Miss Philippines implores everyone to stop fighting after Miss Universe controversy

Miss Philippines Pia Wurtzbach is 'excited' to begin her duties as Miss Universe after winning the crown in Las Vegas on Dec 20. Host Steve Harvey had first announced that Miss Colombia Ariadna Gutierrez had won the title.
Miss Philippines Pia Wurtzbach is 'excited' to begin her duties as Miss Universe after winning the crown in Las Vegas on Dec 20. Host Steve Harvey had first announced that Miss Colombia Ariadna Gutierrez had won the title.PHOTO: REUTERS

Days after the most bizarre night of her life, Miss Pia Wurtzbach is still wrestling with a controversy that turned a dream moment into a nightmare and threatens to ruin her reign as the year's Miss Universe.

Now, the 26-year-old Filipina wants to put everything behind her. In a note on her Instagram page, Miss Wurtzbach implored everyone to stop fighting.

"Arguing and sending hateful messages to each other defeats" what the Miss Universe pageant stands for, which is about 'uniting empowered women from all over the world'.

"I'm excited to begin my duties as Miss Universe," she said.

To Colombia's Miss Ariadna Gutierrez, 22, Miss Wurtzbach said: "You are an amazing woman and we are now bonded together forever by a unique experience."

 
 

Miss Wurtzbach and Miss Gutierrez had been at the centre of a controversy that had ironically given Miss Universe a wider reach than it normally gets.

In what has been described as one of the most embarrassing moments in TV history, the pageant's host, American comedian Steve Harvey, 58, misread both his cue card and teleprompter and gave the US$300,000 (S$421,000) blue diamond and topaz Miss Universe crown to Miss Gutierrez.

When the dust settled, Miss Wurtzbach was the one wearing the crown. But Mr Harvey's gaffe had already spoilt the evening for everyone. Recalling the unfortunate evening, Miss Wurtzbach told a reporter: "I was confused."

She was not certain she had won, even after the curtains went down. She kept asking her manager: "Am I really Miss Universe? Are they going to take the crown from me now?"

Off-camera, emotions ran high. In a video posted on Facebook, a group of candidates could be seen huddling around a sobbing Miss Gutierrez. Miss Wurtzbach tried to join in, but she was kept out of the circle, with Miss Montenegro Maja Cukic, 20, pointedly telling her to "step back".

Miss Wurtzbach was then led off the stage by a pageant staff member. The women around Miss Gutierrez began chanting: "Colombia! Colombia!"

"She was crying, and there was a crowd around her… I wanted to apologise to her for what happened," said Miss Wurtzbach, recalling that moment.

On being kept away from Miss Gutierrez, she said: "Maybe it was bad timing."

Marketer Albert Almendralejo, who flew to Las Vegas, US, to watch the pageant live, said the atmosphere at the venue quickly shifted from jubilatory to tense, as soon as Mr Harvey corrected himself and declared: "Miss Universe 2015 is Miss Philippines."

The crowd began taking sides, with chants of "Colombia! Colombia!" and "Philippines! Philippines!" filling the hall. Mr Almendralejo said he half-expected a fight to break out.

But in the Philippines, a pageant-crazy nation of over 100 million, Filipinos were by then already rallying around their "queen".

On social media and talk shows, and in celebrity columns and gossip corners, people riled at the "snubbing" Miss Wurtzbach endured, and called out Miss Gutierrez for being ungracious in defeat.

Ms Gloria Diaz, the first Filipina to become Miss Universe in 1969, said someone should sue Mr Harvey for the embarrassment he caused.

Another Filipina Miss Universe, Ms Margie Moran, who won in 1973, said the snafu "robbed (Miss Wurtzbach) of the glory of that moment".

"It was unfortunate, but she won. That's all that matters really."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 27, 2015, with the headline 'She wants to move past pageant nightmare'. Print Edition | Subscribe