If not now, then when?
USA's R'Bonney Gabriel is Miss Universe 2022The powers that be made their powers known! USA's R'Bonney Gabriel is Miss Universe 2022. This is the 9th Miss Universe crown for the land of the free and the home of the brave which has dominated the list of Who Has the Most Miss Universes since the beginning of the American-owned Miss Universe which just changed ownership hands from American company IMG to Thai company JKN owned by Thai trans-woman, Jakkaphong (Anne) Jakrajutatip. R'Bonney is also the second Texan to capture the Miss Universe crown succeeding the late, great Chelsi Smith-Miss Universe 1995. Did you notice that both Chelsi and R'Bonney were crowned by an Indian Miss Universe?? Chelsi Smith was crowned Miss Universe by Sushmita Sen who was present also at her wins of Miss Texas USA and Miss USA and R'Bonney Gabriel was crowned by Harnaaz Sandhu. Interestingly enough, Texas' Kandace Krueger also won Miss USA 2001 the year after India's Lara Dutta won Miss Universe 2000! We can easily conclude that India winning Miss Universe is good luck Texans winning Miss USA the following year and also Miss Universe! R'Bonney now passes her Miss USA crown to her runner-up, North Carolina's Morgan Romano. 2022 is also the fourth time in history that the most successful countries at Miss Universe: USA and Venezuela were the final two. The other years were: 1967, 1986 and 1997. It isn't often that the host delegate wins but this is the 7th of the 9 Miss Universe winners representing the USA that won in their own country. The other two were Shawn Weatherly who won her crown in 1980 in Korea and Chelsi Smith who won her crown in 1995 in Namibia. Puerto Rico's Denise Quinones also won as the host delegate in her own country in 2001. It was destiny in the making as R'Bonney's middle name is Nola and this year's host city of New Orleans, Louisiana is also nicknamed Nola. R'Bonney now defeats Miss Universe 2020-Mexico's Andrea Meza's record as the oldest woman to win Miss Universe as R'Bonney's birthday is March 20, 1994 so she won the title at the age of 28 years and almost 10 months. R'Bonney is the first woman of Filipina descent and even Asian descent to win the Miss Texas USA and Miss USA titles and even Texas' representative for Miss America, Averie Bishop is also of Filipina descent (on her mother's side) and she finished as 2nd runner up at Miss America 2023 but we came very close to having both Miss USA and Miss America being Filipina Texans. R'Bonney is the youngest of four children (the first girl after three boys) born to Filipino father, Remigio Bonzon (R.Bon) Gabriel and American Caucasian mother, Dana Walker. What a sight is must have been for R'Bonney's 85-year-old father see his daughter win Miss Texas USA, Miss USA and now Miss Universe. Yes, you would be correct that R'Bonney's name is a variation of her father's name. R'Bonney is a graduate of the University of North Texas with a Bachelor's degree in fashion design with a minor in fibers. She now works as a designer creating eco-friendly clothing and has her own line under her name RBonneyNola. Environmentally conscious clothing does seem to be in step with Miss Universe's direction. R'Bonney is the 10th woman to represent Texas to win the Miss USA title and this win further cemented their place at the top of the list of Who Has the Most Miss USAs just above California which boasts 6 Miss USA winners. Miss Universe has been American-owned for so many years but now that it is Thai-owned, we will see if there is a shift in how Miss USA places compared to Thailand's representative or if it even makes a difference as Khun Anne's JKN company also took ownership of Miss USA and Miss Teen USA. However, R'Bonney's Miss USA win was surrounded by controversy when the contestants and other people involved felt like the cards were stacked in her favor and this led to some contestants feeling like they didn't have a fair chance to win Miss USA and then there was an onslaught of online posts which led to the Miss Universe Organization stepping in. USA's R'Bonney Gabriel in her national costumePhilippines' Gloria Diaz in crowned Miss Universe 1969 but outgoing Miss Universe, Brazil's Martha Vasconcellos The Miss USA and Miss Teen USA pageants were under the Miss Universe Organization's umbrella since inception but the 2021 and 2022 pageants branched off and were directed by Miss USA 2008-Texas' Crystle Stewart under her Miss Brand but as mentioned earlier, there were problems with her husband Max acting inappropriately with some contestants and his name was not shown on the credits for Miss USA 2022 but it was for Miss USA 2021. The Miss Universe Organization took back Miss USA and Miss Teen USA and said an investigation would be conducted. R'Bonney's selection as Miss USA was found to be ethical and she would compete for the Miss Universe crown representing the USA and win it too. There are clauses in the contracts that the contestants sign that indicate that the powers that be can choose their winner as being a titleholder is a job and their employers are seeking out their desired employee. But oh yes, we experienced something very similar after Miss USA 2012 when the delegate from Pennsylvania said she heard Florida had seen a list of the exact top 5 prior to the list officially being announced which led to trouble and the winner of that pageant, Rhode Island's Olivia Culpo would go on to win Miss Universe 2012 which seemed like a similar scenario to this year with R'Bonney Gabriel winning Miss Universe 2022 as if to show that she definitely deserved to win Miss USA since she went on to win Miss Universe. This could be one last hurrah for the USA before things shift in a different direction under Khun Anne's ownership who has already talked about wanting transparency and perhaps we will see scores again which we haven't seen since 2010 and the judge's individual scores were last seen in 2001. This is the fourth postponed or leap year as I like to call them where the pageant for the previous year was actually held in the following year and while the first two (2014 and 2016) favored countries that last won in the 1950s (Colombia won in 1958 and for 2014 and France won in 1953 and for 2016), the latter two leap years (2020 and 2022) favored countries winning 10 years after their previous win (Mexico won in 2010 and for 2020 and USA won in 2012 and for 2022). The 1950s winners were originally postdated (i.e. the first official Miss Universe Finland's Armi Kuusela won her title in 1952 but at the time was named Miss Universe 1953 but the change to naming their titles for the year they won happened in the 1960s so perhaps they should have kept it postdated like the Miss America pageant which didn't have a titleholder for 2021 due to Covid but they have also had a change in CEO with Robin Ross Fleming who directed Miss Florida USA now taking the helm so we shall see if this improves the Miss America and perhaps gets them too back on a major American television network since they have had to resort to streaming recently. R'Bonney also seems to have earned this win physically as you could see her struggling during the National Costume competition having to carry a heavy moon while in boots(moonboots?) and buttocks exposed in a thong so while this was a tribute to the USA's moon landing in 1969 which also coincided with the first Miss Universe win of the Philippines with Gloria Diaz so it all harmoniously worked with R'Bonney also being of Filipina descent.

