Last night was Miss Lebanon 2011, a show so glitzly you needed sunglasses just to watch it on TV. In the end, Yara Khoury-Mikhael, armed with little more than a degree from LAU, some strategically placed masking tape and an army of Facebook fans blew away the competition to take the crown.
Here’s how she managed it:
21.08: Yara arrives with a bang. Not literally, she arrives with a pink onesy, pounding the stage like a young Beyonce. Judges impressed and the crowd’s reaction bodes well. (The audience, by the way, which will have to clap on command for the next four hours, consists virtually exclusively of besuited greying men and waspish-looking 40-plus women. I can almost hear the, “Hiyi 7elwe? Tizi!” snide remarks from here.)
Yara’s score is good, but not as good as early frontrunner Alice Tawil, who will go on to keep top spot until the parts of the competition that don’t focus on being ogled.
21.17: Sonia-Lynn Gabriel is up on stage and looks to be rushing. You know what’s coming. Time and space slow as you recognize the colossal horror that awaits. Sonia-Lynn doesn’t slow. She gets her heels caught in her shawl. She trips. HOUSTON, WE HAVE A TRIP!!! Sonia-Lynn’s world implodes as the audience looks away in revulsion and shame. She’s finished.
21.22: Pamela Gemayel storms the swimsuit round, not in terms of judges’ scoring but in a kind of “oh my God she looks so damn good, there is no way I’m winning this against her, I should just pack up my Vaseline and cut my hair off with fabric scissors” gamesmanship way. Other contestants look pissed.
21.38: Still coming to terms with that Sonia-Lynn atrocity. Like I imagine what it would be to watch yourself get eaten alive.
21.39: There are dancers on the stage. The Tango, that most Lebanese of dances, is set to what can only be described as Louis Armstrong covering The Police’s “Roxanne.” The effect is deeply odd.
21.49: Time to drag this thing out of the sewer and ram some culture down the audience’s low-plunge necklines. This is Haute Couture, darling. To be fair, some of the dresses look really lovely, and all are from Lebanese fashion houses. Which is nice. All the girls just about manage to conceal their terror about “doing a Sonia-Lynn” and move across the stage with grace and poise.
21.55: What do you do if you tripped over in the first round of a beauty contest? Isn’t it obvious? You come out for the second round wearing a dress that is 3000 times brighter than the sun. Sonia-Lynn with a shimmering gold gown. Practically its own light source, it goes down well with the crowd, although at this point, these are probably sympathy claps. The comeback is on.
Yara, by the way, is wearing an unconventional purple number which, if you were being unkind, could be said to resemble a Quality Street wrapper. But, as we all know, it is the BEST Quality Street wrapper, so you can’t pull her up on it. Anyway, she looks good. Look:
22.00: I’m beginning to think that Future TV’s decision to televise an interview with me, in which I discuss the inner workings of the STL and the concept of media impartiality, at the same time as Miss Lebanon will not grant me the media exposure I had hoped for. I’ve got some viewing figures from last night, actually: Miss Lebanon: 245,009,220. Me banging on about tribunal statutes: 2 (my mum and the guy who runs the local dekkaneh).
22.06: Ragheb Alameh sings as the first two rounds are brought to a close. There’s sixteen ladies. Only 10 will get the chance to speak.
22.10: Environmentalists issue urgent news that a hole has been discovered in the ozone layer above downtown Beirut. Hairspray use in tonight’s pageant is a possible culprit.
22.12: LBC, Miss Lebanon 2011 official broadcaster, runs a montage featuring the girls. Here is definitely how the concept meeting for this one went: 1st exec: “I’m telling you. We get hotel concierges and dress them up as gay Power Rangers. They dance. Then we take the girls and stand them in front of wind machines. This will work.” 2nd exec: “You blow my mind.” Quite exceptional television.
