Design and Cultural Differences: Understanding the Storylines from Ms. Universe 2015

Let's Unpack- Storylines from Ms. Universe 2015
icons from freepik via ww.flaticon.com

Well this year’s Miss Universe was one heck of a ride for us Filipinos. Congratulations to Pia Wurtzbach for the win! She consistently performed at a high level all throughout the competition. However, two days removed from the finals night, “controversies” surrounding the pageant are still widely discussed on social media and are still followed by local and international media. So let’s try to unpack some of the storylines and understand the things that happened.

“PIA WURTZBACH AND THE FILIPINO WIN” NARRATIVE

Aside from the fact that Pia Wurtzbach’s win broke our 42-year title drought and five years of near misses, her win finally gave our country something to be happy about after a shaky 2015. Here’s a quick socio-economic and political look of 2015 (in no particular order):

PES PH 2015 table
Sources: hungry, jobless, crime rate, traffic

 

Generally, 2015 wasn’t the best year for most of us. So as a nation, we were looking for something that can cheer up our collective spirits. Some kind of emotional victory that can make us forget our country’s condition, even for a little while. We turned to Manny Pacquiao, our #1 athlete, to win his fight with Mayweather, but he lost. We watched and exclaimed “PUSO!” for Gilas Pilipinas but they  controversially lost to China in the FIBA Asia Finals. The months went on and we just got hungrier and hungrier for some form of win; some form of respite. Don’t get me wrong, these athletes were worthy to be considered as our #filipinopride. However, the feeling winning on an international stage is still different.

Enter Pia Wurtzbach:

I was originally taken aback by her confidence because I knew nothing about her. Who’s this girl, confident as fudge, voluntarily taking on the gargantuan task of claiming international glory for the Philippines? I didn’t know that to support her family, she had to start a modelling and acting career at the age of eleven. I didn’t know that it took her three chances before she got crowned Binibining Pilipinas-Universe. I didn’t know her life story was an embodiment of that same hunger we had–soldiering on to find success.

And it was evident throughout the pageant that she came to win. So much so that she was one of the top favorites to win with a +550 gambling odds in Las Vegas, along with Australia. The hullabaloo surrounding the announcement just made the win a lot more satisfying. Nothing can validate #FilipinoPride better than a clean win.

Some people can argue that beauty pageants are generally superficial or may have a questionable place in this progressive time of ours but it can’t be denied that for Filipinos, it’s still a source of pride and inspiration.

 

HUMAN AND DESIGN ERRORS FEATURING STEVE HARVEY AND THE RESULTS CARD

Steve Harvey received a ton of flak for screwing up the winner’s announcement, announcing Miss Colombia, Ariadna Gutierrez as the winner instead of Wurtzbach. Colombians skewered him for unintentionally embarrassing their candidate while Filipinos initially lashed out for the lost opportunity for Wurtzbach to have a proper coronation on TV. Harvey further received vitriol for botching his apology on Twitter, calling Filipinos as “Philippians”. But after further examination of what happened, it may turn out that the announcement fail may not be 100% Harvey’s fault.

Brand Specialist, Eric Thomas on LinkedIn, pointed out that the results card was horribly designed. The design didn’t make sense at all. Why was the winning country’s name at the lower right of the card? If Harvey held the card in a certain manner there’s a chance he won’t be able to read who won.

Harvey went out of his way already to apologize for his gaff. Let’s already leave him alone. He did all the proper steps to fix it. But one thing we can learn from this is the importance of GOOD DESIGN IN EVERYTHING. Who knew that a badly designed piece of paper could ruin three lives and incite rage in two countries?

