It's been just over a week since the new Miss Brasil Mundo and Mister Brasil CNB were crowned and apart from the fact that I had to travel for 3 days to get back to China, I have been battling to find the words to express what I saw, heard and felt on the night of the finals. To be really honest, I still do not really have the perfect words but I will give it my best shot.
Right until the show started, everyone was working extremely hard to ensure that the show was a success. This year, they only had four days to put together a three hour production, which meant that there was not much time for sleep. It had to be as close to perfect as possible and that meant most of the girls, guys, presenters, entertainers and staff had to work nonstop. With very little sleep, aching feet and tension building up, you'd expect quite a few hissy fits. The truth is that I never saw any of that... what I saw was a tight TEAM of people giving 100% (if not more) of themselves to ensure that the event would be a success. Yes, I heard a few people mentioning that they were very tired but we are only human. I honestly still do not even know how they did it because I had to drink about 20 cups of (amazing) Brazilian coffee to just stay alert... and I didn't even do that much.
I am not someone who cries easily but during the final two days as I watched the contestants being put through their paces, I caught myself becoming teary more than a few times. Every time Patricio Arellano or Renata Sena sang during the rehearsals, this overwhelming feeling of something (which I was not sure what it was) would build up in me and I had to quickly put on my sunglasses to hide my emotion. I realised later that it was because I was feeling so incredibly proud of everyone who worked so hard and put themselves out there in this industry that can be so cruel. The pride on their faces when they walked on stage got me every time and I am not even embarrassed to admit it. Yes, I was there to judge and I took the job very seriously. But that was only a part of me. Something else started to happen as the competition went on. I was also Andre, the supporter. Towards the end, I also felt like a proud brother (sigh... OK, that's a bit of a stretch, perhaps uncle LOL) and I was rooting for each and every person on that stage. I couldn't wait to cheer as hard and as loudly as possible for every single person in the competition. It's something that I did not really anticipate would happen.
By late afternoon, it was time to wrap up the rehearsals and everyone had to run to get ready for the big night. Being surrounded by so much beauty is amazing, but it was also quite daunting. I felt like Beast from Beauty and the Beast most of the time. When I went to get ready, I decided to apply this "magical" snail mask, which I had never tried before. It ended up burning the living daylights out of me and I started to get a rash. I had to run to get help from Alicya Scarvello who was angel and made sure that it got covered. In hindsight, I think it is quite funny but I was having heart palpitations at the time. It wasn't that amusing at the time, but now I can have a good giggle about it. Thank goodness I can laugh at my little moments.
When we had to take our seats, I was blown away when I was seated right in the middle in front of the stage. I couldn't believe it. Here I was, a nobody from South Africa, at the national finals of a competition that I have loved and supported for so long and I literally had one of the best seats in the house. I am still truly humbled by this whole experience.
Just after 9pm, the competition started and it was streamed live on the Internet around the world and it was also shown on a local channel in the Rio area. Here are some thoughts about the show:
THE OPENING NUMBER:
The opening number gave me goosebumps every single time I saw it. Marcelo Soes and his team really did an amazing job to create a high energy and exciting number that would set the tone for the rest of the night. The venue was not huge and it must have taken quite a bit of planning and creativity to ensure that all 84 delegates and the reigning title holders would get a chance to shine. Kudos to the team for putting it together and to all the contestants for ensuring that it was an exciting way to start the national contest of beauty.
INTRODUCTION OF THE DELEGATES:
They followed the same format as previous Miss World competitions before last year's new format. Groups of delegates would come out and as their state/region name was called out they would step forward. Even though they just had a moment to do it, most of the competitors made sure they made full use of their moment in the spotlight. This was not the only time for them to appear on stage. Later on there was a video of each of the guys in their swimwear and the ladies in their resort wear showing their average preliminary score. The organisation opted to ditch swimsuits for resort wear this year and I applaud them for taking this step, especially in a country like Brazil where the general public still want to see swimsuits.
The show was presented by Juliano Crema and gorgeous Livia Nepumuceno. Crema also hosted Miss Eco Universe earlier this year. The backstage commentary was done by Miss World Brazil 2008, Tamara Almeida, and Alessandro Boiah. It would be impossible for me to rate their performance as I do not understand Portuguese but it seemed like they had good chemistry. What I loved the most was that they gave four of the Miss and Mister alumni the chance to come on stage to interview the top 6. The reigning Mister Global, Pedro Gicca, and Manhunt Fernando do Noronha, Diego Jacome, were joined by Miss Sao Paulo 2016, Isabele Pandini and Miss Rio Grande do Sul 2016 (and Miss Grand Brasil 2017), Caroline Venturini. I think it is a very special way in which the organisation pays tribute to some of the former competitors and it gives them an exciting opportunity to develop their hosting skills. It's definitely something I would encourage them to keep on doing.
