Several weeks ago, Miss Universe pageant officials, naively or not, asked me if I wanted to come down for a few days for a Miss Congeniality-esque experience while the 88 women who had qualified from their respective countries got ready for the big night.
Of course I did.
Now, I am not exactly a pageant-type girl. I am small, I am prone to muffin top, and I shun high heels. But, in the search for new experiences, why not?
So I packed a bag and flew down with the A Broad Abroad crew to Doral, Florida, and primed myself for the Miss Universe Experience.
The author gets a police escort to the Miss Universe pageant (Photo: Andrew Rothschild)
Day 1 was all about the look.
I showed up at the ballroom of the Trump Doral ready to represent the Galaxy of Ohio, quadrant Cincinnati, with a red T-shirt that read, “Nobody Puts Cincy in the Corner.” The ballroom had been turned into a glam room, complete with rows of hair and makeup stands, racks of bedazzled dresses that would have made RuPaul’s eyes bleed with envy, and more Chinese Laundry shoes than a Payless in Topeka.
Everywhere you looked there were very tall, thin, and exceedingly pretty girls getting primped, fluffed, photographed, and outfitted. The girls don’t go by their names. Instead, they are called by their country. “Slovakia, come here!” “New Zealand, time for pictures!’ “U.S.A., looking great!” “Has anyone seen Ghana or Croatia?” “I need Philippines, stat!”
“This is like the Hannah Montana glam shop they had in the mall in Columbus, Ohio, for a few years,” I said to Jackie, the PR woman for Miss Universe. “But for, like, adults?”
“Exactly,” Jackie said, introducing me to Linda, who ran the room.
Posing with the contestants (Photo: Andrew Rothschild)
Linda, who looks like a hot younger version of Hulk Hogan’s ex-wife, also named Linda, was in charge of all production.
“We got some Chic-fil-A if you’re hungry,” Linda said.
“These girls eat fried chicken?” I asked. “You kidding me? They don’t look like they eat.”
“It’s for the workers!” Linda laughed. “I treat my people right!”
I was assured there was food for the girls (although I just saw a table with beverages), who all looked like they were a size 0 to a minus 10 — with the exceptions of Miss Great Britain and Miss Nigeria, who, upon introducing herself to the crowd at a welcoming event, would say, “Thank you, Doral! I love your food!”
Both were on the skinny side of normal, but compared to someone like a Miss Singapore, who looked emaciated, they were plump.
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A beauty treatment, courtesy of Miss India (Photo: Andrew Rothschild)
David, the dress man in charge of dressing the girls, told my producer, “We have dresses for all sizes! Well, there was Miss Great Britain …”
Later, while talking with Nick, a comedian/host whose job was to “interview” and introduce the girls, Jackie, Linda, and Nick all professed that the Miss Universe pageant loves all sizes!
“So is there a plus-size girl this year?” I asked.
“Not this year,” Jackie said.
“Not yet! But the Miss Universe organization loves all body types!”
After the same line was given to me by Nick, almost verbatim, I said,
“But I’m only seeing one body type,” holding up my little finger.
He laughed and changed the subject.
She’s getting closer to her Miss Universe look (Photo: Andrew Rothschild)
After my hair was shellacked into perfection, layers of makeup were applied, and long fake eyelashes that look like centipedes were attached to my face, it was off to try and squeeze into a dress and totter around on seven-inch heels.
If you’ve never had the opportunity to teeter in seven-inch stilettos, you just haven’t been challenged in your life. It’s a hell of a lot harder than it looks.
Props to these girls who spend at least seven hours a day in those heels of death.
Miss Georgia (the country, not the state) and Miss Great Britain could even moonwalk in them. Miss Guyana didn’t bother. I can’t say I blame her. Because it was HARD. I went down several times. David and Miss Lebanon helped me after a few falls, but by the third one I just stayed down.
I tried on some dresses that may or may not have come out of Jackie Collins’s closet and settled on a black one, chiefly because I could semi-breathe in it. Donning a Miss Yahoo Travel sash, seven-inch heels, and the widow’s gown, I attempted to walk as David yelled, “Remember: Kick, step, glide! Kick, step, glide!” I looked like a jacked-up pony who’d spent too many hours at the bar.
Introducing… Miss Yahoo Travel. The author, dolled up for Miss Universe (Photo: Andrew Rothschild)
But props to the glam squad: I didn’t look like myself, and I looked great. Who knew what a pound of makeup, an inch of hairspray, a sausage-tight dress, and seven-heels could do?
While I had been warned by the Miss Universe PR person, Jackie, that she would “shut it down,” if I asked Miss Lebanon or Miss Egypt about Miss Israel — or tried to get Miss Russia to discuss shirtless Putin pics with Miss. Ukraine — apparently Miss Israel didn’t get the memo. She caused an international scuttlebutt a week later when she took a picture of herself and Miss Lebanon and put it out on her Instagram. Miss Lebanon later claimed, in an unfortunate choice of words, that she was photo-bombed.
Stay tuned until Friday for Day 2 at Miss Universe, when my self-esteem holds up during a workout with five contestants, Miss Indonesia tries to make me pretty, and I make it onto a parade float.