It was fast-paced, well-photographed and well-edited.
Miss Nicaragua may have won the crown but the most stunning on the 2023 Miss Universe stage on Finals night was…drumroll please…the stage itself.
Yes, we’ve seen it once before, in Bangkok in 2018 where Catriona Gray lava-walked her way to the Philippines’ fourth crown, but this one in El Salvador did way better by being totally made of LED screens.
The effect was truly mesmerizing as the wall-to-floor video installation made the candidates look like they were walking on water during the swimsuit round and, during the Top 3 Final Look, in space against a constellation of glittery pink stars. If the latter didn’t (visually) scream Miss Universe, nothing would.
The show was just as stellar. It was the best in years: fast-paced, well-photographed, well-edited. For once in a long while, the video inserts (candidate introduction, thematic testimonials, pageant activities, tourism clips) did not feel superfluous and overlong. They actually helped make the three-hour show engaging throughout, unlike in many years when the energy lagged during the non-live segments.
Anne Jakrajutatip, the transgender owner of the Miss Universe Organization, wasn’t lying when she declared onstage in the middle of the program that this year’s pageant was the best in years.
This was actually a surprise, coming in the heels of Jakrajutatip’s mother company, JKN Global Group, filing for bankruptcy very recently, citing a “liquidity problem” as the core issue. If the company has serious cashflow issues, it certainly was not apparent in the show which, aside from the spectacular stage, featured a total of 5 hosts, 10 judges, and two onstage live performances from music superstar John Legend.
If something was lacking in the show, it was in the surprise department. There was hardly any unexpected placements and non-placements like last year’s Miss Laos and MIs Canada over MIss Philippines, no head scratching why-did-she-advance moments, and no real upsets. Despite her phenomenal gown and performance, Michelle Dee not advancing to Top 5 was more of a bummer than a robbery given the caliber of those who did move forward to the Q&A round.
Speaking of the interviews, this may be the least memorable batch in the last 10 years. The 8 answers (from Top 5 and Top 3) were mostly safe and expected: none even came close to the instantly iconic quotables from Pia, Catriona, or Zozibini.
The Evening Gown competition was similarly largely unremarkable, with most candidates donning beautiful but we’ve-seen-it-many-times-before pieces in neutral colors (the sparkly nude gown trend needed to end at least 5 years ago).
Only Michelle truly wowed with her stunning Apo Whang Od-inspired black ensemble. It may not be on the level of Catriona’s or R’Bonney’s transformational moments from 2018 and last year, respectively, but it was definitely a Miss Universe highlight this year.