Can Colombia Win its 2nd Miss Universe Crown?
Yearning to understand why Colombia seems to be continually stuck with a single Miss Universe crown is perhaps a challenging endeavor that definitely does not have a definite answer. To appreciate the anatomy of what it seems to be a Colombian debacle, it is proper to reminiscence the beginning of it all.
Luz Marina Zuluaga
The start point of Colombian quest at Miss Universe ironically started with a victory. In 1958, Marina Luz Zuluaga represented the debut of Colombia at the pageant and snatched the country’s lone title. Such a victory resounded well and good among Colombians such that Marina was given a mansion, declared tax exempt for life and a set of postage stamps was issued in her honor. The honors accorded to Marina perhaps can’t be matched by any other accolades given to a beauty queen by any other country.
How Marina won in 1958 could be the starting point in unlocking the mystery of why the second crown is too elusive. If one is allowed to entertain the insinuation that Armi Kuusela won in the first ever Miss Universe title partly because Finland is the first country to pay its war debts, then it is forgivable to look at the political side of Marina’s victory. The year 1958 was politically significant for Colombia. It was the year when the country was reverted to civilian rule. La Violencia simmered down and the Conservatives and Liberals decided to have a political détente. Could these pax romana if you will of Colombia’s political squabble in any way material to the victory of Marina?
Quite possibly yes. When the eyes of the world are in your country, it is easy to stand out from the crowd. If one is allowed to be beguiled by own political tendencies and thinking, the empirical value of politics at beauty pageants can come in handy in many cases. Colombia was in the news in 1958 and the mini gathering of the world in form of beauty may have transfixed its eyes on Colombia – consciously or unconsciously.
The reason why politics resonate well in this instance is because Marina was never a favorite at Miss Universe 1958. Marina’s beauty was a classic and while her body structure may not fit in the definition of being ideal nowadays, but she had a great stage presence and a timeless smile. However, the public back then was more attuned to the beauty of the first runner-up Miss Brazil Adalgisa Colombo whose aura was more in line with Hollywood glamor.
If a doubt is raised whether Marina deserved to win, it is essential to travel back in time and see that the first decade of Miss Universe was full of victories that the public back then openly questioned. But what it must be taken into note that Marina’s triumph opened the floodgates for successive Misses Colombia. This triggered a series of semifinals placement in 1959, 1960, 1962, 1963, 1965, 1966, 1969 and 1973.
Ella Cecilia Escandon
In the year 1974, Colombia made some inroads by finishing as 3rd runner-up. Ella Cecilia Escandon was one of the crowd favorites and she possessed one of the most mesmerizing faces seen in the pageant. Her answer to final question that smiling all the time is a way to get along with the other girls has the element of brevity and impact that the audience applauded well. Ella Cecillia could walk away with the crown that night but so many factors prevented her from doing so. First Finland’s answer was equally brief and has an impact too by saying that other than being told as beautiful, she wants to be told as a woman with good character. She finished as 2nd runner-up. Wales’ answer that she enjoyed everything in the Philippines stroked the right chords for the locals, one of which sat as a judge, hence her 1st runner-up finish. Meanwhile, the victory of Miss Spain Amparo Muñoz can be attributed to the fact that one of the judges Jose Greco has a strong affinity with Spain.
Mary Shirley Sáenz Starnes
The 1974 performance made a repeat in 1977 and 1978. Aura María Mojica Salcedo sweet looks was enough to land her in the Top 5 but her largely ambitious answer in the final question could have cost her the crown. The winning answer from Janelle Commisiong for example, was honest, up front and simple. In 1978, Mary Shirley Sáenz Starnes entered the Top 5 as the lowest ranked finalist. It was very much obvious that she on the 5th position but ended up a notch higher because Miss Sweden messed up her final answer.
These third runners-up placements were further improved in the years 1992, 1993 and 1994. It was an amazing run by Colombia where it landed at the first runner-up positions. Still, a second crown was never materialized. What happened in those years? Why Colombia was stuck on the 1st runner-up position for three straight years, a feat no other country has ever achieved?