USA's R'Bonney Gabriel is Miss Universe 2022 sporting the Miss Universe brand handbag with Khun AnneUSA's R'Bonney Gabriel is Miss Universe 2022 with Crystle Stewart-Miss USA 2008In addition to the departure of Miss Universe from a major American television network after being on FOX last year and the new sashes (with fonts a little too large and too different from the old Miss Universe sash font that it almost felt like a different lesser pageant at times) from the Sash Company and the new 'Force For Good' Miss Universe crown designed by Mouawad, there were many changes this year. We learned on October 25, 2022 that the Miss Universe Organization was purchased by Jakkaphong "Anne" Jakrajutatip who is a wealthy Thai trans-woman who heads her own company called the JKN Global Media Group and is also a long-time Miss Universe fan who stepped up to purchase the Miss Universe Organization for $20 million U.S. from the previous owner, IMG. This also technically marks the first time that the Miss Universe pageant will be female-owned although Khun Anne was born male in 1979 and later transitioned to female after fathering a son and a daughter using donated eggs from a German woman. There was initially some confusion since Anne owns a Thai channel called JKN-CNBC leading some to believe that the Miss Universe pageant would be broadcast on NBC in the U.S. especially since the broadcaster of the Spanish version, Telemundo is also under the NBC umbrella but it was not to be and Americans had to settle for a streaming service called Roku but we will see if Anne can perhaps work some magic for possibly getting the 2023 pageants back on a major American television network but I feel like we have reached a point of no return when it comes to getting back on a major American network. The announcement of Khun Anne's ownership was made official on October 25 (a few weeks after Miss USA 2022 was held on October 3) and an Extravaganza reunion to celebrate the new ownership was held on November 7 featuring Khun Anne herself in addition to five Miss Universe titleholders: India's Harnaaz Sandhu (2021), Mexico's Andrea Meza (2020), Philippines' Catriona Gray (2018), Angola's Leila Lopes (2011) who is now Angola's national director and Canada's Natalie Glebova (2005). Also featured on stage was the first transgendered Miss Universe contestant, Angela Ponce who represented Spain at Miss Universe 2018 but went unplaced. With Khun Anne also being transgendered, will this encourage other transgendered participants to compete and could we see the first transgendered Miss Universe in the near future?? Transgendered delegates started being accepted in 2012 when Jenna Talackova was initially dismissed from competing to represent Canada at Miss Universe but then was later permitted to compete when the Miss Universe organization decided to accept transgendered delegates and Jenna would place among the top 12 at Miss Universe Canada 2012 pageant but did not advance to the top 5. It was also announced that as of 2023, women who have been married and have had children will be allowed to compete as long as they meet the age requirement of a maximum of 28 years old which R'Bonney Gabriel addressed during her answer to the judge's questions. We shall see if this leads to more state pageant entries and if contestants like these even place as the job of being titleholder could be especially demanding of a woman with children. If this rule had been in place back in 1957 then Maryland's Leona Gage could have been spared the shame of being dethroned as Miss USA 1957 for being a married mother of two young boys who also lied about her age. Queen Khun Anne does have quite the social media following too and there was talk of Anne potentially crowning the new Miss Universe but almost immediately, many people said that was the reigning Miss Universe, Harnaaz Sandhu's job only so Anne said she would sash the new winner instead which makes more sense but she didn't even do that and was featured on stage to present the Social Impact Award to Thailand's delegate, Anna Sueangam-iam (who doesn't eat green eggs and ham, by the way). With Khun Anne being the new owner, some felt that this would skew things in Thailand's favor and there is even video online of her actively supporting 2020's Thai delegate, Amanda Obdam but surprisingly Thailand didn't even place this year and it was back to USA being favored at Miss Universe and after Crystle's directorship was taken back by the Miss Universe Organization and all 3 pageants including Miss Teen USA are under Khun Anne's JKN ownership so USA being favored at Miss Universe could continue into Khun Anne's ownership but Crystle Stewart was present at the Miss Universe pageant so she could be back as director so we'll see. With the clauses in contracts the contestants sign that usually point to behind-the-scenes judging leading to choices being made for the one they want to employ, the recent Miss Venezuela pageant was a recent example of this when Diana Silva won Miss Venezuela to compete at Miss Universe 2023 but judges claim they chose La Guaira's Andrea Romero but were told about a separate panel of judges from the Miss Venezuela Organization also judging behind-the-scenes so are we about to see Diana Silva crowned Miss Universe 2023?? We'll just have to wait and see!
Delegates during opening numberNow on to the pageant itself which was yet another 3 hour event with a true Mardi Gras inspired opening with reigning Miss Universe, Harnaaz Sandhu with her parasol inviting the delegates to join the party and switch from the Portia & Scarlett dresses to their national costumes. Performers Big Sam's Funky Nation performing "Feet on the Floor" (this title must be a tribute to Miss Universe 1984-Yvonne Ryding's final answer) and "Mardi Gras in New Orleans" with other performers Amanda Shaw singing "Louisiana Saturday Night" and Big Freedia (the only male on this year's judging panel but identifies as non-binary and Khun Anne says she plans on bringing back male judges for future Miss Universe pageants) did an opening ditty. Then, behind Big Freedia, opening the show we saw this year's female hosts, Miss Universe 2012-USA's Olivia Culpo and Jeannie Mai-Jenkins who was a color commentator when Olivia won her crown so it's nice to see these things come full circle and they did a great job and Olivia upped the energy level compared to when she co-hosted the 2020 Miss Universe pageant with Mario Lopez. The last time there were only female hosts was 2001 when Elle Macpherson and Naomi Campbell hosted. Color commentators were Miss Universe 2018-Catriona Gray and Zuri Hall who hosted Miss USA 2021 and 2022. Zuri has impressed me as a host for Miss USA so maybe she might get that opportunity at Universe in the near future. A lot of people noticed a lot of the delegates screeching their country names and holding their screams for an