Andrea Meza crowns Vanessa Ponce as Miss World MexicoArriba Chihuahua, Viva Mexico!!! It's a third Miss Universe crown for the land of the Mariachi as Chihuahua’s own Andrea Meza has captured the crown and she succeeds the wins of Lupita Jones in 1991 (who directed Mexico's national pageant for many years and recently announced a run for governor of Baja California) and Ximena Navarrete in 2010 who also happened to place 3rd on my predictions list that year just like Andrea did this year! Andrea was previously the 1st runner up at Miss World 2017 but would go on to win the Miss Universe title in the same manner as another Miss World finalist, Catriona Gray of the Philippines who won Miss Universe 2018 after finishing in the top 5 of Miss World 2016 and even the 1st runner up, Brazil’s Julia Gama also previously placed at Miss World 2014 finishing in the top 11 that year. Andrea is one of only four women to place in the top 2 at both Miss World and Miss Universe. The other three were: Wales' Rosemarie Frankland in 1961, Wales' Helen Morgan in 1974 and Bermuda's Gina Swainson in 1979 who all finished as 1st runner up at Miss Universe prior to winning Miss World but Andrea went the opposite direction! This is also the first Latina win since 2014 won Colombia's Paulina Vega captured the crown also in Florida. Interestingly enough, Andrea’s successor at the national level, Vanessa Ponce went on to win Miss World 2018 becoming Mexico’s first Miss World titleholder in a rare instance where a Miss Universe crowned a Miss World!

Zozibini Tunzi in front of the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida, USAOn December 8, 2019, when South Africa’s Zozibini Tunzi was crowned Miss Universe 2019, the world was in a more normal state but little did we know then that it was the countdown/camino a la Coronavirus which originated in Wuhan, China starting in 2019 quickly started making its way around the world creating a worldwide pandemic in mid-March 2020 that hasn’t been seen in world history in a very long time causing shutdowns and restrictions and a new way of life that most people living today have never seen before. People are having to wear masks in public and social distancing is encouraged while unnecessary travel is discouraged varying by region. Vaccines have started to become available in 2021 but international cases are still on the rise overwhelming health care systems so it still may be some time before the world sees a return to some normalcy. Even the contestants from India and Argentina recently tested positive for the Coronavirus but have since recovered and were cleared to compete for Miss Universe 2020 and South Africa’s contestant also said she once tested positive for the Coronavirus. More people are interacting virtually and working from home and special events like concerts and sporting events have been dramatically reduced. Zozibini’s long reign was unfortunately limited due to the travel restrictions so much of her reign consisted of her conducting webcam interviews with numerous titleholders past and present but there were some fascinating interviews. This was even addressed in the introduction of the 69th Miss Universe pageant with Zozibini saying that last year, she had plans to change the world and other contestants were featured announcing some of their disrupted plans but when obstacles are placed in your path, you grab a mask and you make a difference. Major international events like the Olympics and, of course, the Miss Universe pageant have had to be postponed for safety reasons. Although, as most of us know, this is not the first time that the Miss Universe pageant has been postponed. This is actually the third time that the Miss Universe pageant was held in the following year. The 2014 Miss Universe pageant won by Colombia’s Paulina Vega was actually held in January 2015 and the 2016 Miss Universe pageant won by France’s Iris Mittenaere was held in January 2017. This naturally begs the question, should they have kept the title post-dated? Hindsight is 20/20 (2020). The first Miss Universe titleholders in the 1950s all had postdated titles at the time. For example, the first official Miss Universe, Finland’s Armi Kuusela won her crown in 1952 but at the time she was named Miss Universe 1953 but from the 1960s onwards (excluding 2014, 2016 and now 2020), the Miss Universe titleholders were named Miss Universe for the year in which they won. The post-dated title practice was implemented by the Miss America pageant which has seen their 2021 pageant postponed from 2020 to 2021 (to be named Miss America 2022 in December with 2021 being a skipped year). Miss America titleholders for 2006 to 2013 also saw a similar scenario as they were all crowned in the years that they won their titles unlike the other titleholders that won their titles in the previous year. i.e. New York’s Nina Davuluri won Miss America 2014 in September 2013. Now, the 2020 Miss Universe pageant has become the third leap year being much further delayed to May 2021 which gives Zozibini Tunzi the distinction of being the longest reigning Miss Universe from December 8, 2019 to May 16, 2021 which is 525 days which defeats the previous longest reigning titleholder who was also another African queen, Angola’s Leila Lopes who reigned as Miss Universe 2011 for 465 days from September 12, 2011 to December 19, 2012. The next three longest reigning Miss Universe titleholders were: Venezuela’s Gabriela Isler who reigned 442 days from November 9, 2013 to January 25, 2015; Canada’s Natalie Glebova who reigned 419 days from May 31, 2005 to July 23, 2006; and Philippines’ Pia Wurtzbach who reigned 407 days from December 20, 2015 to January 30, 2017. Not counting the dethroned Miss Universe 2002, Russia’s Oxana Fedorova and her successor Panama’s Justine Pasek, the shortest full-term Miss Universe was France’s Iris Mittenaere who reigned just under 10 months from January 30, 2017 to November 26, 2017; followed by Venezuela’s Barbara Palacios Teyde who reigned for just over 10 months from July 21, 1986 to May 27, 1987. However, as the winner of Miss Universe 2020, Andrea Meza will likely only have an approximate 7 month reign as it is anticipated that the actual 2021 Miss Universe pageant is planned to be held later this year in December 2021 in Costa Rica. Some believed that since postponed/leap years have favored countries that hadn’t won for long time (i.e. Colombia won Miss Universe 2014 in 2015 after having not won the crown since 1958 and France won Miss Universe 2016 in 2017 after having not won the crown since 1953) so a lot of people were eyeing Peru for a win in this postponed year due to them not winning the crown since 1957 and it almost happened but Peru’s Janick Maceta had to settle for a 2nd runner up placement.

