As a hardcore Miss World fan since 1999, I obviously followed Miss World 2014 season religiously. This time, the event is back to its home, London, the city where it began over six decades years ago. As the event finally came to an end with a climatic Grand Final on December 14th, I was left with a mixed feeling. There are some parts of the event that excites me more than ever but there also others that leave me disappointed. In the end we all could consider it a successful one though there are some that I wish would have been done differently, as I would trot out in this personal “a look back” review.

The colorful traditional dance costumes for Dance of The World

The Pre-Final Activities
Ever since I followed pageants, particularly Miss World, I was always amazed with the pre-Final activities of Miss World. From year to year Miss World contestants were treated with an array of exciting and fantastic activities that you would never find at any other pageants in the world. This year however, I was left flabbergasted with how boring the pre-Final activities were. There were still some fun activities like watching a West End opera, touring the city in an open bus, or visiting one of the most prestigious university in the world. But there is no way they can match up the excitement of past edition activities. Most of the times the contestants only spent their time at the hotel or the venue, participating in many rounds of audition and eliminator or rehearsing their move for the Grand Final. In the end, I can’t help but think that Miss World sacrificing its pre-Final activities to give more rehearsal time for a more entertaining Grand Final. While I’m all for a spectacular Grand Final, I really hope Miss World would find a way to balance its schedule so that they could still get the best possible ever Grand Final production without sacrificing its long standing reputation of pre-Final activities.

The Challenge Events
Unlike last year, most of the Challenge Events this year were held in a private judging and invisible for the fans. We normally have four sets of Final competition for Sports, Top Model, Beach Fashion, and Talent each year, but this time only Sports and Top Model held a proper Final competitions. After a series of auditions, we never have a proper Final for Talent where all the finalists were announced and asked to perform on a stage. Instead we only have the best 2 finalists to perform in a sing-off at the Grand Final. There were also no special task for Multimedia this year as the winner was only picked based on their daily social media activities throughout the competition. And worse of them all is Beach Fashion, with almost no coverage at all, and not even a single official photo or video from the event ever published (possibly a prelude to the ‘no swimsuit’ directive effective starting from next year). On a positive side, I love how once again the most important event of them all, Beauty with a Purpose, was honored in a special way with the 10 finalists announced at a special Gala Dinner show broadcasted to the world via live internet streaming.

The Coverage
It is safe to say that while the interest for pageants in Asia is currently at its peak, it’s already going downhill in Europe, particularly United Kingdom. Last year I remember how local media and journalists in Indonesia were very enthusiastic in covering the event. The contest became a major highlight for many news publications and local people kept talking about it. That was missing from London this time. Though Miss World Organization still tries its best to promote the contest by publishing pictures and information on its official media and launching its brand new Miss World TV feature, the coverage was still lacking the feel of excitement from and generating less impact for the people around the contest. While it was still better than the coverage 2011 edition (one of the worst Miss World coverage ever), it was nowhere near the spectacular coverage of last year event in Indonesia.

Self proclaimed ‘Party President’ Sky Blu from LMFAO opened the show with his debut single “We Love Girls”
The parade of beauties during the contestant introduction segment

The Final Venue
The spacious and luminous white stage at the ExCel London was indeed rather ‘vanilla’ in design compared to the more grandiose stage of 2012 and 2013 editions. However I reckon it as an upgrade from the last time the contest was held in London in 2011. What I love the most from the stage was that it looks ultra sleek and modern, especially with the addition of two sets of huge LCD screen on each of its side to add digital flavor to the show. While it was not among my all time favorite stage design ever, it was still a decent one. However Miss World could and should learn a thing or two from Miss Supranational, which despite being a newcomer in pageant world, has constantly produced super spectacular stage design from year to year.

The Production
With a dramatic shift into a more dynamic production, this year Grand Final is one of the most entertaining I have ever watched from Miss World. The opening act with the contestants parading in their spectacular and colorful traditional costume was a delicious visual feast and easily my favorite part of the show. Another twist was also put for the contestant introduction segment, giving a few extra seconds of camera time for each contestant compared to previous editions. The producer also did a great job in lighting work and camera work to help build a more electrifying show. There is still a lot of room for improvement and innovation of course (having a live onstage competition would be a good start to begin with), but the overall Grand Final production this year shows that Miss World Organization is willingly to listen to their fans (particularly to those criticizing Miss World show as boring) and bring new elements of change to improve the production quality.

Hosts for the night, Tim Vincent and Megan Young
The Most Desirable Man in the World for 2014, Nicklas Pedersen, also attended the final show

The Presenters
This year presenters are clearly a huge upgrade from the previous ones in Bali. As a seasoned presenter and with his experience of hosting Miss World Grand Final twice in the past, Tim Vincent brought the much needed personality to the show with his sharp wit and humor. Though sometimes I found him somewhat annoying, I have to admit that Frankie Cena did a decent job as the co-host of the night. But the star of the night was no other than the reigning Miss World Megan Young, who set the record as the first Miss World titleholder ever to host her own final show. After watching her stint as presenter for both Mr World and Miss World Grand Final this year, she is no doubt blessed with a natural presenting skill. Overall it was a strong presenting team with each of its member brings a commendable performance.