annoyingly long time. Less of that please, ladies... We were supposed to have 86 contestants but that number dropped to 84 when Latvia's delegate tested positive for Covid and Kazakhstan's delegate couldn't secure sponsorship. Norway competed in preliminaries but was stricken with Covid after and did not appear in the finals. China's delegate arrived late due to the recent Covid outbreak in her country making it difficult for her to leave for the U.S. but she made it in time! Curacao's delegate also tested positive for Covid but recovered in time to make top 5! Take that, Covid! A lot of the dancing in the aisles with costume-bearing dancers reminded me a lot of the opening with the Carnival theme of the 1999 Miss Universe pageant and the audience was certainly so enthusiastic that you would wonder how they would even dare not air this on a major American network. It looks like most of the judges were in the wrong seats too which caused some miscaptioning and camera shots of the wrong judges. That's live TV for ya! Also, there were quite a few advertisements for various Roku shows during the show so I assume this was part of the deal.
Miss Universe Reunion with Gabriela Isler (2013), Wendy Fitzwilliam (1998), Margaret Gardiner (1978), Lupita Jones (1991), Ximena Navarrete (2010), Catriona Gray (2018), Khun Anne, R'Bonney Gabriel (2022), Andrea Meza (2020), Olivia Culpo (2012)It was not announced during the telecast who won the online vote but Khun Anne later announced on social media that it was Laos which supposedly makes sense given the fandom of the countries that surround it and many people were shocked at the sudden Southeast Asian shutout this year with countries like Thailand, Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia all not placing when these countries have won online votes many times in years past. Some special awards were also handed out which included Miss Congeniality resulting in a tie with co-winners being Chile's Sofia Depassier and Malta's Maxine Formosa. The Social Impact Award announced by Khun Anne herself went to her compatriot Thailand's Anna Sueangam-iam and the Spirit of Carnival Award went to Ukraine's Viktoria Apanasenko who I suspected would not place to avoid politics. They appear to have permanently done away with the regional divisions this year and interestingly enough, Europe only had two delegates place (Portugal and Spain). How did I do with my predictions? Well, I picked 9 of the top 16 plus 2 alternates (Trinidad & Tobago and Australia) and 1 honorable mention (Portugal). 4 of the semifinalists missed my list entirely and they were: Spain (who was an early favorite but fizzled as the competition progressed) then there was Canada (my own country...), Haiti and Laos(first time placement for this country) who were all complete shocks. Interviews were held before the preliminary swimsuit and gown competitions so usually this leads to more surprises than expected and interview was rumored to count for 50% of the preliminary interview score whereas swimsuit and gown each counted for 25% of the preliminary score. The 7 ladies in my list that didn't place were: Thailand, Mauritius, Brazil, Philippines (which broke the longest running streak in the semifinals as they had placed every year since 2010 but the new Miss Universe R'Bonney Gabriel is half-Filipina on her father's side so this should serve as some consolation to them), Angola, Germany and Vietnam. But what happened to my 7 ladies that didn't place? Thailand was up first and I thought she was a sure thing to please new Thai owner Khun Anne and she had quite the story of being raised in a slum prompting some to even dare to call her Miss Garbage but Anna would rise up and continue her work serving the underprivileged and her preliminary gown was even made of soda pop can tabs adding to the whole recycling theme that seems to be prominent in recent years. Anna was not that strong in English but I thought her story and great body and overall look would pull her through. Mauritius was next and Alexandrine was a beautiful star with an amazing body and overall look and she was such a find for her country that has never placed and she did well at Miss Supranational 2022 placing in the top 12 as Africa's Continental Queen of Beauty in that pageant. I guess a weak sash was a factor here or perhaps her more reserved demeanor may not have helped in interview. Brazil was also strong in interview with a great body but Brazil has now gone a second year in a row without placing after they had a long running streak from 2011 to 2020 but Julia Gama who was the last of the streak to place was not invited to crown her successor so methinks the new directorship of Brazil may not be in the Miss Universe organization's good books so we'll see if Brazil can turn that around in the future. Philippines broke their longest running streak in the semifinals as they had placed every year since 2010 when Venus Raj started it all and so it did make sense for her to not place if Miss USA of half-Filipina descent was going to win. Celeste did seem to have a thin bio focusing on her going into real estate and she does sport numerous tattoos which tend to be frowned upon. I figured if last year's Filipina delegate could place with tattoos that Celeste could too but it was not to be. Angola was my next unplaced delegate who also competed at Miss Supranational 2021 representing the Netherlands and placing in the top 12 there and Angola's Leila Lopes-Miss Universe 2011 is Angola's director too and she was invited to Khun Anne's gala on November 7 but apart from all that, Swelia sparkled with those gorgeous eyes and smile and she was a force to be reckoned with in terms of stage presence and body plus her interview skills and humanitarian efforts were strong so I have no idea what happened here. Next was Germany and I thought she would place since Khun Anne needed her eggs... I'm kidding but it is true that Khun Anne's children were born from the donated eggs of a German woman but Soraya was a star in her own right and a natural beauty also directed by Miss Germany-Universe 2006, Natalie Ackermann who also directs Colombia so maybe they couldn't let both of them place but Soraya also maybe had more of a thin bio but she certainly was a strong candidate beauty-wise. Finally, Vietnam who had their streak broken as they had placed every year since 2018 until this year and Ngoc Chau was a winner of Vietnam's Next Top Model and also finished in the top 10 of Miss Supranational 2019 and her butterfly gown was nice but I find that these print gowns tend to get punished but I did hear her speaking English so I thought she would have placed but it was not to be. It's interesting the delegate I ranked 10th place won this year which was also the case for the most recent South African wins of 2017 and 2019 so maybe 10th on my list is the new lucky spot!