Olivia Culpo and Mario LopezWith another sign of the times, the Miss Universe pageant was not be aired on one of the big four American networks (ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX). CBS aired the Miss Universe pageant from the early years up to 2002 then NBC aired the Miss Universe pageants from 2003 to 2014 and finally FOX aired the Miss Universe pageant from 2015 to 2019. With all major events not enjoying the high ratings they once did in their heydays and with so many other streaming options available today winning the eyes of viewers, pageants are no longer the draw to American viewers that they once were. I was hoping that ABC would pick up the Miss Universe pageant for 2020 seeing how they dropped the 2020 Miss America pageant which aired on NBC in December 2019 but that was not to be. Instead, the Miami-based Spanish network, Telemundo (which is under the NBC umbrella) is airing a Spanish broadcast of this 69th Miss Universe pageant for 2020 but the English American broadcast will be aired on the fyi network which recently aired the Miss USA 2020 pageant in November 2020 but this smaller channel is not available in all states and was also discontinued in Canada in 2019 so as anticipated, there were low ratings for this major event and the Miss Universe pageant didn’t even show on any American ratings results for May 16. All major events have experienced ratings dips recently such as the Oscars which aired on April 25 with a 60 percent dip in ratings compared to the previous year. International ratings for the Miss Universe pageant apart from first world nations normally remain high. The Miss Universe pageant was made available for viewing a few days later on the Roku channel and in various parts of Asia, the iqiyi app could be used to stream the pageant. It should also be noted that the Miss USA and Miss Teen USA pageants will no longer be under the Miss Universe umbrella as of 2021 and will now be directed by Crystle Stewart-Miss USA 2008 and those pageants are slated to be held from November 26 to 29, 2021 in Tulsa, Oklahoma in the Paradise Cove Theater in the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and River Spirit Casino Resort. Crystle has also hinted that these events will be streamed so it looks like the days of pageants being shown on the major American networks are over. The Miss Teen USA pageant last aired on NBC in 2007 and has been webcast ever since.

The 2020 Miss Universe pageant was hosted by Miss Universe 2012-Olivia Culpo who returns after serving as a color commentator for the 2019 Miss Universe pageant and she did a decent job. I think she may need the pageants co-hosted by Daisy Fuentes (1995, 2002 and 2003) as Daisy demonstrated a lot of enthusiasm while maintaining her cool demeanor. Mario Lopez who hosted the Miss Universe pageant for the second time after his most recent stint of hosting Miss Universe in 2007 and I liked that there was a mention of him playing A.C. Slater on ‘Saved By The Bell’ during the telecast and that most of the delegates were probably too young to get that reference but talented, handsome Mario is still looking very youthful! As a very experienced host, Mario has also hosted numerous other pageants starting with Miss Teen USA 1998, then also hosting Miss Teen USA 2003 and Miss Teen USA 2007. Mario has also hosted the Miss America pageants for 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2020 but he has never hosted a Miss USA pageant which may be due to his very brief marriage to Miss USA 1996-Ali Landry. Some of the banter seemed more scripted than usual. This year’s special commentators were Miss Universe 2014-Colombia’s Paulina Vega, Miss Universe 2017-South Africa’s Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters-Tebow and Miss USA 2019-North Carolina’s Cheslie Kryst who started her stint as an Extra correspondent during her reign interviewing celebrities gaining much experience and Cheslie is a very professional speaker. Demi co-hosted the preliminaries and stumbled quite a bit during that event and Paulina was decent but I will say her make-up seemed very off. Previous host Steve Harvey completed his five year contract in 2019 but he tweeted, “I’ll miss you guys — but I’ll see you for the 70th,” which hints at his possible return for the 2021 Miss Universe pageant expected to be held in December 2021 in Costa Rica. While, Harvey’s return has yet to be seen, many people have not forgotten the debacle of the 2015 Miss Universe pageant where Steve Harvey notably mistakenly declared Colombia’s Ariadna Gutierrez as the winner only to come back on stage two minutes later stating that he read the card incorrectly and that Ariadna was actually 1st runner up and the Philippines’ Pia Wurtzbach was actually the winner causing an uncomfortable but newsworthy moment where Paulina Vega had to remove the crown and sash from her compatriot, Ariadna and transfer them to Pia.

Bolivia accepts the Impact awardMyanmar's  national costumeThe 69th Miss Universe pageant for 2020 took place at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in the other Hollywood in Florida, USA on May 16, 2021. Most people recognize the guitar-shaped structure and may remember this is also the hotel in which Anna Nicole Smith passed away in 2007. This edition of the international beauty pageant had 74 candidates (which matches the number of delegates that competed in 1997 which coincidentally was also held on May 16 that year). We were at 76 delegates but Bangladesh and Egypt opted not to compete for this edition and in these very uncertain times, I expected more dropouts but that didn’t happen and we beat the low number of only 66 delegates that competed for Miss Universe 1988 in Taiwan but the 1953 Miss Universe pageant actually had the fewest participants with only 26 contestants. 2020 did have the lowest number of contestants since Miss Universe 2003 which had 71 contestants. This year’s only debuting country was Cameroon.

