gorgeous eyes, glowing smile, and delightful personality Oxana Fedorova had all the right moves.
Russian "Czarina" Oxana Fedorova provides
the regal bearing to go with the international beauty title's new crown.
On a glorious night in San Juan, the pageant production itself deserved
an award for excellence.
A svelte Russian law-enforcement graduate student is the new czarina of
the international beauty pageant scene, and she's got a badge and a
gun to prove she's more than just another pretty face.
But even as Oxana Fedorova, a civil law student
at the St. Petersburg Police Academy, was writing her name in the Miss
Universe record books, another chapter in the pageant's illustrious
history was unfolding on-stage. The Miss Universe Pageant production
team, influenced by Donald Trump and long-time pageant production specialists
Guy/Rex, this year transformed the telecast into one of the most sophisticated
pageant shows ever. In the process, the new-found style helped viewers
forget the less-than-successful recent telecasts, when trendy video
effects pushed aside so much of the pageant's traditional glamour. With
this year's brilliant water-sculptured stage sets and fine focus on
the contenders themselves, the 2002 Miss Universe Pageant recaptured
the elegance and beauty that viewers had missed.
As a result, the show's 8.1 TV rating placed it 1st
for the entire evening's programming, according to published Nielsen
ratings well ahead of the direct competition on Wednesday, May
29, the New Jersey Nets vs. Boston Celtics National Basketball Association
playoff game. For the entire week, the Miss Universe Pageant telecast
was rated 7th highest, finishing ahead of, among others,
the venerable TV hits 60 Minutes and Friends. The show's
11.3 million viewers reflected a 40 percent increase compared to last
year's Miss Universe Pageant telecast, bringing winning smiles to the
pageant's co-owners, the CBS Television Network and Donald Trump.
Historic San Juan, Puerto Rico, the second oldest
city in the Americas, once again opened her arms and heart as host.
Tight security surrounded the venue as the delegates spent three weeks
making appearances and rehearsing for the finals. The Miss Universe
competition, far more than just an expensive package of prizes for beautiful
women, is an opportunity of a lifetime for 75 of the most achieved women
from all over the world to etch their name in the history books. As
a foreshadow to the successful new look of the telecast this year was
a newly designed custom Mikimoto crown, worth an estimated quarter of
a million dollars ($250,000), to go with the title of Miss Universe,
as well as two years of acting lessons and the potential opportunities
for fame and fortune that accompany the crown.
Phil Simms and Daisy Fuentes.
A high-energy carnival-like street party was the setting
for the opening production number, which featured the glamorous return
of the candidates introducing themselves by name and the countries they
represented. It was great to hear those announcements in the girls'
own voices, with the full universal spectrum of dialects and intonations.
That change, along with the increased air time provided for each contestant,
restored much of the international flair that makes the Miss Universe
Pageant such a worldwide favorite.
Hosts Phil Simms, a Superbowl MVP, and actress and model
Daisy Fuentes kept the two-hour telecast moving along smoothly. After
the introductions of the contestants, they welcomed Grammy-winning superstar
Marc Anthony, who performed on-stage before the sell-out throng that
filled the Roberto Clemente Coliseum. After his performance, Anthony
delighted the audience when he said, "Miss Universe has a special meaning
in my household, if you know what I mean" as the roar of the
crowd confirmed, as he was referring to his wife, former Miss Universe
Dayanara Torres of Puerto Rico, whom cameras caught beaming with pride
from the audience. With another former Miss Universe, Brook Lee, on
hand for color commentary, in all, five former Miss Universes were involved
in the pageant during the evening. A panel of celebrity judges that
included Puerto Rico native and Miss Universe 1970 Marisol Malaret had
the unenviable task of whittling down the field of contestants from
10 to five to one.
five finalists await the interview portion of competition.
"The world is about to get a little smaller," enthused
Daisy Fuentes as she opened the envelope containing the list of Top
10 semifinalists. The audience was silent, joined by millions of TV
viewers who held their breath, wondering which pre-pageant predictions
would come to fruition and which ones would dissolve.
