And the winner is... Miss Quasi-Normal. Runners-up include Miss Apartheid Universe and Miss Covid World.
2021 pageantry was characterized by a gradual return to normalcy as pageant competitions – which had been cancelled or postponed in 2020 due to the Coronavirus pandemic – succeeded in staging physical productions while paying close attention to universal safety guidelines. Even major events like the Tokyo Summer Olympics, which was cancelled in 2020, successfully took place in 2021. Miss Universe and Miss Grand International held two editions (one each for 2020 and 2021), The Miss World finals was postponed for March 2022 after several contestants had tested positive for COVID-19 in Puerto Rico which hosts the pageant. The year was also a milestone for Miss Universe and Miss World’s 70th anniversary and Miss America’s 100th anniversary.
LOCO ECO: Less than 48 hours after the coronation of South Africa's Gizzelle Uys as Miss Eco International 2020 in Egypt in April, the news broke out on social media claiming that several of the contestants had contracted COVID-19. Apparently, the pageant owner herself Dr. Amaal Rezk is also positive but didn’t tell anyone about it.The contestants cried foul because they felt that the organization had abandoned them, and that they had to stay in Egypt indefinitely and pay for their own accommodations. Jessica Newton, the national director of Peru for Miss Eco International, received tremendous backlash specially from angry Filipino fans after she posted the Covid-positive test result of Miss Eco Philippines Kelley Day on her Instagram story. Also, on her IG story, Newton posted that the Miss Peru Organization will no longer send representatives to the pageant after the abuse and mistreatment that the candidates received from the organizers. Nawat Itsaragrisil, the CEO of Miss Grand International as well as Thailand's director at Miss Eco International, did a live talk with condemning MEIO's negligent action.
“Now this is for you, to the whole Miss Canada team Migüel Martinez, Denis Martin Davila, and Miss Canada Organization and your ungrateful Miss Canada Nova Stevens,” said Cinco in a lengthy Facebook post. The fashion designer also posted a screenshot of a comment from an Instagram account named MG Mode, where it claimed that Cinco’s gowns arrived late.
Another Filipino designer, Rian Hernandez, echoed Michael Cinco’s rant by sharing his harrowing experience with the Miss Universe Canada Organization led by Denis Davila. Hernandez claimed that only one of the five gowns that he had loaned to MUC 2018 Magdalena Stepien was returned to him, and that he never received a thank you note or an apology from Stepien or Davila. Hernandez warned all Filipino designers never to allow themselves be scammed by MUC Organization.
Nova Stevens, Canada’s representative to the Miss Universe pageant, has clapped back on racial insults hurled against her, saying people who make such remarks seem to be stuck in ignorant ideologies. On her Instagram account in early May, Stevens posted a photo of her with superimposed racist remarks from Filipino netizens as the insults were expressed in Filipino language. Stevens conveyed her disappointment as the racial slurs she received happened despite flourishing movements against racism and hatred toward Asians.
“With all that has been going on in the world ‘black lives matter’, ‘Asians are human’ you would think this would bring us together. Instead, looks like some people are still stuck in their ignorant and racist ideologies,” she wrote in social media post. “I’m really disappointed with some Pageant fans from certain countries. Your hate takes away the fun and enjoyment from this once-in-a-lifetime experience,” she added.
A WOMAN OF CONVICTION: On November 14, the government of South Africa, with pressure from pro-Palestinian Parliament member Mandla Mandela, withdrew its support to Lalela Mswane, Miss South Africa 2021, for the Miss Universe pageant pageant because the event was organized in Israel whom the South African government considers as an “apartheid” country. Lalela told The Jerusalem Post ahead of the finals that she was glad she decided to participate. "If I had not come to Israel to compete in the Miss Universe pageant, I think I would have regretted it for the rest of my life,” she told the publication. Lalela added: "My soul would not have been at peace if I had skipped it." During her homecoming press conference, instead of crying tears of joy at earning the second runner-up position in Miss Universe, Lalela held back her anguish facing widespread backlash and even death threats from competing in Israel.
On November 21, Miss Earth held a virtual pageant for the second consecutive year, ending in the coronation of Destiny Wagner who brought the first international pageant title to her country, Belize. The 25-year-old Wagner - a spitting image of American rhythm & blues singer Alicia Keys, returned to Belize and was given a warm reception by government officials and the public.
After skipping a year because of the Coronavirus pandemic, Miss America 2022 finals took place on December 16 at the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Connecticut. Alaska’s Emma Broyles was crowned as the 100th Miss America. Honestly, I was expecting a high-quality production to celebrate the pageant’s 100th anniversary, but the show turned out uninteresting and flat. The contestant from Maine withdrew from the competition as a result of testing positive for Covid-19, though she won the Miss Congeniality award.
On December 13, the Miss Universe 2021 competition was held in Eilat, Israel - one of the most highly vaccinated countries in the world. Despite the pandemic, 80 countries were able to complete. Notable absentees included Malaysia and Indonesia, two predominantly Muslim countries that do not have diplomatic relations with Israel whom they consider an apartheid country. A delegate from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) was supposed to compete but no representative ever showed up. Instead, a young woman from Bahrain named Jess Deyani - the shortest contestant at barely 5 feet tall - arrived to become her country's first representative to the pageant. Besides Bahrain and Israel, the other Middle Eastern countries were Turkey and Morocco which returned after 43 years of absence.
