In the words of Margot Bourgeois, "From the island that created carnival and gave it to the world, Trinidad and Tobago."
Oh yo, CARNIVAL!!!

History was definitely made this year! The first black African to win the crown. The first set of "black-to-black" winners. USA didn't make the semifinals, nor did the home town girl, Miss TNT. The most contestants (84) that the Miss Universe pageant has ever had! What a year!

That opening number was sensational and Wendy also looked sensational in her national costume to introduce the show! At the beginning, Wendy removed a rather spooky mask to reveal her gorgeous face as she said, "Welcome to Trinidad & Tobago and the biggest party in the Universe. Tonight, one of 84 will walk away with MY CROWN!" I loved how she suddenly said, "my crown" loudly and the entire world was swept up in a frenzy of color and magic as the stage lit up with dazzling creatures and even more dazzling were the 84 contestants who I was glad to see wearing their native costumes again!! They fit right in the spectacular opening number. My only complaint was that I really wanted to see the preliminary scores this year more than ever since many girls that I was expecting to make the top ten didn't!



Winner=Botswana-Mpule Kwelagobe

Winner=Venezuela-Carolina Indriago

1st Runner Up=Philippines-Miriam Quiambao

1st Runner Up=Puerto Rico-Brenda Liz Lopez

2nd Runner Up=Spain-Diana Nogueira

2nd Runner Up=India-Gul Panag



4. Venezuela-Carolina Indriago

Canada-Shannon Erin McArthur

5. South Africa-Sonia Raciti

Trinidad & Tobago-Nicole Simone Dyer



6. India-Gul Panag

Panama-Yamani Saied

7. Mexico-Silvia Salgado

Colombia-Marianella Maal Pacini

8. Puerto Rico-Brenda Liz Lopez

USA-Kimberly Ann Pressler

9. Jamaica-Nicole Haughton

France-Mareva Galanter

10. Ghana-Akuba Cudjoe

Brazil-Renata Fan

As you can see, I got 3 out of 10 semifinalists which is an all time low for me and Mexico, Botswana, and Philippines were in my suspicions list. South Africa, was an early press favorite. When the delegates first arrived, Sonia was in practically every picture. Spain was talked about by a few people but, boy, did she wow us! Jamaica and Ghana were both the total surprises (especially Ghana) but clearly the ladies excelled in their interviews to get into the top ten. I just could not believe that Miss Trinidad & Tobago didn't make the top ten because I watched her competing in the preliminaries and she had the MOST confidence on that stage in swimsuit and evening gown competitions. I have no idea what happened. As for Miss USA, she will join Barbara Peterson, Miss USA 1976 as the only two Miss USAs who didn't make the semifinals to Miss Universe. What was good about Miss USA and TNT not making it was that the judges could actually make this a FAIR competition considering that a significant portion of the judges for Miss Universe are always American and the inevitable cheers for Miss TNT.

Although I was expecting to see one of the following:

I was pleased with this top ten because it shows that Miss Universe is FINALLY becoming less predictable and other countries are starting to get their deserved recognition.

Coincidentally, the 3 ladies I guessed correctly were my top 3. The odd thing about Spain and Philippines was they were not the actual winners of their pageants. Diana Nogueira didn't even make top 3 for Miss Spain but the winner, Lorena Pascual dropped the title for personal reasons and the rest refused the crown. The original Miss Philippines, Janelle Bautista, was dethroned since she was American and therefore was not eligible to be Miss Philippines. Janelle was dethroned and Miriam took the crown. As everybody knows now, Miss Philippines fell during the preliminary evening gown competition but when she got back up, the audience gave her a huge round of applause. I didn't think the judges were going to play that fall even though the audience liked it but Miriam sure did use it to her advantage. Way to go Miriam! It was also interesting that Puerto Rico's Brenda Lopez who was first runner up to Ana Rosa Brito in 1997 finished in 8th place at Miss Universe just like Ana Rosa Brito!! Talk about a match!

The announcement of the top ten is always an exciting moment and I loved the reactions that the girls had. Did you notice how Philippines strutted out on that stage and Miss Ghana's genuinely shocked expression. Miss Botswana went nuts and of course, I did expect a loud cheer for Miss India since Trinidad has a huge Indian community. Miss India was also called the usual host country spot which is usually the 9th spot. The guys in the audience holding the Jamaica flag also went nuts when Jamaica was called in.