The opening number was vibrant and colorful with the delegates getting to say their names and countries which I appreciated. Usually, I like to see national costumes in the intros but I actually didn’t mind the Sherri Hill cocktail dresses that the ladies wore for the intros particularly reigning Miss Universe, Zozibini Tunzi, with the hoop earrings and the orange dress reminding me a lot of Miss Massachusetts USA 2020, Sabrina Victor. The ladies danced to a medley of songs by Pitbull including ‘Don’t Stop the Party,” “Fireball” and “Feel This Moment.” Pitbull was originally supposed to be this year’s special performer but he had to bail at the last minute and was replaced by Luis Fonsi. With the pageant not airing on FOX, IMG seemed to adapt to a format similar to 2014 while still aiming to push the women’s empowerment message and focus on stories and achievements but perhaps to a lesser degree. There was much less talking in this pageant and fewer speeches which appeared to affect the results of this pageant. For the third year in a row, there was an all-female selection committee. The eight judges were: Miss Universe 1997-USA’s Brook Lee from Hawaii celebrating the 24th anniversary of her win, Miss Universe 2006-Puerto Rico’s Zuleyka Rivera who starred in Luis Fonsi’s music video for one of the longest running number one songs in the U.S. Billboard history, “Despacito,” Arden Cho, Christine Duffy, Deepica Mutyala, Tatyana Orozco, Keltie Knight and Sheryl Adkins-Green. Some special awards were also handed out which included Best National Costume which went to the delegate from Myanmar – Thuzar Wint Lwin who became quite the story this year as her luggage was supposedly lost upon arrival in the USA or she might have been sabotaged but she managed to get an entirely new wardrobe in the USA and held up a sign saying 'Pray for Myanmar' and it was a heartwrenching moment and she wanted to draw attention to innocent people being killed in her country after the military junta overthrew the government and it was powerful. Myanmar’s delegate likely will be seeking asylum in the United States as she obviously fears for her safety if she returns to her country. There was an Impact Award given to Bolivia's Lenka Nemer and the Carnival Spirit Award given to Dominican Republic's Kimberly Jiménez. Carnival Cruise Line has named Kimberly Jiménez as the Godmother for their new ship Mardi Gras. They did away with the regional divisions this year and interestingly enough, no African delegates placed and Europe only had two delegates place (France and Great Britain-who happens to be of South African descent) both of whom were eliminated in the first round. Last year, there were 20 quarterfinalists and they were selected by region (the Americas, Europe and Africa/Asia Pacific) with 5 wildcard spots. This year, there was a top 21 with the 21st delegate being the winner of the online vote on the official Miss Universe website. In past years, the winner of the online vote tended to be either be Philippines, Thailand or Indonesia. Although, there have been some years when other countries like Puerto Rico and supposedly Portugal in 2011 won an online vote but this year, Vietnam showed up and the country that hosted the 2008 Miss Universe pageant also loves pageantry so I should have known that they were also players in the selection of the winner of the online vote.



Winner=Mexico-Andrea Meza

Winner=Canada-Nova Stevens

1st Runner Up=Brazil-Julia Gama

1st Runner Up=Nepal-Anshika Sharma

2nd Runner Up=Peru-Janick Maceta del Castillo

2nd Runner Up=Mexico-Andrea Meza*

3rd Runner Up=India-Adline Castelino

3rd Runner Up=Venezuela-Mariangel Villasmil

4th Runner Up=Dominican Republic-Kimberly Jiménez

4th Runner Up=Argentina-Alina Luz Akselrad*

FINALISTS (alpha'l):


