Image: Miss Colombia Ariadna Gutierrez celebrates after initially being crowned as the winner during the 2015 Miss Universe Pageant in Las Vegas, Nevada December 20, 2015. REUTERS/Steve Marcus
By Joseph Ax and David Bailey
(Reuters) – The host of the Miss Universe pageant mistakenly announced the wrong winner on Sunday, who then had to give up the crown and hand it over to a 26-year-old actress and model from the Philippines.
It was the first edition of the annual beauty show since it was thrust into controversy when then co-owner and U.S. presidential candidate, Donald Trump, made disparaging remarks about immigrants.
Host Steve Harvey incorrectly announced that Miss Colombia had won the 64th edition of the contest, broadcast live on the Fox television network.
The eventual winner, Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach, a Filipino-German actress and model born in Stuttgart and raised in Cagayan de Oro, was initially runner-up.
But them Harvey announced to the audience that he had made a gaffe.
Ariadna Gutierrez Arévalo, 21, of Sincelejo, Colombia, had already been crowned by Miss Universe of 2014, Paulina Vega of Barranquilla, Colombia, who was forced to remove the crown and give it to Miss Philippines. Olivia Jordan, 27, of Tulsa, Oklahoma, finished third.
“I’d like to apologize wholeheartedly to Miss Colombia and Miss Philippines for my huge mistake,” Harvey said on Twitter. “I feel terrible.”
Wurtzbach appeared to take the blunder in her stride.
“It’s a very non-traditional crowning moment,” she said backstage afterward in a video clip of a conversation with Miss USA posted by the Miss Universe pageant on its Twitter feed. “It is very 2015.”
Earlier, when asked why she wanted to be Miss Universe, Wurtzbach said: “I will use my voice to influence the youth and I would raise awareness to certain causes like HIV awareness, that is timely and relevant to my country.”
It was the first Miss Universe title for a contestant from the Philippines in more than 40 years.
Minutes before the pageant ended, a vehicle drove up onto a sidewalk near the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, where it was held and plowed into pedestrians, killing one person and injuring at least 36, officials said.
Las Vegas authorities said they were trying to determine whether the driver, a woman who was detained, drove onto the sidewalk intentionally or due to impairment.
Among the notable moments of the pageant, Flora Coquerel of France, who was at the Paris stadium the night of the November attacks by militants, reached the final five and Ariana Miyamoto of Japan, whose father is African-American, reached the last 10.
Miyamoto’s height of 1.73 m (5.7 ft) and bronze skin are unusual in Japan and her selection to represent Japan created an online firestorm in her native country.
For the first time, viewers had a chance to vote on the winner, rating contestants in the swimwear, evening gown and interview competitions.
Until recently, the pageant was co-owned by Comcast Corp’s NBCUniversal and Trump, who is leading national polls in the 2016 Republican presidential nomination race.
Earlier, Trump’s remarks about Mexicans in announcing his presidential candidacy in June drew sharp criticism, and the Spanish-language network Univision pulled out of a deal to televise the pageant.
Trump, who has sued Univision for $500 million, bought out NBC’s stake in the Miss Universe Organization, which produces both Sunday’spageant and the Miss USA contest. He sold the company in September.
The panel of judges included former National Football League great Emmitt Smith, celebrity blog mogul Perez Hilton and 2012 Miss Universe winner Olivia Culpo. Hilton said the two most important things about the pageant were the vastly larger audience and Trump was no longer owner.
(Reporting by Joseph Ax in New York and David Bailey in Minneapolis; Editing by Richard Borsuk, Robert Birsel)
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