It’s the most exciting time of the year as 11 beauties from Asia-Oceania and America gathered in Manila to jumpstart the 65th Miss Universe pageant that will be held for the third time in the Philippines.
Miss Universe Organization President Paula Shugart was easily the ‘star of the night,’ as she put on a jacket with the printed words “Miss Universe 2016 Is On” announcing the official opening of the world’s most popular beauty pageant. “I love the Philippines! It’s a dream come true for me,” Shugart warmly declared before a jam-packed event hall in the luxurious Conrad Hotel on Seaside Boulevard in Pasay last Friday. “With over 90 contestants all over the world, we would show the beauty and wonderful hospitality of the Philippines,” she added.
Back in town, reigning Miss Universe Pia Wurtzbach, elegantly ravishing in a yellow gown, graced the occasion to join the first batch of beauties introduced on stage, giving a preview of what to expect in the tough and highly contested pageant with more than 90 delegates expected to arrive on Jan. 13 next year. “It all started with just a small idea of taking the Miss Universe in Manila which I mentioned casually to Paula,” Pia said feeling surreal about the Miss Universe happening now in the country.
Powerhouse countries stood out during the kick-off event with Deshauna Barber (USA), Caris Tiivel (Australia), and Maria Mika Maxine Medina (Philippines). Chalita Suansane (Thailand) and Sari Nakasawa (Japan) also impressed the pageant fans giving the pageant organizera a glimpse of what to expect from the now world-renowned pageant crazy people.
Tiivel, a 23-year-old model from Perth, Western Australia, like Wurtzbach, is a make-up artist and won Australia-Universe on her second attempt at the title. Tiivel was drawn to the world of pageantry where she said she could be allowed to be herself and continue to develop as a person. She had struggled with depression and anxiety in the past and hoped to work on that cause to support and provide some assistance to people.
Barber is the first woman actively working in the US Army Reserve to win Miss USA. The 26-year-old Georgia native has a Masters degree in Computer Information Systems at the University of Maryland. She worked as an IT Analyst at the U.S. Department of Commerce and is currently a Logistics Commander of the 988th Quartermaster Detachment Unit in Rockville, Maryland. Deshauna hopes to continue serving the men and women in the U.S. military focusing on PTSD treatment and suicide prevention for soldiers returning from deployments.
Country bet Medina showed to all and sundry she is ready for the event and Miss Universe is all written on this 26-year-old, exotic, stunning model’s face. Her mentor, Jonas Antonio Gaffud, said they are leaving no stone unturned to make sure she do her best in the pageant.
Nakasawa, a 22-year-old senior dental student from Otsu, Shiga, has volunteered at children orphanages and hospitals in Vietnam and Cambodia. She considers Hollywood legend Audrey Hepburn as the person who influenced her most for her grace and beauty and charity work. Nakasawa, who has Indonesian blood, comes after half-black Ariana Miyamoto broke barriers last year and became the first biracial woman to represent Japan in Miss Universe.
Tiivel, Barber, Nakasawa and Suansane, a 21-year-old Thai model, are all aiming for their country’s third Miss Universe crown. The rest of the 11 delegates at the kick-off party were Miss New Zealand Tania Pauline Dawson (New Zealand), a half-Filipino, Jenny Kim (Korea), Dang Thi Le Hang (Vietnam), Htet Htet Tun (Myanmar), and other two standouts, Kiranmeet Kaur Baljeet Singh (Malaysia) and Kezia Warouw (Indonesia).
The Mall of Asia Arena will also host several events including the Governor’s Ball, National Gift Auction, National Costume Show, Fashion Show, Designer Showcase, Preliminary Competition (swimsuits and evening gowns) and the After Party with the new Miss Universe 2016 winner. The Manila event cost $12 million-plus made possible by LCS group of companies led by former Ilocos Sur Governor and now Narvacan Councilor Luis “Chavit” Singson, Okada Manila led by CEO and President Kazuo Okada, Solar Entertainment headed by CEO and President Wilson Tieng, and SM Lifestyle Entertainment led by Hans Sy with partners San Miguel Corporation, Philippine Airlines, and Pay It Forward.
The Miss Universe Organization is working hand in hand with the Department of Tourism under Secretary Wanda Teo.