As for the hosts, they were excellent. Jack Wagner interviewed everyone well and was just a terrific host. I love the special commentators and Ali Landry and Julie Moran were good examples of why. I loved some of their hilarious comments like: Julie: "They are hot to trot!", Ali: "What's that, Julie?". Jack: "Which gown would you like to wear?" Ali: "Julio! Just kidding!". or how about when Julie said great brunettes think alike! They were fun but when they said USA hadn't made it in 15 years, they were wrong. It was 23 years but the public got the idea. It was a long time.

As for the judges, there was hardly any diversity and yes, they were mostly American but they judged somewhat fairly but some scores were questionable. Ali said the judges are right on the money. Although, I have reviewed some of their scores. Maccioni gave Philippines a 2.00 for her interview score and I know that was supposed to be an 8 but he let his mind slip and looked at the keypad the wrong way. Poor Marcus Schenkenberg obviously had a broken score panel because he didn't score the first 5 delegates for interviews but they fixed it before the next 5.

Spain, Mexico, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Philippines, Ghana, Botswana, South Africa, India, Venezuela

On to the world tour. This was a great idea and I'm glad they continued this competition this year. Miss Spain only showed us how they do ribbon dancing in Taiwan but how could the judges score that? They definitely should have asked her more questions but it didn't matter because her body pulled her into the top 3. Miss Mexico was quite the classic. She was partnered with Miss India but Silvia struggled. First she mixes up the foods. She was supposed to compare roti to a tortilla and curry to the sauce but she accidentally said tortilla was the curry and roti was the sauce (the other way around) WHOOPS!! Just to clarify, when Silvia did her little schpiel in Hindi what she said was, "How are you? My name is Silvia. I'm fine." And the Indians in the crowd cheered but Silvia seemed to have this repelling attitude so it wasn't a surprise that she placed last in this portion. Miss Jamaica was fun. Her little scenario of how she would ask an Italian guy out was cute and she handled her interview very well. Miss Puerto Rico was great. First she comes out and says in a really sexy voice, "Hello, good evening" and she said she would take a coat, ski, and a big bag to fill with chocolate if she went to Switzerland. The big bag was funny. She also proved that she's her own woman with standards and even if it was okay to kiss on the first date in Switzerland, she will never do such a thing and will only consider it for the next date given that she receives a big bag of chocolate. I liked this interview. Miss Philippines was next and I would have like to hear her sing as Jack seemed to be implying but Guatemalan music is instrumental. I appreciated how she expanded on her answer to teach us that the Marimba is an instrument and a dance. She was just so sweet and she held this interview together very nicely.

Miss Ghana was next and she seemed to be getting Aruba's Irina Croes in a bit of trouble! Arubans are very open minded and Irina's is a real go-getter and Irina prefers the two piece swimsuits while discrete Ghanians tend to go for the one piece. Strangely enough, Akuba wore a two piece swimsuit! That Irina's been a bad influence, I'm telling you! Miss Botswana (our eventual winner) was so cute and genuine. She talked about Brazil's "last Eden" being the Amazon and told us that everyone in Botswana has a cattle post and they hang out with the cattle for fun. I would hardly consider cattle fun, I'll take my dogs, thank you très. South Africa delivered her answers well but Sonia didn't sound very natural but she did well. I think anybody who has watched Miss Universe for several years now has picked quite a bit of Spanish, including me, so everyone knows Hola and Gracias. The language barrier was clearly a problem so Jack went a little easier on Sonia. Ah, Miss India, brilliance at its best. She was very in control, poised, and was very mature. Notice how quick she was when she said she would get in trouble driving on the right hand side of the road in India. Her debate about where the social revolution of women occurred first was interesting and she considered defeat but it didn't come to blows. But Evander Holyfield was there but Gul can fight her own battles! Finally, Miss Venezuela, who was my prediction to win so I have to say that I absolutely adored her. You probably know that one of my favorite Miss Venezuelas ever was the perfect Minorka Mercado of 1994 and Carolina was almost like a Minorka-clone with darker skin and slightly younger. Her answers were spontaneous and still excellent. She ain't gonna change her clothes for no one and she focuses on positives rather than negatives in discussing Ireland.

