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An exotic Thai backdrop, richly visualized flying stage sets, and an assemblage of 81 gorgeous young women elevated this 54th annual pageant to stunning new heights of opulence.

By J.J. Smith

In a weekly ratings winner for NBC and the Trump Organization, the 2005 special presentation of the Miss Universe pageant once again demonstrated the viewing public’s insatiable need for entertainment featuring beautiful, intelligent, and poised women from around the world. To be exact, the telecast, showcasing 81 stunning young women, was broadcast to 170 countries with over 1 billion viewers. All these eyes gazing upon Miss Universe, with a No. 1 Neilsen rating for the night, could not have been more satisfied with the spectacle to come.

Exotic Thailand, with its ancient culture and unsurpassed beauty, had the honor of hosting the 54th annual event. From the opening country introduction featuring the extravagant and unique cultural settings of ancient ruins and temple palaces, the stage was set for a show unlike any other in recent memory. Thailand provided the perfect backdrop for the coming elegance. As is customary within the Miss Universe competition, the highly anticipated national costume parade followed the live delegate introductions. The fantastical creations ranged from traditional designs, to carnival chic, to extreme flamboyance.

 

ORIENT EXPRESSIVE: (Above) Wearing designer outfits, the 81 Miss Universe 2005 contestants perform the opening number of the 2005 Miss Universe competition at Impact Arena, Exhibition and Convention Center in Bangkok, Thailand. (Opposite) Palms together, bowed slightly, and saying, “Kap kun ka!” — the traditional Thai “thank you” — Miss Universe 2005 Natalie Glebova humbly connects with competition viewers in Bangkok and around the world.

 

The altruistic feeling of the national costume presentation was quickly focused as co-hosts Billy Bush and Nancy O’Dell of Access Hollywood announced the Top 15, who would serve as symbols and role models for women the world over throughout the final night’s competition, which would end with one of them garnering the crown of Miss Universe 2005.

The opulent flying stage sets, resembling palace and Buddhist temple outlines, promised a Miss Universe competition raising the standards of production to a new level.

To the accompaniment of the thunderous applause of their supporters, the unbridled relief of the contestants was apparent for these 15 semifinalists: Miss Mexico Laura Elizondo, Miss Latvia Ieva Kokorevica, Miss Dominican Republic Renata Soñé, Miss Canada Natalie Glebova, Miss South Africa Claudia Henkel, Miss Venezuela Monica Spear, Miss Norway Helene Traasavik, Miss Switzerland Fiona Hefti, Miss USA Chelsea Cooley, Miss Indonesia Artika Sari Devi, Miss Trinidad & Tobago Magdalene Walcott, Miss Israel Elena Ralph, Miss Peru Debora Sulca Cravero, Miss Greece Evangelia Aravani, and Miss Puerto Rico Cynthia Olavarria. As they took their positions for the commencement of the final countdown to history, it was clear that beauty showed no geographic boundary.Mirroring the majestic architecture of the host country Thailand, the opulent flying stage sets, resembling palace and Buddhist temple outlines, promised a Miss Universe competition raising the standards of production to a new level.

Throughout the Evening Gown parade, elegant poise and individual sophistication were amply demonstrated as the world’s finest young women were presented in designer fashions featuring a range of styles from subtle nuance to bold pastels. Exquisite as it was, this competition had one effect: the judges would winnow the field to the Top 10. Statuesque, beautiful, and determined, 5’9” 23-year-old Miss Puerto Rico, 5’11” 23-year-old Miss Canada, 5’ 11” 19-year-old Miss Peru, 5’11” 25-year-old Miss Switzerland, 5’9” 19-year-old Miss Latvia, 6’0” 22-year-old Miss Domincan Republic, 5’7” 21-year-old Miss USA, 5’9” 21-year-old Miss Mexico, 5’10” 20-year-old Miss Venezuela, and 5’9” 21-year-old Miss Israel were one step closer to fulfilling their dream in the quest for the Miss Universe crown.

 

COSTUME PARTY: All 81 Miss Universe candidates participate in the 2005 Miss Universe National Costume Show, including special National Costume Award winner Miss Thailand Chananporn Rosjan (above center). Other contestants who made an impression in the country’s finest are: (clockwise from top right) Miss United Kingdom Brooke Johnston, Miss Peru Debora Sulca Cravero, Miss Brazil Carina Beduschi, Miss Korea So Young Kim, Miss Guatemala Aida Estrada, Miss Egypt Meriam George, Miss Curaçao Rychacviana Coffie, Miss Chile Renata Ruiz, and Miss Barbados Nada Yearwood.

