THOWBACK (way, way back): The 1997 Miss Universe Pageant

In 1997, I wrote this review of the 1997 Miss Universe pageant. Rereading it this weak I was surprised by how spot on my evaluation of Donald Trump really was. I predicted that the Miss Universe pageant would die under his stewardship. It did not, but the Miss Universe pageant has lost its lustre and the US ratings of the Final Show are at their lowest in the competition’s long history. I also said that the show could have been one of the best ever; looking back now it really was.

The 1997 Miss Universe pageant has left a bitter aftertaste, for its general tackiness, the treatment of the media and the crass commercialism which dominated it. The tone was set by THE announcement and  the blatant exploitation of what should have been a private drama. If the timing of THE announcement was ever in doubt, one need only follow the carefully rehearsed on stage banter about what was new in Marla Maples’ life.

Everything was basically cheap: from the trailer park offices, to the photocopied passes and Delegates’ Handbook.  Everyday there was some ruckus involving the media and the very tight working conditions which were allowed to them. After the first week, the only events open to the media were the rehearsals for about a half hour every day.  Everybody seemed confused and it would appear that everything could unravel at any moment. The security was a joke, as no pass had a photograph and nothing was checked.

The stage itself was really beautiful and the show could have been one of the best ever. It was marred however by its flattery of the Miss America Pageant (imitation is the sincerest form of?) . The double Judges’ Panels, the call-inn audience question, the lame attempt at squeezing a talent round out of what is not a talent-based competition and the outdated swimsuits, made one wonder if it was really May in Miami Beach and not September in Atlantic City.

Marla and George finally seem to have gotten the hang of it, although there is plenty room for improvement. Let’s bring back Bob Goen and a former Miss Universe as guest commentator.

The 10 semi-finalists were as predictable as ever. Besides the “Staple 4″ (USA, Venezuela, India and Sweden), Miss Italy was there to prove that Miss Universe is not racist, even if she was the most vulgar girl there.

Miss Curaçao, Miss Panama, Miss Puerto Rico and Miss Trinidad & Tobago were true beauty queens (the REAL semi-finalists) and Miss Estonia was her comic relief self.

Brook Mahealani Lee won deservedly based on her finals answer. Marena Bencomo was CORRUPTLY boosted by her compatriot Carolina Herrera (they are from Venezuela after all and remember the saying about old dogs?) and Margot Bourgeois was affected by her honest, but unpageantlike, answer to the final question.

In the hands of Donald Trump, the Miss Universe pageant is bound to die soon. How can this man head a pageant that requires its contestants to be a positive role model to their communities and the world, when he himself is an example of the basest human emotions?

Marla and THE Donald never seemed like a divorcing couple (am I the only one who saw the encouraging caress of Marla’s arm?). Donald Trump was besides himself at the Coronation Ball when he heard about the show’s exceptional rating and “jokingly” told those present that he was sure he had done nothing to affect those ratings (talk about blowing your own horn!).

Its very painful to see that Miss Universe has become the pageant that exploits the national pride and aspirations of most countries in the world for the financial benefit of one despicable human being!

A concerned (almost former) fan of and reporter at the 1997 Miss Universe pageant


Published by

Richard John Isa

Emerging photographer and Pageant Consultant

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