Australia-Maria Thattil

South Africa-Natasha Joubert

Costa Rica-Ivonne Cerdas

Jamaica-Miqueal-Symone Williams*

Jamaica-Miqueal-Symone Williams

Romania-Bianca Tirsin

Puerto Rico-Estefanía Soto

France-Amandine Petit*

Thailand-Amanda Obdam

Colombia-Laura Olascuaga*



Argentina-Alina Luz Akselrad

India-Adline Castelino*

Colombia-Laura Olascuaga

Brazil-Julia Gama*

Curaçao-Chantal Wiertz

Dominican Republic-Kimberly Jiménez*

France-Amandine Petit

Curaçao-Chantal Wiertz*

Great Britain-Jeanette Akua

Bahamas-Shauntae Miller

Indonesia-Ayu Maulida

Nicaragua-Ana Marcelo*

Myanmar-Thuzar Wint Lwin

Peru-Janick Maceta del Castillo*

Nicaragua-Ana Marcelo

Thailand-Amanda Obdam*

Philippines-Rabiya Mateo

Puerto Rico-Estefanía Soto*

USA-Asya Branch

Costa Rica-Ivonne Cerdas*

Vietnam-Khánh Vân Nguyễn §

Myanmar-Thuzar Wint Lwin*


ALTERNATES: USA*, Philippines*, Indonesia*, Vietnam*, Haiti


HONORABLE MENTIONS: Chile, Czech Republic, Australia*, Cameroon, El Salvador

§ = won online vote

* = made actual top 21

How did I do with my predictions? Well, I was content that I picked 15 of the top 21 plus 4 alternates (USA, Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam) and 1 honorable mention (Australia). Only 1 of the semifinalists missed my list and that was Great Britain who was in my list originally but fell to a next tier position after preliminaries but her interview saved her. The six ladies in my list that didn't place were some shocking omissions and they were: my winner, Canada and my 1st runner-up, Nepal as well as Venezuela, South Africa, Romania and Bahamas.
CanadaEl Salvador, Canada, BulgariaWhat happened to my ladies that didn’t place? Canada’s Nova Stevens was my winner after I saw an interview with her online with former Miss Universe-Natalie Glebova and I was getting the she’s-it vibes from that video as she had a powerful message along with her supermodel body and a great story and I thought Super-Nova’s win was written in the stars but it was not to be. I recognize that some found her to have a polarizing visage and that they perceived her as more of a model than a pageant queen but this girl had unmistakable charisma and the larger-than-life personality to match her larger-than-life figure as she was this year’s tallest contestant standing at 6’1” but perhaps they deemed her hard to handle. Nova was often seen on social media leading the other contestants backstage in a ‘Who Run the World? Girls!’ chant. I’ve been noted for being as objective as possible when making predictions so it’s actually pretty rare that I choose my own country as the winner and in fact, the only other time I chose Canada to win was back in 2006 when Alice Panikian competed and finished in the top 10. Canada had won the crown in the previous year 2005 thanks to Natalie Glebova who was a close third place on my predictions list for that year. Nova’s original name was Nyawal Bukjok and she was born in Nairobi, Kenya to a South Sudanese family that fled Sudan during a dangerous afflicted war time in her country, Nova was sent to Canada at the age of six to live with relatives in various regions of Canada including the provinces of Alberta and Ontario. Nova’s family would later flee to Ethiopia and Nova recently was filmed reuniting with family members in Africa and a special segment featuring Nova reuniting with her mother was featured during the pageant so in the same manner as some previous Miss Universe contestants in recent years such as: Slovenia 2015 (who had a medical issue while she was at the pageant), Iraq 2017 (only the second contestant from her country to compete since 1972), Spain 2018 (the first transgendered contestant), Nova’s story was used for a special segment but she was denied a placement. Nova is believed to be the first woman of Sudanese descent to compete for the Miss Universe crown and is actively involved with the Black Lives Matter movement. Nova won the right to represent Canada on her third try at the national title finishing in the top 20 for 2018 and in the top 12 for 2014 under the name Nyawal Bukjok. There were two patterns to support a win for Nova for 2020. Canada won its 2005 Miss Universe crown eight years after the USA won the 1997 Miss Universe crown and now here we were, eight years after the USA won the 2012 crown. Also, it should be noted that Nova Stevens is the third black woman to represent Canada at Miss Universe succeeding Juliette Powell in 1989 and Adwoa Yamoah in 2012. The third black woman to represent the USA (Chelsi Smith) would go on to win Miss Universe 1995 succeeding Carole Gist in 1990 and Kenya Moore in 1993 so another pattern could have been that the third black woman to represent Canada could have won the Miss Universe crown just like the third black woman to represent the USA but it was not to be. It should also be noted here that with Germany’s absence from the 2020 Miss Universe pageant, this leaves only two countries that have competed at every Miss Universe pageant since its inception in 1952 and those two countries are Canada and France. Germany was not competing for the first time ever for 2020 and the USA was disqualified in 1957. Next up was my 1st runner-up, Nepal and Anshika shot right up my list after preliminaries and even her presentation in national costumes was outstanding. Anshika was a find and her speaking skills and her voice are distinct and dynamic and she is tall and magnificent with her amazing body and I really loved her moves. Her hair-toss during the preliminary swimsuit competition immediately made me think of the 2013 Miss Universe pageant and her dainty walk in evening gown was classic and elegant and made her stand out in the best possible way so I was surprised that she didn’t place. Nepal has only placed once which was in the top 10 in 2018 with a delegate to which I was fairly indifferent so will the land of Mount Everest ever reach the peak?? Next up was Venezuela’s Mariangel Villasmil. Venezuela placing in any international pageant used to be a sure thing but there has been the odd instance when Venezuela was taken out of the running for whatever reason but Venezuela is always in my list. Even the ones that didn’t place were all in my top 5 in their respective years!!! My friend Hernan pointed out a non-placement pattern for Venezuela as recently they haven’t placed in 2004, 2006 and 2016 (years ending in 6), 2010 and 2020 (years ending in 0). Venezuela recently had a directorship change after the czar of beauty, the wizard of Osmel Sousa (who is credited for much of Venezuela’s success in international pageantry due to his strict practices) retired in 2018 but he would then pick up the directorship for Argentina and Uruguay in 2019 with the Argentinian delegate placing this year looking like a Miss Venezuela of yesteryear! Osmel has teased on social media in early April that he has picked up yet another franchise but is keeping us guessing as to which country it will be! Mariangel hails from Zulia and she studies psychology but she is also a certified pastry chef who owns a bakery shop called Slainte Cakes in Maracaibo which employs local women. VenezuelaRomania Venezuela had been hit hard economically even prior to the Covid pandemic and even during a national power outage that lasted 7 days, she was able to keep the business running and fulfilled every order by using a small power generator to keep the ovens running. Prior to competing for the Venezuelan crown, Mariangel lived an entire year without her right breast due to a complicated surgical operation… Similarly to other competitions which pre-tape different top contenders being crowned as the winner prior to the airing of the actual finale when it is learned who actually won, Mariangel watched herself being crowned the Venezuelan queen on TV at home alone without her family due to the pandemic. Although, Osmel is no longer training the Venezuelan delegates, his impact from his previous years seem to carry through to the current teams for that country as Mariangel certainly looks styled to perfection and with her fluency in English after living one year in New York City, Mariangel is showing up ready for the job and she is expected to carry on the tradition of strong Venezuelan competitors and she looked ready in her stunning red preliminary red gown with loud crowd support. Even the commentators during the preliminaries felt like Venezuela brought her whole country as there is a large Venezuelan community in Florida so her omission was clearly a let-down for much of the audience. South Africa’s Natasha Joubert was perhaps one of the most shocking omissions this year as she had winner potential with her stunning face/body and strong interview skills for which South Africans are well-known. Some feel that because she was actually 2nd runner up at her national pageant (the winner is going to Miss World and the runner-up to Miss Supranational) that could have affect her chances and we have seen instances like this before where the country of the reigning Miss Universe doesn’t place even though a back-to-back win was achieved before by Venezuela in 2009 and there have even been 4 instances of the country of the reigning Miss Universe placing as 1st runner up the next year (India 1995 and Venezuela 1997 both stopped by the delegates from the USA and Colombia 2015 and South Africa 2018 both stopped by the delegates from the Philippines!). It was a very real possibility that South Africa had potential to win again and South Africa had already made the top 2 three years in a row with two wins and this has only been done by Colombia placing as 1st runner up for three years in a row from 1992 to 1994 and Venezuela made top 2 from 1996 to 1998 with the 1996 placement being a win so South Africa could have been the first country to make the top 2 four years in a row but the powers that be were at work here. Romania was the next delegate that didn’t place in spite of placing in the top 5 at Miss Supranational 2017 where she was placed as the second runner-up and then at Miss International 2018 where she placed as third runner-up. An impressive background like that immediately made Bianca one to watch at this year’s Miss Universe pageant. Bianca has recently had to apologize after a picture of Bianca wearing black make-up covering most of her face started circulating and Canada’s Nova Stevens pointed out her disappointment saying that it was not okay. When someone with light skin wears black or brown make-up, it is known as blackface which is seen as in bad taste. Many prominent figures and performers have been seen wearing blackface in years past such as on sketch comedy shows or as part of a costume and recent attention has increasingly been drawn to its inappropriateness. In her online apology video, Bianca explained there was no malicious intent behind her actions and the picture to paint her face black and gold was the idea of a designer with whom Bianca had been working and that although there was a lack of judgment, there was no ill will and to not identify her with a modelling job. She says we all need to learn more and to know more so perhaps we can use this incident as an opportunity to educate ourselves on this issue. This incident alone may not have cost Romania a placement as her performance might have been deemed somewhat lackluster. The Russian delegate also posted an online video apology for another incident after she couldn’t keep silent anymore… She appeared to be mocking headshots of her fellow contestants with another male in a video posted online and she claims she got confused but no one bought it and Russia remains unplaced since 2012. Finally, the Bahamas came out of nowhere for me and impressed me during preliminaries with her amazing body and gown and I thought she enough potential to be a surprise but it was a competitive year and sash factor meaning a country that regularly places and has more popularity and perhaps financial backing is said to have a stronger sash than others and that could have played a role here. Interestingly enough, if Romania and Bahamas had placed, it would have been their first placements in Miss Universe history but only the delegate from Myanmar managed to get a first time placement for her country this time.

