Colombia’s president shared his dismay Monday after his country’s beauty queen was wrongly named Miss Universe in a dramatic mix-up watched live by millions, before the glittering crown was bestowed on the rightful winner Miss Philippines.
The pageant’s host, US comedian Steve Harvey, misread his cue card in front of a global television audience late Sunday and initially announced that MissColombia, Ariadna Gutierrez, had triumphed.
Half-laughing, half-sobbing with emotion, Gutierrez was fleetingly crowned and congratulated at the ceremony in Las Vegas, waving to fans as she cradled a huge bouquet of flowers. But as she blew kisses to an adoring crowd, Harvey was forced to come clean about his blunder.
“OK folks, I have to apologize. The first runner up is Colombia.”
“Miss Universe 2015 is Philippines,” he added as the music picked up again, with the actual winner, Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach — a high-profile actress and television host — looking stunned and mouthing “What?”
Harvey attempted to explain the error to a perplexed audience, who greeted the news with both cheers and boos.
“This is exactly what’s on the card. I will take responsibility for this. It was my mistake, it was on the card,” he said.
The glittering crown was then promptly placed on Wurtzbach’s head. She later told reporters she wished the best to the crestfallen Miss Colombia.
“I’m very sorry, I did not take the crown from her and I wish her well in whatever she wants to pursue after this pageant,” Miss Philippines said.
Harvey later took to Twitter to ask forgiveness for what he called “an honest mistake.”
“I’d like to apologize wholeheartedly to Miss Colombia & Miss Philippines for my huge mistake. I feel terrible,” said one of his messages, retweeted more than 85,000 times.
– ‘Still our queen’ –
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said Monday he was shocked by the episode, which made the front pages of the country’s main newspapers.
“I was watching Miss Universe with my family,” Santos told Radio Nacional. “Our queen was marvelous. She looked spectacular. It was such a disappointment when the host said he’d made a mistake.”
“To me, our queen is and will remain Miss Universe. They put the crown on her head. The photos are there to prove it. To me, as a Colombian, she is still MissUniverse.”
Santos had publicly celebrated a year ago when the previous Miss Colombia, Paulina Vega Dieppa, won the Miss Universe 2014 title.
Colombia-born film star Sofia Vergara, America’s highest-paid TV actress, also posted a photo of Gutierrez on Instagram, with a Spanish caption that read “queen all the same.”
– Philippines celebrates –
In the Philippines, celebrations broke out despite the gaffe.
The presidential palace led in hailing the victory of the German-Filipino model, who this year fuelled gossip of a relationship with 55-year-old President Benigno Aquino by saying they were friends and that “he’s very fun to talk to.”
“We congratulate her for this success as the third Miss Universe of the Philippines,” Aquino’s spokesman Edwin Lacierda said in a statement.
“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,” he added.
Lacierda praised Wurtzbach’s “tremendous poise and control” after the pageant host’s mistake.
Top Philippine broadcaster ABS-CBN, where Wurtzbach works as an actress and host, cut off a live broadcast of Aquino addressing the military to air an on-camera apology by Harvey after the pageant.
“I felt sorry for both candidates… and for all the Filipinos… who were watching live. It took away from the experience,” said the country’s last Miss Universe, 1973 winner Margie Moran.
– Social media ablaze –
Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump, who formerly co-owned the pageant, took to Twitter Monday to say the incident would not have occurred on his watch.
“Very sad what happened last night at the Miss Universe Pageant…. This would never have happened!” the billionaire businessman tweeted.
News of the error spread rapidly on social media, with the #MissUniverse2015 hashtag trending.
“People are human, mistakes can happen. Luckily some have the bravery to own it & take a step to correct it. Hugs to #MissUniverse2015 wow,” tweeted Audrey Bolte, who described herself as Miss Ohio USA 2012.
The contest is wildly popular in Latin America and much of Asia.