Then the 10 finalists with whom judges found favor
were announced. They were: Anisa Kospiri (Albania), the first contestant
ever for her country and a professional basketball player who wants
to be an ambassador for UNICEF; Oxana Fedorova (Russia), a gorgeous,
24-year-old dark-haired beauty who is pursuing a graduate degree in
civil law at the St. Petersburg Police Academy; Vanessa Carreira (South
Africa), a lover of classic literature who is writing her first novel;
Neha Dhupia (India), an MTV VeeJay who wants to one day host her own
TV show; Natasha Borger (Germany), a knockout beauty and art lover with
future fashion design plans; Demetra Eleftheriou (Cyprus), a third-year
college student who was fulfilling her dream by competing in the pageant;
Neelam Verma (Canada), the host of a news and entertainment program;
Justine Pasek (Panama), a beauty with brains who hopes to work as an
environmental engineer and someday earn a position in the Smithsonian
Research Center; Ling Zhuo (China), the first-ever delegate from China
who was trained in traditional Chinese dance; and Cynthia Lander Zamora
(Venezuela), a specially trained firefighter in natural disasters and
rescues. With the Top 10 decided, 65 more women joined the millions
of spectators worldwide who were now on the sidelines cheering on their
Next up, a "Meet the Delegates" feature made excellent
use of video clips to show the semifinalists in casual, everyday activities.
Video of the reigning Miss Universe, Denise Quiñones, presented
viewers with the leisurely sights and sounds of her native San Juan,
and additional clips showed the delegates during their three weeks of
preparation leading up to the big finale. The crowd-favorite National
Costume competition followed, showcasing the candidates "sense of style,
creativity and overall representation of her country." Miss Colombia
Vanessa Mendoza captured that segment, appearing in an over-the-top
costume that reflected her country's colorful traditions. A wonderful
addition to the telecast was a collage of clips of various delegates
winning their national titles, accompanied by video of them sharing
their experiences and the changes that winning the title already had
made in their lives.
The telecast made a smooth transition, aided by
elegant background flamenco guitar music, to the next portion of competition,
as the semifinalists appeared one-by-one in their evening gowns. This
was a departure from past shows, in which swimsuit competition was featured
before the evening gown segment. Non-finalist delegates in evening gowns
were positioned in the background on the beautifully designed stage
as the 10 semifinalists glided before the eagle-eyed judges and an appreciative
audience. It was, at long last, a return to the exquisite, elegant look
that viewers have missed. As each finalist walked across the stage,
her cumulative score was flashed to television viewers as an ingenious
computer graphic built into a portion of the stage; this method of revealing
the results averted the controversial practice of past shows in which
each individual judge's score or non-score was superimposed on the screen.
Swimsuit competition followed the evening gown competition,
and what a stunning visual effect this part of the production achieved.
Delegates appeared as though they were walking on water as they crossed
the stage through a streaming pool; meanwhile, their audio tips for
getting and staying in shape were played for the live audience as well
as viewers at home. The elegance was enhanced by the women wearing flowing
wraps during the sometimes controversial swimsuit presentation -- one
of many patented footprints left on this production by pageant magicians
Richard Guy and Rex Holt, who were brought in as consultants by The
Trump Organization to make numerous improvements within the show. With
the swimsuit procession completed, the $3,000 cash prize for the top
vote-getter in the swimsuit category was announced; it went to Oxana
Fedorova, Russia's undeniably exotic entrant.
In another departure from recent Miss Universe pageants,
where guest performances seemed to dominate the show, the production
team delivered more air time to all of the candidates competing for
the title. Gone was most of the dizzying camerawork and video effects,
much to the relief of viewers who had increasingly tuned out the visual
excesses. Instead, viewers were treated to a lively and entertaining
segment that featured contestants' opinions on a variety of non-judged
categories, such as "Best Smile" (Cyprus), "Most Athletic" (unanimously
USA), "Best Figure" (Slovenia), and "Best Personality" (U.S. Virgin
Islands). To no one's surprise, Merlisa Rhonda George (U.S. Virgin Islands)
also took the official "Miss Congeniality" award, which "reflects the
respect and admiration of her peers as the most congenial, charismatic
and inspirational" delegate. The "Photogenic" prize, voted by the public
via the Miss Universe Internet site, went to Puerto Rico's hometown
girl, Isis Marie Casalduc.
