Russia hosting Miss Universe for first time

Russia hosting Miss Universe for first time

MOSCOW - Agence France-Presse
Russia hosting Miss Universe for first time

Berrin Keklikler, Miss Turkey 2013, competes in the swimsuit competition at the preliminary competition. REUTERS photo

Russia on Nov. 5 began hosting Miss Universe for the first time in the pageant’s 61-year history, with contestants from 86 countries shimmying along a catwalk in a concert hall in Moscow.

Preliminary round saw participants strut across a stage with a backdrop of onion domes, first in black and red bikinis, and then in sparkling and slinky evening dresses. The women did not speak except to give their name and country. The biggest cheers went to the Russian contestant as well as those from Mexico and the Philippines, who were greeted by flag-waving fans.

The winner will be crowned at the main show on Nov. 9, which includes an interview round. The judges for the main show will include Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler and flamboyant Russian pop king Filipp Kirkorov, while ex-Spice Girls star Mel B will co-host.

The organizers promise the unveiling of a million-dollar “emerald, ruby and diamond” swimming costume on Nov. 9, which the winner will get to wear.

While hardly a trail-blazer on gender issues, Miss Universe this year has prompted a row on gay rights. The show’s initial co-host Andy Cohen, who is openly gay, pulled out in August because of the choice of Russia as the venue. He criticized a law passed by Putin in June that bars promoting homosexuality in the presence of minors and has prompted international concern that it can be used to crack down on gay pride events.

However NBC host Thomas Roberts, who is also gay and has married his partner, has taken over the role.