Miss Colombia was wrongly named Miss Universe in a dramatic mix-up in front of a global television audience of millions on Sunday, before the rightful winner Miss Philippines, Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach, was finally handed the glittering crown.
The pageant’s host, US comedian Steve Harvey, misread his cue card and initially announced Miss Colombia, Ariadna Gutierrez, had triumphed.
She was fleetingly crowned and congratulated at the ceremony in Las Vegas and started waving to fans. But as she blew kisses to an adoring crowd, Harvey was forced to come clean and announce the real winner.
“Okay folks, I have to apologize. The first runner-up is Colombia.”
“Miss Universe 2015 is Philippines,” he added as the music began anew, with the actual winner, Wurtzbach—a high-profile actress and television host—looking stunned and mouthing “what?”
Harvey attempted to explain the error to a perplexed audience, who greeted the news with both cheers and boos.
“This is exactly what’s on the card. I will take responsibility for this. It was my mistake, it was on the card,” he said.
“It was my mistake, still a great night,” added the talk show host, saying the audience should not “hold it against the ladies.”
The glittering crown was then promptly placed on Wurtzbach’s head. She later told reporters she wished Miss Colombia the best.
“I’m very sorry, I did not take the crown from her and I wish her well in whatever she wants to pursue after this pageant,” she said.
In the Philippines, celebrations broke out despite the gaffe.
The presidential palace led the nation in hailing the victory of the German-Filipino model, who this year fueled gossip of a relationship with 55-year-old President Benigno Aquino III by saying they were friends and that “he’s very fun to talk to.”
“We congratulate her for this success as the third Miss Universe of the Philippines, following in the footsteps of Ms. Gloria Diaz and Ms. Margie Moran-Floirendo,” Aquino’s spokesman Edwin Lacierda said in a statement.
“In bagging this victory, Ms. Wurtzbach not only serves as a tremendous source of pride for our people, but also holds up the banner of our women and of our country, as a true representative of what the Filipina can achieve,” he added.
Lacierda also praised Wurtzbach’s “tremendous poise and control” after the pageant host’s mistake.
ABS-CBN, where Wurtzbach works as an actress and host, cut off a live broadcast of Aquino addressing the military to air Harvey’s apology.
“I felt sorry for both candidates... and for all the Filipinos... who were watching live. It took away from the experience,” said Moran, who was Miss Universe in 1973.
News of the error spread rapidly on social media, with the #MissUniverse2015 hashtag trending.
“People are human, mistakes can happen. Luckily some have the bravery to own it and take a step to correct it. Hugs to #MissUniverse2015 wow,” tweeted Audrey Bolte, who described herself as Miss Ohio USA 2012.
The contest is wildly popular in Latin America and much of Asia.
Senator Grace Poe congratulated Wurtzbach, noting that her story of resilience and determination was the story of all Filipinos.
“The Filipino heart indeed shone through! What a wonderful Christmas gift to us. It wi ll bring many of us some much-needed Christmas cheer. “
Senator Juan Edgardo Angara thanked Wurtzbach for giving honor and joy to the whole nation. “Kudos to Pia for not surrendering her dream despite some failures. She struggled to achieve the crown,” he said.
He added that Wurtzbach was a good example of grace under pressure.
Presidential candidate Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago also congratulated Wurtzback on her Twitter account and described her as “regal.”
“But from what I’ve heard, we need to talk. See you! #Miss Universe2015,” Santiago said, referring to Wurtzbach’s response during the pageant when asked her view on the re-establishment of US military bases in the Philippines, a prospect that Santiago opposes.
Wurtzbach said she saw no problem with the return of US bases because of the strong relationship between the United States and the Philippines.
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