Somewhere between 2004 and 2009, we were told that being fierce is what it takes to become Miss Universe. There was no consistent proof about the claim but missosologists subscribed to that mantra anyway. As Riyo Mori and Zuleyka Rivera hit the Miss Universe catwalk with such bravado with no-holds-barred moves and then proceeded to take the plum prize, no one can indeed question that being fierce was the key in winning.
Eventually, the new order of things came in 2010. Ximena Navarrete surprised everyone with her sweet and demure demeanor. Actually, Ximena wearing a Mexico sash was in itself a surprise because we were used to fierce Mexican beauty queens con sangre latinoamerica who all appeared to have played some roles in one of those dramatic Mexican telenovelas. Anyway, after Ximena, more sweet beauties became Miss Universe – Leila Lopes in 2011 and Olivia Culpo in 2012. Little did we knew that back in 2012, Miss Universe was actually at the crossroads. The photo of Miss Philippines Janine Tugonon and Miss Venezuela Irene Esser sandwiching Train was a perfect way to capture the future order of things.
Janine represented that stately beauty who was neither that fierce nor that sweet but simply confident inside. Like a real queen if you like. Irene meanwhile represented that fierce beauty who was full of energy and pizazz. None of them of course won the title because 2012 was still the era of sweet beauties and it was Olivia who had that sweet demeanor.
Miss Universe 2013 Gabriela Isler, including Paulina Vega (2014) and Pia Wurtzbach (2015) can all be categorized as stately beauties akin to that of Janine. For the purpose of clarity, stately is defined as having a dignified, unhurried, and grand manner; majestic in manner and appearance. To translate that in the world of missosology, it means that a she takes her time to walk during swimsuit segment and she just commands attention during the gown competition.
Fierce. Sweet. Stately. None of those beauties made enough impact at Miss Universe 2016. It’s a brand new era once again because it is pretty obvious by now that the moment Iris Mittenaere discussed her slow-cooked boeuf bourguignon with Steve Harvey, she began to win the hearts of the judges. It appears being genuine and unpretentious is now the key in winning. It’s now being unafraid of who you are.
Of course, winning the Miss Universe crown is a complex process. All these labels – fierce, sweet, stately, genuine – are all attempts to oversimplify such complexities. Still, these labels stick in the minds of the analysts and the fans. It is also difficult to argue against such labels because there had been undeniable patterns. If the next Miss Universe will be as easy going and as unpretentious as Iris, then definitely, being genuine is in! If not, then we will all grapple to find another suitable “label” and then talk about it for at least a year.