(STAR) FUNFARE By Ricardo F. Lo (Photo - 2011 Bb. Pilipinas-Universe Shamcey Supsup, our bet in the Miss Universe pageant in Brazil, coronation night set for Sept. 12...)

As usual when the Miss Universe season comes around, we keep our collective fingers crossed and hope for the best, reciting the same mantra, “The Philippines will win its third Miss U crown” (after Gloria Diaz in 1969 and Margie Moran in 1973). The big question: Will our bet Shamcey Supsup be “it”? (The last Filipina who almost brought the country’s third Miss U title was Miriam Quiambao in 1999. She placed first runner-up to Miss Botswana.)

The answer will be known next Tuesday, Sept. 13 (Sept. 12, Brazil time), when the Miss Universe Pageant celebrates its 60th anniversary with another stunning show in Sao Paulo. The pageant will be aired live by ABS-CBN starting at 9:30 a.m.

Meanwhile, here are Miss U “appetizers” culled from a research made by Funfare’s “other beauty expert” Celso de Guzman Caparas:

• USA is the “winningest” with seven winners (Miriam Jacqueline Stevenson, 1954; Carol Laverne Morris, 1956; Linda Jeanne Bement, 1960; Sylvia Louise Hitchcock, 1967; Shawn Nichols Weatherly, 1980; Chelsi Mariam-Pearl Smith, 1995; and Brook Lee Mahealani, 1997)…eight first runners-up (1953, 1970, 1973, 1978, 1983, 1986, 1990 and 2004)…six second runners-up (1959, 1965, 1975, 1987, 1989 and 2001)…one third runner-up (1958)…five fourth runners-up (1961, 1968, 1982, 2006 and 2007)…nine finalists (1991, 1993, 1994, 1996, 1998, 2000, 2005, 2008 and 2009)…and 18 semi-finalists (1952, 1955, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1966, 1969, 1971, 1972, 1974, 1977, 1979, 1981, 1984, 1985, 1988, 1992 and 2003). USA missed the semi-finals only four times: 1976, 1999, 2002 and 2010.

• The Philippines has the most number (seven) of Miss Photogenic winners: Vida Doria (1971), Margie Moran (1973, also Miss Universe), Aileen Damiles (1996), Abbygale Arenas (1997), Gionna Cabrera (2005, also Miss Thai Air Silk Award and Top 5 Best in National Costume), Lia Andrea Ramos (2006) and Anna Theresa Licaros (2007). Vida and Margie were selected by accredited press photographers while the other five beauties won via Internet voting.

• Delegates from Guam are the friendliest, winning four Miss Amity awards: Hilary Ann Best (1970, also a semi-finalist), Lucy Carbullido Montinola (1985), Dina Ann Reyes Salas (1986) and Liza Maria Camacho (1988).

•Colombia won the most number of Best National Costume awards (six): Luz Elena Restrepo Gonzales (1968), Sandra Eugenia Borda Caldas (1985), Lizeth Yamil Mahecha Arevalo (1990, also second runner-up), Maribel Judith Gutierrez Tinoco (1991), Claudia Elena Vasquez Angel (1997) and Vanessa Alexandra Mendoza Bustos (2002).

• Finland’s Armi Kuusela, the first Miss Universe, was crowned with a priceless crown of the Romanoffs that was worn by the last of three Czarinas of Imperial Russia. It contained 1,529 flawless diamonds with a combined weight of 300 carats and was insured for $500,000. Hollywood actress Piper Laurie crowned her on June 28, 1952. Laurie was also on the cover of the first Miss Universe souvenir program and print ads. Armi was the first Miss Universe to visit the Philippines. She was invited by the Philippine Fair Committee to crown Cristina Galang, Miss Philippines 1953, on March 20 that year.

• In a major racial milestone, Janelle Commissiong of Trinidad & Tobago became the first black woman to win the coveted Miss Universe title in 1977. After a year, she crowned her successor, Margaret Gardiner, a white Miss South Africa.

2. Finland’s Armi Kuusela, the first Miss Universe... 3. Armi admiring her trophy... 4. Lalaine Bennett, the first Filipina who made it to the finals... 5. Gloria Diaz the Philippines’ first Miss Universe... 6. Trinidad & Tobago’s Janelle Commissiong, the first black Miss Universe... 7. Japan’s Akiko Kojima, the first Asian Miss Universe... 8. A Miss Universe beauty pageant ad featuring the Catalina swimsuit worn by contestants in earlier pageant... 9. Vida Doria, the first Filipina to win Miss Photogenic, and... 10. Miriam Quiambao, the last Filipina who almost brought the country’s third Miss U title, finishing second to Miss Botswana.

