For Colombians (not Columbians), Sunday might have been the ugliest night in the beauty business.
For a few brief minutes, this looks-obsessed Andean nation thought it had held on to the Miss Universe crown for the second year running. But when the pageant’s host, Steve Harvey, announced that he’d made a mistake and that the honor belonged to the Philippines, the mood turned into that of a jilted prom queen.
The gaffe made the front page of most of Colombia’s dailies, sent the Internet into overdrive and may be sparking a lawsuit.
Barranquilla’s El Heraldo splashed “Universal Error” across its front page while Bogotá’s ADN read: “Miss Universe for Three Minutes.”
By Monday, the Twitter hashtag #Lacoronaserespeta — “the crown must be respected” — was the trending topic in Colombia as social networks seethed with memes and conspiracy theories.
One popular clip focused on a moment where a spectator in the Miss Universe audience seems to be handing Harvey an envelope shortly after the flawed announcement. For many, that was dubious proof of a rigged event.
“It wasn’t a mistake by Steve Harvey, it was a dirty humiliation, a manipulation to make Miss Colombia look ridiculous in front of the world,” one commenter wrote of the widely circulated clip.
A page on www.change.org called “Give Miss Universe Colombia back her crown” had almost 17,000 likes by Monday afternoon.
Harvey apologized profusely on air for the error and held up the winning envelope to prove there was no foul play.
But when he took to Twitter to apologize, he doubled the insult: he misspelled both the winning and slighted countries.
“I want to apologize emphatically to Miss Philippians and Miss Columbia,” he wrote. “This was a terribly honest human mistake and I am regretful.”
The message was corrected soon afterward, but not before it was retweeted more than 30,000 times and USA Today and other outlets managed to grab screen shots.
Colombia takes its beauty pageants seriously, and the nation has generated a number of finalists in the race. In 2014, María Paulina Vega became the country’s first Miss Universe since the 1950s. In fact, it was Vega who had the dubious honor of placing the tiara on Ariadna Gutiérrez’s head only to be forced to transfer it to the dome of Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach, Miss Philippines. Vega herself was crowned at a less controversial pageant at the FIU Arena in Miami.
The Colombian law firm De la Espriella said two of its attorneys are filing a lawsuit against the pageant.
“The crown is an acquired right that cannot be taken away from us,” the company wrote on its Twitter account. “At this moment we’re writing the lawsuit.”
Not surprisingly, the error during the globally televised contest caught high-level attention. U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump had owned the Miss Universe franchise until last year. Amid Sunday’s mistake, he retweeted a comment from a follower.
“Donald Trump must be overjoyed that as soon as he sells the pageant it goes off the rails,” it read. “We need you Mr. Trump.”
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos congratulated Gutiérrez effusively (five exclamation points) before the error was revealed. Even that didn’t diminish his praise.
“For us, you will always be Miss Universe!” he tweeted. “We’re very proud!”
The three-minute queen handled the snafu like a pro.
“Everything happens for a reason,” Gutiérrez told the cameras after the event was over, wiping a tear from her eye. “I’m happy for all of what I did.”
If there was a silver lining Sunday night, it was that some missed the pageant due to a conflicting event: Colombia’s soccer finals. Nacional beat Junior 4-3 in penalties.