I haven’t done my usual Miss Universe previews this year, mostly due to having been on vacation. But the pageant is worth a last-minute look–the finale will be televised tomorrow–because, as it happens, the Miss Universe pageant represents peak 2018.

The big news story is the presence of Miss Spain, Angela Ponce, the first transgender person to qualify for the competition. Ms. Ponce has undergone the requisite surgery, and her participation is reported everywhere as a heartwarming story of social progress:

Ponce says that she hopes to win in order to “send a message to President Donald Trump.” Because every single thing in the world must be about Donald Trump, apparently.

The second story to emerge from the pageant features Miss USA, Sarah Rose Summers, who, along with Miss Australia and Miss Colombia, is accused of mocking Miss Vietnam and Miss Cambodia for their inability to speak English. This is the video that went viral; it isn’t very edifying, but it also isn’t clear to me that Miss USA was being malicious or intended mockery:

Various observers have called on Miss USA, along with Australia and Colombia, to withdraw from the competition. One critic wrote on Instagram, in exquisite 2018-speak, that “[t]his is basically what normalized xenophobia looks like.” The incident no doubt cost Miss USA, an early betting favorite, whatever chance she had at the crown.

Let’s take a look at some of the favorites. Miss Philippines, Catriona Gray, is at the top of some oddsmakers’ charts:


Miss Canada, Marta Magdalena Stepien, is also drawing betting support. She typifies the new breed of pageant contestant:

Marta Magdalena Stepien is entering her last year of school with a degree in Biomedical Engineering Technology with a 3.96 GPA. She has a strong interest in Genetics and Immunology, and has worked as an Applied Researcher. Marta Magdalena has a 10 year international modeling career under her belt… She is also fluent in Polish and English, as well as conversational French and German.

Valeria Morales, Miss Colombia, is high on some of the charts. I’m a fan:

Miss Brazil, Mayra Dias, is another favorite with the oddsmakers:

I don’t see Miss Puerto Rico, Kiara Ortega, among the favorites, but I don’t know why not:

Miss Great Britain, Dee-Ann Kentish-Rogers, sounds interesting:

Dee-Ann Kentish-Rogers was raised on a farm on the tiny idyllic British haven called Anguilla. She spent her childhood running barefoot around the farm and reading books in trees. From the age of 5 she wanted to be an Olympic athlete and trained hard enough to make the Commonwealth team as a heptathlete twice. However a knee injury prevented Dee-Ann from pursuing that dream. She reinvented herself focusing on becoming a barrister which she successfully completed this year.

Time for one more: Miss Japan, Yuumi Kato, who must have the strangest personal history of any of this year’s contestants:

Yuumi Kato, 22 years old, was born in Japan and raised in Malaysia. Yuumi has a very unique background and had many challenges growing up with an underprivileged background. She was required to stop formal education at the age of 13 and was sent to a remote island in Malaysia to survive on her own. There, she had to forage for food in the jungle and sea. At the age of 14, she struggled to fit into society without any formal education.

The pageant will be broadcast from Bangkok tomorrow at 7 p.m. Eastern, on Fox. If you are a betting person, it is not too late to get your wager down. You can bet on the winner, of course, but also on the age or height of the winner. (The over/under on height is 5′ 9″.) And you can bet on whether the host will announce the wrong winner.



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