 

Before the eagerly anticipated Swimsuit parade commenced, set against a colorful backdrop plethora of parasols and angular runway, the delegates were humanized through their up-close-and-personal video segments, presenting them interacting with family members or working within their local communities while verbalizing their own hopes and dreams for the future. The essence of Thailand was in full display as the special awards were announced preceding the Top 5 selection: National Costume, Miss Thailand Chananporn Rosjan; Photogenic, Miss Philippines Gionna Cabrera; and Miss Congeniality, Miss U.S. Virgin Islands Tricia Homer.

The worldwide audience joined in a soul-moving moment of silence in remembrance of those who were devastatingly
affected by the tsunami of December 2004.

When the Top 5 choices came, Miss Mexico, Miss Puerto Rico, Miss Domincan Republic, Miss Canada, and Miss Venezuela advanced to the Final Question segment, where each woman would address a topic in questions composed by one of their fellow remaining peers or Miss Universe 2004 Jennifer Hawkins, who would soon relinquish her crown. But before that, Billy Bush and Nancy O’Dell led the worldwide audience in a soul-moving moment of silence and the lighting of candles by the live audience, in remembrance of those who were devastatingly affected by the tsunami of Dember 2004.

 

ALL ABOUT ELEGANCE: The Top 10 finalists appear suitably sophisticated as they compete in Evening Gown. They are: (Top row, L-R) Miss Canada Natalie Glebova, Miss Dominican Republic Renata Soñé, Miss Israel Elena Ralph, Miss Latvia Ieva Kokorevica, Miss Mexico Laura Elizondo, (bottom row, L-R) Miss Peru Debora Sulca Cravero, Miss Puerto Rico Cynthia Olavarria, Miss Switzerland Fiona Hefti, Miss USA 2005 Chelsea Cooley, and Miss Venezuela Monica Spear.

 

Of all the Final Question answers, the one delivered by Miss Canada stood out. When she was asked, “What is the biggest challenge in your life?” she replied, “The biggest challenge of my life is always trying to stay positive. I consider myself the kind of person who always looks at the glass half-full, instead of half-empty. And even though sometimes in difficult times it’s hard to look at life this way, I always try to maintain a positive outlook on life.” Then she pressed her palms together, bowed slightly, and said, “Kap kun ka!” — the traditional Thai “thank you.” The audience responded with a resounding ovation and a “kap kun ka!” in return.

 

The grandeur of the temples for the open, the colorful parasols from Chang Mai for swimsuit, the gold and Thai silk for evening gown made for the most beautiful stage, all while giving the viewing audience a sense of what makes Thailand so mystical and exotic.

With the final questions answered and judges opinions tallied, the results were broadcast throughout the world. In order of presentaion, the 4th Runner-up was Miss Venezuela Monica Spear, 3rd Runner-up was Miss Mexico Laura Elizondo, and 2nd Runner-up was Miss Dominican Republic Renata Soñé. Standing center stage and exchanging supportive words and wishes, the remaining two delegates could only listen for the next announcement of the 1st Runner-up through the ear-shattering roar of the live audience. As Miss Puerto Rico Cynthia Olavarria stepped aside as 1st Runner-up, Miss Canada Natalie Glebova — a girl who at the age of 12 emigrated from the Russian Black Sea port town of Tuepse to Toronto, Canada — realized her destiny as Miss Universe 2005.

 

THE POWER OF PARASOLS: Another symbol of Thai culture, parasols — traditionally used to shelter fashionable ladies from the noonday sun — here serve as a symbolic backdrop for Swimsuit Top 10 competitors: (L-R) Miss Israel, Miss Venezuela, Miss Mexico, Miss USA, Miss Dominican Republic, Miss Latvia, Miss Switzerland, Miss Peru, Miss Canada, and Miss Puerto Rico.

