Miss Universe 2015 contest has ended in confusion and disarray after the host mistakenly named the wrong woman as the winner.
Ariadna Gutierrez Arevalo from Colombia had already been crowned and was standing on stage to cheers from the Las Vegas audience when mortified host Steve Harvey returned to announce the error.
“OK, folks, um, I have to apologise,” he said, walking back on stage while Arevalo was proudly waving to fans, holding the winner’s bouquet and wearing the Miss Universe sash. “The first runner-up is Colombia,” he went on, “Miss Universe 2015 is Philippines.”
The camera panned straight to a stunned Miss Philippines, Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach, who started slowly walking to the front of the stage. For a few awkward moments the two women stood side by side, in front of a TV audience of millions from around the world, before Harvey explained that he read the card naming the winner and runner-up in the wrong order.
“I will take responsibility for this, it was my mistake,” he told the crowd. “It’s on the card … horrible mistake, but I can show it to you right here,” he said, holding up the card.
“It is my mistake, but it’s still a great night.”
“Please don’t hold it against the ladies, please don’t. I feel so badly but it’s still a great night.”
As he spoke, a former Miss Universe winner quickly removed the crown from Arevalo and placed it on Wurtzbach. The broadcast ended moments later.
The reaction on social media was swift, with viewers expressing dismay at the “fail of the decade”.
Later, Wurtzbach told reporters that she wished Arevalo well.
I’m very sorry. I did not take the crown from her,” she said. “None of this was done on purpose. It was an honest mistake.”
Harvey’s mistake is not the first time the wrong woman has been named the winner of a high-profile beauty pageant. In 2010 during a live television broadcast, Australian host Sarah Murdoch read out the wrong name in the finale of Australia’s Next Top Model.
The competition started with women representing 80 countries between the ages of 19 and 27. For the first time, viewers at home weighed in, with their votes being tallied in addition to four in-person celebrity judges.
NBC Universal and Donald Trump co-owned the Miss Universe Organization until earlier this year. The real-estate developer offended Latin Americans in June when he made anti-immigrant remarks in announcing his Republican presidential run.
That led Spanish-language network Univision to pull out of the broadcast for what would have been the first of five years airing the pageants and NBC to cut business ties with Trump.
The former star of the Celebrity Apprentice reality show sued both companies, settling with NBC in September, which included buying the network’s stake in the pageants.
That same month, Trump sold the organisation that includes the Miss Universe, Miss USA and Miss Teen USA pageants to entertainment company WME-IMG.
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