In the year when everything came into a grinding halt because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the world of pageantry has managed to adapt to the situation and was able to churn out several staging of beauty pageants—some of them have not been spared from intrigue and controversy.
Pageant watchers gravitate toward the glitz and glamour of the spectacle but intrigues and controversies are almost always on aficionados’ radar that fuel conversations.
This year may have been a different year for beauty pageants—some resorted to virtual competitions, others had to forgo live audiences and had to pre-record some pageant segments, and many were postponed indefinitely—but controversial moments in some of them remain.
Let’s have a look at the intrigues and controversies in the year that passed.
First runner-up Maureen Montagne declined the Miss Eco International 2019 title after reigning queen got dethroned due to pregnancy
Maureen Montagne was the Philippines’ representative to the Miss Eco International 2019 pageant in March 2019 in Cairo, Egypt, where she placed first runner-up to winner Suheyn Cipriani of Peru.
But in May 2020, Cipriani was dethroned because of her reported pregnancy. Miss Eco International organization stipulates that its queen should not get pregnant during her reign.
As first runner-up, Montagne is the next in line to wear the crown but she declined due to her commitment to the Binibining Pilipinas Charities Inc.
Amy Tinie Adbul Aziz from Malaysia, who was the pageant’s fourth runner-up, was named the new Miss Eco International 2019.
“I have made a commitment to the Binibining Pilipinas Charities Inc. full heartedly and I will continue to chase my dreams of competing on the BBP stage in the hopes of representing our country on the international stage,” Montagne said in a Facebook post in May. She is currently one of the candidates of the Binibining Pilipinas 2020 pageant, which has been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Among those who were disappointed by Montagne’s decision was Miss World Philippines national director Arnold Vegafria, who said in a statement that he was “greatly saddened to hear that Miss Eco International 2019 1st runner-up Maureen Montagne declined her privilege as the rightful successor.”
Vegafria also noted that what Montagne did was a “clear violation of the prestigious international pageant’s rules and regulations since her tenure has not yet formally ended.”
According to Vegafria, based on his dialogue with Miss Eco International founder Dr. Amaal Rezk, Montagne could have still accepted the crown and waited until she can formally pass on her title but she refused.
However, even after what happened, Vegafria sent Montagne his blessings.
Former Miss Colombia Ariadna Gutierrez did not think of Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach as a competition
Almost five years after Pia Wurtzbach won the 2015 Miss Universe beauty pageant, her first runner-up Ariadna Gutierrez from Colombia spoke in an interview that she did not think of Wurtzbach as her competition.
In the now deleted video clip posted by a certain Hector Cermeno on Instagram, Gutierrez was seen being interviewed in Spanish by Cermeno and Miss Colombia 2017 Laura Barjum.
Pageant website Pageanthology 101 posted on Facebook the translation of the clip.
“Actually, I just saw (notice) her twice during the competition. Once at the dining area and during rehearsals. But a person like a… a ghost! You see her and never again, like the exit signs. Nobody saw her,” Gutierrez said.
She added, “I used to go with the Latinas but we sat with the Asians and I did not notice her. She was very solitary, too. I did not notice her and when I did, I did not think of her as my competition. That is the truth.”
To date, Wurtzbach has yet to comment on Gutierrez’s interview.
After the clip made rounds on social media, many pageant aficionados defended Pia, including Miss Universe Bulgaria 2015 Radost Todorova, whom Filipinos endearingly called “Bestie of the Year” for her supportive gesture to Pia during the 2015 pageant’s coronation night.
In a quote from Entertainment News Portal, Radost said, “Of course you didn’t see her! I remember you were always laughing at us, at our clothes and jewelry, at our walk and talks. You were only with the other Latinas looking down on us!”
Radost added, “I stand behind my words and that’s why we were all so happy Pia won. You need to be beautiful inside out, not only looking like a Victoria’s Secret model and act like the queen of England!”
During the Miss Universe 2015 beauty pageant held at The AXIS in Las Vegas, host Steve Harvey mistakenly announced Gutierrez as the winner, only to apologize a couple of minutes later and proclaimed Wurtzbach as the true winner of the evening.
Catriona Gray introduced as “Australian by birth” and her last name misspelled during the Miss Universe Colombia 2020 pageant.