Winner=USA-R'Bonney Gabriel

Winner=Colombia-Maria Fernanda Aristizabal*

1st Runner Up=Venezuela-Amanda Dudamel

1st Runner Up=Venezuela-Amanda Dudamel*

2nd Runner Up=Dominican Republic-Andreína Martínez

2nd Runner Up=Puerto Rico-Ashley Carino*

FINALISTS (alpha'l):


Curaçao-Gabriëla Dos Santos

Thailand-Anna Sueangam-iam

Puerto Rico-Ashley Cariño

Mauritius-Alexandrine Belle-Etoile



Australia-Monique Riley

Brazil-Mia Mamede

Canada-Amelia Tu

Dominican Republic-Andreina Martinez*

Colombia-María Fernanda Aristizábal

Peru-Alessia Rovegno*

Haiti-Mideline Phelizor

Philippines-Celeste Cortesi

India-Divita Rai

USA-R'Bonney Gabriel*

Laos-Payengxa Lor §

South Africa-Ndavi Nokeri*

Peru-Alessia Rovegno

India-Divita Rai*

Portugal-Telma Madeira

Angola-Swelia Da Silva Antonio

South Africa-Ndavi Nokeri

Germany-Soraya Kohlmann

Spain-Alicia Faubel

Curacao-Gabriela Dos Santos*

Trinidad & Tobago-Tya Jané Ramey

Vietnam-Ngoc Chau Thi Nguyen


ALTERNATES: Trinidad & Tobago*, Australia*, Great Britain, Jamaica, Panama


HONORABLE MENTIONS: Aruba, Portugal*, Ukraine, Bahrain, Italy

§ = won online vote

* = made actual top 16

After the top 16 were announced, it was on to the swimsuit competition accompanied by a performance by Tank and the Bangas with expletives muted out... performing their songs 'Self-Care' and 'Outside' and they look like they were inspired by Missy Elliott. You may have noticed that the delegates were all given capes to design and showcase during the swimsuit competition displaying messages and a variety of images and I'm sure a significant number of them were designed by local artists. Puerto Rico was up first and Ashley Carino notably was also Miss Florida USA 2021 and 2nd runner up to Miss USA 2021, Elle Smith but she would not be denied her chance to compete on the Miss Universe stage and so she took a note from Madison Anderson in 2019 and country-hopped to Puerto Rico and won that crown giving her this dream opportunity. Ashley spoke of her love for outer space and watching Star Trek reruns and she is completing a degree in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Central Florida aiming to specialize in the field of rocket propulsion and has been hoping to work for NASA since childhood. At times, she can looks a bit like India's Priyanka Chopra-Miss World 2000. Ashley looked supremely fit as expected. Next up was Haiti who was one of the big surprises this year. Losing her mother at the age of 5 must have pulled on the heartstrings of the judges as Wassim reminded me that this would be a similar reason to why Nigeria placed in 2019 and Kenya for 2016. Haiti looked decent in swimsuit but perhaps a bit long in the face which was why she didn't make many lists. Next up was Australia who was in and out of my list so often but I ended up placing her as an alternate in my list as I wasn't sure who to take out for accuracy but I knew she was a great speaker and she had a similar incident to Miss Universe 2017-South Africa's Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters who talked about fighting a male attacker and Monique did something similar and got into boxing leading to that very muscular body. Next up was Dominican Republic who has really powerful presence. Even during the various activities the ladies participated in during their stay in New Orleans, Andreina has a way of capturing everything around her and making sure you focus on her. She does indeed have a great body and was originally supposed to compete last year but couldn't due to Covid which is why we saw Debbie Aflalo compete last year but Andreína recovered and she is an achiever. Andreína attended high school in the Bronx, New York and is the winner of Google’s Pay it Forward Award for her dedication to her community and earned a BA in Psychology from the City College of New York. Before graduating Magna Cum Laude, she earned a coveted spot as a Capitol Hill Intern in Washington D.C. working at Senator Kristen Gillibrand’s office. Next up was Laos, the supposed winner of the fan vote but some people don't really seem to believe that. It's almost as if they picked a country surrounded by countries with large fan bases like Thailand and Vietnam but the fandom could be spreading there too. This was the only country that placed this year for the first time ever and they have been trying hard to get noticed in recent years so it's nice to see them rewarded this way although her little twist and turn during swimsuit was rather abrupt. South Africa followed and Ndavi's fuller curly hair seemed to pay homage to the late Cheslie Kryst-Miss USA 2019 and she was fit and fabulous. Portugal was next and this is one of those famous contestants that placed in the top 8 at Miss Earth 2018 (along with Colombia's 2021 rep, Valeria Ayos who finished in the top 5 at Miss Universe 2021 and this year's representative of the Philippines, Celeste Cortesi who went unplaced at Universe and the upcoming 2023 Venezuelan delegate, Diana Silva, who apparently fainted after she was announced in the top 8 at Miss Earth 2018 and could not continue in the competition). I wonder if we will see more delegates at Miss Universe from this famous class of Miss Earth 2018! This is only Portugal's third placement in history and as Paulo reminds me, Telma is the first of these Portuguese placers to be a native-born Portuguese representative as the previous two, 2019's Sylvie Silva was born in Monaco and spent time in France and 2011's Laura Goncalves was Venezuelan. Did you notice that I had Portuguese-speaking nations, Brazil and Angola in my list but yet Portugal is the one that places!! Telma talked about not being satisfied with her looks as a child but would self-affirm by looking at herself in the mirror and telling herself how capable and powerful she was and she certainly worked those famous Portuguese hips during swimsuit! Next up was my own country, Canada and Amelia was born in Montreal but raised in my city, Vancouver where there are many wealthy, affluent Chinese families and she attends the University of Berkeley, California studying biology and business and we learned she dances ballet as demonstrated during the national costume competition. Amelia was a surprise pick especially since Canada hasn't fared as well in recent years and viewership/interest is not as high as I wish it was but it was interesting that both Canada and USA's delegates were of Asian descent this year for the first time ever and I think Amelia tried to make us all dizzy with the excessive twirls with her cape! Curacao, India, Venezuela Peru followed and she was expected to place by numerous people. She has a great overall look but at times, facially off but the land of the Incas sent a great blonde delegate this year. We also learned that Alessia and her sister sing and have been touring around her country performing in various venues. Trinidad & Tobago followed and I had my suspicions about her especially since Trinidad's own Miss Universe 1998-Wendy Fitzwilliam was a preliminary judge and Tya Jané stood out in preliminaries with her silky smooth legs and she speaks well and placed in the top 40 of Miss World 2019 and won the Continental Queen of the Caribbean award there. Trinidad hadn't competed since 2017 so it was nice to see them return. In the final group, we had Curacao who had a scare testing positive for Covid after arriving in New Orleans but she later tested negative and was cleared to compete. I remembered that some of the favorites for Miss Teen USA 2020 did not place due to a similar scenario so that's why I was a little hesitant with Gabriela but I put her in my list anyway and she made top 5! Curacao-Curawow!