After the introductory number, it was time to learn who the top 21 were and as each one was announced, they played a brief video package to let the audience get to know them. Did you notice that Olivia Culpo mentioned during the telecast that 7 was considered a lucky number when announcing that the semifinalists would be announced in groups of 7 and Mexico, the eventual winner, was called in the 7th spot??? After the top 21 were announced, it was on to the swimsuit competition set to the song, “Sing” by Pentatonix after which 10 would advance which was a sharp contrast from last year when the top 20 all had to give motivational speeches before half of them were eliminated which was another sign of adaptation to what the fans want. This year’s swimsuits were designed by Ema Savahl and they had some interesting cuts. What bothered me was the overcoat/robe/sarongs that the ladies wore because they covered their arms and backsides. I don’t mind when it has more of a cape effect but they seemed to be covering up a smidge too much. Colombia was up first and her video package showed her playing violin but perhaps not convincingly. Colombia’s body and strong catwalk skills were undeniable. Even when walking in the lobby, some of these ladies walk with such strong presence that they immediately command attention and make you look at them. Peru showed her love for animals and she works as an audio engineer in New York City and has even worked with the likes of Lady Gaga who performed during the 2008 Miss Universe pageant in Vietnam. Janick was a favorite from early on and while I felt somewhat like she was being hyped, she was worthy and a great overall look. Australia, with her strong interview skills, became the first woman of Indian descent to place representing her country. Standing at 5’2.5”, Maria was this year’s shortest contestant with a mission to spread the message that representation matters. In my first round prethoughts, I pointed out that Maria had the ambition to be the shortest Miss Universe in history and she had the potential to pull a Miss Guam 1982 where Patty Chong Kerkos standing at 5’2” managed to place as 1st runner up to Miss Universe 1982, Canada’s Karen Baldwin. Australia certainly had a fit set of abs and although the competition was intense, she managed to advance to a top 10 position so the judges certainly did not forget her interview skills which helped carry her through. France was next and Amandine was indeed stunning and one of only two Europeans to place this year. I felt like her lack of English might be a hindrance and her swampish preliminary gown drew mixed reactions but she was a formidable candidate and I was very content to see her place. She is accomplished currently obtaining her master’s degree in social, sanitary, and gerontological management and she has a heart for the elderly particularly those suffering from Alzheimer's disease. Amandine was going to compete for 2021 Miss Universe title but to avoid a potential conflict with both the Miss France and Miss Universe pageant scheduled for December, Amandine is competing in May and Clemence Botino is going to compete for the 2021 Miss Universe crown instead. This same scenario caused a flip-flop for the 2014 and 2015 France delegates. Myanmar followed earning her country’s first placement and Thuzar certainly became quite the story of this pageant drawing attention to the military junta taking over the government and shooting her people. Because she spoke out, she is seeking asylum in the United States. Thuzar also posted pictures online of scars on her breasts from having cancerous lumps removed. Myanmar's original gown She actually was a very impressive candidate and with her story, a lot of people saw this placement coming. Due to her luggage being lost, Thuzar had to assemble a new wardrobe upon arrival in the USA and Sherri Hill donated a gown for her to wear in preliminaries. Unfortunately, the white coat hanger straps were hanging out and you could see them under her arms during the preliminaries but this girl’s story made her unstoppable. Pictured here is the original exquisite red gown that she was supposed to wear. Next, the land that moves to the beat of reggae, Jamaica sent us a fabulous candidate with Miqueal-Symone Williams and this breathtaking beauty does speak very well and is passionate about mental health and had an emotional story of losing her mother in 2017 and Miqueal-Symone has a strong overall look as she is an international model. She also pursued her Bachelor’s degree in Marketing at the University of the West Indies. Even though Jamaica has won Miss World 4 times including the reigning Miss World, Toni-Ann Singh, they have never won the Miss Universe crown but their best placement was 1st runner up in 2010. The lucky seventh spot went to the eventual winner, Mexico’s Andrea Meza who is tall and striking and some may call her heavy-set but she is actually very fit and carries herself regally. She is a software engineer and ambassador for tourism for Chihuahua and she comes from a large family having two sisters but over 40 cousins and I’m sure they are all elated with Andrea’s Miss Universe win especially after she came so close to getting the Miss World title.
Dominican Republic followed and Kimberly did have a pow-pow amazing body and catwalk and even an intriguing eye color. Her preliminary evening gown had printings of drawings on it that were done by children with Down syndrome with whom she has been working with the organization that came up several times during the pageant “Ninos de Cristo”. Kimberly has also been likened to pop-star Rihanna and I heard she was asked to sing Rihanna's song 'Umbrella' for preliminary interviews. I’ve seen some critiques online of her facial surgeries and there was a delay of the posting of her up close video so I was a bit concerned but she definitely had a strong showing in this pageant. USA’s Asya Branch followed and she does have a cute face and nice body but I did get the impression that she would be eliminated in the first round. There were many critiques online about her showing up to the hotel in very regular clothing whereas other delegates packed multiple outfits and were extra showy during their stay in Florida but there is no rule that contestants have to wear so many fancy outfits and while it is nice to have many sponsors, it is important to be sensible and do what is needed and not put undue pressure on others. Aysa sets a good example even though her father was incarcerated, she became an achieved woman and aims to help recently released prisoners be effective members of society and she has her own business running a cosmetic line and she recently competed at Miss America 2019 going unplaced but became the first black Miss Mississippi USA and the first representative of Mississippi to win Miss USA. Indonesia followed looking decent talking about loving spicy food and they have enjoyed recent success placing in the top 10 last year and amongst the semifinals every year since 2013, excluding 2017. Ayu Maulida was sashed by the reigning Miss Universe, Zozibini Tunzi, upon winning the Puteri Indonesia title in March 2020 right before the Covid pandemic became a worldwide issue and Ayu prides herself in her Muslim faith and she comes from a royal background and also holds multiple other titles of distinction including being an Indonesian People's Consultative Assembly Ambassador, National Head of Communication of the Indonesian COVID-19 Response Acceleration Task Force and she is also a fashion model since age 14. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Law graduating from Airlangga University in 2019. Ayu also won the 2019 Face of Asia competition after winning the preliminary Face of Indonesia contest. In preliminaries, I thought she looked a smidge elfish with abs that could have used more toning but I wasn’t surprised to see her place. The eleventh spot went to Argentina. Alina is also impeccably styled and with her amazing body, Alina was surely one of the standouts in the swimsuit competition and being trained by Osmel Sousa, she looked to be of the same caliber as Venezuelan contestants of years past but I was surprised that she didn’t advance past the swimsuit round. Alina is also very warm- hearted and comes across as genuine and sincere. She is certainly accomplished also as she has certificates in persuasive writing and children’s rights from Harvard University and has even published her own book offering guidance and empowerment to young women. She actively volunteers and is involved in philanthropic work and advocates for cancer prevention after seeing her own mother beat the disease and Alina even hosts a radio show with her mother, “Mundo de Reinas” and also co-hosts a TV show about fashion trends and pageant news and she previously won the title of Miss Sudamérica 2017. Argentina India followed and Adline was another favorite this year. Adline has had to wait a long time to compete at Miss Universe having won her national title 15 months ago in February 2020 so that extended training period paid off. I liked how Adline’s hair was styled and she was actually born in Kuwait but her family fled to India during a war time in Kuwait and she is accomplished holding a degree in Business Administration from Wilson College in Mumbai. Curaçao followed and she was a standout from the beginning and I was glad to see her place particularly since she struggles with autism but she was an excellent candidate with a great overall look. Puerto Rico was next and she must have loved how the overcoats covered the spots on her arms and she was nasally challenged but she was a very well-spoken candidate and it was no surprise to see her up there. At age 29, she became one of the oldest contestants ever to compete for the Miss Universe title and it should be noted that Miss Universe 2001-Denise Quinones served as Puerto Rico’s national director from 2018 to 2020 and all her girls placed but Denise is stepping down from the role and so we shall see if the shining star of the Caribbean continues its recent success rate.
The 15th spot went to the Philippines maintaining the longest current streak in the semifinals placing 11 years in a row now matching India’s 11 year run from 1992 to 2002 so let’s see if they can surpass that next year. Rabiya, whose father is Indian (similarly to their 2010 delegate, Venus Raj, who started the Philippines’ streak in the semifinals as they have placed every year ever since) but her father left home causing Rabiya to become the breadwinner of her family. Rabiya is an educator who started teaching at the young age of 21 and she is passionate about teaching underprivileged children and started her own program called ‘Feed Me and I Read You,’ which helps children living near a dump in Iloilo city which combines feeding and reading. Rabiya is a Cum Laude graduate of physical therapy and works with the Department of Education on projects like National Reading Month and AHA Learning Center. An interesting factoid about Rabiya is that she has a hidden talent of knowing how to rap. She grew up listening to Eminem and it helped her speak faster and more clearly! Of course, it would feel so empty without her in the semifinals! The Philippines recently also had a franchise change as prior to this year, the Philippines sent the winner of the Binibining Pilipinas pageant which was run by former Miss Colombia, Stella Marquez who won Miss International 1960 after placing as a semifinalist at Miss Universe 1960 and the Binibining Pilipinas pageant used to crown most of the winners for various international pageants but there is a new Miss Universe Philippines pageant and Rabiya is the first winner under the new franchise. Next up was Brazil and Julia certainly a finely cut body and her catwalk skills are superb. You could really see the definition in her stomach region when she turned to the side. Julia was my winner early on but then she slipped a few notches on my list over time but she was consistently strong. Julia placed in the top 11 of Miss World 2014 and has the unique distinction of being among the first Brazilian actresses in China! After appearing in Chinese films, Julia received the “The Most Incredible Award” from Belt and the Road Chinese Government International Initiative in 2017. Coming from a multiracial background with roots in Italy, Germany, Lebanon and Portugal, Julia is passionate about diverse cultures and she started working as an international ambassador for Leprosy six years ago and is an activist in India, China, Europe and Brazil and has received several distinctions from international organizations. Apart from being an actress, entrepreneur and motivational speaker, Julia has also studied chemistry engineering and has a degree in drama arts. Julia is fluent in English, Spanish and Portuguese, and can communicate in Mandarin and German. Julia decided to leave China after the Covid pandemic arose and returned to Brazil to work with Smile Train. Brazil has placed every year since they hosted back in 2011 so is a win in the cards for them soon? Great Britain was up next and Jeanette was quite the story and her interview skills clearly got her a spot. Of South African and Ghanaian descent, Jeanette Akua is passionate about music and education and holds a Master’s degree in International Economic Policy and Analysis. Currently working as a business development manager at a leading economic consultancy, Jeanette speaks at global conferences, addressing CEOs and world leaders. Perhaps even more impressive is that Jeanette defeated some power-players who were also competing for this year’s Great Britain title including: Sophie Moulds who previously represented Wales placing as 1st runner up at Miss World 2012, Amy Meisak who placed among the top 16 at Miss Earth 2015 representing Scotland and later competed for Miss Grand International 2017 and England’s Stephanie Hill who placed as 2nd runner up at Miss World 2017. The fact that she defeated two Miss World runners-up immediately made Jeanette one to watch as her compelling story must have put her over the top of some strong contenders. Similarly to the story of Miss Universe 2017, South Africa’s Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters, Jeanette and a friend of hers were kidnapped by thugs when she was handing out flyers in Johannesburg at age 18 but they were released when a ransom was paid. After being rejected for South African Idols, Jeanette relocated to London, England and then competed in the X Factor UK in 2013 and placed as a top 10 finalist and has written and released her own music with over a million streams. Nicaragua’s Ana Marcelo was next and she certainly was one of the faces of this pageant. Many have likened her to Miss Universe 2010-Ximena Navarrete of Mexico. Ana really impressed many during the preliminaries with her pleasant face and strong overall appearance. In terms of accomplishments, she is an agroindustrial engineer and she is actively involved in social causes like helping medical staff create biosecurity kits. Thailand was a favorite of others but I put her in my list due to peer-pressure and it paid off but she also did well in preliminaries. She also packed approximately 150 outfits for only a two week stay in Florida... Like last year's Thai delegate, Paweensuda Drouin, Amanda also has a Euro-Canadian father and a Thai mother. She also attended the University of Toronto-Mississauga studying management and business administration. After posting criticism of the Thai government engaging in police brutality in March, Amanda was fired from a Thai position as mental health ambassador. Thailand now has an impressive six year streak in the top 10 but the win seems to be evading them but I’m sure they’ll keep trying. Costa Rica followed as suspected due to the next Miss Universe pageant in December likely to be held there. Ivonne was a deserving candidate though and I was glad to see her recognized as there was no denying that her body was supremely fit and she also had a great story of being a software engineer and overcoming dyslexia. Finally, the winner of the fan vote which was said to be the largest in Miss Universe history went to Vietnam’s delegate who also packed a large number of outfits for this pageant at approximately 200. She certainly was very modelesque with her great body and overall look and Vietnam has now placed three years in a row so they are certainly hungry for a win.

