It was the point where everything stopped being all fun and selfies and the pressure hit its highest peak.
This is it. This is really the competition.
Last night, the 86 contestants presented themselves in swimsuit, then in evening gown in front of the preliminary panel of judges. There was added pressure with the fact that only 12 delegates will make the first cut, as opposed to the Top 15/16 format that we've grown accustomed to in recent years.
Two of the judges were former titleholders - Japan's Riyo Mori (2007) and Puerto Rico's Dayanara Torres (1993). The wild cheers following the latter's introduction weren't surprising. Dayanara, as many would recall, lived in the Philippines for five years and had a successful showbiz career.
MUO choreographer Stefani Kammer kicked off the show and instructed the audience to be generous with their applause. (Oh, they were generous, all right.) After which, she proceeded in introducing this year's host, Filipino actor-athlete Derek Ramsay. It was the first time in recent years that they assigned a local personality from the host country. As per recent tradition, the outgoing titleholder, Miss Universe 2015 Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach served as co-host.
This year's preliminaries were more streamlined compared to recent editions. Throughout the evening, the girls stepped out in their Yamamay swimsuits and chosen evening gowns in batches of three, making for a more fast-paced production. Side note: it was a particularly memorable birthday for Miss Venezuela, Mariam Habach, who turned 21 yesterday.
Video segments played in between. First was a recap of the Vigan event. Second was a candid throwback to Pia's reign. Capping off the show was Philippine Airlines President and COO Jaime J. Bautista presenting Pia with a Boeing 777 aircraft model. To which, the Queen quipped, "This is the model of the real airplane I'm gonna get, right?"
Check out our complete preliminary galleries:
Catch the 65th MISS UNIVERSE (R) COMPETITION on ETC!
Monday, January 30, 8:00AM
With Primetime Telecast at 8:00PM!