(as Carson Kressley would say) but Gabriela was a favorite despite coming from a small country and she impressed us with her great overall look and we also learned that she is half-Brazilian on her father's side and half-Surinamese on her mother's side. India followed and this diva Divita carried on the tradition of India placing every year after they won but not in the top 5 this time but Divita had those great speaking skills that Indian delegates are known for. Divita certainly carries herself with confidence as demonstrated in her frequent social media posts but her hips likely kept her from advancing. Venezuela followed and Amanda Dudamel carried on the great Venezuelan tradition of placing high as recent years haven't been kind to them possibly due to a change in directorship as Osmel Sousa had a big hand in Venezuela's success last seen with the 2018 delegate but he said he would retire only to go on to direct Argentina and Uruguay with the new Miss Venezuela organization headed by Miss Universe 2013-Gabriela Isler. Amanda has a great body so I was curious as to why she wore a one-piece but Venezuela was certainly helped due to the swimsuit sponsor being Miss World 1995-Venezuela's Jacqueline Aguilera. Amanda also had been showing herself to be job-ready by conducting interviews online with fellow contestants and titleholders on social media so she really wanted this and she came so close! Spain followed and she was an early favorite but seemed to fizzle with time. I didn't think she had the body but her cape had a picture of Spain's 2018 delegate, Angela Ponce who was the first trans delegate to compete at Miss Universe and Khun Anne even invited Angela to the extravaganza gala in November so that connected the dots for me. In the second-last spot of the semifinals, we had what has happened many times before, the host delegate called with USA's R'Bonney Gabriel proving herself worthy with that fit body and with her fashion design skills, dyed her cape herself sporting her father's famous words, 'If not now, then when?' encouraging people to just go for it. Finally, we had my winner Colombia's Maria Fernanda Aristizabal looking... Simply Aristizabal (thanks, Michael!) 'There's no tellin' where the money went!' Fernanda looked sensational and I had really high hopes for her as I liken her beauty to some of the pageant greats like Miss World 1994-Aishwarya Rai and the original Miss Universe 2002-Oxana Fedorova but the anti-blonde sentiment seems to be prominent in recent years so I almost wonder if changing her hair color would have made a difference. It was Karma Colombian. You come and go. You come and go. And boy, did she come and go! Fernanda originally would have competed for the 2020 Miss Universe crown when she won the original Miss Colombia crown that (back then) sent their titleholders to compete for Miss Universe but the franchise for 2020 was given to former Miss Germany Universe 2006, Natalie Ackermann Montealegre and she held a separate Miss Universe Colombia pageant for 2020 which is why we saw Laura Olascuaga compete for Miss Universe 2020 instead of Fernanda but even though Laura did place among the top 21 for 2020, much disappointment was expressed not only amongst Colombians but internationally that Fernanda was not given the chance to compete for Miss Universe which was likely why she competed for the original Miss Colombia title in the first place. Then another Colombian, Valeria Ayos competed for Miss Universe 2021 and placed in the top 5 replicating a similar placement since Valeria also placed third at the Miss Earth 2018 pageant. But for 2022, it was Fernanda's time so Natalie Ackermann held a press conference curiously inviting Valeria's runner-up, Risaralda's Maria Alejandra López as well causing some suspicion as to who would actually be representing Colombia for Miss Universe 2022 but as many suspected Fernanda was announced as the one appointed to represent Colombia for Miss Universe 2022 which may have been disheartening for Maria Alejandra López but Fernanda was given her rightful opportunity to compete for the Miss Universe title after all and karma worked out in Fernanda's favor and this chameleon went from non-participant to major Miss Universe crown contender. Fernanda's platform was #SOSwater which was the simple message on her cape showing how she is passionate about conserving water and spreading awareness of water scarcity.
Before a break after the first 10 of the top 16 announcement, there was a segment dedicated to cyberbullying and Olivia Culpo mentioned that she experienced that during her reign and it's a price that people pay for putting themselves out there unfortunately and Miss Universe 2021-Harnaaz Sandhu experienced much of that due to gaining weight during her year and it's hard to control weight when travelling so much and this was very reminiscent of what Miss Universe 1996-Alicia Machado faced during her year also and the criticism Harnaaz faced made her want to give up. This was followed by some of this year's contestants talking about their experiences with bullying like Guatemala saying she was criticized for her light skin and Bhutan for being openly gay so Harnaaz said to ignore, delete, block and keep moving forward and that Miss Universe comes in all shapes and she is not only beautiful but also feels beautiful. Harnaaz came on stage to talk with Olivia and Jeannie about her year promoting menstrual health and wearing a nice lehenga with her forehead adorned with a jewelled-piece similarly to Miss Universe 1994-Sushmita Sen when she did her farewell walk in 1995. Ukraine also got the special segment treatment rather than placing which was what I was expecting and it was quite emotional with other delegates like Poland, Lebanon and Venezuela also commenting on the situations in their countries. Then it was time for Khun Anne to 'take up space' and airtime showing off her wildness and giving a speech about women's empowerment and her struggles as a trans-woman when presenting the Social Impact Wave which just so happened to be won by her country Thailand's delegate, Anna Sueangam-iam.

