News & Politics

Colombians Outraged by Miss Universe Cockup, Suspect Plot

What a mess:

Colombians celebrated for a little more than two minutes what appeared to be an unprecedented feat for this beauty pageant-obsessed South American nation: back-to-back Miss Universe titles. From President Juan Manuel Santos to Miss Colombia’s relatives in the Caribbean port city of Barranquilla, millions of Colombians who tuned in for Sunday’s pageant screamed joyously when it was announced that Ariadna Gutierrez Arevalo had won this year’s crown.

But the celebrating turned to shouts of fraud seconds later as host Steve Harvey announced on live television from Las Vegas that he had mistakenly read from the cue card. The contestant from the Philippines was the new Miss Universe, not Miss Colombia. “They took away her crown,” and “the shortest reign in history” was the sentiment expressed almost universally on Twitter, where the hashtag “Respect the Crown” was the country’s top trending topic.

“The entire country, and our family, was overcome with emotion,” Alvaro Arevalo, the Colombian runner-up’s cousin, told Blu Radio in an interview Monday. “The truth is we’re a little shocked.”

Shocked might be too mild a word. Perennial runner-up Colombia has been itching for this for a long time:

Colombians are obsessed with beauty and pageants are a major draw across social classes. But unlike neighboring Venezuela, which has won seven Miss Universe titles, Colombians are accustomed to falling short of the crown, with five runner-up appearances since 1992 including Sunday’s. Before last year’s crowning of Paulina Vega, only one other Colombian had won the Miss Universe title, in 1958.

In the aftermath of Sunday’s shocking finale, Colombians were at a loss to explain the mistake. Newscasts devoted almost 20 minutes to dissecting every detail of the pageant’s confusing end — from the tweets by a member of the jury celebrating Gutierrez’s win to a front-row audience member’s alleged slipping of a cue card to Harvey — as reporters looked for clues of what many Colombians believe was a scripted ending to rob their country of its rightful crown and produce higher TV ratings.

Hey, in this part of the world, wars have started over less. One thing is certain, though: Steve Harvey will never work in this town again. And, while we’re on the subject of conspiracies, didn’t Donald Trump used to have something to do with the Miss Universe pageant?

Some journalists blamed Donald Trump, saying they could find no financial record confirming that he had indeed sold the rights to the pageant as he said he did in September.

Many Colombians were outraged months ago when Trump on the campaign trail accused Mexico of sending rapists and drug traffickers to the U.S. On Sunday, some said they believed the Republican presidential candidate was somehow still pulling the strings to prevent another Latina from being crowned.

Trump said Monday that he regretted the mixup, adding that it would never have happened under his watch.

And if it had happened under his watch, it would have been super classy and unbelievably yuggge.

All in all, a clusterbark of epic proportions. What they should have done is quietly, behind the scenes, rectified the mistake by declaring it a tie with Miss Philippines; then there might have been smiles instead of tears all around.