LAS VEGAS--The Miss Universe contestant from the Philippines is this year’s winner, but for one brief moment, it appeared as if it might be a repeat win for Colombia.
Colombia contestant Ariadna Gutierrez Arevalo was wearing the crown as this year’s Miss Universe winner when host Steve Harvey returned to apologize.
Harvey said it was his mistake and he would take responsibility for not reading the card correctly that named contestant Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach this year’s winner and Colombia the first runner-up.
A mystified Wurtzbach appeared stunned as she walked to the front of the stage alongside the crown-wearing Arevalo before last year’s Miss Universe from Colombia removed the crown and placed it on Wurtzbach’s head instead.
The pageant that pits international beauties against one another returned to Las Vegas on Sunday, December 20 (Monday morning, December 21 in Manila) to crown a winner on a new network, with a new Spanish-language broadcaster and a new pageant owner beginning with an elaborate costume contest inspired by the women’s countries.
One of the event’s judges, celebrity blogger Perez Hilton, couldn’t help but point out former contest owner Donald Trump’s absence when asked what was different about this year’s contest during the broadcast.
“Thankfully Donald Trump no longer owns this pageant,” he said to cheers from the crowd inside the Planet Hollywood hotel-casino theater in Las Vegas.
Comedian host Steve Harvey had a look of mock-shock after Mr. Hilton made the comment.
Harvey had said before the show in an interview with the Associated Press that he had no intention of making any Trump jokes.
“This isn’t about Donald Trump at all,” he said of the Republican presidential candidate, saying he said some things that probably weren’t the best things to say.
Miss Universe has been whittled down from 80 to three contestants from the U.S., Colombia and Philippines. The women competed wearing elaborate costumes, two-piece swimsuits and evening gowns before answering questions about gun control, terrorism and legalizing marijuana.
The 24-year-old woman representing Mexico who had threatened not to participate at the time Trump still co-owned the pageant made it to the final 15 but not the final 10.
Trump sold the pageant in September and Wendy Esparza of Mexico reconsidered her entry saying on her Instagram account that “love and respect between individuals and countries will always be more powerful than hatred.”
The competition started with women representing 80 countries between the ages of 19 and 27. For the first time, viewers at home will get to weigh in, with their votes being tallied in addition to four in-person celebrity judges.
NBCUniversal and Trump co-owned the Miss Universe Organization until earlier this year. The real-estate developer offended Hispanics in June when he made anti-immigrant remarks in announcing his Republican presidential run.
That led Spanish-language network Univision to pull out of the broadcast for what would have been the first of five years airing the pageants and NBC to cut business ties with Trump.
The former star of the “Celebrity Apprentice” reality show sued both companies, settling with NBC in September, which included buying the network’s stake in the pageants.
That same month, Trump sold the organization that includes the Miss Universe, Miss USA and Miss Teen USA pageants to entertainment company WME-IMG.
“It’s quite a telenovela to be honest with you,” said a laughing Manuel Abud, president and CEO of Azteca America, referring to the Spanish-language soap operas.
Abud’s Spanish-language network won the broadcast rights to the contest only a few weeks ago. For English-language audiences, the show is being broadcast on Fox.
“It was such a shame for such an important event to the Hispanic community to be taken hostage by politics,” he said.
The Hispanic audience loves to “cheer for the countries,” he said. “It’s a big deal.”
Despite Trump disappearing from the business, Abud said his company didn’t jump right in, concerned there might still be lingering anti-Trump sentiment connected to the pageant.
“As long as we made it clear that Trump had nothing to do with it anymore, then we should be in the clear,” he said they concluded.
And so far, he said, no one has asked him if he’s crazy for signing on.