Then he was "fired" from the judging panel and his spot given to the winner of The Apprentice, Bill Rancic. I don't really care how planned it looked or that year after year there has always been some convenient controversy to generate interest right before the pageant. Donald Trump knows how publicity works and sure enough Miss Universe had the highest ratings on the night that it was on. Yes, there were no African or Asian judges, but I really wonder why Paula Abdul didn't judge. I guess she was tired and needed a vacation after a long season of American Idol (Latoya London should have won, btw).



Winner=Australia-Jennifer Hawkins

Winner=USA-Shandi Finnessey*

1st Runner Up=USA-Shandi Finnessey

1st Runner Up=Venezuela-Ana Karina Anez Delgado

2nd Runner Up=Puerto Rico-Alba Giselle Reyes

2nd Runner Up=Paraguay-Yanina Gonzalez*

3rd Runner Up=Paraguay-Yanina Gonzalez

3rd Runner Up=Aruba-Zizi Lee

4th Runner Up=Trinidad & Tobago-Danielle Jones

4th Runner Up=Australia-Jennifer Hawkins*

FINALISTS (alpha'l)


Colombia-Catherine Daza Manchola

Jamaica-Christine Straw*

Costa Rica-Nancy Soto

Peru-Liesel Holler

Ecuador-Susana Rivadeneira

Greece-Valia Kakouti

India-Tanushree Dutta

Ukraine-Oleksandra Nikolayenko

Jamaica-Christine Straw

Ethiopia-Ferehiyewot Abebe



Angola-Telma de Jesus Esperanca Sonhi

India-Tanushree Dutta*

Chile-Gabriela Barros

Philippines-Maricar Balagtas

Mexico-Rosalva Luna

Puerto Rico-Alba Giselle Reyes*

Norway-Kathrine Sorland

Ecuador-Susana Rivadeneira*

Switzerland-Bianca Nicole Sissing

Norway-Kathrine Sorland*


ALTERNATES:Turkey, Colombia*, Chile*, Nicaragua, Estonia


HONORABLE MENTIONS:Guyana, Trinidad & Tobago*, Switzerland*, Belize, Russia


* = made actual top 15

As for my predictions this year, I got 8 of the 15 semifinalists plus 2 alternates and 2 honorable mentions. I'm happy that 3 of my top 5 were in the actual top 5. The three contestants that I missed entirely were Angola, Costa Rica and Mexico. So what about my picks that didn't make it?? Well, one of the most shocking events in Miss Universe history was the sudden exclusion of the pageant powerhouse of Venezuela. When they announced the 14 names of the top 15, I thought for sure the last name would be Venezuela, as its happened many times before like in 1988, 1993, 1996, 1999, 2002, but then I heard a surprise name…Mexico and my jaw just dropped. I just couldn't believe Venezuela didn't even make the top 15. They had absolutely no reason to make a victim of Ana Karina Anez, but it seems like there was a convenient chain for this to happen. Notice that the most successful countries of the last 10 years (USA, Venezuela and India) were all omitted in recent years (USA in 2002, India in 2003 and now Venezuela in 2004). Venezuela's long streak in the semifinals was suddenly and unexpectedly broken. Venezuela made it every year since 1983 (21 years) and the top 6 every year since 1991 (13 years). This is very serious business for Venezuela. I was told that Carolina Indriago cried after not making the top 3 in 1999 so what would be their reaction after not making the top 15?? My next pick that didn't make it was Aruba's Zizi Lee who pageant fans remember fondly as the first runner-up to Miss World 2001. Zizi carried herself so sexily in the gown competition and her hair and body looked lovely but her style of speaking sounds a bit monotone or that she is talking into her head so perhaps that's what did her in. Peru's Liesel Holler had a great body and a gorgeous green gown. On top of that, she was from the neighboring country so I have no idea what happened there. Greece and Ukraine were put in my list due to excessive hyping from other people. Yes, sometimes I succumb to the hype too. I didn't like the way Greece's gut kind of hung out although they are hosting the Olympics this year and I thought NBC would like some publicity for Greece. But they did give the crown to the country that hosted the 2000 Olympics anyway. Although Miss Ukraine made the semifinals during Miss World 2001, she didn't really give an impacting performance, although she did look a bit like Larissa Meek, Miss Missouri USA 2001 with her new hairstyle. Then came Ethiopia. I knew that there had to be one African delegate and although her body had an odd shape, I still would have preferred her over Miss Angola. And finally, Miss Philippines really looked the part. I didn't think much of her at first but her poses, hair and gown impressed me so I don't know what happened with her either.