Australia's original full train for her gownAfter the top 10 were announced, it was on to the evening gown competition set to “Go Crazy” by Leslie Odom Jr. and multiple delegates had separate gowns for preliminaries and finals. Of the top 10, only the delegates from India and Peru did not change gowns for finals. First up, Jamaica came out in a silver jeweled gown and I wish she stuck with her preliminary pink gown as this silver gown seemed to widen her hips and her walk seems a little aggressive for it. Dominican Republic followed in a gold one-shoulder gown with an unusual diagonal crease which I could have done without. There was also a black sheer overlay on the side covering her leg and this gown was certainly unique but she carried it well. India followed with an elegant beaded gown with gold on top with a gradient to silvery-white towards the bottom and I liked her hair to the side. Peru followed in yet another of the commonplace nude illusion gowns with pinkish-silver designs and a sheer part showing off her thighs but she looked lovely. Australia followed and during the preliminaries, there was a lot of use of Zozibini Tunzi’s phrase “Take up space” but Australia’s gown originally had a large train as pictured here but it was not approved due to how big the train was as large trains can be a problem on stage shared with other contestants so she was forced to remove it. Isn’t it ironic that they literally wouldn’t let the shortest girl in the pageant take up space??? Puerto Rico followed in the notorious googly-eyes gown as the beads on her arms and breasts literally looked like googly eyes from a primary school arts and crafts project and a white fringe skirt. I think I preferred her green pleated gown from preliminaries that she worked really well. Thailand wore an ocean waves blue and white long-sleeved gown with a slit on the skirt and she definitely kept with the beach girl theme as her preliminary gown had you thinking of golden coconuts. Costa Rica followed in a bold red gown with intricate beading and a nice train and this was actually my favorite gown of the top 10 so I was actually surprised that she didn’t advance past this round. Mexico followed also in red which seems to be a lucky color for Mexico as Ximena Navarrete also wore red when she won Miss Universe 2010 and Andrea’s gown was nice and unique with the theatre curtain effect going down the skirt. Finally, Brazil followed in a nude gown with blue intricate patterns all over it and it was sexy and smashing.

