The Colombian contestant for this year’s Miss Universe pageant was already wearing the crown when host Steve Harvey returned to announce on live television that he had mistakenly read from a cue card, and that the contestant from the Philippines was actually this year’s winner. In the following moments, the crown was removed and placed on the head of a mystified Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach of the Philippines, other contestants rushed to console Ariadna Gutierrez Arevalo of Colombia and an embarrassed Harvey felt compelled to apologize on Twitter and to reporters assembled backstage.
He said “I feel horrible for this young woman.” Harvey also said it was his mistake and that he would take responsibility for not correctly reading the card, which said that Wurtzbach was this year’s winner and Colombia was actually the first runner-up.
He held up the card for Fox network cameras to see up close afterward and talking with reporters afterward, Harvey and an executive for pageant owner WME-IMG called it human error. Wurtzbach appeared stunned as she walked to the front of the stage alongside the crown-wearing Arevalo before last year’s Miss Universe from Colombia removed the crown and placed it on Wurtzbach’s head.
Wurtzbach later said she felt conflicting emotions as the mistake happened: joy when she was told she had indeed won, concern for Colombia contestant Ariadna Gutierrez Aravelo and confusion at the whole situation. Wurtzbach also said she tried to approach Aravelo onstage afterward, but the Colombian was crying and surrounded by a crowd of women. She said she realized it was, “probably bad timing.”
Harvey, who was hosting the contest for the first time, said he re-read the card and noticed it said “first runner-up” next to the Colombia contestant’s name before he asked producers if he had made a mistake. An executive with pageant owner WME-IMG, Mark Shapiro, said Harvey caught the mistake and corrected it on his own, saying he wanted to make a wrong into a right.
The competition started with women representing 80 countries between the ages of 19 and 27. For the first time, viewers at home weighed in, with their votes being tallied in addition to four in-person celebrity judges.
Shortly after Sunday night’s confusion, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos tweeted a message on his official account to Ariadna Gutierrez. “For us, you will continue being miss universe! We are very proud!”
Philippines presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda didn’t address the controversial win but said, “in bagging this victory, Ms. Wurtzbach not only serves as a tremendous source of pride for our people, but also holds up the banner of our women and of our country-as a true representative of what the Filipina can achieve.” It’s the third time a contestant from the Philippines has won the title. It could have been the second win in a row for Colombia.
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