Colombia, USA, SpainThen it was on to the evening gown round set to Amanda Shaw performing "Holiday" and I'm guessing the second song was called "We Don't Need Another Heartbreak Song?" Puerto Rico was up first with her silver gown with beaded fringe on the skirt with an open center slit to show off the legs and this gown really flattered her cleavage. It was out of this world. Wassim points out to me that Zuri said during the telecast that Ashley's favorite Miss Universe was Catriona Gray but her interview on Miss Universe's facebook page indicates that her favorite Miss Universe was Marisol Malaret and he pointed out it seemed almost Orwellian to conveniently change her favorite Miss Universe to the color-commentator Catriona so that was funny. Haiti had a gold gown with sexy cutouts bearing all of the side of her hip and one leg and some midriff exposure and she made it look tasteful. Australia followed in a silver disco-ball-like gown but she had a full train for preliminaries but I think they might have told her to take it off for finals similarly to Australia's Maria Thattil in 2020 probably because large trains are hard to walk in and may overly 'take up space' on stage... Dominican Republic had several gown changes even during rehearsal and her finals gown had long silver beaded fringe at the center and used her remarkable stage presence to own that stage. Laos followed in a flesh-colored gown with gold appliqués that looked decent but common. South Africa followed in a caped gown with blends of various colors like purples, reds and blacks and the highlight was that this gown had pockets! How practical! I think I preferred her copper preliminary gown with her done up in that African durag. Portugal followed in a white gown with beaded fringe hanging from the shoulders but this is an example of why you shouldn't have horizontal lines as it tends to make the body look wider. Canada followed in a silvery-white gown with a feathered cape which was really nice and Amelia knew how to pose to show it off. Peru had a silver gown with jewelled breasts and a slit at the back of the legs and it was a nice gown but not really as much of a standout as her bold red preliminary gown. Trinidad & Tobago followed with a gown that gold lamé covering her breasts extended to the back with a sheer cape which she worked when she went on stage and it was nice and of course, Trinidad's first Miss Universe, Janelle Commissiong who won in 1977 also wore a gold lamé gown. Curacao followed in a silver gradient gown that went to pink at the bottom and it was a vast improvement from her preliminary gown. India also followed in a gradient gown that went from silver to gold at the bottom and it had a nice train and was also an improvement from the two-piece gown she wore in preliminaries that really accentuated her hips. Venezuela also improved from preliminaries wearing a gown with alternating blue and gold patterns and it was a unique gown but somehow I was expected something better. Spain followed in a beige gown with silver and blue appliqués and it was a decent gown but just wasn't really a standout. USA followed in a gown I like to call 'Rebel With A Cause' as it had spikes on the shoulders and black fringe on the skirt that moved really nicely as she walked. R'Bonney has had gowns supplied by Filipino designer, Rian Fernandez who talked about the symbolism of the gown. "The black color of the gown represents competence and sophistication. The gunmetal accents epitomize strength and remarkable resilience of R’Bonney and power of the United States of America. The black onyx and the glass mirror drops are symbols of reflection and self growth. The fringe skirt depicts the movement of life with blue sapphire swarovski stones that stands for the new era of emerging women. Truly this piece is a vivid portrayal of a phenomenal Queen!" On top of that, it matches the new Force for Good Mouawad Miss Universe crown with the blue stones. Finally, Colombia continued in their spectacular gown tradition with more symbolism with the emeralds and as Colombia's 1994 representative, Carolina Gomez taught us in her intro for the parade of nations, 'From the land of passions and emeralds' so this emerald gown was appropriate for a Colombian to wear and Maria Fernanda was breathtakingly stunning in this shimmering gown.

It was very nice to see Gretchen Polhemus-Miss USA 1989 and Carole Gist-Miss USA 1990 together during their interview with Zuri Hall. Etienne points out that it was funny that they were 2nd and 1st Runner Up and tonight R'Bonney won so it was just more lead-up to a USA win! Sadly, Gretchen has been battling cancer and even her fellow GuyRex girl, Miss California USA 1989-Christina Faust-Nepstad who also placed in the top 10 of Miss USA 1989 also passed away on October 1, 2022 at age 56. I loved seeing the formers as I always do including Catriona's interview with Miss Universe 1978-Margaret Gardiner of South Africa who gave a great speech inspiring us to ask for what we want.