MexicoAfter the top 5 were announced consisting of 4 Latinas and 1 Asian delegate, it was time for the round of judge’s questions submitted by their fellow contestants. Mexico selected Brook Lee who asked, “If you were the leader of your country, how would you have handled the Covid-19 pandemic?” Mexico answered, “I believe there’s not a perfect way to handle this hard situation such as Covid-19. However, I believe that what I would have done was create the lockdown even before everything was that big because we lost so many lives and we cannot afford that. We have to take care of our people. That’s why I would have taken care of them since the beginning.” Most people weren’t particularly wowed by this answer. I guess it was straightforward and concise. India selected Tatyana Orozco who asked, “Should countries lock down due to Covid-19 despite the strain on their economies or should they open their borders and risk a potential increase in infection rates?” India answered, “Good evening, Universe. Well, coming from India and witnessing what India is experiencing right now, I have realized something very important, that nothing is more important than your health of your loved ones and you have draw a balance between economy and health and that can only be done when the government works with the people hand in hand and produces something that will work with the economy. Thank you.” This answer was decent but wasn’t as strong as I was hoping for. I picked up on India’s interview skills being a bit stumbly early on causing her to fall a few notches on my predictions list as I sensed something like this would happen. Brazil selected Sheryl Adkins-Green who asked, “In many countries, women are still considered incapable of being world leaders. Convince these countries that they’re wrong.” Brazil answered, “Women are such important part of this society and just because we are not encouraged in the same way that mens are, we are, have, we have our potential wasted. The world needs women contributions because we came for some reason and I invite every woman to understand that we are the leaders of our lives and yes, we can do a lot for our communities so please, take your power!” I was actually pleased with this answer and it was delivered in an impactful manner. Dominican Republic selected Christine Duffy who asked, “The night she won Miss Universe, Zozi Tunzi explained the importance of teaching leadership to young girls. How would you do that as Miss Universe?” Through her interpreter, Dominican Republic replied, “Good night…Thank you for the question. I come from a family completely filled with women of which have helped me, propelled me to help them today. Working with my non-profit, Ninos de Cristo, I understand that I don’t need a title to be able to help others and to be able to support them. Thank you.” I think something might have been lost in translation here and did that translator really say Good night instead of Good evening just like what happened to the 2009 Miss Dominican Republic??? (facepalm) Finally, Peru selected Zuleyka Rivera who asked, “What would you say to the women watching tonight who are currently experiencing sexual or domestic abuse?” Peru answered, “I will tell them that I admire their strength, that they’re survivors and that I have been there too. I became the hero of my own story. That’s why I advocate to save little girls from being victims. They’re survivors. They’re heroes. They have the power and don’t ever, ever make anyone silence your voice.” This was a strong answer and probably the best of the bunch.
The top 5 with Luis FonsiFor the final round of competition, the top 5 had to give a speech on a topic chosen at random. Mexico selected “Changing Beauty Standards” and said through her translator, “We live in a society that more and more is more than advanced and as we have advanced as a society, we have also advanced with stereotypes. Nowadays, beauty is not only the way we look. For me, beauty radiates not only in our spirit but in our hearts and the way that we conduct ourselves. Never permit someone to tell you that you’re not valuable.” I guess she was more comfortable answering in Spanish during this round but this was a nice answer but not necessarily the best of the 5. India was next and selected “Free Speech and the Right to Protest” and she said, “The right to protest. We have seen many protests in the recent days. Especially, I want to point out the protests that women have made throughout the years with equal rights. Until today, we are lacking them because protest helps us incr…raise our voice against what’s happening, against inequality. It helps minorities in any democracy to raise their voice so the protest is very important but what’s not important is when you use it because with every right comes a responsibility so use it with power. Thank you.” This answer was fair and the delivery was slow and tired. Brazil selected “Mental Health” and said, “Mental health is still a very stigmatized topic and it keeps us from giving the right assistance to those in need so may we all tonight remember to normalize conversations about anxiety or depression because we all hurt sometimes but we don’t need face it alone. May we all come together because togetherness is our strength and together we can overcome anything so let’s support each other. Let’s share empathy. Thank you.” This was an amazing answer from the Brazilian delegate and I was particularly impressed that she went right in to the topic and gestured throughout her speech. Well done, Julia. Next, Dominican Republic selected, “Global Poverty” and answered through her translator, “During this pandemic, my country Republic of…the Dominican Republic has risen to 23 percent poverty rate. For me, being able to be in front of you guys representing Dominican Republic that… and it makes me incredibly proud that it will help my tourism and that us as human beings that we have to realize there are so many people out there that need our help and we can overcome anything. Thank you.” Answering in Spanish probably hurt her chances and the speech itself came across as somewhat scattered. Finally, Peru selected “Climate Change” and said, “It is our collective responsibility to start taking action in order to save our planet just by the little by little, we can start making a difference. Little by little, by recycling, by teaching young generations about taking care of our beautiful, beautiful earth. We are just here for one time and this is the time that we have to start taking care of it. Thank you.” I think Brazil and Peru were the strongest in this round and even the special commentators, Cheslie, Paulina and Demi all unanimously selected Peru but again, the judges normally take everything into consideration when casting their final vote and not necessarily the answers themselves.

