Colombian and Filipino supporters clash in aftermath of Miss Universe gaffe

PHOTO: Reuters

This year's Miss Universe host Steve Harvey committed the biggest blunder in the pageant's 63-year history before a live global audience in Las Vegas.

The 58-year-old US comedian and TV personality also sparked a bout of "madness" at Planet Hollywood Las Vegas Resort & Casino, where the competition took place yesterday morning (Singapore time), when he wrongly declared Miss Colombia Ariadna Gutierrez-Arevalo as the winner instead of Miss Philippines Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach.

According to Miss Universe Singapore national director Nuraliza Osman, who was in the audience to root for Miss Universe Singapore Lisa Marie White, there was a moment of confusion and chaos after his embarrassing gaffe, as things heated up between the Colombian and Filipino supporters.

Plastic bottles and ice were thrown from the second floor to the first.

Outside, as the crowd was leaving the venue, a fight broke out between irate supporters.

Miss Nuraliza, 38, told The New Paper in a telephone interview from Las Vegas after the pageant: "Each contingent was cheering for their own country. Then, one man pushed another and the latter retaliated, leading to a fight.

"A lady fell down in the midst of the madness. That's when I grabbed Lisa's mother and her pregnant friend and we hurried away. We were supposed to meet Lisa to eat but wanted her to stay backstage with her luggage until the crowd left."

The lawyer, who was Miss Universe Singapore 2002, said: "It was like a football match gone wrong. Everything was a blur, it was so 'gila' (Malay for crazy). It was like something from the movies."

To add to the drama, she said a TV news report said a gun had been fired near the venue.

ACCIDENT

It was also reported that a woman had rammed her car into pedestrians on the Las Vegas Strip nearby, killing one person and leaving six others in critical condition.

When her name was first announced, a teary-eyed Miss Gutierrez-Arevalo, 21, took her victory walk across the stage with the coveted crown on her head, waving her country's flag with pride.

It was a title she enjoyed for mere minutes, until Harvey regretfully informed the audience that Miss Wurtzbach, 26, was the real Miss Universe and he had announced the wrong name.

He added on stage: "I will take responsibility for this. This is a horrible mistake. It's my mistake... don't hold it against the ladies." Miss Gutierrez-Arevalo, who Miss Nuraliza said did not speak or understand English, did not realise she was no longer the titleholder.

It only seemed to dawn on her when Miss Wurtzbach stepped beside her and last year's Colombian winner Paulina Vega removed the crown.

As the crowd tried to make sense of the situation, a bewildered Miss Wurtzbach did not even get to do her victory walk, for fellow contestants surrounded her and Miss Gutierrez-Arevalo .

"It went from disappointment to shock and disbelief to confusion and sympathy," said Miss Nuraliza.

Miss Nuraliza, who was seated near Binibining Pilipinas (the Philippines' national pageant) president Stella Marquez-Araneta, felt Miss Wurtzbach was the winner that night after acing the Q&A segment.

She added: "We were rooting for all the Asian girls (Indonesia, the Philippines, Japan and Thailand) in the top 15. When Miss Philippines made it to the top 3, Stella was in tears. And when it was announced that Miss Colombia won, she slumped in her chair.

"But when Harvey announced his mistake, we were all thinking 'What?'. This has never happened in Miss Universe history."

CRAZY ENDING

On what happened on stage when Harvey made the boo-boo, Miss White told TNP: "Everyone gasped and was in complete and utter shock.

"The ending to the pageant was just crazy. I cannot imagine how it must feel to have the crown taken from you."

The 22-year-old freelance model added: "Everyone felt so bad for Miss Colombia and crowded around her to console her.

"I think it took the moment away from Miss Philippines.

"I didn't manage to console Miss Colombia or congratulate Miss Philippines as there were already so many people around them."

Miss Nuraliza called it a "night to remember" and "a roller-coaster ride from the very beginning".

Despite the gaffe, she did not blame Harvey.

"As they say in showbiz, bad publicity is still publicity. On the bright side, this is a ratings booster and so many people are paying attention to Miss Universe," she said.

Miss Universe Organisation has since addressed Harvey's slip-up in a post on Facebook - "unfortunately, a live telecast means that human error can come into play" - and apologised to Miss Gutierrez-Arevalo, Miss Wurtzbach and their family and fans.

In a video on its Facebook page , Miss Wurtzbach, who ended a 42-year winning drought for her country, even joked: "It's a very non-traditional crowning moment... very 2015."

JOY AND CONCERN

At a post-event press conference, she said: "The two emotions that I'm feeling now is joy that I won and concern for Ariadna...

"I also wanted to win. I am very sorry for what happened. I did not take the crown from her and I wish her well in whatever she wants to pursue after this pageant."

Meanwhile, Miss Gutierrez-Arevalo was forced to put on a brave front.

In a video on the Miss Universe Facebook page, she said, wiping away tears: "Everything happens for a reason so I am happy for (living) this dream."

As for the man of the moment - for all the wrong reasons, that is - he couldn't catch a break, even when he tried to make amends.

In a since-deleted tweet, Harvey, who was trending on Twitter worldwide yesterday, failed to get the names of the countries right, apologising instead to "Miss Philippians and Miss Columbia".

In a fresh tweet where he corrected the spelling errors, he said he felt "terrible" for the "honest mistake".

MISS SLOVENIA'S INSPIRING WALK

The flubbed crowning wasn't the only plot twist at this year's Miss Universe pageant.

In a taped segment of the show, it was revealed that there would have been 81 contestants, but Miss Slovenia, Ana Halozan, had to pull out of the competition shortly after she arrived in Las Vegas after a serious fall that left her in hospital.

Her roommate, Miss Slovak Republic, Denisa Vysnovska, said she found the 19-year-old in the bathroom having what seemed like an epileptic seizure.

Blood had dripped from Miss Halozan's nose and onto the floor.

When asked if she was okay, Miss Halozan fell to the floor and was later taken to hospital.

PARALYSED

The severity of Miss Halozan's condition became clear when she regained consciousness and realised that the right side of her face was paralysed.

Speaking to the camera in a taped interview shown on the screens, she said: "I came here like everybody and it all stopped within seconds. How did this happen to me? All I did was do my best and this had to happen now. When they said I can't go to the pageant, I asked: 'Are you joking?'. I am going."

Miss Halozan is expected to recover, but it will take time.

She added: "I told (my family and friends), don't cry for me, I am okay, don't worry."

Dressed in a red gown, Miss Halozan then appeared on stage after the brief segment and walked across it after last year's Miss Universe Paulina Vega handed her a bouquet.

Miss Lisa Marie White told The New Paper: "I didn't know about the incident but I admire and respect Ana so much. I am happy that she was still given the chance to walk on the Miss Universe stage. That was amazing."

Miss Nuraliza Osman said: "When she came out, everyone in the auditorium was crying. They were so moved by her strength."


This article was first published on Dec 22, 2015.
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