For the first time, there was a cut directly from top 16 to top 5 to top 3 but I actually liked this since we got to see ALL of the top 16 compete in both swimsuits and gowns. In past years, we would see a top 16 cut to top 10 missing either the remaining delegates' gowns or swimsuits depending on the year before cutting to a final 5. When it came down to the final 5: Venezuela, USA, Puerto Rico, Curacao and Dominican Republic, I knew right then that they were giving it to USA not only because of the controversy surrounding her win but also that she was prepared to out-answer the others. In a top 16 that skewed Caribbean-heavy, 3 of the top 5 represented Caribbean nations but most of them had American connections as Puerto Rico is from Florida and Dominican Republic is from New York. It was now time for the judge's questions and you could tell the crowd was really loud as the delegates on stage looked like they couldn't hear when they were called up. This round was starting with Venezuela who chose Wendy Fitzwilliam who asked, "Tell me about a time you felt shame and how you turned that feeling into fuel." Venezuela answered, "Good evening, New Orleans. Thank you for your question. I actually have a press conference which is called 'The Forbidden Dream' which talks about that forbidden dream that I had when I wanted to become a fashion designer because I felt shame about it. I didn't feel uh, it was possible for me to sustain my life but I pursue it and I demonstrated myself which was the most importantly that following our dreams, our passions, we are able to leave an impact stamp in every single action we take." I think she was prepared for this answer but she had some stumbly parts and some incorrect English but I guess the judges appreciated her effort while I thought Puerto Rico would advance over her in this round. Jeannie Mai, Olivia Culpo, R'Bonney Gabriel Next was USA who picked Mara Martin who asked, "Miss Universe recently made an inclusive change allowing mothers and married women to compete this year. What’s another change you’d like to see and why?" USA answered, "For me, I would like to see an age increase because I am 28 years old and that is the oldest age to compete and I think it’s a beautiful thing. My favorite quote is, “If not now, then when?” because as a woman, I believe age does not define us. It’s not tomorrow, it’s not yesterday, but it’s now. The time is now that you can go after what you want." This was a great answer from R'Bonney and relevant as the age limit was only recently upped from 26 to 28 but should there even be an age limit? While my friends and I were watching this pageant and pausing when we play a session of answer the question before the delegate does, my friend's answer to this question was that the delegates should not wear sashes so that they are judged based on themselves as an individual and not the country they represent which is also an amazing answer and it's very true because we see that sash factor is very much a thing at Miss Universe and judging the delegates as individuals rather than based on their sashes would probably create some very different results than those we normally see. Next up was Puerto Rico who picked Big Freedia who asked, "If you were crowned Miss Universe, how would you represent all of this year’s delegates through your reign?" Puerto Rico answered, "I would represent all of this year’s delegates because I am a mirror of what a woman is. I believe in the dream and the power that we all hold to make our dreams reality. That is why I am standing here today. I know what it’s like to not believe in your dream but I also know what it’s like to find a voice. We are the voice of tomorrow so let your voice echo in the chamber of time because this is the power that we have and I will represent the women like that. Thank you." Like USA, Puerto Rico also started getting loud and assertive during her answer and I thought she would advance over Venezuela to make an all-American top 3 but it was not to be and Ashley would have to settle for a top 5 position. Next was Curacao who was asked by Olivia Quido, "If you had the opportunity to speak with the leader of your country, what would you want to discuss?" Curacao answered, "Hi. Good... New Orleans! How are you guys doing today?? I think there’s a lot to be discussed and I believe that Curacao is a multicultural country and I believe that we should embrace all different cultures, and also discuss the fact that I feel like sometimes, people feel excluded, and we should not discriminate or have any type of bullying in the country. Thank you." I think that sloppy intro greeting the audience killed it for her in addition to the little microphone battle between Olivia Culpo and Curacao which just looked uncomfortable. Finally, Dominican Republic chose Emily Austin who asked, "What is the most significant obstacle that women in your country face and what should be done about it?" Dominican Republic answered, "I believe that the most significant obstacle that women in my country face is access to education. There’s a number of women and children in Dominican Republic that cannot go to school that (don't) have lack of access to go to them. I believe we have to do something about it now. We need to make sure that kids are able to be kids, they are able to play, to educate themselves. Not be mothers, not be wives. It is the moment now to take action to make sure the Dominican Republic will have education." I could hear a lot of Miss India 1995-Manpreet Brar-isms in Dominican Republic's answers so maybe Andreina studied Manpreet's brilliant answers and learned to incorporate them in her answers especially when she mentioned during her top 16 intro video that everyone deserves to live a life with dignity and Manpreet Brar also mentioned dignity during the Femina Miss India 1995 pageant and also during Miss Universe 1995 to not be looked at not just as mothers, daughters or wives. Dominican Republic further demonstrated with this answer how supremely prepared she was for this competition and with another year to practice after getting Covid since she was supposed to compete last year, Andreina was very ready and I'm hearing a lot of 'the time is now' in this pageant. Following this round, we had a heartfelt tribute to Miss USA 2019-Cheslie Kryst who passed away a year ago at age 30 in the most shocking way by jumping from at least the 29th floor of her apartment building in New York to her death on the street below and Cheslie's passing also seemed to fuel a USA win this year. Cheslie's mom, April Simpkins who was Mrs. North Carolina 2002 gave a speech about mental health and to check in on everyone no matter how happy they might appear to be. We also learned that Chile and Malta tied for the Congeniality award.

The top 3 were announced: Dominican Republic, USA and Venezuela who all had to answer the final question: "If you win Miss Universe, how would you work to demonstrate this as an empowering and progressive organization?" Dominican Republic answered: "I understand that the Miss Universe organization is looking for an ambassador, somebody who's able to communicate a message. I have been working for women's rights for as long as I can remember. It's been my action to every single day. I'm here to demonstrate it doesn't matter where you come from. Your background does not define you. Your courage and determination do and I will show that by working every single day, showing my leadership and determination. Thank you." This was another great answer from brilliant Andreina and I actually thought when first watching that she would rank ahead of Venezuela. USA answered: "Well, I would use it to be a transformational leader. As a very passionate designer, been sewing for 13 years, I use fashion as a force for good. In my industry, I'm cutting down on pollution through recycled materials when I make my clothing. I teach sewing classes to women that have survived from human trafficking and domestic violence and I say that because it is so important to invest in others, invest in our community and use your unique talent to make a difference. We all have something special and when we plant those seeds to other people in our life, we transform them and we use that as a vehicle for change." Did you notice R'Bonney injecting everything the beautifully confident Miss Universe Organization wants to hear? Phrases like 'transformational leader,' 'force for good' and 'vehicle for change' while promoting good deeds and recycling. Oh yes, R'Bonney was supremely prepared to answer this question with everything they wanted to hear. She had 100 friends/family members in the audience to support her so she knew she couldn't let them down! Some people noticed she went over the time limit as the bell chimed during her answer but it didn't matter. She had it. Venezuela answered: "If I get to win Miss Universe, I will follow the legacy that many women across the universe has showed to be part of this organization because Miss Universe has demonstrated that they choose women who inspire with their messages and transform with their actions and that's precisely what I would like to do. I'm a fashion designer by profession but I'm a designer of dreams as a woman. Thank you so much." That last line was nice being a fashion designer by profession but a designer of dreams as a woman. It could have been delivered just a bit more fluidly though.

Now it was time for the final look of the final 3 with Yolanda Adams and a gospel choir in the background performing a delicious rendition of 'I'm Every Woman' and I have to say this was an excellent, perfect song choice and Yolanda did an amazing job but I especially loved the gospel choir adding that special touch as it reminded me of why I love the 1997 Miss USA pageant which also had a gospel choir performing during the parade of states and evening gown competitions and was also held in Louisiana. I loved how Venezuela was dancing along and having a good time too. Some people thought it might ruin her chances but the votes for the first two had already been cast so it didn't matter.

For the first time in a long time, we already know the host country of the next Miss Universe pageant likely to be held in December 2023 and it's the gentleman of the Americas, El Salvador for the second time as they also hosted in 1975 and their president, Nayib Bukele made an appearance during the Miss Universe pageant to announce El Salvador as the host country for Miss Universe 2023.