The Music
I have to admit that I was caught in a big surprise when Miss World Organization announced the live acts for this year show. After so many editions with what I would consider as out of date musical performers, we finally have a pair of live acts that actually belongs to the current era. The first act was Sky Blu, the self proclaimed ‘Party President’ himself, who performed his debut single “We Love Girls” and his hits single as part of the world renowned LMFAO band “Party Rock Anthem”. While the second act was The Vamps, one of the hottest pop band in charts right now, who performed two of their Top 10 UK Singles Chart songs “Can We Dance” and “Somebody to You”. As someone who is very critical about Miss World Organization choice of live acts from year to year, I was pleasantly surprised and surprisingly pleased that Miss World Organization ditched the usual ballad and opera acts and opted for the more modern acts that are in tune with the trend this time.

The Vamps adding some modernity to the show with their ‘still hot from the chart’ singles
Five of the Challenge Event champions – Malaysia (Talent), Sweden (Beach Fashion), Bosnia & Herzegovina (Top Model), United States (Multimedia), and Finland (Sports)

The Scoreboard
While it was still used as one of the main feature of the show, the Miss World Scoreboard was not as omnipresent as it used to be. It was only shown twice before the overall score was tallied and the result was announced. Instead more time was dedicated to the quarterfinalists which, unlike the previous years where they were only treated like cameos, were given the spotlight they deserve this time as all of them had a chance to have a quick walk and individual camera focus. Miss World Organization also decided to increase the quarterfinalist spots this time, making a room for Top 25 instead of just Top 20. I absolutely love this decision because with so many beautiful women from so many different countries competing at Miss World each year (and as the current trend is going, it seems more and more countries will join the pageant in the future), it is only right to give more place and time of recognition for the best of the best of these contestants.

The Tribute
As one of the most successful Miss World titleholder ever, it was only appropriate that Aishwarya Rai received a special tribute from Miss World Organization on her 20th coronation anniversary. Looking as gorgeous as when she was crowned two decades ago, Aishwarya who took her whole family to accompany her on stage, is a true embodiment of what Miss World is all about, a successful and smart woman with a true and natural beauty both inside and outside. I love this segment because so far Miss World is the only pageant who occasionally presents a tribute for its former titleholder like they did with Priyanka Chopra in 2009 and Denise Perrier and Antigone Costanda in 2011. It seems like Miss World Organization is the only one that never forgets about its past titleholder, even after years and decades have passed. The fact that Miss World is the only pageant who manages to invite several of its past titleholders for an annual reunion at the final show every year (this year alone about 8 former Miss World attended the final show) is a testimony that further solidifies the existence of a strong sisterhood between Miss World past and present titleholder and the organization itself, a beautiful quality that seems to be missing from the other pageants so far.

The legendary Aishwarya Rai honored by Julia Morley for her two decades of works and global success
The sisterhood of Miss World titleholders – Zhang Zilin (2007), Azra Akin (2002), Agbani Darego (2001), and Kaiane Aldorino (2009)

The Result
This year elimination followed the format of Top 25 to Top 10 to Top 5, with the winner of popular vote is no longer guaranteed a finalist spot but only a semifinalist spot instead (this time the lucky spot goes to Nonthawan Thongleng from Thailand). I was highly satisfied with most of the result this year though there were some surprises and some that I kind of disagree with. I was surprised with the inclusion of Vietnam and Ghana in Top 25 and honestly I think Bosnia & Herzegovina, France, Namibia, or Turkey should have been included instead. Russia should have been in the Top 10, Mexico and India should have been in Top 5, while United States was overrated and only made it that far due to political merit. Other interesting notes on the result including China PR placed for the first time outside its home soil since 2002, Guyana placed in the Top 10 after 43 years being left out from the semifinalist circle, a record placement of five Southeast Asia countries, and from my nationalistic point of view, a 4 consecutive years of placement for Indonesia. But personally the best part of the result for me was Hungary placement in second place. A sentimental fave of mine since she participated in her national contest, Edina Kulcsar finally gives her country the first ever placement at Miss World final and even better it was a Runner Up finish. Congratulations Edina and I’m sure Hungarians must be very proud of you.

The Winner
What can I say more, she is indeed the perfect winner. Ever since she landed in London, Rolene Strauss from South Africa has been a mega favorite to win the crown and she finally fulfill all those predictions. Just like her predecessor, Rolene is looking every inch glamorous, divine, and alluring like a Goddess. But she is not just all about being beautiful. She is also sporty and fit (Top 3 finisher for Sports), having a strong social platform (Top 10 finisher for Beauty with a Purpose), and equipped with a great communication skill (one of the chosen speakers during Oxford Debate). Once again Miss World judges pick the best of the best for the crown. Her victory was well received and applauded by fans around the world. I am really looking forward to follow her wonderful reign as Miss World 2014.

At the end of the night, nothing shines more brightly than the true star herself, Miss World 2014 Rolene Strauss from South Africa

Photos courtesy of Adrian Fisk / Miss World Organization