Video by Noel Calubaquib, Interview by Yelena Scheidler

Being a big part of the fashion and beauty industry, attending the Miss Universe pageant has always been on our bucket list. So, when Jojo Bragais, the Miss Universe  sponsor and designer of the official Miss Universe shoes, extended an invitation to Dash Talents to the 71st edition of the pageant in New Orleans, we knew we had to be there. 

We arrived in New Orleans a few days before the pageant finals, giving us enough time to explore the city and take in all the culture and history it had to offer. From the delicious Creole cuisine to the lively jazz music and colorful architecture, New Orleans did not disappoint. 


During the show, it was an honor to interview the famous shoe designer and Miss Universe sponsor Jojo Bragais and the International Pageant Coach Jan Quijano.  Jojo created the shoes that all queens wore on stage while Jan taught many queens how to properly walk in them.  What a combo!

The highlight of our trip was, of course, the Miss Universe pageant. As we walked into the New Orleans Convention Center on January 15, we were immediately struck by the energy and excitement in the air.  There were fans and supporters from all over the world.  The stage was set up with all its glitz and glam, and the contestants were all dressed in sparkly dresses, ready to compete. 

To match the ambiance, Dash Talents Team: Noel Calubaquib, Yelena Scheidler, and RoRo Yone arrived looking sharp in custom suits by Aurelius Suits and ethereal gown by raMona Designs.  

Jojo Bragais display of the official Miss Universe shoes caught our attention as soon as we walked in.  The variety of the hand-made shoe styles were elegantly arranged on top of decorative columns.  Luckily Yelena Scheidler already had a gold pair on to match her gold gown.

As the pageant began, we were blown away by the level of talent and beauty on display. The contestants from all around the world had brought their A-game, showcasing their stunning evening gowns, intricate national costumes, and impressive personalities. Hosts Jeanie Mai Jenkins and Olivia Culpo shortly announced the top 16.  These beauties were:

Miss Puerto Rico Ashley Carino; Miss Haiti Madeline Phelizor; Miss Australia Monique Riley; Miss Dominican Republic Andreina Martinez; Miss Laos Payengxa Lor; Miss South Africa Ndavi Nokeri; Miss Portugal Telma Madeira; Miss Canada Amelia Tu; Miss Peru Alesia Rovegno Cay; Miss Trinidad Tya Jane Ramney; Miss India Divita Rai; Miss Venezuela Amanda Dudamel Newmen; Miss Spain Alicia Faubel; Miss Curaçao Gabriela Dos Santos; Miss USA R’Bonney Gabriel; Miss Colombia Maria Fernanda Aristzabal

The swimsuit and evening gown rounds were our personal favorites, where the ladies showcased their physiques and poise gracefully.

But what impressed us the most was how the contestants carried themselves off-stage. They were all intelligent, articulate and well-informed, they answered questions on various subjects with poise and confidence.

Following swimsuit and gown rounds, the number of queens in the running went down to 5; including: Venezuela, USA, Curaçao, Puerto Rico, and Dominican Republic.  Based on their answers to judges’ questions, the list became even smaller including Venezuela, USA, and Dominican Republic.

At the end of 2022, Miss Universe, once owned by Donald Trump, followed by IMG, was bought by Jakapong Jakrajutatip.  She addressed the audience during the pageant making a strong message about giving women the real power. She is a big proponent of social equality and humanity.

We thoroughly enjoyed the performances by Tank and the Bangas – a Grammy-nominated music group from New Orleans; and Amanda Shaw – a fiddler, singer, songwriter, producer, and actress also native to Louisiana.

The show was taken to the ultimate next level when the legendary Yolanda Adams graced the stage singing “I’m Every Woman”. Her voice, and presence were her greatest gifts.

Even within the greatest of beauty, there can be significant pain.  Pain does not discriminate.  We were reminded of this as Cheslie Kryst‘s mother April Simpkins’ bravely stood on stage to talk about Miss USA 2019’s battle with depression which lead to the saddest of moments in the pageant history – her death.  Since that day Cheslie Kryst Women’s Advancement Fund has been established, continuing her legacy of empowering, advancing and supporting women through their employment journey.

Fans, supporters, and family traveled from all over the world to take part in the historic day.

In the end, it was Miss USA, R’Bonney Gabriel, who was crowned Miss Universe 2022. R’Bonney Gabriel a 28-year-old fashion designer, was a definite standout from the start of the competition and her victory was met with cheers and applause from the crowd.  She lives by ‘If not now then when’ and we feel that.

As the pageant came to a close and the contestants took their final walk, we couldn’t help but feel a sense of awe and inspiration. The Miss Universe pageant is not just about beauty, it’s about empowering women to be confident, ambitious, and to strive for their goals.

Attending Miss Universe 2023 in New Orleans was a dream come true, and we look forward to taking part in the next year’s event in El Salvador.