MANILA, Philippines—Miss Universe 2015 winner Pia Wurtzbach called on everyone to stop fighting about the controversy and gaffe surrounding the finale night.
Days after the most bizarre night of her life, Wurtzbach is still wrestling with a controversy that turned a dream moment into a nightmare and threatens to ruin her reign as the year’s Miss Universe.
Now, the 26-year-old Filipina wants to put everything behind her. In a note on her Instagram page, Wurtzbach implored everyone to stop fighting.
“Arguing and sending hateful messages to each other defeats” what the Miss Universe pageant stands for, which is about ‘uniting empowered women from all over the world’.
“I’m excited to begin my duties as Miss Universe,” she said.
To Colombia’s Ariadna Gutierrez, 22, Wurtzbach said: “You are an amazing woman and we are now bonded together forever by a unique experience.”
Wurtzbach and Gutierrez had been at the center of a controversy that had ironically given Miss Universe a wider reach than it normally gets.
In what has been described as one of the most embarrassing moments in TV history, the pageant’s host, American comedian Steve Harvey, 58, misread both his cue card and teleprompter and gave the US$300,000 (P14.1 million) blue diamond and topaz Miss Universe crown to Gutierrez.
When the dust settled, Wurtzbach was the one wearing the crown. But Harvey’s gaffe had already spoilt the evening for everyone. Recalling the unfortunate evening, Wurtzbach told a reporter: “I was confused.”
She was not certain she had won, even after the curtains went down. She kept asking her manager: “Am I really Miss Universe? Are they going to take the crown from me now?”
Off-camera, emotions ran high. In a video posted on Facebook, a group of candidates could be seen huddling around a sobbing Gutierrez. Wurtzbach tried to join in, but she was kept out of the circle, with Miss Montenegro Maja Cukic, 20, pointedly telling her to “step back”.
Wurtzbach was then led off the stage by a pageant staff member. The women around Gutierrez began chanting: “Colombia! Colombia!”
“She was crying, and there was a crowd around her… I wanted to apologize to her for what happened,” said Wurtzbach, recalling that moment.
On being kept away from Gutierrez, she said: “Maybe it was bad timing.”
Marketer Albert Almendralejo, who flew to Las Vegas, US, to watch the pageant live, said the atmosphere at the venue quickly shifted from jubilatory to tense, as soon as Mr Harvey corrected himself and declared: “Miss Universe 2015 is Miss Philippines.”
The crowd began taking sides, with chants of “Colombia! Colombia!” and “Philippines! Philippines!” filling the hall. Almendralejo said he half-expected a fight to break out.
But in the Philippines, a pageant-crazy nation of over 100 million, Filipinos were by then already rallying around their “queen”.
On social media and talk shows, and in celebrity columns and gossip corners, people riled at the “snubbing” Wurtzbach endured, and called out Gutierrez for being ungracious in defeat.
Gloria Diaz, the first Filipina to become Miss Universe in 1969, said someone should sue Harvey for the embarrassment he caused.
Another Filipina Miss Universe, Margie Moran, who won in 1973, said the snafu “robbed (Wurtzbach) of the glory of that moment”.
“It was unfortunate, but she won. That’s all that matters really.”