I just want to mention the music for this pageant because it was excellent. The video for "Stand Up and be Counted" was excellent. I also enjoyed the "Island Beat" segments and talking about Trinidad & Tobago.

The swimsuit segment with a little bit of "Limbo Fire" was again very energetic and exciting. The delegates themselves really didn't do much though. Spain had sensational form and she broke the hex that the delegate who was called first recently had for some time. Mexico's stance could have used some work but she did look shapely. Jamaica needed more bust but she was fit. She was cute when she turned away from the audience and suddenly turned back. Puerto Rico looked fantastic and I must admit I was surprised at her low score as I was with Ana Rosa Brito! I did noticed Brenda's ribs poking out on occasion but she looked good. Miss Philippines had excellent form. I think the judges knew about Miriam's notorious fall so this may have helped her to get high scores. Did you notice how she placed her hands to make her shoulders look broader? Out comes Miss Ghana and I could think of at least 30 delegates who had better bodies than her because her form was not very appealing and her legs were not exactly ideal. I wasn't surprised at this score but I was surprised that she beat Miss India by a hundredth. Botswana had a figure similar to Wendy Fitzwilliam. She looked great as any Miss Universe should. South Africa also had an excellent form. Sonia definitely has the look of an American celebrity. To me, she looks like Mariah Carey with darker hair but some other people say she looks like Jennifer Love Hewitt. She definitely has a look though. Here comes Miss India complete with her ENORMOUS BREASTS! I couldn't believe I never noticed the size of her breasts before. They were huge! As Oprah Winfrey's best friend Gail said to Oprah, "I have a black eye...One of your boobs hit me in the face!" Gul could have used some toning. Carolina Indriago look so striking and I thought her score was way too low. Venezuela never ever hits 6th place!! What happened?! Julie also mentioned that there wasn't much focus on breasts this year but Miss India had enough breasts for everybody so that was fine. The final limbo was freaky but she did it and they must have put something in her hair to keep it from catching fire.

Spain, Mexico, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Philippines, Ghana, Botswana, South Africa, India, Venezuela

The evening gown competition was excellent. I think Miss Colombia really stood out here in her striking gown. You couldn't miss her. Julio's song "One More Chance" was an excellent choice. It wasn't too slow and it kept the competition moving. Spain had a rather plain gown but the low-low cut on the back certainly grabbed some attention! Mexico had a stunning white gown and her hair was done up nicely. Jamaica's navy blue gown wasn't really a great choice. Nicole could have gone with something better. Miss Puerto Rico's dress was designed by Tommy Hilfiger and although many people didn't seem to like it, I thought Brenda looked vivacious and she wore that gown very well. It was just like Chelsi Smith's gown only it had straps and sparkles. Miss Philippines stepped out in a glistening sky blue gown and you could feel this beautiful aura about her as she walked around the circle. Miriam wasn't going to fall this time. It was almost as if the fall had boosted her confidence but Miriam was glowing during the evening gown competition. Miss Ghana's gown didn't really look that great. That shawl thing looked okay, but just okay. You could the stitch marks on it though. Miss Botswana's gold gown was great and she looked very sophisticated and elegant when she held her hands in front like (was it Audrey Hepburn?) or some movie star is noted for doing that I forget who. Miss South Africa's gown was nice. It was an interesting design. Miss India had an excellent spot in the music. I liked how she smiled at the man who was escorting her and she looked radiant in this striking gown and the gloves were also a nice touch. Next was the sensational Carolina Indriago. This gown seemed to have brought some mixed reactions and others said it was Titanic-like but I thought this gown was fair. I'll admit I didn't like the strands or those things sticking out on the skirt but she looked elegant. The "all-covered up but still very sexy" look seems to be in.

