The universe has declared its new queen: On Sunday night, hosts Thomas Roberts and Natalie Morales crowned Paulina Vega of Colombia as the newest Miss Universe winner. Her powers include smiling for over three hours, not glaring at Rob Dyrdek when he asks her a terrible question, and turning dresses completely sheer when they’re hit with spotlight (but that translucent silver gown was a beauty!).
Miss Colombia beat out 87 other professional dancers, students, and fourth-degree Tae Kwan Do black-belts to rightfully claim her crown and keys to a Trump Tower apartment in the 63rd Annual Miss Universe Pageant. And after a year of philanthropic work and glamorous trips, she’ll come right back here to casually promote Sherri Hill dresses and Chi hair care products before commercial breaks.
The Miss Universe Pageant makes no qualms about it: This is a chance to watch 88 of the most beautiful women in the world strut their stuff, and strut beautifully they did in what was a pretty seamless show, give or take an awkward transition. Choosing 10 Top Moments from the night’s broadcast on NBC was tough, but I tried to evaluate each moment on its smile, personality, and matching fuchsia sateen bikini, and these came out on top:
1. The Weight of Your Country on Your Shoulders
I firmly believe that if the Miss Universe contestants could light their National Costumes on fire for their introductions like Katniss and Peeta in The Hunger Games, they would. These outfits get crazier and crazier every year, often defying physics (150 pounds of clothing on 120 pounds of body), and sometimes, logic (I didn’t know that country was known for its genie lamps!). Tonight the costumes could mostly be summed up in three categories: 1. Armed—Bolivia and her sword, Myanmar and her bow and arrow; 2. With Props—I think we all remember Canada and her electric scoreboard and hockey stick cape; and 3. Tortuously Heavy—Indonesia truly earned her fan-voted “Best National Costume” Award for the outstanding 20 kilo Buddhist Temple representation she sported on her shoulders.
2. A Life in Subtitles
As the 88 contestants were narrowed down to 15, a video package played for each selected finalist that allowed us to marvel at her beauty and accomplishments while we (me) ate Nutella on our couches at home. All 15 were given a catchy subtitle that either previewed what was to come in the video or made absolutely no sense at all. Some contestants, like Miss Netherlands, “The Urban Explorer,” or Miss USA, “Tae Kwan Do Kid,” are probably updating their Twitter bios to include their cool new monikers right now. Others are probably wondering how their whole life boiled down to “Beach Family.” But as that title belonged to the future crown winner, Miss Colombia, she’s probably updating her Twitter with something else right now, anyway.
3. Swimsuits with, like, Jeannie Mai
Special correspondent Jeannie Mai has a tough gig, there’s no doubt about it. Grabbing—seriously, grabbing—women as they come off stage and getting them to answer questions when they want to be getting ready for the next competition is prime for some awkward moments. But Mai’s silliest showing was certainly when she decided to ditch the script and announce the Swimsuit Competition as though all of the contestant facts had been presented to her in casual conversation. Of Miss France’s Business Management studies, Mai summarized: “She was like, Jeannie, eventually I’d like to promote and export French lace—well, she didn’t say it like that, she said it in French, but I understood her.”
4. Welcome to Doral, Where All of Your Dreams Come True, and Maybe You Are Dreaming Because Is Any of This Actually Real at All?
Truly the most bizarre part of the show had to be all the promotion of the city where the pageant was being held, Doral, Florida. Now if we had just been focusing on Doral’s parent county, Miami, that might have been a little more standard—Culture! Beaches! Golf! But Doral is a new city; in fact, it’s a city that’s still being built, so its video package featured computer-generated landscapes, luxury eight-story buildings that aren’t real yet, and a lot of Donald Trump and men in suits standing in undeveloped fields telling us what a great city it is. I’m sure Doral will be a lovely city, but right now it kind of looks like it’s in The Sims.
5. Dynamic Performances (Someone Give Gavin DeGraw a Call, Already)
Hopeful crossover Latin superstar Prince Royce and newly-sexy Nick Jonas were mostly background music to the 88 women swarming around them while they performed, but Gavin DeGraw certainly made his presence known during the Top Five contestants’s final walk around stage, escorting them down the stairs, shimmying in their general direction, and signaling for Miss Jamaica to give him a call sometime.
6. Miss Universe: Sponsored by Awkward Transitions
With language barriers and cue cards and Jeannie Mai snatching bikinis backstage, there are plenty of opportunities for awkward moments, but I was not prepared for poor Miss Universe 2013, the lovely Gabriela Isler, having to pimp every single Miss Universe sponsor so aggressively. Any woman who can say, “When I went to New York City, it was so cold… luckily, I got these Chinese Laundry boots,” deserves every dollar, apartment, and pair of Chinese Laundry boots she got with this gig.
Okay, one more: “It’s been a busy year, but now it’s time for Gabby. It’s time to go back home… and thanks to SBA airlines, I can go back to Venezuela and move forward with my life.” Move on to your sponsorless freedom, Gabby! Run like the wind!
7. Questions Lost in Translation (But Still, the Answer is World Peace)
The judges’ questions weren’t all terrible, but they almost uniformly sounded as if they were being voiced through a microphone made out of a potato. Just about every Top Five contestant had to call for a repeat, causing Miss USA to answer Manny Pacquiao’s question about what message she would deliver to terrorists if given 30 seconds with this classic ditty: “I know as Miss USA I can always spread a message of love and hope and peace and I would do my very best to spread that message to them and everyone else in the world.” World peace, indeed.
8. Facebook User, Maria Nevarro Fernandez, is a Star
Luckily, the contestants were given one more chance to show their mental prowess and cultural pride during the new Fan Question, and Facebook user Maria Nevarro Fernandez saved the day with this broad but insightful question: “What is the greatest contribution of your country to the entire world?” Miss Ukraine spoke of the difficult situation facing her country, Miss Netherlands focused on her home city of Amsterdam’s tolerance, and Miss Colombia, in what might have cinched her the title, glowed with pride when talking about the perseverance of her country’s people.
9. A Bit of a Tearjerker
Whether it was the former Miss Universe winners talking about how much the crown had shaped their lives and allowed them to become journalists and philanthropists (and start fragrance lines); or Miss Philippines talking about the uncle who took her in as a child that just passed away from cancer; or all of the women speaking so passionately about the philanthropic endeavors they support, these three hours packed an occasional emotional punch.
10. Finally, A New Ruler Is Crowned
4th runner-up: Miss Jamaica and her edgy short haircut
3rd runner-up: Miss Netherlands and her stunning yellow dress
2nd runner-up: Miss Ukraine and her gown’s Angelina Jolie thigh-high slit
1st runner-up: Miss USA and her sparkling smile
WINNER: A shocked and emotional Miss Colombia… congratulations, Paulina!