After Luis Fonsi serenaded the top 5 with his song, “Vacio,” Zozibini Tunzi said her farewell in yet another stunning African intricately beaded ensemble. Now, it was time to announce that the 4th runner up was Dominican Repulbic, 3rd runner up was India, 2nd runner up was Peru (prompting disapproving boos from the audience) and the socially distanced final two awaited the announcement that Mexico won Miss Universe and that Brazil was the runner up but the social distancing was just for optics and the ladies that were tested already for Covid gathered for hugs as is normally done. It’s also funny how South Africa’s Margaret Gardiner won their first Miss Universe crown in 1978 in Mexico and now a South African Miss Universe has crowned a Mexican Miss Universe. There have been posts online calling the winner Miss Telemundo as Andrea did make several appearances on Telemundo in the lead-up to the pageants as did many other Latina delegates suggesting that it was like a cooking show with cooked-up results as Telemundo had much to do with securing the Florida venue and the broadcast rights. Miss Universe has never shied away from the fact that it is a business and sometimes businesses need to go where the money is in order to survive. Also, there have been past instances where it felt like politics were in play and some of a desired winner’s strongest competition was taken out altogether to make it easier for that contestant to win and it did somewhat feel like that was the case this year. You might have noticed that 5 of my top 8 contenders did not place. Born on August 13, 1994, Andrea Meza winning the Miss Universe title at the age of 26 years and 9 months has become the oldest woman to win Miss Universe defeating Miss Universe 1997, USA’s Brook Lee who won her title at the age of 26 years and 4 months and Brook was a judge celebrating the 24th anniversary of her win as she also won her title on May 16 back in 1997 during the glory years. Due to this being a postponed year, we also had some 29-year-old delegates competing for the first time ever, Puerto Rico’s Estefania Soto and Mauritius’ Vandana Jeetah but the age limit of 28 has not changed and exceptions were obviously made due to the Covid pandemic delaying this Miss Universe pageant. Also, a Mexican win should help disassociate the Miss Universe pageant from a certain former owner so maybe this will help them get picked up by a major American network for the 2021 Miss Universe pageant. I’m sure Andrea will enjoy her short reign as she gives her title in December and she can move on to a prosperous career. We shall see who becomes the new Miss Teen USA and Miss USA at the end of November under the newly formed directorship under Crystle Stewart and then the 70th anniversary of the Miss Universe pageant is scheduled for December 2021 as the rapidly changing world slowly returns to more normalcy… hopefully!

 The Prethoughts - Miss Universe 2020



Some photos courtesy Miss Universe L.P., LLLP