Meanwhile, the quest for the crown caught up with
the Top 10 young women who were now vying for a spot in the Top 5. Hope
remained alive for the delegates from Panama, China, South Africa, Venezuela,
and Russia, who fielded questions individually submitted by the delegates
themselves. An interesting question drawn by Miss Russia asked, "If
your life were a videotape, what would you erase and what would you
replay?" Though Miss Fedorova responded in Russian through an interpreter,
her message was not lost in the translation: "I would first like to
talk about my childhood, because it was a very pleasant experience,
and then I would talk about my life. I would like for my life to be
shown from the beginning to the end." Confidently, with no regrets,
she blew a kiss to the adoring audience.
Fedorova is crowned Miss Universe 2002.
The unusual, but thought-provoking final question, "What
makes you blush?" -- provided via the Internet by a viewer from Norway
-- was certainly a departure from the oft-controversial questions of
pageants past. This year's query perfectly suited the changes the pageant
had implemented, since it left the remaining finalists with a wide-open
opportunity to make a final impression with the judges. With only moments
left remaining in her reign, Miss Universe Denise Quiñones explained
what she felt the judges were looking for, saying, "I think [the judges
want] a straightforward answer, an answer that comes from the heart;
a clear answer as well." Having been there, she should know. All the
delegates answered to the best of their abilities, considering the mounting
pressure with the eyes of the world trained on them. Again rising to
the occasion, Miss Russia seemed genuine and real in answering the short
question with an equally pointed reply: "When I say the wrong things!"
Host Phil Simms ad-libbed, "We can all relate to that!" Apparently,
the judges related to Miss Russia as well.
Denise Quiñones then took her final walk,
reminiscing about returning to the place where her journey began the
year before, where she captured the title of Miss Universe. She said
her final thank you's and praised God for all the blessings He had bestowed
upon her, adding, "This year I got to personally admire and feel Your
masterpiece that we call the world. What better prize package could
one ask for?"
The tension mounted once again as the judges' final
results were handed over. As is the tradition, the results were revealed
in ascending order of finish. Fourth runner-up went to Cynthia Lander
Zamora of Venezuela; Third Runner-up was Vanessa Carreira of South Africa;
Second Runner-up went to Ling Zhuo of China.
That left Miss Panama, Justine Pasek, whose country
is set to host next year's event, and Miss Russia, Oxana Fedorova; clinging
to each other in anticipation. Miss Panama was chosen as First Runner-up.
At that moment, as the words were spoken naming Miss Russia as the new
Miss Universe, a wave of shock and surprise washed over the face of
Oxana Fedorova. She clasped her hands over her face, trying to contain
the emotions welling up inside her as the reality sank in that her dream
had come true! Earlier, Oxana had stated, "I think a smile always creates
wonders." On Oxana, a smile also creates one of the most stunning Miss
Universe winners of all time.
Pageantry magazine and its staff send a special
message to this extraordinary young woman...
In English that means...
and best wishes
throughout this year and life."
Russian "Czarina" Oxana Fedorova provides the regal bearing to go with the international beauty title's new crown. On a glorious night in San Juan, the pageant production itself deserved an award for excellence.
By retelling Tara Conner’s story of recovery, the Miss USA telecast brought the competitive pressures of a national beauty title into sharper focus, which only raised the dramatic stakes as the competition sought its 56th winner.
“The days went by so fast for my roommate, Miss Michigan Teen USA 2005 Catherine Laurion, and me. We would hold hands each night and say the same prayer: ‘If it be God’s will, let us be the last two standing.’”
Fifty other teens and their wealth of beauty, brains, and talent stood between any single contestant and the 2005 Teen USA title. The odds of winning seemed daunting, but come to find out, pageant success runs in the winner’s veins.
Natalie Glebova and her family demonstrated bravery trading the security of their Russian homeland for opportunity halfway around the world. It proved to be one of Natalie's most valuable lessons. By Fred Abel