In November, Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray was invited to be one of the judges at the Miss Universe Colombia 2020 pageant.
During the program, Gray was introduced by emcee Sebastian Carvajal as “Australian by birth but represented Philippines after living for a few years there.”
Gray’s last name was also misspelled as “Garay” as she was being introduced.
After her duties as a judge in the pageant, Gray posted on her Instagram Stories a photo of herself with the word “Filipina” on it.
Fans were upset over the introduction that was given to Gray during the beauty pageant and even noticed the beauty queen’s seemingly forced smile when the camera panned onto her after the introduction.
Many also speculated that the gaffe might have been deliberate, connecting it to what happened at the controversial Miss Universe 2015, where Miss Colombia Ariadna Gutierrez was mistakenly crowned but was eventually corrected that it was Pia Wurtzbach who was the rightful winner.
The Miss Universe Colombia Organization, through its president and national director Natalie Ackerman, immediately issued a statement in an Instagram Story and apologized to Gray.
Ackerman clarified that the translated language that was sent for the introduction was supposed to be: “Born in Australia, from the Philippines who is Miss Universe 2018.” She also noted that it was part of the cultural differences as in Colombia, they regard the value of unity and cross-cultural importance.
“We assure that there is no malice intended as we invited Catriona Gray in the first place because we believe in Filipinos and having a personal Dubai-based friend, who is like a brother to me, I have always admired the Filipino culture and the kindness of the people from the Philippines,” Ackerman said.
Michele Gumabao, a no-show at the formal announcement of Miss Universe Philippines 2020 winners
In October, the maiden staging of Miss Universe Philippines (MUP) 2020 under a new organization has received much drama after it crowned its queen Rabiya Mateo from Iloilo City.
Twitter was abuzz with MUP-related topics, some of them celebratory but many of them spawned conversations on some contestants not in favor of the results and other issues in the pageant.
Right after the stream and broadcast of the pageant, many were quick to notice that second runner-up Michelle Gumabao, who was an early favorite in the competition, was MIA at the formal announcement of winners at the Baguio Country Club.
Gumabao, through her pageant camp Aces & Queens’ social media accounts, released a statement thanking her supporters. She also explained that she “can handle defeat” but “can’t handle the people asking why why why.”
Days after the pageant, Gumabao released a 24-minute video to explain her side and clear her name of the speculations and accusations. “The organizers kept quiet and now, so many stories are circulating, so many issues. I have to defend myself because I knew nobody would.”
Miss Taguig Sandra Lemonon and her “tea”
After the MUP 2020 pageant, Miss Taguig Sandra Lemonon, who placed in the Top 16, posted a series of cryptic Instagram Stories hinting about “spilling some tea.”
“The truth always comes out. It’s just about timing. Karma is real. Tea time soon because we deserve justice.”
Many netizens believe that Lemonon’s posts were about Mateo, who was rumored to have already known the questions prior to the pageant’s final Q&A portion. Mateo was also accused of bringing her own glam team, which was against the rule of the pageant. (Among the health and safety protocols of the pageant was candidates were required to do their own makeup and hairstyling, guided by two mentors.)
Pageant watchers waited for Lemonon’s “revelation” but it did not come.
Amid the controversy, Miss Universe Philippines Organization national director and Miss Universe 2011 third runner-up Shamcey Supsup-Lee posted on her Instagram Stories: “To bear defeat with dignity, to accept criticism with poise, to receive honors with humility—these are the marks of a true Queen,” which many believe is an indirect response to Lemonon’s previous posts.
Lemonon posted once more, this time a Boomerang of a cup of tea with a message: “Get your tea. Accepting defeat graciously is one of many mark of being a queen. But what you forgot to say it that real queens play FAIR don’t CHEAT.”
Two months after the pageant, Lemonon once again hinted that she would speak up soon after one of her followers asked what was the “tea” about that she previously posted.
Lemonon replied, “It’s brewing… charot. But in all seriousness, I decided to stay silent for now in order to ‘keep the peace’ and for there be no hot tempers as my intention is pure, as my purpose in speaking up is to improve the pageant community by being transparent and honest.”
“In summary, you will be hearing from me soon,” she concluded.