Sunday, January 17, 2016

An Unpleasant Experience Saved by Fantastic People - My Miss World 2015 Adventure (Part 1)

*** DISCLAIMER - The events that I am about to talk about are my personal experiences. This is how I experienced my weekend in Sanya. I will write a more objective review of the telecast (which I am yet to watch) once I have shared my personal recount of the way the events unfolded in Sanya.***


I have been a fan of the Miss World Organization for the past 24 years. Last year, I attended my third Miss World final. I can still remember the first time I went to Miss World in 2000. It was the 50th anniversary at the Millennium Dome in London and I was a 20 year old kid with big dreams, dreams of one day being a mover and shaker in the world of beauty pageants. Despite the fact that the event had a somber undertone due to the passing of the contest’s founder, Mr. Eric Morley, I was still very excited about attending this event and it was an experience that I will treasure forever.
MY FIRST TIME: I remember this moment all too well! 
A decade later, I traveled to Sanya, China to witness the crowning of the 60th Miss World. I was older, wiser and life had given me a few knocks along the way. I never even attempted to break into the industry. Those dreams and castles in the sky that I built while having lunch on weekdays in the summer of 1999 in a little park in Golden Square, London (the same place where Miss World’s headquarters used to be) were now distant memories. Mrs. Morley had been at the helm for a decade and it was a completely different Miss World Pageant this time. It was no longer Eric’s pageant. The Julia era was well and truly underway. It was an enjoyable experience as I spent most of my time with Miss South Africa, Nicole Flint’s mother and aunt. I got to experience another Miss World final and my first coronation ball. But I heard a lot of things and saw a lot of things that left me a bit disillusioned.  (You will find these reviews on the blog should you be interested.)
2010 MEMORY: One of the photos I took at the 2010 coronation ball. The African girls were so lovely! 
So half a decade later, I got the opportunity to go to Sanya again. As you might be able to tell from the title or headline of this article, it was not the best experience. In fact, it was a downright unpleasant experience. I was so disappointed by the whole experience that I decided to wait a few weeks before even attempting to write this review. I don’t want to be unnecessarily bitter and critical.  Now, a month later, I have managed to cool down and gain a bit of perspective. I still do feel that I should probably not attend another Miss World final. I always thought that the Miss World Organisation cared about their fans and supporters. Now I am not even sure anymore.  I don’t think I would want to put myself through all of that again.

In the weeks preceding the pageant, I waited and waited to hear news about tickets. The Miss World website had COMING SOON under the tickets and event news section until the day after the pageant. That should already have been an indication that I should probably not even have bothered to go. It was clear that they were not really interested in accommodating fans and supporters. But I am a stubborn Taurus. My holiday to South Africa was not happening anymore, so I wanted to go and experience my third Miss World Pageant. I wrote to the organizers asking if they could offer any information about tickets as I was planning to make the trip down from Shanghai. I am still waiting to hear back from them. To be honest, I never expected a reply even, because it already became evident that this year it was all about the host country – their rules, their decisions, their money, their people.
PRESUMPTUOUS: I was eager to make new friends at the pageant. 
Two weeks before the event, I took the plunge and bought a plane ticket. It was non-refundable, so come what may, I had to go. I still had no idea if I would even get a ticket and that was totally frustrating. I had already decided by then that if I were not to get a ticket, I would just try to enjoy the warm weather in Sanya. Initially, I was going to travel with a great friend of mine, who is an important executive for one of the world’s leading fashion brands. He was so appalled by the complete lack of structure and disorganized way in which such a huge “world event” was being organized that he told me that he knew he had been right – Miss Universe is the superior pageant. I had always tried to convince him otherwise, but I’m so tired of the constant MW vs MU battle that I did not even try to change his opinion anymore. In his eyes he had a strong argument – after all he organizes and hosts major fashion events with major Hollywood superstars, so he IS the REAL expert. With an egg on my face after praising the MWO from China to the moon and back, I advised him to cancel his trip. I was still going, because I was (and for some reason against my better judgment still am more) loyal to the Miss World Organization. Initially he even talked about the possibility of talking to them about sponsorship from this major fashion house, but Miss World is now dead to him. Of course, it won’t hurt the MWO, but I felt that it was a shame that anyone would have such a strong reaction to an organization that I loved and respected.
ONLY FOR IMPORTANT PEOPLE: I was apparently not welcome at the Beauty Crown Hotels

My next mission was to try and get a hotel reservation at the Beauty Crown Hotel. I made the online reservation, only to receive an email the next day telling me that my reservation had been cancelled. I was perplexed and actually called them. Now first of all, if you are going to build such a fantastic cluster of hotels and claim that it’s a 7 star hotel, at least have people who can speak English or have and English website. After trying for ten minutes to have a decent conversation and only getting “you are cancelled” and “go other hotel” as responses, I almost exploded!!! Don’t get me wrong. I live in China. I understand the language barrier. I LIVE the language barrier. But this was supposed to be a world-class hotel. I insisted on speaking to a manager. She was trying to be helpful, but as I have grown used to here, she was totally and utterly too blunt. She confirmed that my reservation was cancelled, as their hotel was “only for important people like the government" during this time. That was only the first few of several humiliating snubs. I was disgusted.


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