After the announcement of the top 15, we got to witness the evening gown competition with nice, classy, soothing music. We had a few close-ups in the beginning with Turkey wearing a more appropriate gown and China sporting a Morticia Addams-like mullet. I must note that I think more girls than ever this year changed into a different gown from the one worn in the preliminaries. My guess is that there may be a strategy to this. They picked a gown that stands out and gets them noticed in the preliminaries, then they wear a different gown on finals nice that they could see themselves winning Miss Universe in or a sponsoring designer may have designed a special gown to be showcased on the actual telecast. First up was Puerto Rico wearing the classic white gown with a slit up to there. She had a nice serene quality about her. Norway followed after Billy Bush had to say her name twice (another audio glitch) and she wore a pink gown with material that didn't really flatter her breasts. Trinidad wore a gown that was ten times better than the one she wore in prelims. It was a silvery gown with sheer material at the leg slits. It looked really great. Her prelim gown was awful and was enough for me to make her an honorable mention on my list in spite of her impressive body. Ecuador also wore a nice white gown and it worked well with her. I loved when India spun out and her dangly earrings just flew out. She wore a grayish gown with jangling beads which was similar to what Amelia Vega wore last year. It looked great. Australia followed in a metallic greenish-gold sexy garden of Eden number. I thought it was a nice unique gown. Angola had a white-yellow-aqua-yellow gown that looked pretty good on her but it wasn't enough to help her. Jamaica looked really stunning in a yellowish-green gown. I think Christine could wear just about anything and still look great. Colombia changed into a nice white gown with a sheer disco sparkle effect on the skirt. Switzerland, who bears a striking resemblance to Miss Universe 2000, Lara Dutta, wore a lovely golden gown which I thought was also much better than the one she wore in prelims. She probably should have gone further. Costa Rica's gown was ultra-sexy was see-through material and sparkles at just the right places and the color matched her skin tone creating the illusion of nudity. Chile chose a better gown which was sexier but more tasteful. USA looked like a vision of perfection, like a Barbie doll had come to life and the ice blue color looked magnificent on Shandi and blended so nicely with the background, much like Denny Mendez, Miss Italy 1997. I was surprised that Shandi wore the same gown she won Miss USA in during the prelims as we haven't seen a Miss USA do that since 1988 but she looked amazing nonetheless. Paraguay was the pleasant surprise this year. This country usually doesn't send strong contenders but Yanina was simply breathtaking in a white gown that showed off her cleavage and had slits on either side, which she pulled up at one point showing off her great legs. Mexico followed in a more traditional orange-red number but her walk looked a little off at points.

It was nice to see Gloria Estefan do her classics but the audio problems made her performance painful to watch and listen to. Maybe it was better that Paula Abdul didn't show up. First, Gloria's microphone didn't work and then she was singing off-beat for "Turn the Beat Around" and "Conga". At least they fixed things before it ended and for her next performance and Billy humorously took the blame for the problems. During the Covergirl moment, Amelia Vega asked some contestants what the most important issue facing women today was. USA said women want peace in the family, career and that they're on the right track and what they're doing is right. India said women need unconditional respect that they deserve for being who they are. Jamaica said each person must be true to themselves which will lead to self-fulfillment. Peru said respect is important and that women must support and respect each other. Netherlands said to take time for yourself, pamper yourself and love yourself and Amelia Vega said she is happy with who she is. And then we moved on to the top 10. The video segments showing the top 10 really needed background music (another audio glitch). It made the segments seem empty. Music really does make it sound more professional and less amateur. Jamaica sounded a lot like Lara Dutta, Miss Universe 2000 during her piece. Next, the top 10 competed in the swimsuit competition. I liked the rain falling into the pools of water and I thought the stepping-down-into-the-pool was a little odd when I watch the preliminaries but when I saw the camera pan in the final show, it all made sense. Costa Rica was up first and I thought it was very nice to see Costa Rica get a second semifinalist 50 years after Marian Esquive placed in 1954. That is the longest gap between semifinalists for one country in Miss Universe history so far. (Sound familiar?) Costa Rica was tall at 6 feet but her hips kind of stuck out oddly in her thighs. Trinidad had a very nice toned body. She must workout a lot because those legs were dynamite/TNT. USA was perfection. Her beautiful long blond hair, sexy legs and the lovely overall shape of her body really stood out. Puerto Rico had a bit of a paunch at her belly button but her breasts looked nice and she had long legs. Jamaica also looked lovely but perhaps she needed to extend her legs a little more. Paraguay had a supreme, magnificent body. I was so pleased. Ecuador looked okay but her teeth looked too long. Australia followed with a catwalk that drew mixed reactions. One guy on a local morning news show dared to call her walk trailer-trashy but I thought that she just may have overdone it a bit. Her body overall was certainly very nice though. India was shorter and visibly skinnier than the others but she worked it with everything she could. Her leg extension was great. Colombia also looked pretty good and actually better than the prelims. Something about her face bugs me though but the long hair hides it. Afterwards, judge Bo Derek talked to Billy Bush about being dethroned as Miss Teen California because she wanted to surf rather than attend luncheons. And Bill Rancic said that you can tell in the walk who has the right energy, which I think is also very true in some cases. Afterwards, Panama was given the National Costume award. Italy won Congeniality and Puerto Rico won Photogenic for the fourth year in a row. You would think that this should be sending signals that if people are going to be voting on the Internet, that it should be a "Miss Internet" award and the Photogenic award should go back to being judged by actual press photographers.

