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Miss Universe C02 header
By J.J. Smith
Oxana Fedorova photo

With gorgeous eyes, glowing smile, and delightful personality — Oxana Fedorova had all the right moves.

Russian "Czarina" Oxana Fedorova provides the regal bearing to go with the international beauty title's new crown. On a glorious night in San Juan, the pageant production itself deserved an award for excellence.
A svelte Russian law-enforcement graduate student is the new czarina of the international beauty pageant scene, and she's got a badge and a gun to prove she's more than just another pretty face.
But even as Oxana Fedorova, a civil law student at the St. Petersburg Police Academy, was writing her name in the Miss Universe record books, another chapter in the pageant's illustrious history was unfolding on-stage. The Miss Universe Pageant production team, influenced by Donald Trump and long-time pageant production specialists Guy/Rex, this year transformed the telecast into one of the most sophisticated pageant shows ever. In the process, the new-found style helped viewers forget the less-than-successful recent telecasts, when trendy video effects pushed aside so much of the pageant's traditional glamour. With this year's brilliant water-sculptured stage sets and fine focus on the contenders themselves, the 2002 Miss Universe Pageant recaptured the elegance and beauty that viewers had missed.
As a result, the show's 8.1 TV rating placed it 1st for the entire evening's programming, according to published Nielsen ratings — well ahead of the direct competition on Wednesday, May 29, the New Jersey Nets vs. Boston Celtics National Basketball Association playoff game. For the entire week, the Miss Universe Pageant telecast was rated 7th highest, finishing ahead of, among others, the venerable TV hits 60 Minutes and Friends. The show's 11.3 million viewers reflected a 40 percent increase compared to last year's Miss Universe Pageant telecast, bringing winning smiles to the pageant's co-owners, the CBS Television Network and Donald Trump.
Historic San Juan, Puerto Rico, the second oldest city in the Americas, once again opened her arms and heart as host. Tight security surrounded the venue as the delegates spent three weeks making appearances and rehearsing for the finals. The Miss Universe competition, far more than just an expensive package of prizes for beautiful women, is an opportunity of a lifetime for 75 of the most achieved women from all over the world to etch their name in the history books. As a foreshadow to the successful new look of the telecast this year was a newly designed custom Mikimoto crown, worth an estimated quarter of a million dollars ($250,000), to go with the title of Miss Universe, as well as two years of acting lessons and the potential opportunities for fame and fortune that accompany the crown.
Phil Simms and Daisy Fuentes photo

Co-hosts Phil Simms and Daisy Fuentes.

A high-energy carnival-like street party was the setting for the opening production number, which featured the glamorous return of the candidates introducing themselves by name and the countries they represented. It was great to hear those announcements in the girls' own voices, with the full universal spectrum of dialects and intonations. That change, along with the increased air time provided for each contestant, restored much of the international flair that makes the Miss Universe Pageant such a worldwide favorite.
Hosts Phil Simms, a Superbowl MVP, and actress and model Daisy Fuentes kept the two-hour telecast moving along smoothly. After the introductions of the contestants, they welcomed Grammy-winning superstar Marc Anthony, who performed on-stage before the sell-out throng that filled the Roberto Clemente Coliseum. After his performance, Anthony delighted the audience when he said, "Miss Universe has a special meaning in my household, if you know what I mean" — as the roar of the crowd confirmed, as he was referring to his wife, former Miss Universe Dayanara Torres of Puerto Rico, whom cameras caught beaming with pride from the audience. With another former Miss Universe, Brook Lee, on hand for color commentary, in all, five former Miss Universes were involved in the pageant during the evening. A panel of celebrity judges that included Puerto Rico native and Miss Universe 1970 Marisol Malaret had the unenviable task of whittling down the field of contestants from 10 to five to one.
The Miss Universe Top 5

The five finalists await the interview portion of competition.

