"I'd like to start off by saying that every experience no matter what it is, good or bad, you'll learn from it. That's just life," - Olivia Culpo, Miss Universe 2012
Pageants are no exception. In this world, there's no room for mistakes. Since judging beauty is, after all, subjective; every advantage should be exploited to bring a delegate's best attributes front and center for the judges' consideration. Personally, I believe swimsuit rounds are the much easier round of the pageant. Delegates are wearing identical swimsuits and since there is a more definite understanding of what is "sexy" or "fit" (the bulk of it could be achieved by working your arse off the gym and other sports) usually those who obviously spent less time at the gym, get left behind when the first cut is made. After the selection of the fittest girls were made, they would have to show a more glamorous side of their personality. Being Miss Universe after all is not just fun in the sun and swimsuit shoots, it's about being the epitomy of a modern woman who is not only confidently beautiful, but has a sympathetic heart and charisma that "influences and inspires people" (LOL). To some extent she would have to address some people of importance who are vital to furthering her advocacy, i.e. AIDS awareness and warranting attention in these moments is not flipping the hair and giving the most over the top gaping smile, or having the most sensational walk; it's about showing her own brand of sophistication, thus giving credibility to her beauty, and ultimately to the organizations she represents. The best way to determine this quality in the semifinalists is through the evening gown competition. This is my favorite part of any competition, because so many factors go into play - the hair, the presentation (walk and twirls, if any), the silhouette of the dress, the color, the fabric and even the accessories. During the course of time, we've seen many delegates who were strong in the swimsuit competition, only to stumble in the evening gown competition and botch their chances of advancing towards the crown. I guess this is where the learning from experience part, comes into mind. During the 1990s to 2002, the swimsuit and evening gown scores, along with the casual interview (90s to 2000) were combined and averaged to determine who makes the next cut.
This is my take on how a gown choice have may have set back or boosted the chances of some Miss Universe delegates. First let's see some retro queens who's chances, Ibelieve were greatly affected by their gown choice.
The grand mama of risk takers. She defied Miss Universe convention with this hot middle-eastern inspired evening wear.
This timeless blue dress coupled with a great presentation helped her snatch a spot in the top 5.
This fabulous red and gold creation catapulted her into the Top 5 despite a low swimsuit score.
Her over-the-top bouffant gown with cut-out embellishments was a great departure from an overdose of tube column dresses that night. She definitely switched to glamour mode with an updo and exquisite earrings.
Had she used her preliminary gown in the finals, it would have made her ascent to the crown more difficult.
Impressive with her "English is my 2nd language" answer, it's sad to see that her "busy" dress stopped her from advancing into the Top 5.
A dress too short and a plastic-like wrap sealed her fate.
NOW HERE'S THE LOWDOWN ON THE MISS UNIVERSE EVENING GOWN SUCCESSES AND FLOPS FROM 2000 - 2012
Claudia Moreno's choice to change gowns during the finals paid off. This fitted gown with tinsel accents pushed her ahead of frontrunner Miss India in the evening gown competition.
The hanging beads on the gown were beautiful especially in motion, however, it was overkill when the long gloves were given the hanging bead treatment as well.
Evelina chose a simple dress with very little accents and relied heavily on her beauty and catwalk skills. Great job.
Her gown may not be in the best color but it may have worked if the accessories were kept to a minimum by ditching the necklace and bracelet.
Ilanit Levy - Miss Israel
Too short and too simple.
Oksana Kalandyrets - Miss Russia
Talk about too many ugly things going on - awkward length, weird design and bad styling
It was a great decision for Oxana to change into this Tom Ford number. This dress channelled all the attentionn to her face, which is her strongest asset.
Demetra wore this white, mermaid gown in a very thick and heavy fabric, which made her look chunkier in the torso area and was too heavy to walk in. Obviously, the judges saw it too, and her score,when added to her high marks in the swimsuit competition was not enough to let her advance into the top 5.
From 2003-2005 the judging system was changed, with 15 semifinalists competing in the evening gown segment first. Then they were cut into the top 10 who competed in the swimsuit competition. The top 5 fittest girls will then face the final question in order to determine who will be the next Miss Universe.
With this daring Celine gown, Miyako showed the image of the modern Japanese beauty queen - beautiful but fierce runway divas.
Mariangel Ruiz - Miss Venezuela/1st runner-up
This Angel Sanchez fire engine red a-line gown, was the perfect choice to showcase Mariangel's serene, almost like floating on air walk.
This assymetrical gown did not do any favors to the beautiful Claudia, from the fit to the sleeves.
I love how this gown was sexy but not being vulgar. Despite being sheer, the demure neckline saved it from being cheap. It looked great on the tall and beautiful Nancy, that she was given a slot in the top 10
The dress definitely did not complement Rosalva's beauty. The color was not for her and it was too heavy to walk in, she even tripped.
Talk about a major goddess moment. Black-haired Monica looked every inch a goddess in this white silk jersey dress with some revealing cuts in the right places, enough to bring the sexy in.
When she walked it's like she stuck yellow tissues on her back. Without them, the gown would still have looked mediocre.
In 2006 the format as altered. 20 semifinalists competed in the swimsuit competition, then were cut into the top 10 who paraded in evening gowns of their choice. Then the top 5 would face the final question. From 2007-2012 the semifinalist were reduced to 15.
