Miss Universe competition was nearly over when the man sitting next to me really started to sweat.
Pageants are still a big deal in the U.S., in their way — Miss America airs on NBC, Miss USA on Fox — but whatever kind of deal they are here, they are double, triple, quadruple, quintuple that important elsewhere in the world, especially in Latin America and Southeast Asia, to judge by the crowd at Sunday’s show.
Sure, Miss USA Cheslie Kryst, an attorney and former TV correspondent, drew enthusiastic reactions. But, at least to my ears somewhere in the middle of the crowd, everyone really went wild for Misses Colombia and Puerto Rico, with Miss South Africa, Miss Thailand, Miss Mexico and Miss Peru drawing their own screams and shouts.
As for Miss Puerto Rico Madison Anderson, who came in second? Her fans must still be hoarse.
They brought flags. They brought bigger flags. They brought biggest flags. They leapt to their feet and stood on chairs and, in the case of the super-fan sitting next to me, they sometimes clutched their hands to their face from the sheer nerves of it all — the anticipation of a whole year dangling from whatever host Steve Harvey was going to read next from his cue card.
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“We love this,” the Miss Puerto Rico fan sitting next to me said at one point, after I congratulated him — it seemed only right, like he had had something to do with her success — as she continued to progress in the pageant. He had only traveled to Atlanta from Philadelphia, but he was with a companion who had come from Puerto Rico proper, bringing hometown zeal. Watch CMA Awards: 2019
Later in the show, his mood had darkened.
“I’m so nervous!” he said to no one and also to everyone, the thousands of other people in a large soundstage at Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta who knew exactly how he felt.
Here’s what else you didn’t see at Sunday’s show.