A Tale of Two Queens


(Photo from: http://www.news.com.au/entertainment/all-the-frocks-and-shocks-from-the-miss-universe-2015-final/news-story/53d1e6109843918bcd9229b8b6b19171)

So yesterday, Miss Philippines took home Miss Universe 2015.  After forty-two years.  It feels amazing to have been part of this, and also rather amazing (not in the positive sense; really just genuine amazement) to have seen it happen in such a dramatic, controversial fashion.

I’m also pretty darn amazed that the backlash post-Miss Universe has been so violent. First, the horrific video shown by Missology that features Pia being snubbed by a bulk of the Latin America contingent, even as she tries to comfort Miss Colombia and give back the crown  Second, the outright brutal statement by Miss Germany. And third, the vicious criticism Miss Colombia is receiving just because she looked so frozen the moment she lost the crown.

Real talk, guys. Miss Universe is 26.  She’s one of the oldest winners of the title and also a veteran pageant queen. And a veteran loser. She lost the nationals twice before making it this year, and that struggle has made her both determined and compassionate. When she appeared to have lost, she handled it with grace and a smile, because it was nothing she hadn’t seen before and anyway, hey! Podium finish! Still a great job!  When she won–but at the expense of someone else’s moment–she understood the devastation so as to not insist on her moment, her crowning. She’d been there, and the pain and angst had matured her into the modest, regal beauty we saw on that stage.

Miss Colombia is 21. We don’t know her story, but we know there was immense pressure on her to take home a back-to-back title, and she worked hard to get it.  And for three minutes, she thought she had.  She thought she’d done her country proud.

I’m 22. When I lost my second battle of the bands, just a few months ago, I broke down crying. I wasn’t onstage–thank God–but I did. I sobbed. And then I picked myself up and congratulated the winners and took selfies with the celebrity headline acts, because that’s what you do as a frontwoman…But I still cried. It’s not easy to lose when you’ve fought so hard for something, done your best, and, in my case, even conquered severe tech difficulties (our mic cut out during our set and we just kept going–I kept singing as loud as my theater-lungs could).

So Ms. Colombia didn’t have it easy. She had a three-minute moment, and then everything she’d worked for was gone. In many ways, it was harder than what my band and I experienced, because at least we never had a shining moment that was later taken away. Ms. Colombia handled it as best she could at the time, and I have so much respect for her because of that. She didn’t start a cat-fight, or hype her supporters to jeer the new Queen (though the other contestants made up for that with very bad behavior), or even cry (until the cameras turned off, anyway). I think she just felt very lost in that moment, visibly needing support then, but she stood as tall as she was able even as the crown was taken off her head.

Yes, as a political move, it would have been better if this trained pageant queen had marched to Miss Philippines, taken her by the hand, led her to the center of the stage, and crowned her herself. That would have won everyone’s hearts. That would have made her a Miss Universe in my eyes. But she’s 21, and she’s just lost something for her country that for three minutes she had. You can’t be political then, I don’t think. Instead you’re tired, your nerves are shaken, and you feel so lost.

And there’s a reason Pia is Miss Universe. Allegedly, she was willing to de-crown herself. Instead of taking her own walk, she marched to Miss Colombia first, and in shaky video appears to be trying to take the crown off of her own head to offer to this young, 21 year old woman who really just wanted to make her country proud. Colombia waited fifty-eight years for their second crown. #LaCoronaSeRespeta.

Pia is pushed away by angry fellow contestants, bashed by another candidate (Miss Germany, that was not a smart move.), has to take her walk without the cameras, being booed loudly by angered Colombia fans, and yet she keeps smiling. She keeps smiling and she waves and she stays as diplomatic as she’s able, recognising that Miss Universe has evolved from a mere beauty pageant to a sort of pseudo-consulate where beauty is used to maybe save the world.  She radiates the kindness of actual royalty, a Serene Highness (I’ve always loved the Monegasque term.) recognising her good fortune and the hard work those around her have put into this moment.  She is humble, and the humblest heads wear crowns well.


(Photo from: http://www.news.com.au/entertainment/all-the-frocks-and-shocks-from-the-miss-universe-2015-final/news-story/53d1e6109843918bcd9229b8b6b19171)

But just because Ariadna Gutierrez’s behaviour puts her in stark contrast to Pia Wurtzbach, doesn’t mean she deserves this hate. Yes, it’s clear that Pia is the real Queen in this situation, but Ariadna was hardly the evil stepsister clutching at the crown. Instead, she was, well, us—young, dealing with expectations, deeply lost when we fail to fulfil what we feel is required of us.  She was us at every moment we lose, when we slap on a smile because we need to be “mature” but on the inside deeply need to hear the affirmation that we still made good, we still fought hard, we’re still someone’s Queen.

Miss Ariadna, I have no doubt that in the hearts of the Colombian people, you are Miss Universe. And you know what, you deserve that title. You still made good, and even if maybe that “good” wasn’t as perfectly polished as the interwebs might have expected it to be…the truth is, you were all of us up there, fighting and trying to gain something bigger than yourself.  And in that position, what you did–smile as wide as you could, stand as tall as you were able, and leave a polite public statement–was still a feat of grace.

In Pia’s words, this was a “very 2015” Miss Universe. Our pageant queens are no longer glossy Barbie dolls with perfect smiles and cliché “world peace” answers. Instead, they are very real women, women who openly want things and fight for them, who stand as living testaments to the millennial war-cry that is grit.  And when things don’t go their way, these women are no longer the plastic automatons of yesteryear–they cry, they openly show they need support, and by doing so give us some sort of permission to stop holding ourselves to an impossible standard of perfection, refinement, and placidity.

After all, if beauty pageants can make mistakes, and beauty queens cry ugly tears, then so can we.



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