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South Africa Wins!--Outgoing Miss Universe 2016 from France Iris Mittenaere crowns Miss Universe 2017 Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters Miss Universe South Africa with the Mikimoto crown that had been the crown years back for Miss Universe--Miss Universe 2017 Finals, The AXIS Theater Planet Hollywood Las Vegas 

Ninety-two contestants from all over the world competed for the 66th Miss Universe...and the Winner was...South Africa! Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters, 22, who represented South Africa, bested 91 other contestants to win the top beauty pageant crown of Miss Universe. Demi-Leigh--who stands 5'7" (1.70 m) tall--has a degree in business management, speaks fluent English and Afrikaans, and is a model and credits her half-sister Franje who has a physical disability as her most significant motivator.

Top Knot Queen: Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters Miss Universe South Africa wins Miss Universe 2017 title--Miss Universe 2017 Finals, The AXIS Theater Planet Hollywood Las Vegas 

As the winner of Miss South Africa, Demi-Leigh was given the right to compete in both the Miss Universe and Miss World Beauty Pageants as part of her win, however, the organizers decided to send her to Miss Universe and her First Runner-up to the Miss World Beauty Pageant, supposedly because of time restraints, since both pageants were occurring very close time-wise. Good thing they sent her to Miss Universe since...SHE WON!

Winning Beauty: Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters Miss Universe South Africa is Miss Universe 2017--Miss Universe 2017 Finals, The AXIS Theater Planet Hollywood Las Vegas 

The South African beauty was always a top favorite--in fact, THE FAVORITE!--to win so it came as no surprise that she got the crown. She happens to be the second South African beauty to win Miss Universe, following Margaret Gardiner's win as Miss Universe 1978.

Cocktails and Swimsuit South Africa: Miss Universe South Africa, Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters, in Introduction Cocktail Wear and Swimsuit--Miss Universe 2017 Finals, The AXIS Theater Planet Hollywood Las Vegas 

This year's Miss Universe Pageant was special because I actually GOT TO ATTEND IT! This marks my fourth (or fifth, I forget!) time I have had the chance to attend a Miss Universe Pageant LIVE. It's always nice when it's close to home...

Ready to Go See Miss Universe!--Nick Verreos and David Paul--The Aria Resort & Casino Las Vegas

Since I live in Los Angeles, Las Vegas wasn't as far away as say, Manila Philippines! I went with my NIKOLAKI partner David Paul and bought seats that were very close to the stage so we did get a chance to see the gowns as close as one can--when sitting in the audience, that is!

View of the stage from our seats--The AXIS Theater, Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino Las Vegas

Miss Universe 2017 Finals, The AXIS Theater Planet Hollywood Las Vegas 

Before I discuss my PICKS for BEST GOWNS of the Top TEN Semi-finalists...let's give a big SHOUT-OUT to the WINNER of BEST NATIONAL COSTUME!!! (HINT: She was MY PICK for BEST COSTUME which you can read HERE!):
JAPAN!! Thank the Costume Gods/Judges! Miss Universe Japan won the BEST NATIONAL COSTUME and it was well deserved. I loved this costume and said as much when I reviewed the Miss Universe 2017 National Costumes. The costume starts as a FIERCE Ninja warrior and then--with a flip of a hand--turns into a GLORIOUS printed Geisha Kimono Diva!--Miss Universe 2017 Finals, The AXIS Theater Planet Hollywood Las Vegas 

Now...time to BOW DOWN to Iris and her Gown COUTURE!
Iris Mittenaere in Stephane Rolland Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2017-2018--Miss Universe 2017 Finals, The AXIS Theater Planet Hollywood Las Vegas 

Miss Universe 2016 Iris Mittenaere--from France--wore two fabulous gowns during the Miss Universe 2017 Finals Night. First, she wore this white crepe and gazar gown from French Couturier Stephane Rolland and his Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2017/2018 Collection. The gown is all hand-made and would probably cost around $75,000 if one was kind enough to A) order it, as well B) afford it.

Lady In Red: Miss Universe 2016 Iris Mittenaere taking her Final Walk in Dubai-based Filipino Designer Michael Cinco Couture--Iris wore this GORGEOUS strapless ombré red sequined gown featuring a sweetheart neckline (very plunging!), a column base gown and attached crinoline-backed overskirt. She looked FABULOUS! The gown fit beautifully and was Pageant Couture Perfection! If there was one critique: Those black platform pumps! POUR QUOI????? (WHY!!!???)

