The 71st Miss Universe saw a lot of historic firsts happen, from a new ownership at the helm to an end of a record placement streak.
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After what could be called as the most nerve-wracking Miss Universe edition, especially for Filipinos, the MU fever is still in the air: with fans making sense of what has happened, coping with much-needed after-pageant memes, stanning deserving international queens, and just looking ahead at what the future of the pageant that’s deemed the “highest” of all beauty pageants holds. So, while you’re confused, celebratory, or just generally curious about what makes the 71st Miss Universe more memorable than other editions, allow this list of historic moments at Miss Universe 2022 to comfort and satisfy you. There’s quite a lot of historic firsts made actually, so dive in and imbibe that pageant-loving energy you’ve always had.
FIRST FILIPINO-AMERICAN MISS UNIVERSE
The universe has spoken and it’s Miss USA R’Bonney Gabriel who proved to be the most worthy of the crown, which was coveted by almost 90 hopefuls at the jam-packed New Orleans Morial Convention Center. The 28-year-old Houston native, who was born to a Filipino father, already made history last year as the first Asian-American to be crowned Miss Texas USA (which she joined twice!) and the first Miss USA winner of Filipino descent. And adding to that historic moment is her eventual win at the Miss Universe competition, which made her the first-ever Filipino-American titleholder.
The Texan-Filipino beauty, who has been a passionate fashion designer for years with a cause for sustainability, also tapped Filipino designers including Patrick Isorena, who made her national costumes at Miss USA and Miss Universe, and Rian Fernandez for her final gown. R’Bonney also expressed her gratitude to the Filipino fans who gave her more energy in the competition and her pride of representing her heritage as the “most beautiful woman” in the universe. She even said in an interview that the first thing she would do after winning the pageant is to eat ensaymada, her favorite Filipino treat. A true Filipina queen, indeed.
First Miss Universe Under JKN
The Miss Universe 2022 also marked the pageant’s first event held under the new leadership of Thai businesswoman and transgender rights advocate Jakapong “Anne” Jakrajutatip, the CEO and biggest shareholder of JKN Global Group. This came after the IMG sold The Miss Universe Organization (MUO) to Thailand-based JKN Global Media Public Company Limited for $20 million last October. “We are incredibly honored to be acquiring The Miss Universe Organization and working with its visionary leadership team,” said Jakrajutatip in a press release. The first female owner of MUO, Jakrajutatip stressed, “We seek not only to continue its legacy of providing a platform to passionate individuals from diverse backgrounds, cultures, and traditions, but also to evolve the brand for the next generation.”
Miss Universe 2022 also came with a new crown, courtesy of the world-renowned Lebanese jeweler Mouawad. Dubbed as Force For Good, the new crown is an extraordinary, bespoke work of art and craft that features 108.44 carat of blue sapphire and 48.12 carat of white diamond worth a whopping $5.75 million (over P314 million). “The Miss Universe 2022 Force for Good Crown stands for a graceful reincarnation of The Miss Universe Organization’s long-standing values and heritage as a guiding light, shining bright to the future glory,” explained Jakrajutatip. She furthered that it’s also a “dazzling illustration of both the challenges and rewards that come when young women advocate for causes close to their heart and strive to make an impact on the world.”
First All-female presenting panel
One of the relatively sad parts of Miss Universe 2022 was not seeing Steve Harvey on the stage, whom Filipinos consider their “lucky charm.” But, something to celebrate for was the event’s all-female presenting panel, a first for the pageant’s 70-year spanning history. Miss Universe 2012 Olivia Culpo came back (with visibly more energy than ever) at the podium together with Jeannie Mai Jenkins, who’s also been a Miss Universe commentator in the past, as her co-host. Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray joined Emmy-winning personality Zuri Hall as backstage correspondents.
Debuting at the Miss Universe stage was Miss Bhutan’s Tashi Choden Chombal. Not only was Chombal the first-ever to wear her country’s sash at the MU stage, she’s also the first lesbian beauty queen crowned in Bhutan, a notable achievement for someone who grew up in a “very conservative” family and country. The Bhutanese model and pageant veteran has always been vocal about her identity on social media and was crowned as Miss Bhutan just in time for Pride Month last year.
Another woman of stunning and resonant beauty to make history at Miss Universe 2022 is Payengxa Lor. The 23-year-old is the first-ever Laotian beauty queen to make the semis at the Miss Universe pageant. Not only that, Lor, who is a passionate English teacher, education advocate, and motivational speaker, is also the first Hmong woman to ever win the Miss Universe Laos crown. “What I really believe in is mindset,” said the history-making queen in her advocacy video during the pageant. “Mindset is everything. I believe that your mindset will determine your destination.”
Even before the Miss Universe 2022 finals, Miss Curaçao Gabriëla Dos Santos had been on the frontrunner list of many pageant pundits and, thanks to that strong preliminary performance (that enchanting smize), gained a lot of fans and supporters including Miss Universe 2012 first runner-up Janine Tugonon. With her captivating beauty and impactful advocacies, the half-Vietnamese half-Brazilian queen was able to make the semis and break into the all-Americas final five spot. This, after not giving up on the fight even if she tested positive for COVID-19 just days before the pageant. It was quite a momentous feat for the 20-year-old Caribbean beauty and anti-bullying advocate who just broke the 25-year finals drought for Curaçao, whose last top-six appearance happened in 1997.
Ever since the country joined the Miss Universe in 1968, Malta never placed or received any special awards from the pageant. This was changed by Miss Malta Maxine Formosa Gruppetta who nabbed the Miss Congeniality award at MU’s 71st edition. The special award is voted out by the delegates themselves and goes to the woman who inspires with her energy, spirit, and kindness. Gruppetta shared the award with Chile’s Sofïa Depassier and encouraged everyone to “always be true to yourself and be kind.”
THAT DRASTIC CUT
While it just made the competition even stiffer and more cut-throat, the new top 16-to-top 5 format also marked a historic first for the Miss Universe pageant. This year, the MUO strayed away from their usual 20/15-10-5-3 format and went to an immediate and drastic cut to final five after the swimsuit and evening-gown competitions.
END OF PH’S 12-YEAR STREAK
It goes without saying that the Filipinos will always be proud of their Filipina queen Celeste Cortesi who, against all odds, carried the Philippine sash ever so proudly. And while the Miss Universe 2022 marked the end of the country’s strong momentum ever since Venus Raj broke the so-called drought in 2010, having Filipina queens dominate the MU stage for more than a decade is and will always be something to be proud of, especially for the passionate fans. This streak is also the longest ever by a country in the 21st century and makes the Philippines as the country with the third longest series of semis appearances overall, just behind powerhouses Venezuela and the USA.
Continue Reading: Did You Know? These Miss Universe 2022 Contestants Trained In The Philippines