Despite the strict COVID protocol, one contestant, the French delegate Clémence Botino tested positive for COVID and had to be isolated and quarantined for ten days. Luckily, her second test proved negative and she was allowed to compete, making the top 10. Two contestants were assigned after the withdrawal of the original contestant. Debbie Aflalo, originally the first runner-up of Miss Universe Dominican Republic 2021, was appointed to represent the country after the original winner, Andreína Martínez, tested positive for COVID-19 shortly before her scheduled departure. Kawtar Benhalima, originally the first runner-up of Miss Universe Morocco 2021, was appointed to represent the country after the original winner, Fatima-Zahra Khayat, had been injured in an accident.
The Bahamas has been competing in Miss Universe since 1963 but has never placed - until Chantel O'Brian - with her infectious charisma and unique style, went to Israel to show the universe that Bahamian girls can rock the stage. And so she did! Chantel became the first Bahamian delegate to place and making it all the way to the Top 10.
Steve Harvey returned as host for the sixth time, though rumor has it that this was his last year as host. The show was broadcast live by Fox on the U.S. East Coast starting at 7:00 PM on December 12 and at 2 AM, December 13 in Israel. Harnaaz Sandhu, 21, of India was crowned the 70th Miss Universe, making her the third woman from her country to win the coveted crown.
On December 16, the Miss World 2021 finals was supposed to take place in Puerto Rico, but earlier that day the Miss World Organization decided to postpone the pageant until March 2022 because several contestants and staff members, including the current titleholder Toni-Ann Singh, had tested positive for Covid-19. The infected contestants and staff had to remain in Puerto Rico and be isolated for ten days, so some of them had to spend Christmas in quarantine. According to an article published in Page Six, the Miss World Organization lost millions of dollars after the finals was cancelled. The contestants were advised to return to Puerto Rico in March for the finals, although it is not clear if MWO will pay for the airfares and accommodations of all the contestants, or if only the top 30 semifinalists will be required to come back.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: On October 30, Andrea Bazarte of Mexico was crowned Reina Hispanoamericana 2021 in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. Her predecessor is also from Mexico, which makes Mexico as the first country to win back-to-back in this pageant. Even though the 2020 edition of Miss Universe took place on May 16, 2021 in Hollywood, Florida, it is worth mentioning some tidbits. Natasha Joubert of South Africa failed to enter the semifinals, much to the surprise of pageant fans who had chosen her as one of the frontrunners. Thuzar Wint Lwin brought Myanmar its first placement, landing in the top 20. Adline Castelino of India led her country to the top 5 - the first time for India since 2002 when Celina Jaitley placed fourth runner-up. And Janick Maceta of Peru brought her country its first top 5 spot in 63 years.
On August 21 in Malopolska, Poland, Namibia's Chanique Rabé was crowned Miss Supranational 2021, and on the following day Peru's Varo Vargas won Mister Supranational 2021. It was the first time for both countries to win these titles, and the first time for an African country to win Miss Supranational.
Even though the Miss World 2021 edition was postponed, it is worth mentioning the following bits. Khadija Omar became the first representative of Somalia - and the first hijabi - to compete in this pageant. Usually, Miss World attracts over 100 participating countries, but because of the pandemic or other reasons, 28 countries were unable to send their delegates to Puerto Rico.
Miss USA 2021 Elle Smith of Kentucky was the last national representative to be crowned or selected for the Miss Universe 2021 contest. She was crowned on November 29 - the first day of arrival of the contestants in Israel.
On October 3, Alexandra Faith Garcia was crowned Miss Aura International 2021 in Antalya, Turkey.
On October 30, Cinderella “Cindy” Obeñita was crowned Miss Intercontinental 2021 in Sharm El Sheik, Egypt.
On November 5, Maureen Montagne was crowned The Miss Globe 2021 in Tirana, Albania.
On December 3, the Miss Interglobal 2021 organizers produced a virtual pageant which was won by Thailand's Nachita “Hera” Jantana. But less than a week later, Jantana resigned to compete in Miss Grand Chiangrai 2022 pageant where she placed second. The first runner-up from the Philippines, Miriam Damoah, has been announced as the new Miss Interglobal.
On December 5, Samela Godin was crowned Miss Culture International 2021 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
On December 29, Joel Ray Carcasona took over the Mr. Gay World 2021 title after the original winner, Louw Breytenbach resigned after contractual disagreements with the pageant's organizers. Incidentally, the 2020 winner, Kodie Macayan, is also from the Philippines. Both editions in which these two men competed in were held virtually.
Notable placements include Beatrice Luigi Gomez, Top 5 finalist in Miss Universe 2021; Kelly Day, 1st runner-up in Miss Eco International 2021; Tatiana Austria, 1st runner-up in Miss Eco Teen International 2021; Emmanuel Vera, 3rd runner-up in Reina Hispanoamericana 2021; Naelah Alshorbaji, Top 8 in Miss Earth 2021; and Rabiya Mateo, Top 20 in Miss Universe 2020 whose edition was held on May 16, 2021.
Former Mississippi 1984 Kathy Manning died on December 23 after several weeks of fighting COVID-19, according to the obituary. She was 59.
Jo-Carroll Dennison, Miss America 1942 from Arizona, died on October 31 at 97. Before her death, she was the oldest surviving Miss America. She was a trailblazer for women’s right long before the #MeToo movement. She objected to wearing the swimsuit during her reign. After her reign, she went to Hollywood to pursue acting.
IMAGES COURTESY OF VARIOUS INTERNET SITES