• Akiko Kojima of Japan, Miss Universe 1959, was the first Asian titleholder and the last winner to be crowned on swimsuit. Sankei Shimbun, sponsor of the Miss Japan contest, denied allegations that Akiko, who measures 37-23-38, underwent a bust-enlarging plastic injection. Kojima’s successor, Linda Bement of USA, was the first to be crowned in an evening gown.

• The Miss Universe Creed, “We, representing the countries of the world in the Miss Universe Beauty Pageant, in order to further the cause of peace, justice and mutual understanding, do solemnly dedicate ourselves to the highest ideals of sportsmanship, friendship and goodwill among all the people of the Universe,” was read by the delegates from 1960 to 1990.

• Lalaine Bennett was the first Filipina delegate to reach the Top 5. Adjudged third runner-up to Miss Universe 1963 Ieda Maria Vargas of Brazil, she turned down movie offers from Columbia Pictures and other Hollywood movie outfits. Lalaine eventually married her escort during the pageant, Felix Skievasky, a US naval officer of Polish-Filipino descent. Felix died in an air crash in December 1973.

• Gloria Diaz, the first Miss Universe from the Philippines, Miss Universe 1969, was the last winner to be draped with a robe.

•Misses U immortalized on stamps: Gloria Diaz, Philippines (1969); Georgina Rizk, Lebanon (1971); Janelle Commissiong, Trinidad & Tobago (1977); Wendy Fitzwilliam, Trinidad & Tobago (1998); and Mpule Kwelagobe, Botswana (1999). Host countries that issued commemorative stamps, postmarks, coins and/or medals: USA (1952 until late ‘50s), El Salvador (1975), Dominican Republic (1977), Mexico (1978, 1989, 1993 and 2007), South Korea (1980), Philippines (1974 and 1994), Namibia (1995), Cyprus (2000) and Ecuador (2004).


Is today the day for Shamcey Supsup? SAO PAULO --

[PHOTO - Best bet in years. Binibining Pilipinas Universe Shamcey Supsup looks stunning in the national costume during the presentation show at the Credicard Hall in Sao Paolo, Brazil. The new Miss Universe will be crowned today.]

A group of 89 beauty queens will don swimsuits, evening gowns and test their interview skills in the hopes of winning the 2011 Miss Universe crown on Monday (Tuesday morning in Manila; live TV coverage ABS-CBN).

The Philippine entry is Shamcey Supsup, who, based on the on-line voting and glowing press coverage, stands an excellent chance of taking the crown previously won by Gloria Diaz (1969) and Margie Moran (1973). Last year, Venus Raj, made famous by her "major major" speech, came in fourth runner-up.

Contestants from six continents spent the last three weeks in South America’s largest city, trying to learn samba dance steps, visiting impoverished children and kicking a football around for cameras as the globe’s biggest beauty contest is held in Brazil for the first time.

Paula Shugart, president of the Miss Universe organization, said it was fitting the globe’s biggest beauty pageant be held in Brazil at this time, as the nation prepares to host some major events in the coming years.

"I don’t think there is any doubt in the rest of the world’s mind that Brazil is the place, between hosting the Olympics and hosting the World Cup," she said. "I love the fact we’re going to kick it off. I always say we’re the ‘World Cup’ of beauty."

The contestants, who must never have been married or had children and who must be at least 18 years of age and under 27 years of age by Feb. 1 of the competition year, are competing to take the place of Mexico’s Jimena Navarrete, who won the crown last year in Las Vegas.

There have been no headline-grabbing gaffes going into this year’s competition, as opposed to past years that have seen controversies of various stripes.

Some of the contestants have complained to the local press about the size of bikinis used in some photo shoots, with Miss Mexico Karin Ontiveros saying they were "very small."

That was enough to draw chuckles in Brazil, where women from all walks of life, not just beauty queens, sport barely-there swim wear on beaches throughout the country.

Miss Cayman Islands Cristin Alexander seemed to side with local custom, however, stating in a video posted on the Miss Universe website that she thinks "the body is a beautiful thing and I think it’s great we get to celebrate that by wearing little bikinis."

The pageant hosted by NBC "Today" anchor Natalie Morales and the Bravo network’s Andy Cohen will air live on NBC and be distributed to about 170 countries. The contest, co-owned by Donald Trump and NBC, will be judged by celebrities including Connie Chung, supermodel Isabeli Fontana, Indy race car driver Helio Castroneves, and Lea Salonga of the Philippines. – AP

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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