Style Living Self Celebrity Geeky News and Views
In the Paper BrandedUp Hello! Create with us Privacy Policy

Edition of firsts: The highs and lows of 72nd Miss Universe competition

By Yoniel Acebuche Published Nov 19, 2023 4:59 pm

The 72nd Miss Universe pageant is officially over, marking the end of an extraordinary spectacle that captivated audiences worldwide.

The highly anticipated event in El Salvador was graced by 84 equally beautiful women from all over the world and is where Sheynnis Palacios of Nicaragua clinched the highly coveted crown.

We followed the 84 exceptional women vying for the crown from start to finish: from the game-changing rules down to the crowning of the first Nicaraguan Miss Universe. Now that it's done, let's walk through the highs and lows of the Miss Universe 2023 tilt.

HIGH: Sheynnis Palacios is the First Nicaraguan who won the title

Sheynnis Palacios bested 83 other candidates from all over the world, marking Nicaragua’s first win in decades. 

Now leading the “Force for Good” reign, she will take over the reign from Fil-Am R’Bonney Gabriel of the USA who was crowned the winner in 2022.

Historic win!

In the last Q&A portion for the three finalists, she was asked if ever she could live one year in another woman’s shoes, who it would be, and why. Sheynnis chose British writer and advocate Mary Wollstonecraft.

She said: “I would choose Mary Wollstonecraft because she opened the gap in paving opportunity to many women and what I would do, I would want that gap, that income gap, would open up so that women could work in any area that they choose to work in because there are no limitations for women. That was 1750, now in 2023, we’re making history.”

LOW: Paula Shugart is no longer the President of Miss Universe

Paula Shugart, who has served as the organization's president since 2001, broke the news to the audience at the preliminary competition of the pageant. 

"Saturday will be a celebration and a culmination of this partnership and it does not get any better than this. And I can't think of no better place than in this beautiful country, on this magnificent stage to announce the end of my tenure as the president of Miss Universe," she said.

"I have decided that this Saturday would be my last show. And to be clear, this decision has been months in the making and is not a response to recent events," she said alluding to the news about Miss Universe owner JKN Global Group filing for bankruptcy in Thailand.

"I stayed because of my belief in El Salvador and my love for the Miss Universe brand. I have always passionately believed Miss Universe is not about any one woman. It's about community, our community. It's about the passionate fans, the titleholders, the national directors who have remained dedicated to this brand through thick and thin," she added.

HIGH: Inclusivity at its finest

Last year, Anne Jakrajutatip, the owner of the Miss Universe Organization called the Miss Universe a “new era of the global women’s empowerment platform” that is going to be “run by women, owned by a transwoman, for all women around the world.” It builds interest to pageant fans to see how the following editions of the prestigious beauty contest will change in this “new era" back then. 

Given that progressive contestants are welcomed into the competition, this year's Miss Universe is truly the evidence of that "new era."

Columbia's María Camila Avella Montañez and Guatemala's Michelle Cohn were the first mothers and married women to compete in the pageant. The former was able to enter the Top 5.

Columbia's María Camila Avella Montañez strutted the runway during the Evening Gown Competition

Jane Garrett of Nepal, meanwhile, defied beauty standards as the first plus-size candidate who was able to enter the first cut of the pageant.

Moreover, Miss Universe also welcomed Pakistan through Erica Robin as the first-ever winner of the Miss Universe Pakistan 2023. She wore a blush-colored burkini in the Swimsuit competition.

Jane Garrett is the first plus-size woman to enter the Top 20 of the pageant

Ultimately, after Spain's Angela Ponce made history as the first transgender candidate to compete in Miss Universe 2018,  two more trans beauty queens were able to raise their flag in the global pageant. Rikkie Valerie Kollé and Marina Machete of the Netherlands and Portugal, respectively, became the first transwomen to represent their country in the pageant.

LOW: Miss Universe plagued by controversies

In August, the Miss Universe organization cut ties with its franchise in Indonesia—PT Capella Swastika Karya, and its national director, Poppy Capella—days after several contestants alleged they had been sexually abused in the run-up to the competition’s crowning ceremony in Jakarta.

“In light of what we have learned took place at Miss Universe Indonesia, it has become clear that this franchise has not lived up to our brand standards, ethics or expectations,” the Miss Universe Organisation posted on social media.

Then in November, Miss Universe's Thai owner JKN Global Group filed for bankruptcy in its country, but promised the organization "can continue its operation while being under the rehabilitation plan."

HIGH: PH-Thai budding friendship

Pageants fans were amused with the Philippines' Michelle Dee and Thailand's Anntonia Porsild growing friendship that was formed during the season.

In one of his Instagram posts, Michelle posted photos with a caption, "Hola, ASIA!," featuring the growing bond between them. The two were also seen together in various activities, along with their fellow pageant sisters.

HIGH: Catriona Gray as backstage correspondent

Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray served as a backstage commentator—her second time doing it alongside Zuri Hall. Not surprisingly, she did a pretty good job—and not just because she managed to console fans whose bets failed to enter the semifinals.

If the MUO plans to have another all-female hosting panel for the 2023 show, we hope they consider Catriona as one of the main hosts.

HIGH: Miss Universe 2023 R'Bonney Gabriel's farewell walk

R'Bonney took the stage wearing a gorgeous red gown made by Filipino fashion designer Rian Fernandez, who in January 2023 produced her winning Miss Universe 2022 gown.

The Filipina-American beauty queen wore a structured gown with side cutouts and embellishments. A head covering with similar crystal beading completed her appearance and gave her ensemble an additional sense of refinement.

As Miss Universe 2022, she used her platform to advocate for responsible fashion, inspiring others through her upcycled works and she plans to continue it through her brand, R'Bonney Nola.

Photo by Indirect Media for Miss Universe 2023

"I believe that we create our own destiny through intentional action and hard work, everyone is born with a gift, and grateful that Miss Universe gave me an opportunity to share my gift of fashion with the world. From collaborating with young designers to creating upcycle pieces, I aimed to demonstrate that fashion to be a force for good. We must never let adversity or hate stop us from our purpose," she said in a voice-over.

"I would not be where I am today if I allowed dark moments to affect me. A powerful mind and voice will always triumph over negativity, so find the strength to dream and never let a moment pass you by," R'Bonney continued.

"The time is now. If not now, then when," she ended.

HIGH: PH's Michelle Dee among the Voice for Change gold winners

The Philippines' Michelle Dee is among the three winners of the Voice for Change segment of the competition.

"For the first time, we are making the gold winners extraordinary women who have gone above and beyond to drive positive change in their communities," the organization said.

Michelle was introduced as someone who "passionately advocates for autism acceptance and empowerment."

PH's Michelle Dee during the Swimsuit Competition.

Puerto Rico's Carla Gill is spearheading the 'It's Okay Not Be Okay' program and 'Break the Silence' surrounding mental health challenges, and Angola's Ana Coimbra is addressing high infant mortality rates caused by malnutrition.

Meanwhile, the country's bet also won the Spirit of Carnival by Carnival Cruise Line during the finals night of the 72nd Miss Universe.

The award is given to those who embody the company’s values of fun, friendship, diversity, and inclusion.