Of all the current major international beauty pageants still on today, the Miss Universe competition arguably leads the pack. It certainly got a lot of attention from the world concerning its previous run where a misspoke from host Steve Harvey briefly saw Miss Columbia of that year win for a few seconds before things were made clear and Miss Philippines Pia Wurtzbach was crowned. So much excitement was quick to follow with the announcement that the following pageant will be held in her home country with her fellow Filipinos envisioning a back-to-back win (only Venezuela achieved this).

But now the final word has come – from returning emcee Harvey, who got it right this time – and Iris Mittenaere of France would become Miss Universe 2016, the first European to hold the title since 2002’s Miss Russia who didn’t complete her reign.

Mess-up milked thoroughly

It was clear from the get-go of Steve Harvey walking up the stage of the Mall of Asia Arena in Metro Manila as returning host that his mistake from the last pageant will be played up for all its worth. It certainly showed as he exchanged pleasantries and one-liners with Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach. She thanked him for the error even, as it helped make her “the most popular Miss Universe yet,” with Harvey replying that it made him “the most famous Miss Universe host.” It didn’t end there; when Miss Colombia was called for the top 13 (this year all finalist levels get an extra member each), she good-humoredly told Harvey that everyone in her country “hates” him.

Things looked peachy keen from that point on, considering that Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte at one point refused to have him, host. But Harvey remained such a good sport all throughout, making a point to look at the name cards “more closely.” Audiences loved it.

Finalist redux

With Harvey on stage and model Ashley Graham reporting backstage, the Miss Universe competition went on with smooth precision, each segment interspersed with vignettes of the contestants, from taking selfies in their home nations to their open marvel at the enthusiastic Filipino hospitality and fan turnout to a touching tribute to their mothers, and snippets of the girls in conversation over relevant contemporary issues.

The list of finalists seemed a near mirror of 2015, with usual suspects Indonesia, Mexico, Thailand, France, Brazil, and the USA. Of special interest is Miss Kenya Mary Esther Were, who is the first rep from her country to advance in the competition, all the way to the top six even, along with host contestant Miss Philippines Maxine Medina.

But the home fans aren’t too broken up. The top three girls were still popular: Andrea Tovar of Colombia hoping to make up for last time, Raquel Pélissier of Haiti and France’s Mittenaere. Tovar would be second runner-up leaving Mittenaere and Pélissier to Harvey’s big announcement. He gets help from Wurtzbach who handed him some glasses after her final walk as titleholder. And he gets it right the first reading, with Mittenaere becoming Miss Universe 2016, the second of her country to win the crown since the second pageant in 1953.