Miss Colombia, Paulina Vega won the Miss Universe Pageant on Jan.25 held at Florida International University.
It was my first time attending the pageant and I learned how much the crown meant to the fans I encountered.
They brought along flags, donned costumes and cheered every time a pageant contestant from their country graced the stage. It felt like I was at the Olympics or World Cup. These fans were hard-core. I grew up watching Miss America, but never cheered on for country. I just wanted to look like one of those girls.
I laughed at the absurdity. How could one woman – known more for her beauty than brains – make such an impact on strangers? Was it a Kardashian type phenomenon?
Then I interviewed some of those strangers. Apparently, the Miss Universe Pageant in some countries is a big deal.
Now that we know Miss Colombia won the title, I am happy for those strangers, who shouting and waving their yellow, red and blue flag with pride. I am only part Colombian. My grandfather was from Bogota and I visited the country once as a young child.
\I have several aunts, uncles and cousins. A big extended family I’ve never met.
But I did meet many Colombians at the pageant and the preliminary round. They were passionate. They looked at Miss Colombia like I look at LeBron James: a national hero.
Sure, in America if you say Miss Colombia won, no one will really care. I think mostly because there’s a certain stereotype among americanos about Colombia that no one cares to address.
It is glorified in movies, rap songs, and even on TV a la “Modern Family” star, Sofia Vergara. Cocaine, coffee, drug lords, and danger are just some of the words people associate with the South American country.
To me, that’s really a shame, not only for my family, but because all of the Colombian people I’ve ever met – related or not – are honest, hardworking folks.
When Vega won, it was a joyous occasion for the people of her country. And as comical I find beauty pageants to be, I felt joy for them, too.