OK...Are you guys ready?? It's time for my Miss Universe 2017 EVENING GOWNS REVIEW of the Top 10 Semi-finalist's Gowns:
Gown Ladies: Miss Universe 2017 contestants during the Evening Gown Competition--Miss Universe 2017 Finals, The AXIS Theater Planet Hollywood Las Vegas

So close...I could (almost) touch the SEQUINS!--Sneaking a photo of some of the 10 Semifinalists after they finished the evening Gown Competition (L to R) Miss Universe Venezuela Keysi Sayago, Miss USA Kara McCullough, Miss Universe Philippines Rachel Peters, Miss Universe Canada Lauren Howe and the eventual winner, Miss Universe South Africa Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters

Gown Gals: Miss Universe 2017 Semi-finalists in their evening gowns--Miss Universe 2017 Finals, The AXIS Theater Planet Hollywood Las Vegas 

What's always exciting about the Miss Universe Beauty Pageant is that many of the contestants--if they make the Semifinalist round, and onto the Evening Gown Competition, they do a GOWN CHANGE from what they wore for the Preliminary Competition. And almost all of them--except for two--did! Here is my REVIEW of the TOP TEN Semi-Finalists's Gowns, beginning with my BEST:

No. 1: Miss Universe Thailand Maria Poonlertlarb: When Maria entered the stage in this midnight blue shimmering gown, I just about fell off my chair and started shouting "COUTURE DAHLEEENG COUTURE!!!". I LOVED this stunning gown designed by Asava Thailand . This was a gown change for Maria from what she wore for the Preliminaries (which I also rated as my NUMBER ONE GOWN HERE!). Her Final Night Gown had DRAMA, chic style, elegance, stage-impact (the beautiful blue and silver sequins!) AND an homage to traditional Thai dresses, with those GORGEOUS shoulder "flaps" and back tulle capes. Maria looked like an imaginary FASHION Empress of Thailand!
Score: 9.99

2. Miss Universe Colombia Laura Gonzalez: No. 2 in my list goes to COLOMBIA! Laura--who almost became Miss Universe (she got the First Runner-up prize) looked every bit an elegant Pageant Queen in this all-over sequined silver-over-nude column gown designed by Hernan Zajar . The off-the-shoulder style was smart since it opened up that area creating a longer neckline. The dress featured vertically and diagonally placed sequins (50,800 of them--all hand-sewn!) also shaping her figure through the use of crystals. The flower applique in the upper torso gave extra detail that was also nice for the 3/4 shot. I also loved that there was no too-high slit and the length was just right (hiding any unsightly platform shoes!). I also loved her center-parted sleek hairstyle. Muy chic y muy linda! This was also a gown change from the Preliminaries.
Score: 9.80

3. Miss Universe Canada Lauren Howe: Lauren changed her gown from a very "Ballroom dancing" design that she wore for the Preliminaries (which I wasn't a fan of)...
Miss Universe Canada at the Miss Universe 2017 Preliminary Competition

And thank goodness she did: She was my No. 3! This nude fit-and-flare gown featured beautiful silver applique, a halter neckline and very full tulle overskirt. It had major stage impact, combining a nice Red Carpet-style gown with the "theatrics" of a Pageant Gown. It also fit well (perfect length!) and overall, looked GREAT on her! This is THE Miss Universe Pageant and she BROUGHT HER A-Gown Game!
Score: 9.70

4. Miss Universe Venezuela Keysi Sayago: Keysi wore a GORGEOUS silver sequined gown from designer Alejandro Fajardo for the Preliminaries and she changed into this white crepe design for the Finals. While this was a pretty choice, I was a bit disappointed. This gown lacked the WOW factor we usually see from a Miss Venezuela and just wasn't "Venezuela Alta Moda" enough. The dress looked like a beautiful wedding dress, and in fact it was: It is from the Barcelona Spain brand Pronovias and its Atelier Pronovias Wedding Dress division. The crepe gown retails for 5,500 Euros (about $6515 at today's exchange rate)...

As beautiful as this gown was, I'm not so sure if it was right for the Miss Universe stage. In terms of fit, it looked nice except it was also a bit too short which is odd, since usually the Miss Venezuela "Glam Team" have their fit ON-POINT for these ladies! But, I did love the exquisite crystal detail on her upper torso and Gracias a Dios she wore the PERFECT shoes: Love those strappy silver heels!
Score: 9.30

5. Miss Universe Jamaica Davina Bennett: Three words--You Go Girl! Normally, I would have said that this was a CRAY-CRAY-LICIOUS gown. Seriously, there's A LOT going on: The sheer iridescent fabric, the oversized "Flaura & Faura" appliques, the back capes...the bright "highlighter Yellow" color....I mean, it's A LOT. But, Davina WORKED IT OVERTIME and made me drink the CRAY-CRAY Gown Kool-Aid! The gown was designed by Uzuri International, whose principals are franchise holders of the local competition, Karl Williams and Mark McDermoth. Under any other circumstances I would've been like "Oh Dear!" but here...on Davina: Bravo! And by the way, she was one of only two of the Top 10 contestants who did not change her gown; this is also what she wore for the Preliminaries.
Score: 9.05