It is indeed important to review the events of all those years. Paola Torbay, Paula Andrea Betancourt and Carolina Gomez all became first runners-up in an era where the final question was of great importance. Unlike these days where the final judgment is based on the overall performance of the delegate, the final question arguably bears a relatively heavy bearing on the final outcome of Miss Universe.
In 1992, Paola Turbay, who has Lebanese blood running in her veins, sported the most lovable face in the pageant. She is perhaps the most beautiful Miss Colombia ever at Miss Universe. Yet her downfall appears to be the interview. She barely made it to the top three having edged out Miss Venezuela by the slimmest of margins. At the final question, her answer has a fantasy element to it whereas the winning answer by Miss Namibia Michelle Maclean has a more realistic scenario.
In 1993, Paula Andrea Betancourt gave an honest and very relevant answer. But it is too honest and her chosen topic within her answer is about environmental issues. Notice how the answer of eventual winner Miss Puerto Rico Dayanara Torres revolves around the issues regarding the future of the children. The gist of her answer is similar to that of Michelle Maclean in 1992 and seems to be the choice topic of that decade.
Carolina Gomez with Misses Venezuela and India
Carolina Gomez in 1994 on the other hand, was simply beaten by India’s Sushmita Sen by the virtue of Sushmita’s intellect. Carolina gave an impressive answer but it was Sushmita who shined. If anything, it was a close fight. But before the final question, Carolina Gomez is the clear winner, winning hearts not only of the judges but of the audience as well.
The reasons as to the inability of Colombia to win the Miss Universe crown in all those years are bereft of any conspiracy. It was a fair fight; it was just that the crown is not for a Colombian beauty.
The series of first runners-up finish did not produce a crown as some pundits expected. Instead it sidelined Colombia. While several Colombian beauties landed at the semifinals and with the 4th runner-up finish in 1998, not one of even came close to the crown until in 2008 when Taliana Vargas emerged as the most plausible candidate to become the second Colombian to win the crown.
Taliana Vargas moments before Dayana Mendoza was hailed as the winner
The case of Taliana Vargas echoed the situation in 1992, 1993 and 1994. The defeat of Taliana came at the crucial point and that was the final interview. Taliana has been the front-runner all throughout the competition. Well in fact, she obtained the highest score in both the swimsuit and gown segments of the finals night. Her gown, tacky by design, was compensated by her constant twirling of the skirt that gave an illusion that Taliana was flying. The swimsuit segment allowed Taliana to rule the catwalk and of course, her perfect body did the talking.
Taliana’s first runner-up finish was indeed a heartbreaker. The crown was all hers until the moment when judges favored the brilliant answer of Dayana Mendoza instead of the overall performance of Taliana. In defense of the judges though, Dayana was consistently second to Taliana in gown and in swimsuit by a small margin, so the game could indeed go in either way.
Taliana’s performance however was never repeated up to now. In 2009, Michelle Rouillard was left out of the semis thanks to her decision to cut her hair short. The 2010 and 2011 gave a promising performance but fall way too short in clinching the ultimate victory.
¿Dónde vas, Colombia? Will we ever see a Miss Universe from Colombia once again in our lifetime? This year, 2012, Daniella Margarita Alvarez Vasquez will carry the banner of a very expectant nation. How she will fare at Miss Universe 2012 will be largely dependent on her transformation and trainings. She has the looks, the body and the brains but she needs to work on her confidence and find the right way to win hearts. She currently don’t have much appeal in the international arena but remember how Catalina Robayo silenced her critics last year?
Daniella Margarita Álvarez Vásquez
Colombia has always the capacity to win that elusive Miss Universe crown. But the numerous close calls had led into various conspiracy theories and it even reached to the point that the Colombians themselves have resigned in believing the technicalities of winning. Forget about the formula of creating a Miss Universe like what the Venezuelans subscribe into. From a Colombian viewpoint, enriched by their experience, fate and luck rules. That is why Carolina Gomez, speaking about Taliana Vargas, concluded that all that Colombia needs is luck. When one plays all its cards into the table, indeed luck is the only hope left.