Harnaaz Sandhu said her farewell as Miss Universe 2021 with tears and stumbles to culminate this turbulent year but also paying homage to the Indian Miss Universes that came before her on the back of the train of her gown were pictures of Miss Universe 1994-Sushmita Sen and Miss Universe 2000-Lara Dutta. The camera didn't really focus on those images though because of possible rights belonging to images like those similarly to a few years ago when Miss France 2017 had an Olympic logo on the back of the train of her national costume and they wouldn't show it and also Miss Austria 2016 had a picture of Julie Andrews on her national costume gown.
Top 2: USA's R'Bonney Gabriel and Venezuela's Amanda DudamelFinally, it was time to announce the placements of the top 3. Dominican Republic was 2nd runner up and the final two were USA and Venezuela for the fourth time in Miss Universe history and the audience must have been extremely loud as you could tell they couldn't hear Jeannie and Olivia make the final announcement as looked to be the case when the top 5 were asked to come to choose their judges for that question round. The final two looked like they were also fighting to put their hands on top as they held hands before the announcement of the winner as there is a superstition that she who has her hands on top is usually the winner but sometimes a thumb is on top and all that and I don't believe in this superstition at all really. The lights focused on the final 2 with a camera circling around them and USA was declared Miss Universe for the 9th time in history while Venezuela was declared 1st runner up for the 7th time in history and Harnaaz did a quick crowning with the new Mouawad Force for Good crown and patted R'Bonney on the sides of her arms as confetti fell from the sky and the delegates swarmed and congratulated R'Bonney after she did her first walk as 'I'm Every Woman' closed out the show.
Nola winning in Nola truly was destiny in the making. This time around USA would defeat the countryhoppers which was a different scenario in 2019 when Puerto Rico's Madison Anderson who was originally 1st runner up at Miss Florida USA 2019 and didn't make it to the Miss USA stage ended up finishing as 1st runner up at Miss Universe 2019 defeating the actual winner of Miss USA 2019, the late Cheslie Kryst who finished in the top 10 but not top 5 at Miss Universe 2019. Puerto Rico's Ashley Carino was 2nd runner up at Miss USA 2021 representing Florida before replicating Madison's feat and winning Miss Puerto Rico Universe 2022 but Miss USA would not be defeated by a countryhopper this time! Ashley's mom also lashed out on social media about the results... There were a lot of interesting parallels between this year with Miss USA winning Miss Universe and some of R'Bonney's predecessors who also won Miss USA and Miss Universe. There were echoes of past Miss USA's winning Miss Universe starting with the 2012 winner, Olivia Culpo as both she and R'Bonney had their hair in a bun for finals and had a low v-cut in their finals gowns and both won as the host delegate. Both Olivia and R'Bonney had controversy surrounding their Miss USA wins and even though they won their titles a decade apart, Olivia (born in 1992) is only two years older than R'Bonney (born in 1994). Diego also points out that both Olivia and R'Bonney switched positions when they took center stage with their runner-up when it was down to the final 2. Then to the 1997 winner, Brook Lee and both she and R'Bonney are partly Asian and both had Venezuela as their 1st runner up and both were also the host delegate and both were also the oldest Miss Universe at the time of their win with Brook winning at age 26 which was the age limit at the time and R'Bonney at age 28. Also in comparison to 1997, the outgoing titleholder Alicia Machado also faced criticism for gaining weight like Harnaaz Sandhu. In both 1997 and 2022, a dusky Italian representative was favored with Denny Mendez being of Dominican descent and the Caribbean nation of Dominican Republic placed as 2nd runner up this year while another Caribbean nation, Trinidad & Tobago placed as 2nd runner up in 1997. Curacao also finished in the top 5 in both 1997 and 2022. Diego points out that Aruba placed in 1996 and 2021 while Curacao placed in 1997 and 2022 and even 6 of the top 10 of 1997 also placed in 2022 (India, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Trinidad & Tobago, USA and Curacao). In both 1995 and 2022, we had a biracial Miss Texas USA win Miss USA then Miss Universe and both were crowned by Indian Miss Universes and Seychelles competed in both years. There were also comparisons to 2001 with the host delegate winning both times with Puerto Rico's Denise Quinones winning on home turf and both editions had female hosts, a Texan Miss USA and an outgoing Miss Universe from India who both shed tears during their farewells. Diego also points out a rather cryptic pattern that 1995 and 2001 both had a member of top 5 passed away too soon (Chelsi Smith and Eva Ekvall) so let's hope that the top 5 of 2022 all have long lives!
Yes, it was destiny for USA to win Miss Universe 2022 and it's all clear now. It's all a rich tapestry.

We learned how Khun Anne's JKN company will start using the Miss Universe brand to sell things like bottled mineral water (Gasp! If you drink it, will you turn into Miss Universe???) available first in Thailand and then internationally and even branded hand-bags and various other items with the Miss Universe star logo so it will be interesting to see how the brand evolves under Khun Anne's ownership. Khun Anne recently released some tidbits about Miss Laos winning the online vote and that the winner of Best Typical Costume will be announced in February. Miss Vietnam came 2nd in the Social Impact Award. Miss Universe 2023 will be held in December in San Salvador and the rumored date is December 3 but yet to be confirmed. The Miss Universe Organization already has host cities lined up until 2025 and apparently Thailand is still on the waiting list so maybe it will happen in 2031 after all to fulfill the 13 year chain since they hosted 1992, 2005 and 2018 but probably sooner. The 72nd edition will once again have a male host and male judges but not Steve Harvey anymore! The average scores will be shown again on the screens during the competition in El Salvador. JKN will show the private interviews of the Top 16 so we can get a clearer idea of why certain ladies advanced. Miss Universe 2018-Catriona Gray will be a commentator again and Miss Universe 1988-Porntip Nakhirunkanok-Simon is expected to accept the invitation as a judge. This indicates that the 2022 pageant seemed to be more IMG-driven as a last hurrah for USA in a transition year for ownership so we'll see how if these changes can bring back Miss Universe to its glory years so things are looking up! This is just the Jakrajuta-tip of the iceberg!

 The Prethoughts - Miss Universe 2022



Some photos courtesy Miss Universe L.P., LLLP