This gown was such a novelty it's considered by many as one of the best gowns worn by a beauty pageant delegate. The chains surrounding the dress gave edge, while being punctuated with sexiness such as the very low front and high front slit.
Lourdes Arevalos - Miss Paraguay.3rd runner-up
Lourdes entered the top 10 as a fresh surprise, with her tall, lithe figure as her passport. When she came on stage for the evening gown parade she sure made a statement with this floral printed green, blue and yellow silk charmeuse gown, knocking off fellow Latina contenders Bolivia and Colombia from the top 5
Her director must've thought the judges were stupid not to notice that her predecessor and the reigning Miss Universe then wore an almost identical gown last year. An opportunity to make a memorable followup to Natalie's victory gone to waste.
This Alexandre Dutra silver showstopper was the perfect dress for the sassy Latina. The overall design was extravagant but not excessive and the fan-folded skirt gave her all the room to walk, thus earning the highest score for the evening gown competition.
This ill-fitting gown definitely ended Flaviana's chances for the crown. It was too large at the bust, and the cut was not masterfully done, the intended shape was not achieved. Poor Flaviana, if she had a better gown, she might have given Riyo Mori a scare in the top 5.
While fellow latinas Mexico, Venezuela and Colombia were twirling their way into the judges good graces, Marianne came out in a sheer long sleeved column dress decorated with exquisitely cut-glass pieces in intricate patterns. Another truly memorable dress worn by a memorable delegate.
This relatively familiar corset dress could've been more exciting if it's in a more youthful color or fabric. The dress really aged her in the eyes of the judges. Now where are the great Italian designers when you need them?
This dress was not wholly pageant couture, but is also red carpet worthy and the judges obviously loved it. Gona's updo gave the look more class, earning her a secure place in the top 5.
Stefania Fernandez - Miss Venezuela/Miss Universe 2009
What to do when the outgoing queen, who turns out to be your compatriot is praised as one the best titleholders ever? Be different. Veering away from Dayana's fiery, sassy image, Stefania went vintage. Glorious curls, sexy red lips and that feathery, extravagant dress reminiscent of the 1920s scored enough points for her to enter the top 5 and eventually achieve that historic back to back win.
Suffering from underscoring early on in the swimsuit competition, Tatum, barely made it into the top 10. What's supposed to be her redeeming moment vanished as she came out in this pastel colored dress with lace-up detail at the back and a single high side slit, which is in desperate need of a good steam job. Had the dress been steamed properly it would've looked different. Her fabulous walk wasn't able to salvage the opportunity and she was nowhere to be found in the top 5.
This red-hot column dress with an overskirt got all the right accents, and gave Ximena the opportunity to walk comfortably with some sort of a train to twirl with for that extra drama.
The Sherry Hill dress was outstanding on its own but her styling competed with it, taking away the focus from Roz's beautiful face and mesmerizing eyes. If the necklace and bracelet have both been removed and her hair let down in a sea of gloriously-cascading blonde curls with only small drop earrings as her jewelry, she would've really taken on the universe.
This is also a signature Alexandre Dutra with shiny crystal embellishments tastefully alternated with feathers. The sweetheart neckline reflects Leila's sweet personality and the high side slit gives the dress sex appeal. Despite her shy personality, her natural beauty and charm, amplified by the gown was enough for the judges to select her as Miss Universe.
The dress is a blood-red corset dress with lacing detailing at the back with large cascading ruffles in the bottom. The front is shorter than the back showing an expanse of Johanna's beautiful legs. The fabric looks cheap, heavy and ill-suited for the design. Very bordello couture. It's a shame that a once in a blue-moon contestant like Johanna was wasted with a bad wardrobe choice.
Laury Thileman - Miss France
Every inch a beautiful Frenchwoman, Laury has a very fit body and catwalk skills better than her predecessors. When she came out in this white, run of the mill gimmicky dress, I felt sad for her. Really. All her hard work for her transformation came to waste in this single bad choice.
Gabriela was flying under the radar during the whole season and was a pleasant surprise when she got into the top 16. With a body to die for and a soft sex appeal, she sailed smoothly into the top 10 where she really shined. Her exquisitely crafted, heavily embellished gown easily demanded attention, and as pointed out by Jeannie Mai, showcasing her amazing figure and Bam! Out goes Melinda.
Early in the swimsuit competition, it was evident that Karina's strong suit would be her classic beauty. Her walk was mediocre and it was a surprise that she chose to wear this red swimsuit/gown with an asymmetrical neckline. This dress is a tricky one and with her runway skills and flair nowhere near Ximena's, she was not able to capitalize on the soft flowing skirt and play with it. As the top 5 was announced, no Mexico was called.
Elizabetha Golovanova - Miss Russia
Another facially beautiful delegate with average ramp skills, Elizavetha chose this Sherry Hill dress bathing suit/gown hybrid with an elegant blue fan-pleated skirt. Her deficiencies in the runway become evident when she got too conscious with the skirt and lost some of the elegance. She could've added pressure to Olivia had she entered the top 5.
I hope you enjoyed reading. It may always be about the girl but a great dress really helps a lot.
Next time we'll be talking about the exceptional girls who were given not so great dresses and yet shined on stage.
Thank you. :)