During my career, I have covered high profile productions ranging from the Academy Awards, to Super Bowls and the funeral of a president. Yet none of these events (nope, not even the inaugurations) have kept as tight a watch on me moment to moment as during my time serving as a preliminary judge for the Miss Universe contest.
You are probably thinking, what? Why? How?
Here is just a sampling (I can't give away all of the secrets) of the security measures:
— During judging hours we (there are six other judges) have to be escorted to and from the bathroom, or anytime we need to leave the room.
— No (and I do mean NO) eye contact or conversation with the contestants outside of interviews.
— You cannot compare notes with other judges.
— There is no discussing specifics about the competition in public, as fans, family, and or friends of contestants could be listening.
Over the course of two days, I've interviewed all 86 ladies to prepare for selecting the top 15 in the preliminary pageant, which is on the same stage and same format as the main show.
We've asked these ladies any and probably everything you can think of:
— If Donald Trump were sitting here, what would you ask him?
— What would your best friend say is your best quality as well as biggest flaw?
— You say you want to make the world a better place, give me a specific example of how you have used your title to change someone's life for the better?
— Do you believe in getting plastic surgery for pageants?
Then, of course, there are the fitness questions. All of the women have to compete in the swimsuit competition. Feel however you might about it, but it isn't about having a perfect body (and really, who has that?). It is about carrying themselves with confidence and putting in work.
With their jam-packed schedules (the contestants have been getting up before dawn and going non-stop for weeks), I wondered how they are managing to stay in shape and not look exhausted?
One common theme is drinking lots and lots and lots of water!
Miss Philippines also says taking off her make-up before bed helps. Miss USA uses the old toothpaste trick to get rid of blemishes. Miss Puerto Rico eats clean. Most of them say they are using whatever is available in their rooms as weights and try to get in mini workouts. Then there is Miss Poland. She is somehow managing to ride a bike 50 kilometers a day.
Clearly you are built to be in a pageant, or you are not.
Courtesy: Alicia Quarles
After a few days in Russia, I'm getting a sore throat, have exercised zero times, am living off of Kind bars (minus a few awesome dinners) and am sleep deprived.
I had better stick to journalism (oh, and serving as a judge of course) . . .
Click on the video to get more inside scoop from the current Miss Universe, Olivia Culpo.
For more updates, follow me on twitter/Instagram @aliciaLquarles