I absolutely LOVED the music that was selected. It really helped to make the event fun and exciting. I have actually bought all of the music from the final night already and I will use it on tough days to remind me of one of best experiences of my life. Well done to Henrique and Marina for choosing music that was fresh and current.
The live entertainment on the night was provided by Patricio Arrelano and Renata Sena. The latter was the winner of the 2016 competition's talent fast-track. I believe it was her first performance on such a huge platform but she handled it like a seasoned professional. I think she has a bright future ahead of her. She was also incredibly warm and friendly and spent lots of time talking to me and translating for me. The first time I heard Patricio Arrelano sing was during one of his first rehearsals. He sang "Titanium" and I got goosebumps. He did not sing one English song at the finals but I realised once again that the power of music has a way of transcending language barriers. It exposed me to some new music that I had never heard before and I loved it. I had a brief chat with him the day after the pageant and he seems like a really kind and humble person.
The scoring was done by a huge panel of judges and for different events the panels were slightly different. For example, I only judged a few rounds of the Misters as I feel that I am a Miss expert. After each round, the two lowest scores each delegate received were eliminated to make it more fair. I sat with Henrique while he calculated the scores. We spent hours doing it. We checked, double checked, triple checked to make sure there were no mistakes. Not once did he interfere with the judges scoring or even briefed them to say what he wanted. He leaves it completely up to his judges and I totally respect him for doing that. The highest preliminary scorers and the winners of the fast-tracks made it to the top 20. The judges then voted for a second round to determine the top 9. They were joined by the winners of Beauty With A Purpose. In both competitions, there was a tie, so we had a top 11 for Miss and Mister. The judges then voted again to determine the top 5 who were joined by the winners of the live.me competitions. That left us with 6 Misters and 6 Misses. On the final night, the judges were asked to rank them from 1st to 6th. I collected the scores sheets immediately and sat again with Henrique to help him tally the final results. The two lowest rankings for each delegate were once again eliminated. My heart was beating so fast and I was shaking uncontrollably. Henrique stayed completely calm and composed (but I could see that he was quietly nervous) while I felt like I was going to pass out or vomit or something. It was so nerve-wrecking and in the end it was down to math and numbers.
Let's face it - it's a competition and at the end of the night only a few people would be happy. That's how it works. You can't keep everyone happy and I have never really heard of a competition where EVERYONE was happy. As I said before, so many dreams were crushed. Gabrielle Vilela took home the crown and title of Miss Brasil Mundo 2017. It was her third attempt at this title and it was written in the stars for her. From the day that I met her, I liked her because she was sweet, sincere, humble and she has worked hard for this. Her Beauty With A Purpose project was just out of this world and she will be a great asset to the organisation. Sadly, there were some rumours that she was married after the pageant but they were proven to be untrue. I hope the Miss World judges see her sincerity and beautiful soul. Matheus Song was announced as the new Mister Brasil. I think he is a great young man. He was so nice and approachable and he greeted me in English whenever I saw him and chatted briefly. He always came across as a really friendly person. I think he has loads of potential and this is only the beginning of the journey. Right after the competition, it came to light that he has a little baby girl. This is not against the contest's rules and he will keep his title. I was disturbed when I saw people posting photos of him with his baby and his family, trying to discredit him. To both of them I would say (and I did), keep your heads held high. Focus on the good and make the most of your titles. Work hard and do your best for the organisation. Carlos Franco and Beatrice Fontoura left huge footsteps to fill but I have no doubt in my mind both of you will grow into equally amazing title holders.
To all those who were unhappy with the results, I'd say that with a different panel of judges there might have been a different outcome, but that is life. It is a competition and fate and life took its course. This was meant to be for them. Yes, competitions are tough and brutal. It's OK to be sad. It's OK to be disappointed. But it's not OK to be bitter. Use it as a learning curve and come back and try again. In life, it does not matter how many times you fall down (or fail), what matters the most is how many times you get up and what you learn from every experience.
NEXT UP: My final thoughts after I have had some time to reflect.
Photos courtesy of Leonardo Rodrigues!