Shortly afterwards, we met the top 5 (Paraguay, USA, Puerto Rico, Australia and Trinidad), and they eliminated yet another interview session and we just got to see them answer one question. This was probably to make room for the touristy segments of Ecuador and Gloria Estefan. Paraguay first picked her own question, then Daisy told her that in Spanish and then humourously says to the interpreter, "Oh, that's your job!" and then laughs. Then Paraguay chose Trinidad's question asking which female leader in history she would interview and why. After thinking for a while, she went with Eva Peron because she's continuously struggled toward the freedom of her country and she believes what we have deep within our hearts is our own countries and that is what she struggles for and now she is a finalist at Miss Universe. Overall, a nice answer but the interpreter kind of translated it in a forgettable way unlike the way he translated for Alicia Machado, Miss Universe 1996. USA picked Puerto Rico's question asking what do you think has been women's greatest contribution to today's world and why? Shandi handled the question like a total pro and immediately said by far, children. She said we wouldn't be here if it wasn't for the caregiver, the homemaker and yes, men are great and we need them but what would the world be without women? I think Shandi may have walked away too quickly after completing her answer but it was a great answer. Puerto Rico picked Paraguay's question asking 3 words that describe her. Alba said she was perseverant, sincere and sympathetic. She always works hard and even though she had many obstacles she went for her dream and there she was making her dream come true. It was a nice answer which may have upped her ranking a notch. Australia picked Amelia Vega's question which was, "If you could choose what time period to be born in and what sex to be, which would you choose and why?" Jennifer said she would choose today because we have as much freedom as we want (not true in all countries) and she would choose the sex of female because they have a lot of say in today's society (again, not true in all countries but it's nice that she comes from a country where that is true and it's an ideal, forward way of thinking so I guess that's what the judges liked.) Trinidad (or as Daisy sometimes said Shrineedad) picked USA's question stating that we tend to learn our biggest lessons from our failures. What is one failure in your life that you learned the most from? This caused Danielle to say, "Trust Shandi to give me a tough question." Danielle and Shandi seemed to have become great friends while they were in Ecuador and they probably had some grill sessions to prepare for the questions. Danielle said her failure was when she hit her head on stage during her first fashion show and she learned from that, how to walk and overcome that fear in front of a big audience and "what an audience we have tonight!" It was a quick on-the-spot answer and it seemed like she tried to get the audience on her side.

Amelia Vega looked striking during her farewell and then came the final announcement that the 4th runner-up was Trinidad, 3rd runner-up was Paraguay, 2nd runner-up was Puerto Rico and as the final two stepped forward, Shandi said to Jennifer that she could be her roommate and it turned out to be true as USA was named 1st runner-up and Australia (the thunder from down-under) took the Miss Universe crown. After Jennifer did her first walk as Miss Universe, some delegates came down and stepped on the glass piece covering the water to congratulate Jennifer. Immediately, they were pulled away as it could have been potentially disastrous for the new Miss Universe to fall into that pool along with some other delegates. It reminded me of the 1979 Miss Universe pageant, which oddly enough was held in "Australia," when the stage collapsed after the show and some delegates fell into the hole. Jennifer Hawkins made an appearance on the Regis and Kelly show (or as I call it Regis and Kelly Lee, due to Kathie Lee's removal) and Jennifer and Kelly strutted their stuff because Kelly loved the model walks and she tried on the Miss Universe tiara. Jennifer said she totally didn't expect to win. Kelly Ripa spoke a lot about the pageant and what I thought was really funny was how she took a liking to Miss India. Kelly said Miss India is 5'7" and I'm 5'2" and a half. She likes observing people and I do too. She has black hair and I probably have black hair. But in any event, congratulations to Jennifer and to the Aussies on capturing the crown.