Saturday, 1 October 2011

A Miss Universe Judge Tells All

by: Kiri Blakeley of Forbes Magazine
Courtesy of:

Last September 12, 2011, the new Miss Universe was crowned. The pageant, run by Donald Trump’s organization, was live from Sao Paolo, Brazil and aired on NBC. I happen to know one of the preliminary judges, Scott Lazerson. Lazerson has been in involved with philanthropy for years, and he is also a “professional connector,” which means he pretty much knows everyone, as I wrote in my profile, What Famous Friends Are For.

Lazerson interviewed 89 contestants from all over the world, then helped whittle them down to ten. Pageant executives added another five girls for the telecast, and the online audience voted to add one more.
Out of those 16 women, Miss Angola, 25-year-old Leila Lopes, was eventually crowned the 2011 Miss Universe.
Here, Scott and I discuss how the girls advanced in the contest.
What were you looking for and judging on?
Beauty, intelligence, and poise.
Now give me the real answer.
Beauty, beauty, beauty. It’s all about beauty. But read their bios. Every single one of them is smart too.
C’mon. They are not.
Well, maybe not every single one. But some really are. Miss Guam is a biochemist who wants to be a doctor. Miss Malaysia did a documentary on the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.
Did either make it to the final round?
Scott Lazerson (right) with producer Colin Hornett and Miss Universe 2010.
No. [laughs]
Aren’t these beauty contests a bit outdated?
I think the Miss Universe pageant is relevant and fun. It unifies the world. People fly in from all over the world to watch it. The fan base is unbelievable. When Miss Venezuela came in, the roar of the crowd was amazing. She was a real fan favorite.
The show is popular all over the world. About one billion people watch it. [ABC's The Bachelor finale trounced Miss Universe in the ratings.]
Don’t these contests uphold women to an impossible standard of beauty and encourage young women to have issues with their weight and looks?
I believe that these contests encourage these young women to strive for excellence both within and without.  But I will say, there was three of them, when they appeared in their bathing suits, I thought, “And when did you getthose?”
Exactly. [For the record, winner Miss Angola says she has never had plastic surgery of any kind.] You are not going to see an A-cup winner. Do you ever see a plus-size Miss Universe?
Personally, I would love it! I did ask one of the girls if she could ever see a lesbian Miss Universe, and she said, “One hundred percent.”
Did you get to make up your own questions?
Who were your favorites?
I was a big fan of Miss USA, but a lot of people were concerned that she was too skinny. I believe it is just her DNA, just the way she is, but a lot of people weren’t buying it. I think it hurt her chances. Of the five top finalists, I had picked out three: Miss China, Miss Philippines, and Miss Brazil.
Before the show ended, you were posting on Facebook about how much you liked the eventual winner, Miss Angola.
She really flourished during the telecast. When I initially saw her, I didn’t pick her. She was shy. But during the telecast, she was very real. She and Miss Philippines were the most real. You can get a sense when you look in someone’s eyes—you can tell what’s up. [While People magazine calls Lopes a "linguist," Scott says she only spoke Portuguese, her native language, with the judges. Lopes studies business in Britain.]
What did your wife, Heidi, think of you hanging out with all these babes?
I am married to my own Miss Universe who supports me in everything I do, she loved the idea of me going to meet these “babes” because I am simply going to enlist them all in great philanthropic endeavors!
Kiri Blakeley writes about women, pop culture, and media. Follow me on Twitter. Follow Scott on Twitter @scottlazerson.