Noor Ashikin Abdul Rahman
The New Paper
December 26, 2015
World Peace? Let's try for an end to hostilities between Team Philippines and Team Colombia first.
In case you're one of the millions who gave the Miss Universe pageant in Las Vegas on Dec 20 a miss, here's a quick summary of what happened.
US comedian host Steve Harvey first announced Miss Colombia Ariadna Gutierrez-Arevalo, 21, as the new Miss Universe. She received her crown and was soaking in the applause.
Harvey then realised his mistake and said the winner was actually Miss Philippines Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach, 26.
Because of the debacle, there has been conspiracy theories, wild allegations and even death threats.
First, it appears both Miss Philippines and Miss Colombia weren't exactly Miss Popular, according to Miss Universe Singapore Lisa Marie White, 22, who was on stage when the mix-up happened.
In a telephone interview with The New Paper, she said: "When the top three were announced, some contestants were unhappy and there was quite an uproar.
"My vote went to Miss Philippines because I felt she did well in her Q&A, but at least seven girls forfeited their votes."
This year, votes from the contestants themselves and fans around the world were also taken into consideration.
Miss White said that during the competition, the majority of the 78 contestants took time to get to know each other, but Miss Gutierrez-Arevalo and Miss Wurtzbach kept to themselves.
Some girls, she said, felt that Miss Wurtzbach was "guarded" while Miss Gutierrez-Arevalo appeared "stuck-up and arrogant".
"Pia seemed nice and I'm sure if I had the chance to get to know her, I would like her. She seemed really nice to her friends and fans," said Miss White, a freelance model and aspiring actress who is of Malay and New Zealander parentage.
One of the four judges, US celebrity gossip blogger Perez Hilton, 37, didn't mince his words.
He maintained that Miss Wurtzbach was deserving of the coveted crown in a podcast released soon after the pageant.
He also slammed Miss Gutierrez-Arevalo for being a "straight-up diva bitch... (who was) rude to her translator" and "giving the most awful side-eye, throwing major shade" during the Q&A segment.
"It was that Miss Philippines gave a better answer. She deserves it," he added.
Miss White said many of the contestants were surprised when the pair, together with Miss USA Olivia Jordan, made it into the top three.
The general consensus, she said, was that they were rooting for Miss France and Miss Australia.
Another fallout from the Miss Universe crowning fiasco - other contestants have also been thrown into the Miss Unpopular pool.
Miss Germany Sarah-Lorraine Riek was criticised worldwide over her comments about Miss Wurtzbach's win.
Miss USA, too, was thrown into the fray. Miss Olivia Jordan, 27, faced death threats for reportedly laughing at the mistakenly-crowned Miss Gutierrez-Arevalo on stage.
She later said she was "deeply saddened at how many people choose to be negative and hateful on social media" and clarified that she did not laugh at anyone and had "reacted to an uncomfortable and bizarre situation by seeing the positive".
But no one got it worse than host Harvey himself, who has been the subject of nasty memes and global online abuse.
Rumours swirled that he had missed the last hour of rehearsals, and had been drinking and gambling hours before the competition.
Not true, said Miss White.
Harvey had indeed been at the rehearsal and seemed sober during the pageant finale.
Despite his "unfortunate mistake", Miss White said he did his job well as a host that night.
And the organisers seem to have no hard feelings.
Mr Mark Shapiro, chief content officer of WME IMG (the company that owns the Miss Universe Organisation), said on Tuesday that he "definitely" wants Harvey to return as host next year.
Miss White said: "If he returns next year, I have no objections to that. He is only human and he made a mistake. It's unfortunate that it had to be at such a public affair."
The low-down on the 'crazy stories'
In her interview with TNP, Miss Lisa Marie White took pains to restore, well, world peace.
"So many crazy stories have surfaced from people who weren't even there. I was there, I knew what happened," she said.
MISS PHILIPPINES SNUBBED?
Video footage that circulated misled viewers into thinking that Miss Philippines Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach was snubbed by Miss Columbia Ariadna Gutierrez-Arevalo's friends.
Miss Wurtzbach had walked towards Miss Gutierrez-Arevalo after her surprise crowning to console her and was reportedly told to "step back" by contestants who sided with Miss Gutierrez-Arevalo.
But Miss White said the contestants had flocked to both women at the same time and offered consolations and congratulations amid the confusion.
She felt that both women handled the situation well.
"I saw in an another video that Pia even tried to return the crown.
"As for Ariadna, she was very brave through it all. We all felt bad for her, it's the worst thing to happen to a contestant. If that had happened to me, I wouldn't know what I would have done," she said.
MISS GERMANY WAS MEAN?
Miss Germany Sarah-Lorraine Riek, 23, was criticised after a viral video had her claiming that "no one voted for Philippines" and that she was upset as she felt Miss Gutierrez-Arevalo "really deserved" the crown.
Miss White said that after the video came out, Miss Riek (above) told about 70 contestants in a WhatsApp group chat that she was "panicking" as she and her family were getting death threats.
Miss White, who was part of the group chat, said Miss Riek didn't elaborate on the nature of the threats.
Miss Riek later issued an apology, saying that she "never intended to offend Miss Philippines in any way".
Miss White said: "She never meant any ill intent. She might have been blunt, but she was just speaking her mind and that is just how she is.
"She is only human and perhaps, should have realised her responsibility as her country's representative and spoken with care. But she is a good friend of mine and a very nice person."
EVERYONE WAS UNFRIENDLY?
Despite the whole debacle, the atmosphere behind the scenes was not a giant catfight.
Miss White said: "I'd been warned of the catty nature of the pageant, but it was nothing like that... Everyone was really nice and supportive to each other."
She hopes to keep in touch with her new friends and has made plans to visit her roommate, Miss Indonesia Anindya Kusuma Putri, in her hometown of Semarang next year.
"Despite all that happened, I choose to remember the great memories that I shared with the other contestants," she said.
Miss Singapore's highlights
MISS INDONESIA, MY ROOMIE
"Miss Indonesia Anindya Kusuma Putri is a very sweet person and we became close in the course of the competition. We even share secrets. I guess you can say she is more organised, judging by the state of our room."
LONG, TIRING REHEARSALS
"Rehearsals can be quite tiring as they last from morning to night. But I learnt a lot. For example, we were told not to overdo our catwalk. There was also a segment where we were taped in front of the camera."
SEEING THE 'WORLD' IN VEGAS
"We got a view of the city at the Eiffel Tower replica in Las Vegas. It is so funny because they also have a 'fake' Greece and Rome. It was nice to hang out with and get to know the girls."
STOP HUNGER NOW EVENT
"At this charity event, we packed 15,000 packets of food in two hours for the hungry in all parts of the world. The event was eye-opening and it was fulfilling to help in any way we can."
This article was first published on Dec 26, 2015.
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