6. Miss Universe South Africa (and eventual Miss Universe 2017 Winner) Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters: Demi-Leigh wore this nude-based shimmering gown for the Finals of Miss Universe 2017, and she won! it wasn't my Top Fave (I have her here at No. 6 out of 10) but it did the job! The column-style dress was designed by South African  designer Anel Botha and featured 30,000 hand-embroidered Swarovski crystals, a dangerously high center front slit, long sleeves, plunging neckline and even shoulder pads! It was simple and didn't have that usual major gown drama factor but for Demi-Leigh, it was just right. And trust me, this gown was A LOT better than the velvet green thing she wore for the Preliminaries:
Miss Universe South Africa at the Miss Universe 2017 Preliminary Competition

I also give her TONS of points for wearing those silver strappy heels. While I wished the platform wasn't so high, it still worked with the gown.
Score: 9.00

7. Miss Universe Philippines Rachel Peters: Rachel changed her gown--from a golden one at the Preliminaries, to this silver-steel blue Val Taguba gown. Both gowns had super sexy elements which worked with Rachel's amazing body. This one featured side cut-outs, a plunging neckline (with an illusion center front panel), side front slit opening and feathered hem. The design was very Las Vegas Showgirl Pageant Queen but lacked Haute Couture refinement of say, the gown worn by Miss World Philippines at the recent Miss World finals. Rachel still looked super sexy and impacting, however, I just wished it could have been something more in the line of what outgoing Miss Universe 2016 Iris Mittenaere wore to give up her crown, but not in red obviously!
Score: 8.95

8. Miss Universe Brazil Monalysia Alcantara: Monalysa wore this red gown for the Miss Universe 2017 Finals. This was a change from what she wore at the Preliminaries. The gown was designed by Gloria Coelho and featured unique paillettes in varying sizes covering most of the entire sheer gown, except for some areas around the waist, sleeves and back. The gown was interesting and original, especially in its applique work. To me, the gown was OK; it had stage impact and I did like the strong lipstick red color, but at the same time, I couldn't help but be a bit distracted by the fabrication and the too-close-to-a-national-costume look of it all.
Score: 8.75

9. Miss USA Kara McCullough: Kara wore this ivory gown featuring gold and silver sequin embroidery and a Cheongsam look to the design. The gown, created by Sherri Hill, had a fitted sheath silhouette, Mandarin collar, extended shoulders, a super high side front slit and very open front upper torso keyhole. While I loved the fabric and hints of Chinoiserie influence, I just wish it wasn't open in the front (it's like "Hello! Say Hi to my sisters!"). It could have also used more drama with a full-length fit-and-flare/mermaid shape with no slit. Maybe close the front and make it a plunging back. That to me, would have been more "Diva!".
Score: 8.50

10. Miss Universe Spain Sofia del Prado: Sofia was the other Top 10 Semifinalist who kept the same gown she wore to the Preliminaries. The gown was designed by Colombian designer based in NYC, John Miranda. The white dress featured a sequined fit-and-flare base and feathered neckline trim and back overskirt/cape. She called this her "Swan Gown" since it reminds her of a Swan I presume. Personally, it reminds me more of a "Valley of the Dolls" hostess about to hand me a cigarette and a Dirty Martini in Palm Springs in 1966.
Score: 8.00


The "Phoenix" Mikimoto crown makes a comeback. The Mikimoto crown was last used in 2007--ten years back--by Japan's Riyo Mori. It had since been kept (in a Miss Universe vault perhaps?) after switching the crowns by Diamond Nexus Labs and the Diamond International Corporation (DIC). In August 2017, it was reported that the WME/IMG, the mother company of Miss Universe, sued the Czech company Diamond International Corporation for breach of contract. According to Reuters, IMG Universe canceled the contract after the company failed to make two payments. So, now, the Mikimoto crown and its 500 diamonds and 120 South Sea and Akoya pearls, is BACK!

Congratulations to Miss Universe South Africa, Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters for winning Miss Universe 2017!! 

And don't forget about my NEW "The Pageant Coloring Book"! Where you can create your very own Evening Gown Competition with 25 of my hand-drawn Pageant Queen illustrations. Click HERE to purchase NOW on

2 Responses to "SASHES AND TIARAS.....MISS UNIVERSE 2017 Finals: Winner + Top 10 EVENING GOWNS RECAP!"

Hyanissus said...

Nick I love reading your reviews...will you be doing a list of the best pageant gowns from all grand slam pageants in 2017?? Universe, world, international and earth??

djv.1301 said...

Great reviews Nick.

I do have to say I love the fact that the woman with one of the simplest gowns in the finale, actually won the crown! :-D

There's a lesson in that for the ones who choose over the top styles with panels, ruffles, feathers, capes, mile long trains, etc.