Spain, Mexico, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Philippines, Ghana, Botswana, South Africa, India, Venezuela

The top 5, South Africa, Venezuela, Botswana, Spain, and Philippines were all good choices. Even though, Miss India was in 6th place, had she made the top 5, she probably could have taken it all which her outstanding personality. I was disappointed not to see her and Puerto Rico in there as were Julie and Ali. Julie mentioned Puerto Rico and Ali goes, "And my India!!! I loved her from the beginning. What happened?!" South Africa's little "thank you" at the end one of her answers did make her sound less natural and although she handled the questions well, she didn't come through. Miss Venezuela was excellent and could easily have made top 3. The race issue is always a hot topic but it didn't really seem to work for Carolina just like Denny Mendez. The race issue is getting a bit tiresome I suppose. Miss Botswana was so cute, Julie called her "adorable" and that's just the right word for her with her facial expressions and all. She was simultaneously very intelligent and her speech on making education compulsory was great. Spain's little butt wiggle when Jack turned her around was what got her in. Sure, she wants to find the cure for AIDS and cancer but that little motion in saying the front of the dress was more important since you must look at people face on got her in. Miss Philippines talked about her fall and she milked it for all it was worth. She just started laughing and provoked the audience to start laughing giving her a little more time to think and turn this fall into something political. She claims that she stood up for all the people who have ever fallen and she feels she was a good example since she got up. Now, I must admit that I thought this was a little corny. She got up and continued and that was that. I highly doubt that she was going to run off stage crying after coming this far. Nonetheless, here was Miriam a potential Miss Universe.

Notice how Julie and Ali both picked, Spain, Philippines, and VENEZUELA as their top 3 but Spain won that portion with Botswana in 2nd and Philippines in 3rd. Carolina probably could have taken the crown seeing how this was a no-win situation and I'll get to that in a second. Notice how Miss Philippines was called in the middle? This was a sign that they wanted her to win because all the recent winners have been called in the middle. The final question was a turning point. They were asked if Miss Universe should continue her reign if she was to get pregnant. I know this question was indirectly related to the disqualification of Miss Guam, Trisha Heflin, after it was discovered that she was pregnant. All three surprisingly said yes but Botswana gave the best delivery OF THE 3. Had Venezuela or India made the top 3, I think the situation would have been different. Miss Spain didn't really finish her answer. Miss Philippines seemed to lack a little confidence and composure. She said Miss Universe should continue if she has been a good example and set goals but a pregnant Miss Universe obviously hasn't been a good example and this pregnancy could not have been intentional had it occurred during her reign since it was not planned. This is why Julie and Ali said she choked. Miss Botswana answered well but she thinks that a baby would not affect her reign and that it is an expression of her femininity (or feminity, as Mpule would say) but since Mpule answered the best, she won. Notice also how she quieted down the audience in saying, "thank you" showed that she was very in control. Of the 3, Botswana had the most confidence. Mpule also gave quite a reaction to winning the crown! Wendy looked sensational in this gown as she did her farewell walk to her song "Kiss of Life". The hair looked somewhat plastic but she was still a true Miss Universe.

Mpule's appearance on Regis & Kathie Lee was great. Mpule came out with her hair in a pony tail wearing a long blue jacket and white skirt and her sash. Both Regis & Kathie butchered her name but Mpule said, "You tried." She also said that she was a former Miss Teen Kwelagobe and she likes New York and got to see the Statue of Liberty. Kathie Lee also made Mpule reveal where she is staying. It was a joke but Kathie goes, "Are you staying at trump's apartment on 5th Avenue" and Mpule says "180 Riverside" but then Regis & Kathie go, "Don't tell everyone!" But what do you expect from innocent Mpule? Kathie gets double smacks for that one! As Miss Universe, Mpule said her platform is creating AIDS awareness and education since AIDS has hit Botswana hard. On the humorous tip, Mpule, in her native tongue, Setswana, said, "I love you, Regis and you are so handsome." The audience gasped in amazement as they revealed the crown and they also showed when Mpule won it all. Just some interesting facts: "Mpule" means "one who comes with the rain" since she was born on a rainy day but no one could ever rain on Mpule's parade!

What a pageant! Is all I can say about 1999. A year of wonderful and shocking surprises but overall Trinidad gave a memorable show and graced us with Mpule. Now it's on to Miss Universe 2000 which will likely have the most contestants ever but that title is going to be really appealing! Some countries I would like to see win Miss Universe 2000 are Italy since they are the highest ranking country in the list of the most miss universes without a winner. India since it is the most populated country who participates in the pageant. Philippines since Filipinos are avid pageant fans. Venezuela since they have been stiffed several times over and Osmel is going to bring out the big guns next year as will every country most likely!