"The world is about to get a little smaller," enthused Daisy Fuentes as she opened the envelope containing the list of Top 10 semifinalists. The audience was silent, joined by millions of TV viewers who held their breath, wondering which pre-pageant predictions would come to fruition and which ones would dissolve.
Then the 10 finalists with whom judges found favor were announced. They were: Anisa Kospiri (Albania), the first contestant ever for her country and a professional basketball player who wants to be an ambassador for UNICEF; Oxana Fedorova (Russia), a gorgeous, 24-year-old dark-haired beauty who is pursuing a graduate degree in civil law at the St. Petersburg Police Academy; Vanessa Carreira (South Africa), a lover of classic literature who is writing her first novel; Neha Dhupia (India), an MTV VeeJay who wants to one day host her own TV show; Natasha Borger (Germany), a knockout beauty and art lover with future fashion design plans; Demetra Eleftheriou (Cyprus), a third-year college student who was fulfilling her dream by competing in the pageant; Neelam Verma (Canada), the host of a news and entertainment program; Justine Pasek (Panama), a beauty with brains who hopes to work as an environmental engineer and someday earn a position in the Smithsonian Research Center; Ling Zhuo (China), the first-ever delegate from China who was trained in traditional Chinese dance; and Cynthia Lander Zamora (Venezuela), a specially trained firefighter in natural disasters and rescues. With the Top 10 decided, 65 more women joined the millions of spectators worldwide who were now on the sidelines cheering on their favorites.
Next up, a "Meet the Delegates" feature made excellent use of video clips to show the semifinalists in casual, everyday activities. Video of the reigning Miss Universe, Denise Quiñones, presented viewers with the leisurely sights and sounds of her native San Juan, and additional clips showed the delegates during their three weeks of preparation leading up to the big finale. The crowd-favorite National Costume competition followed, showcasing the candidates "sense of style, creativity and overall representation of her country." Miss Colombia Vanessa Mendoza captured that segment, appearing in an over-the-top costume that reflected her country's colorful traditions. A wonderful addition to the telecast was a collage of clips of various delegates winning their national titles, accompanied by video of them sharing their experiences and the changes that winning the title already had made in their lives.
The telecast made a smooth transition, aided by elegant background flamenco guitar music, to the next portion of competition, as the semifinalists appeared one-by-one in their evening gowns. This was a departure from past shows, in which swimsuit competition was featured before the evening gown segment. Non-finalist delegates in evening gowns were positioned in the background on the beautifully designed stage as the 10 semifinalists glided before the eagle-eyed judges and an appreciative audience. It was, at long last, a return to the exquisite, elegant look that viewers have missed. As each finalist walked across the stage, her cumulative score was flashed to television viewers as an ingenious computer graphic built into a portion of the stage; this method of revealing the results averted the controversial practice of past shows in which each individual judge's score or non-score was superimposed on the screen.
Swimsuit competition followed the evening gown competition, and what a stunning visual effect this part of the production achieved. Delegates appeared as though they were walking on water as they crossed the stage through a streaming pool; meanwhile, their audio tips for getting and staying in shape were played for the live audience as well as viewers at home. The elegance was enhanced by the women wearing flowing wraps during the sometimes controversial swimsuit presentation -- one of many patented footprints left on this production by pageant magicians Richard Guy and Rex Holt, who were brought in as consultants by The Trump Organization to make numerous improvements within the show. With the swimsuit procession completed, the $3,000 cash prize for the top vote-getter in the swimsuit category was announced; it went to Oxana Fedorova, Russia's undeniably exotic entrant.
In another departure from recent Miss Universe pageants, where guest performances seemed to dominate the show, the production team delivered more air time to all of the candidates competing for the title. Gone was most of the dizzying camerawork and video effects, much to the relief of viewers who had increasingly tuned out the visual excesses. Instead, viewers were treated to a lively and entertaining segment that featured contestants' opinions on a variety of non-judged categories, such as "Best Smile" (Cyprus), "Most Athletic" (unanimously USA), "Best Figure" (Slovenia), and "Best Personality" (U.S. Virgin Islands). To no one's surprise, Merlisa Rhonda George (U.S. Virgin Islands) also took the official "Miss Congeniality" award, which "reflects the respect and admiration of her peers as the most congenial, charismatic and inspirational" delegate. The "Photogenic" prize, voted by the public via the Miss Universe Internet site, went to Puerto Rico's hometown girl, Isis Marie Casalduc.
Meanwhile, the quest for the crown caught up with the Top 10 young women who were now vying for a spot in the Top 5. Hope remained alive for the delegates from Panama, China, South Africa, Venezuela, and Russia, who fielded questions individually submitted by the delegates themselves. An interesting question drawn by Miss Russia asked, "If your life were a videotape, what would you erase and what would you replay?" Though Miss Fedorova responded in Russian through an interpreter, her message was not lost in the translation: "I would first like to talk about my childhood, because it was a very pleasant experience, and then I would talk about my life. I would like for my life to be shown from the beginning to the end." Confidently, with no regrets, she blew a kiss to the adoring audience.
Oxana Fedorova crowning photo

Oxana Fedorova is crowned Miss Universe 2002.

The unusual, but thought-provoking final question, "What makes you blush?" -- provided via the Internet by a viewer from Norway -- was certainly a departure from the oft-controversial questions of pageants past. This year's query perfectly suited the changes the pageant had implemented, since it left the remaining finalists with a wide-open opportunity to make a final impression with the judges. With only moments left remaining in her reign, Miss Universe Denise Quiñones explained what she felt the judges were looking for, saying, "I think [the judges want] a straightforward answer, an answer that comes from the heart; a clear answer as well." Having been there, she should know. All the delegates answered to the best of their abilities, considering the mounting pressure with the eyes of the world trained on them. Again rising to the occasion, Miss Russia seemed genuine and real in answering the short question with an equally pointed reply: "When I say the wrong things!" Host Phil Simms ad-libbed, "We can all relate to that!" Apparently, the judges related to Miss Russia as well.
Denise Quiñones then took her final walk, reminiscing about returning to the place where her journey began the year before, where she captured the title of Miss Universe. She said her final thank you's and praised God for all the blessings He had bestowed upon her, adding, "This year I got to personally admire and feel Your masterpiece that we call the world. What better prize package could one ask for?"
The tension mounted once again as the judges' final results were handed over. As is the tradition, the results were revealed in ascending order of finish. Fourth runner-up went to Cynthia Lander Zamora of Venezuela; Third Runner-up was Vanessa Carreira of South Africa; Second Runner-up went to Ling Zhuo of China.
That left Miss Panama, Justine Pasek, whose country is set to host next year's event, and Miss Russia, Oxana Fedorova; clinging to each other in anticipation. Miss Panama was chosen as First Runner-up. At that moment, as the words were spoken naming Miss Russia as the new Miss Universe, a wave of shock and surprise washed over the face of Oxana Fedorova. She clasped her hands over her face, trying to contain the emotions welling up inside her as the reality sank in that her dream had come true! Earlier, Oxana had stated, "I think a smile always creates wonders." On Oxana, a smile also creates one of the most stunning Miss Universe winners of all time.
Pageantry magazine and its staff send a special message to this extraordinary young woman...

In English that means...
"Congratulations and best wishes throughout this year and life."

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