 

From Tragedy to Thai Triumph

Pageantry’s exclusive interview with MUO’s Paula Shugart looks at the production’s knockout staging, touching tsunami tribute, and TV ratings results.
With the unique and unprecedented level of artistry on-stage at Miss Universe-Thailand, Pageantry had to find out more about how the Miss Universe Organization (MUO), NBC’s production staff, and the Thai government delivered their ratings-winning entertainment package in the wake of the December 26 tsunami. We spoke exclusively with MUO President Paula Shugart.
Pageantry Magazine: The look of the sets was incredible. Tell us how that design direction came about.
Paula Shugart: The stage design set the tone for the entire program, and was the culmination of great efforts by both the Miss Universe and Thai production teams. It was the first time in many, many years that the entire set was built in the host country. When we first met last fall, we all agreed that a traditional set evoking many aspects of Thailand was what we wanted to incorporate into the telecast. The grandeur of the temples for the open, the colorful parasols from Chang Mai for swimsuit, the gold and Thai silk for evening gown made for the most beautiful stage, all while giving the viewing audience a sense of what makes Thailand so mystical and exotic.
PM: Absolutely. And there were even the street taxis (tuk-tuks) and an elephant on-stage.
PS: Of course, the tuk-tuk and elephant were nice touches as well and certainly something unique to Thailand. I do want everyone to know that Lucky the elephant was treated extremely well, and has actually been used as an emissary in the Thai government's efforts to save these magnificent creatures.
PM: What was it like working in Thailand, considering parts of the country had just experienced the tragic tsunami on Dec. 26, 2004?
PS: Thailand was an amazing place to work. We had been in discussions with their representatives for several months when the tsunami hit last December. Of course, we immediately asked the government how we could help and what they would like to do regarding the pageant. Without hesitation, they told us that hosting the pageant was more important than ever to them. I think all of us were amazed at how quickly Phuket has been rebuilt, which is a testament to the Thai people. It was an honor for us to be there when they unveiled the first tsunami warning system in the region.
PM: How would you describe working with the Thai people?
PS: The Thai people are incredibly gracious and warm. They truly came together and did everything they could to ensure the greatest experience possible, not only for the contestants but for our staff and crew as well. As for the working relationship, we found our hosts to always be true to their word.
PM: It was clear they had made a truly courageous recovery effort.
PS: Oh, yes. The effects of the tsunami have been far-reaching. Not only was it a tragic event in itself, it caused a dramatic drop-off in tourism, the region’s number one industry. They are back to being almost fully operational, and are ready for the tourists. I have spoken to many people who vacationed there after the show, and not only have they said they want to go back, they are all committed to getting the word out to their friends to come to Thailand.
PM: Did you ever consider putting the tsunami “out of sight, out of mind” in terms of the telecast?
PS: On the contrary. While the Thai government really wants to move forward and rebuild, they understood the need by the pageant to in some way acknowledge the tragedy of December 26th. Executive Producer Phil Gurin and I discussed it at great length, and I think the moment of silence was an extremely poignant point in the program. In the house, to see all of the audience members, from all over the world, take that moment to remember all who were lost was extremely emotional. Members of the host committee later thanked us for our handling of it.
PM: And, from the looks of the ratings figures, many people agreed.
PS: Yes. NBC is happy with the ratings performance, particularly during the holiday week and on a holiday night. Miss Universe was the second-highest rated program for NBC that week and Number 9 in the demographics, out of all the networks for the entire week. The demos are what they base their ad rates on, so that is a good showing.

 

Miss Universe Top 5

Miss Universe 2005

Miss Canada Natalie Glebova

1st Runner-up

Miss Puerto Rico Cynthia Olavarria

2nd Runner-up

Miss Domincan Republic Renata Soñé

3rd Runner-up

Miss Mexico Laura Elizondo

4th Runner-up

Miss Venezuela Monica Spear
 

Miss U.S. Virgin Islands Tricia Homer made friendship count by winning the Miss Congeniality Award, chosen by this year’s contestants.

 

Miss Philippines Gionna Cabrera made an impression with the pageant’s NBC web site voters and took home the Photogenic Award.

 
 

WINNING THE FACE-OFF: After all the regional, country, and preliminary competitors they had conquered, in the end only Miss Puerto Rico Cynthia Olavarria and Miss Canada Natalie Glebova were left standing, until Natalie’s name was called as the new Miss Universe. Miss Universe ’04 Jennifer Hawkins places the crown on her elated successor.

 
 

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