How I Spent My Vacations – Part 1: Miss Universe
After finishing a rather long ELEC 360 examination on December 18th, I was excited to finally be done. I got back home, packed my suitcase and made sure I had my travel documents ready. I was going to Las Vegas.
I had to leave for the airport at 3 in the morning so I decided not to sleep that night. Ahh!! That wasn’t the best decision. I reached Vancouver at 6 am and made my way to US Immigration. I had a rather unusual conversation with the Immigration Officer, who asked me if I was traveling to Las Vegas alone. I didn’t realize how odd it sounded when I replied YES to that question. Prior to raising any further flags before my entry into the United States, I told him I was going for the 64th Miss Universe Pageant to support my best friend Urvashi Rautela, who was representing India at the competition.
It was great weather but to my surprise the flight was rather bumpy, with a lot of turbulence. Two and a half hours later I was in Las Vegas. After checking into my hotel room, I took the monorail and made my way straight to the Axis Theater in the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino.
Luckily, because of Urvashi, I got special entry into the rehearsals. As I stepped into the theater, my first reaction was “OH MY GOD,” what an amazing stage and on top of that 80 of the most beautiful women from around the world under one roof. I was one lucky guy.
They soon had their rehearsal break and I finally met up with Urvashi. She was wearing her sash, which said India. I was so proud of her, especially because as little kids we always talked about Miss Universe and here she was representing the one billion odd people of our country in an international arena.
She introduced me to all of her friends. Miss Venezuela stood six feet tall and was absolutely stunning. Miss Indonesia was so sweet, and loved Hindi films. Urvashi is a recognized Bollywood actress, so when she introduced me to Miss Indonesia, she thought I was also a Bollywood actor and we did a little duet from one of the classic Bollywood films.
I also met Miss Colombia and Miss Brazil. They were so beautiful and so very tall. I have never felt that short in my entire life. During my chat with Colombia and Brazil, I could feel how nervous they were for the next day.
December 20th, the day of the contest. I got ready and reached the theater just five minutes before they were going to air it live. The whole theater was filled with people and flags of different countries. Seventy-five percent of the crowd was from the Philippines. The contest is surely big in their country.
Steve Harvey was the host. There were performances by Charlie Puth, The Band Perry and Seal. There were swimsuit and evening gown competitions, and the final question. The contest was being watched live by around 1 billion people. That’s 15% of the world population.
I know Miss Universe is not a big deal here in Canada, but Canada has had two Miss Universes, first in 1982 and another in 2005. The contest is hugely celebrated in many countries. It’s almost as same as watching the FIFA World cup or watching ice hockey when Canada makes it to the final.
Celebrating different cultures
I know people have the wrong impression about beauty pageants and think they are frivolous and objectify women. But they are so much more than that. When I was there, I saw 80 different women living together under one roof. I could easily sense the sisterhood among them.
I saw them celebrating each other’s culture. They were not just models who could walk in high heels. They were surgeons, doctors, lawyers, business analysts, engineers, world fencing champions and more. They have been working tirelessly in their countries to shed light on important and relevant topics like HIV and breast and ovarian cancer awareness.
The mistake that shocked the world
After the amazing performance by Seal, it was time for the final results. Colombia and Philippines were the last two standing. Miss Philippines gave an amazing answer but I personally was rooting for Miss Colombia, because I had met her already and her overall performance was great. That’s when Steve Harvey announced Colombia as the new Miss Universe. I was very happy for her and could see all the Colombians and Latin Americans jumping with joy. It was a back-to-back win for Colombia. I distinctly remember one girl in front of me wearing Colombia’s flag and crying with joy. People from the Philippines were very disappointed and half of them left the theater right away.
Four minutes into the crowning, Steve Harvey came back and made the biggest OOPS in the history of live television. He “apologized” and informed the audience that he read the wrong name. Hearing this, a wave of Filipinos rushed back into the theater.
I felt so bad for Miss Colombia. Imagine you work so hard for a dream your entire life and you finally turn it into reality, then four minutes later someone comes back and crushes that reality. An awful moment was when last year’s winner took back the crown from Miss Colombia and gave it to Miss Philippines.
Everyone felt bad about what had happened. All the Filipinos were happy but I could hear “Boo” coming from every corner. I think I was just in shock for a moment. It was an utter mess. If you haven’t seen it yet, here’s the OMG moment.
I walked out of the theater and made my way out of Planet Hollywood. To my surprise, the entire strip was blocked, and there were ambulances and cops and no way out. I asked the gentlemen next to me what happened and he informed me that there was a shootout. For a second I felt like the floor slipped under my feet. Within a few moments, I realized that it wasn’t a shootout, but a young woman had driven her car into the curb. I ended up staying in Planet Hollywood for the rest of the evening and got back to Urvashi. She was a little disappointed but she was extremely happy that she fulfilled her dream to represent India at the Miss Universe competition.
I came back home next day. I hadn’t realized the magnitude of the Miss Universe controversy until I reached Canada. I was at Immigration and when I told the officer my reason for my visit to Las Vegas, he asked me, “Oh!! So you were there when that happened?” Everywhere I went, everyone I met had a similar response.
On coming back, I finished my work term report for my final co-op, submitted it and was off to packing again for Down Under.
More adventures to come in PART 2. To be continued………………