The Philippines fortified its status as a beauty pageant powerhouse after Jamie Herrell captured the Miss Earth 2014 crown last Saturday at the UP Theater in Quezon City. But no matter how beautiful, smart and deserving a winner is, a home turf victory always raises a few eyebrows.
It is not irrational to think that home court advantage played a role in Herrell’s victory. However, it couldn’t be denied that the 20-year-old Cebuana was a polished candidate. She might have not won medals in swimsuit and evening gown pre-pageant competitions, but those were no indication that Herrell has lost her luster. She is the best the Philippines has sent since 2009 and that is why I had her as my top bet to win the crown
We have to give it to Herrell, who was one of the best performers of the night alongside other heavy favorites Miss Brazil Leticia Silva, Miss Spain Zaira Bass, Miss Venezuela Maira Alexandra Rodriguez and Miss USA Andrea Neu. While some candidates gave performances ranging from lackluster to over-the-top, Herrell gave the right amount of sexiness and elegance in both the swimsuit and evening gown rounds. Her wide smile, good styling and fluid walk truly made her stand out.
It was clear after the Final 8 were announced that the crown was just between the heavy favorites. But Herrell rose to the top after nailing the question-and-answer round. Asked what she will do to help slow down global warming if ever she wins the title, Herrell responded: “Global warming has been known to be a very long overdue issue. That is why if I am crowned tonight, I will use the crown to inspire others to help our environment. And we start with the kids because the kids are the people of tomorrow. And if we teach them they will also help the community. That’s what I will do if I win Miss Earth tonight.”
However, some pageant observers believe the process of selecting the Top 16 is questionable because it seemed that the other top performers during the pre-pageant activities were deliberately ignored to make the victory easy for the organization’s favorites.
The pre-pageant activities (where the girls earn medals after each event), do not have bearing. This is very different from Miss World where the girls get corresponding points for participating in the challenge events and the winners get automatic spot in the semis.
The Top 16 was based on the “no make-up” round where they just walk inside a room in their swimsuits and the closed-door interview. Judges don’t get to see how these girls work their stuff on stage unlike in Miss Universe where the girls battle it out in a preliminary competition.
If only the pre-pageant activities were also put into consideration, the finals night battle would’ve been tighter and more exciting with Miss Dominican Republic Mayte Brito, Miss India Alankrita Sahai, Miss Puerto Rico Franceska Toro and Miss Paraguay Sendy Caceres instead of the forgettable performances of Miss Egypt Nancy Magdy, Miss Korea Sumin Shin, Miss Scotland Romy McCahill and Miss Slovak Republic Dária Fabrici.
Also, what happened to the Yahoo! Beauty for a Cause winner which was supposed to merit an automatic spot in the semifinals? The winner was supposed to be announced during the coronation night but it didn’t happen.
In terms of the production, the pageant had a marked improved compared to the last two editions from the venue to the stage to camera angles among others. The decision to finally move the finals staging from the Versailles Palace’s swimming pool complex in Alabang to a theater is a very welcome move. This gave the pageant a more formal feel.
The opening number and introduction of candidates could be considered as the pageant’s best in recent years. The announcement of the semifinalists was not rushed. The Top 16 candidates had fair share of time to showcase what they got on stage during the swimsuit and evening gown rounds. The backdrop with the name of the country, though very reminiscent of Miss Universe, added a nice touch to the production.
Justin Bratton and Joey Mead-King did pretty well as hosts, although the former mistakenly said “Top 18” instead of 16. Ginger Conejero as side host, also delivered well.
One of the pageant’s letdown however was Miss Brazil’s Q&A portion. It was painful to watch her answer being translated by a fellow candidate. Miss Earth needs to hire better translating services to avoid messing up in this all-important round.
It is also high time for Miss Earth to bring the pageant outside of its home nation. This is the main reason why most pageant fans vilify the pageant and claim that it is just an excuse to crown Philippine delegates. Since its inception, the pageant was only held outside the Philippines once, in Nha Trang, Vietnam in 2010 (the Philippine delegate at that time failed to enter the semifinals).
Overall, this year’s Miss Earth pageant pulled off a good show and the results were acceptable. This is an indication that despite being criticised by a few sectors in the pageant industry, the youngest among the Big Four pageants is here to stay.
A shorter version of this article was first published on Rappler.
Photos by Mario Angelo Bergantinos of Missosology