22.20: We are now well into the questions round. Geva Eid (who made it through to the last 10, obviously [sorry, it's hard to stay focussed when there is such a display of sociological and psychoanalytical nuance unfolding. I'm not even being sarcastic]) is on the mic. She is asked what she would buy with 100,000LL ($67), a quite strangely specific amount. Hope it’s not the financial remuneration for 10th place. Anyway, she needs to answer. Time is ticking. Pressure is winning. It’s been about 8 seconds so far. Still no response. She looks nervously to her left. 12 seconds. At this point you’re screaming “Just say ANYTHING!!!” Geva goes a full 15 seconds without answering until finally, weakly, she asks for the question to be repeated. Buying time. That old chestnut.
The inquiry comes once more. What would you buy with 100,000LL? Geva pauses, then her eyes sparkle. She’s got something. “My voice,” she declares. Good save Geva, that was genuinely funny. Good save.
22.51: Final five time, announced by Lebanon’s answer to Matt Le Blanc. Carolina (eventual runner-up, which has to be the worst place to rank in a beauty pageant, as you need to be really good but even more magnanimous), Yara (naturally, crowd liking it), Pamela J (who I mistook for Carolina, and hence thought she was runner-up, leading to general all-round chaos), Paloma (meh) and…SONIA-LYNN!!! The girl who nearly ate plywood in the first round has made the last five! *Film idea. Have a Nice Trip: How Sonia-Lynn Gabriel Stumbled to Miss Lebanon. Can already see the billboard.
23.17: Ad break. I am aware that advertising companies choose when to push their products based on captive audience. This one has been complied to resemble contestants’ diets: Coffee and Maybelline. (I have it on good authority that the girls spend most of the time in the build up to Sunday night eating chocolate). I mean, they all look healthy.
23.34: Twitter almost blows up after it becomes clear that the final question, the last remaining hurdle to THAT sash, is about social media. We like that. Lebanon’s Twitterati are like excited schoolgirls (and boys). Like we’ve been picked out the crowd of thousands to receive a sweat-stained jersey from our favorite basketball player.
00.12: This is big. The results are in. This is like I imagine it was to see the Berlin Wall come down. In person. It’s THAT huge. Miss Lebanon 2010, Rahaf Abdullah, arises, looking full-on Hollywood. Coolest dress of the night for sure.
(I manfully and professionally recover from the disappointment of Sonia-Lynn coming third. Still, you’d have had her dead last after swimsuit. Here’s a picture of her. All together now: “AWWWWWW.”)
00.14: And the winner of Miss Lebanon 2011 is…Yara!!! The crowd likes this very much. The judges look genuinely pleased with themselves, as if they’ve just had to solve Greece’s debt problem and succeeded with a free ouzo shot to spare for everyone. Yara, who probably performed the most consistently, is crowned and her Facebook page picture is almost instantaneously updated. Congratulations.
That’s ya lot folks. So long Miss Lebanon 2011, it’s been emotional.
Miss Lebanon 2011 in numbers
38 - the amount of times I had to hear about coffee. I like coffee. I know about it. When I drink it, the steam doesn’t come off in the shape of female silhouettes and “Venus” doesn’t spontaneously play in the background. This is probably a good thing.
100 - the percentage of contestants who will definitely go on to save the world
7,455 - number of forced smiles that resembled winces
9,004 - length in miles of all contestants’ ballgowns laid end to end
154,000 - the amount of male Facebook friend requests Yara has received since winning
0 – chance in percent of her accepting mine
Suggestions for Miss Lebanon 2012
- Get the camera to take more crowd shots involving botoxed wives looking suicidal
- Less. Fucking. Dancing. Please
- Don’t try to get away with recycling the Souks’ festive decorations by placing a giant Christmas Tree in the center of the stag. We notice these things
- Replace the second answers round with a stage involving the final five girls running the assault course from Gladiators’ Eliminator. In ball gowns. Obviously
- Work on the Miss Lebanon song lyrics. Sample from 2011: “We’ve got the looks we’ve got the smile, we’ve got the Miss Lebanon style. We care about the world from east to west.” Replace Barbie-doll refrain with something a little more realistic, such as: “I’m only doing this because I need prize money to fund my MA in the US,” or “I just like the attention, OK? Is that really so bad?”
- More wind machines