Miss Universe: The PR of Beauty

It’s just a beauty pageant, but one that generates millions in cash, and even more in public awareness. Whoever gets crowned as queen of beauty tonight becomes automatically a world celebrity – and even among the losers there will be names that no one will soon forget. Because these women are more than contestants in a beauty pageant: they represent their countries.

There were many favorites, among them, Miss Philippines Shamcey Supsup, Miss Venezuela Vanessa Gonçalves, Miss Mexico Karín Ontiveros, and Miss USA Alyssa Campanella, because the PR machine of this country is strong enough to make her a favorite. Also, because the USA wanted this really bad – after all there hasn’t been an American Miss Universe since Brook Lee won the title in 1997. Never mind that other countries have never seen their beauties shining in the whole history of the contest. Miss America must win, “for her eloquence, poise and outgoing personality,” – as the American media will reason. But she didn’t make it to the top ten, so this train is gone.

And the American media is not alone in the game. Journalists in every country cover the event from a national perspective. The “true” favorites of the competition are not “national” favorites. Egypt had high hopes for Sara El Khouly, and the British Virgin Islands gave Sheroma Hodge a real chance. They didn’t make it into the semifinals, but the media in their countries will continue to support their performance for weeks to come. You won’t read news from any country, without getting the feeling that the pageant is about the countries and not about the people walking on stage tonight.

Instead of reading about the people who made the history of the show, you read about the countries who “performed best” throughout the pageant’s entire history. The USA, for instance, has seven winners. But performance is also measured in placements in semifinals, and the best here are Venezuela, Brazil, Colombia, Sweden, Germany and so on.

Among the 16 semi finalists tonight, there are again some of the usual “power performers” including the two that dominated the contest for so many years, Venezuela and the USA. And sure, there are also some surprises. The 16 semifinalists are: Malaysia, Deborah Priya Henry; China, Luo Zilin; Philippines, Shamcey Supsup; Ukraine, Olesya Stefanko; Greece, Iliana Papageorgiou; Australia, Scherri-lee Biggs; Venezuela, Vanessa Goncalves; Puerto Rico, Viviana Ortiz; USA, Alyssa Campanella; France, Laury Thilleman; Costa Rica, Johanna Solano; Angola, Leila Lopes; Peru, Natalie Vertiz; Nicaragua, Adriana Dorn; Netherlands, Kelly Weekers; and Paraguay, Alba Riquelme; and currently, as I write this, the top ten are Australia, Costa Rica, France, Ukraine, Portugal, Panama, Philippines, Angola, China and Brazil. Top five: Ukraine, Philippines, China, Brazil, Angola.

Regardless of the outcome of the competition, for the 89 contestants the pageant is more than a a contest; it’s a career choice, and a shot at fame. Many of them continue to work billion dollar industries: fashion, film, modelling, and so on. While the media continues with statistics on country rankings for Miss Universe, the contestants need their own PR to go on. First, it’s the PR of being a contestant, then, that of being a semi finalist. For the latest, things may be easier: they are noticed, they will go home with a win. The ones who didn’t make it into the top 16 need more: a strong media push if they want to make it internationally. At home, each candidate is a celebrity, but the world has the tendency to forget the beauty that doesn’t get the crown. Not every candidate has a Trump empire to support and promote her after the pageant. For some, lack of PR is also the end of the road.

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