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Miss Ukraine brushed aside at Miss Universe 2004 finals

At Miss Universe-2004 held recently in Ecuador, the crown of the winner was given to Miss Australia Jennifer Hawkins.
The panel of experts chose her among 80 contestants. The 20-year-old model and choreographer did not hide her happiness watched by 1.5 billion of TV viewers all around the world and over 7,000 spectators sitting in an open cup-like hall specially built for the finals presentation.

Live telecast of the finals lasted two hours. Each minute in the air earned half a million dollars for Ecuador. 1,700 policemen ensured security for the planet’s most beautiful girls. About 700 journalists were covering the pageant. Miss Universe-2004 received baskets of roses, the pride of Ecuador.

This year show in the Ecuadorian city of Mitad del Mundo (translated from Spanish as "the middle of the world ") located on the equator was one of the most expensive and fascinating in the history of the Miss Universe contest. A huge 100-meter stage with numerous steps and a pool in its middle was built specially for the occasion.

Before the finals, Miss Ukraine Oleksandra (‘Sasha’ for short) Nikolayenko, who had been considered by many the #1 favourite for the crown until the last day, said that the sight of the stage made all contestants gasp with shock. Dressed in long heavy gowns they had to walk up and down the steps with high-heeled shoes on several times during the presentation.

The outgoing titleholder Amelia Vega, Miss Universe-2003, slipped the crown on the head of her successor, Jennifer Hawkins from Australia. On the stage, next to beautiful  Jennifer (180 cm tall, 88-59-89) American billionaire Donald Trump was standing. A smile of content was playing on his lips. The smile of a person who had known in advance the outcome and who worked hard to enjoy now the culmination of his efforts.

Mr. Trump has shown once again who actually is running the show. For several years the American tycoon has had ownership rights for organization and TV broadcast of the Miss Universe pageant. Besides, he has the same rights for Miss USA and Miss Teen USA competitions. For Donald all these contests are just business laced with a fine opportunity to court young models. Trump is reported to have lost count of endless love affairs.

The Western press criticized the businessman many times for his conduct that undermines the concept of a beauty contest. And the finals of Miss Universe-2004 once again demonstrated that nothing had changed. The judges made the winner a contestant who was to the taste of Mr. Trump. And his taste is well-known – blue-eyed slender blondes. Jennifer Hawkins, who up to the last moment was not even among the favorites, ideally matched the picture.

Experts are inclined to think that Donald Trump, the owner of the pageant, was behind this decision. The American billionaire ignored the results of the polls and Internet voting which favored Sasha Nikolayenko. Though the Aussie girl appeared in them at the last moment, she was still far from the other favorites.

Ecuador saw something that the Miss Universe competition had not known so far: the winner of one of the basic events - presentation in swimsuits – was not among the top 15 chosen for the last event of the pageant. For some reason the judges forgot how they admired Oleksandra’s figure. So what was the mistake of Miss Ukraine?

Disappointed that year after year dark-haired beauties won the Miss Universe title, Trump urged the judges to find a regular blonde for him. The request made the judges sweat, and being frightened they offered Miss America as the candidate. But she was not the choice the billionaire was thinking about. At the last moment he pointed at the Australian as his choice. The judges were left agape as Trump said in a bossy way in the sense that as it was his competition he could do what he wanted.

This story is fuelled by rumors. A detailed account from Sasha Nikolayenko and Sergey Matyash, president of the Miss Ukraine National Committee, of the seamy side of the most famous global pageant is badly needed.

Nikolayenko had a splendid outfit in a national style, an ingenious evening gown, which favourably emphasized her slenderness and beauty. She moved on the runway with confidence and grace. In no way belittling the merits of other candidates, and especially the top 3, it remains a puzzle how come that the judges overlooked the pluses of Sasha on the final night of the competition? Were they really afraid to disobey organizer Donald Trump and share the fate of their colleague, American Kwame Jackson, who was dropped as a judge for waving a hand to greet beauty queens in the lobby of their hotel.

Millions of Ukrainians anticipated the triumph of their compatriot who, according to experts, had a good chance of scoring success and were embarrassed not to find her among the semifinalists.

"Sasha had a good chance: she got the press, her photos flooded the pageant’s Web site“, says Lilia Kuznetsova, chairperson of the Miss Ukraine National Committee.” I think that the finals shocked everybody, including the press, and even the organizers. Four delegates were considered favourites: Miss Ukraine, Miss Russia, Miss American and Miss Philippines with Miss Australia nowhere near. There is a certain tendency that blondes are being preferred to brunettes as demonstrated by similar competitions held recently. For example, a blonde daughter of Chris de Burg was crowned as Miss World 2003.”

Translated by Zaghid Yusoupov