By IRIS EDÉN SANTIAGO
Special to The STAR
The two finalists holding hands at the end of the pageant are established fashion designers in their countries with booming businesses and a clear vision of their professional future. To me that’s the most powerful message the new Miss Universe organization sent women around the globe.
The organization is no longer a factory of dreams for pretty girls pursuing popularity and a hefty modeling contract. The transformation targets a new profile. They are looking for decisive women with careers of their own who also have leadership, charisma, communication skills and, sure, beauty. From now on, it is not what the organization can do for them, but what they can bring to the table.
During the week prior to the final competition and through their social networks, I saw a lot less cliché phrases like “world peace,” and a lot more demands from informed contestants rooting for better education, visibility, mental health, sustainability, women’s reproductive rights and government priorities. Kudos for bringing forward real, current issues, ladies!
Liking some of the changes with the event’s format. Sure. Now, for the record, I do not agree with the judges’ decision. No, no, no. The crown belonged in Latin America, without a doubt.
We also noticed changes in projection and wardrobe choices. For the most part, candidates graced New Orleans with smart suiting, clever silhouettes and fashion forward, edgy looks that portrayed them as confident modern women looking to land the job of a lifetime. Not just the crown.
For the preliminary and final competitions, a good number of candidates took risks with their evening gown choices. Besides the traditional and boring sparkly gowns in gold and silver, we saw architectural gowns, fashionable capes, daring cutouts and plunging necklines. We loved the bright colors: fuchsia, apple green, electric blue and teal. Also, a few candidates rocked the stage with geometric and colorful tribal patterns, a really bold move in these competitions.
Among the memorable evening gowns I adored: Bolivia (Helcio Couture), Perú (Augusto Manzanares), Italy (Roberto Cavalli and Fausto Puglisi), Dominican Republic (Gustavo Arango), Colombia (John Lecksell), Venezuela (Nidal Nouaihed) and South Africa (Juan William Aria). Now let’s see what local fashion designers have to say about the evening gowns of the 71st Edition of Miss Universe.
Lisa Thon: South Africa, Venezuela and USA: “These candidates stepped out of the comfort zone full of nude and metallic dress we are so tired of seeing. Puerto Rico needed more color.”
Lisa Porrata: Thailand, Puerto Rico and Venezuela: “Puerto Rico was impeccable and sophisticated, imposing really. Venezuela’s dress emphasized her spectacular figure and elegance; and Thailand, well, the story behind it makes it memorable.”
Emmanuel Acosta: Venezuela and Bahrain: “Without a doubt, Venezuela made history, she was iconic in both the preliminary and final competitions. Venezuela always brings innovation to the pageant, not the typical white or metallic dress (most) candidates wear. She broke the stereotype. Also, Bahrain, (with) high neckline, no slits, no transparencies, and yet so stylish, elegant and sensual.”
Juan Carlos Collazo: USA, Dominican Republic and Thailand: “USA is a fashion designer, from the beginning she was different, avant garde, a risk taker. Dominican Republic, well, you had to look at her, vintage, modern, always on point. Thailand was classic and modern; her dress is memorable for its composition and the message she conveyed.”
José Raúl: USA, Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic: “USA took all the risks, wore black, which is highly unusual, she owned the wow factor. Dominican Republic took the risk of wearing a gown with no beading or sparkle and yet looked modern and elegant.”
Ruben Darío: USA and Thailand: “The dress worn by Thailand was meaningful. Besides the creative process, what it represents. … USA wore beautiful dresses, well fitted. Other than that, I didn’t find any other dress to be anything new or different. In general, all candidates chose the same silhouette and the same old textures.”
Heriberto Vázquez: Haiti, Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic: “Dominican Republic is memorable. Venezuela is fashionable.”
David Antonio: Curaçao, Bolivia, Germany and Canada: “Canada’s cape embroidered in feathers was the most impacting. Germany’s dress is simple, with impeccable details.”