 

CULTURAL DIFFERENCES AND “DISRESPECTFUL MISS GERMANY” NARRATIVE 

Hours after the pageant, news broke out that Miss Germany was “upset” with the decision and that “none of us voted for Ms. Philippines…” Outraged, Filipinos took to social media and hunted Miss Germany to share an aggressive piece of their minds, calling her “disrespectful”. Some, because of  blind rage probably, even hunted down a different Miss Germany! LOL!  But did Miss Germany really dis Miss Philippines? Here’s the video of her interview:

Here’s what we can get from the video:

  1. The interviewer asked her specifically about the controversial announcement, and like any respectful interviewee, she answered the question. She waited for her turn to speak. It was the right venue for her to say what she wanted to say.  In its most basic form, how is that disrespectful?
  2. She’s UNHAPPY with the result and NOT Pia Wurtzbach. She even wished Wurtzbach all the best. How is that disrespectful? (note her personal pick was Ms. France, but thought Ms. Colombia deserved to win)
  3. Notice that she said “I’m sorry to say that” TWICE while she expressed her opinion. She was being careful. She knew that other people can take her opinion differently. How is that disrespectful?
  4. You can also argue that the “result” she was pertaining to was the mix-up by Steve Harvey and NOT that Miss Philippines won.  (Later in her apology, she cleared up that the result she was pertaining to was indeed the mix-up)
  5. She just shared her honest opinion of what happened.

If you want a perfect example of being disrespectful at an award’s show, here’s the 2009 VMAs when Kanye cut Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech:

And what happened here is opposite to THE THINGS THAT HAPPENED IN MS. GERMANY’S INTERVIEW:

  1. Kanye spoke out of turn
  2. Ye, created the event, nagbida-bida siya
  3. Ye ruined Taylor Swift’s moment
  4. He did it without any remorse
  5. He even gave the mic back to Taylor Swift like she was part of the prod crew

Often I see in comments, “Miss Germany could have just kept quiet”. Like what I already established, she was being interviewed, of course she has to say what she felt.

Some also said, “she should have just said something nice!” Well, we also need to understand our cultural differences with Germany. In the recent issue of Harvard Business Review, professor Erin Meyer shared this map on how confrontational and emotionally expressive different cultures are

R1512E_MEYER_COUNTERPART-850x758

As you can see people in Germany are confrontational yet emotionally unexpressive while Filipinos are emotionally expressive and avoid confrontation. So how does that relate to the Ms. Germany Interview? Miss Germany just answered very bluntly. She confronted the question and objectively expressed her opinion. She could have been more eloquent on her reasons why Ms. Colombia deserved it more but again she just answered the question. For us Filipinos, we were taken aback by her blunt tackle of the question. And since we’re also emotionally expressive, we could not help but say what we felt. But then again, expecting her to keep quiet or say something nice to avoid issues is just an indication of us imposing our cultural norms to an utterly different culture.

And speaking of design affecting the user experience, here’s a snapshot of the videos related to the interview. Check out how the video titles were phrased:

Miss Germany Interview video titles

Instead of using more neutral titles like “Miss Germany’s reaction to controversial Miss Universe announcement” or “Miss Germany talks about Miss Universe ending” the videos were phrased to already incite judgment even before watching the video. It’s a classic case of psychological priming.

But ultimately, IF EVER Miss Germany really intended to disrespect Miss Philippines, then why should we give a fudge?  We already won! We should be celebrating and not mind the hating! That’s not how a true Queen, like Beyonce (or Pia) would have handled this situation.

 

“PIA WURTZBACH CRIED BACKSTAGE BECAUSE MISS COLOMBIA STOLE HER MOMENT!” NARRATIVE

So two videos surfaced that showed what happened after the program was televised:

Video 1: The other Ms. Universe candidates tried to comfort the crying Miss Colombia on stage. Pia Wurtzbach tries to console her but couldn’t budge through the other candidates. After attempting she left to go backstage

 

Video 2: Pia Wurtzbach crying while receiving the crown and sash

It can be argued that Ms. Colombia lost the most in the botched announcement.

From these two videos, some Filipino netizens surmised that the other candidates “disrespected” Ms. Philippines by not acknowledging her win AND Pia cried backstage because of it.

That speculation seems unfair for ALL THE CANDIDATES involved. Let’s go through each party:

  • Unfair to Miss Colombia and Colombian fans: Here’s to provide some context. Colombia, like the Philippines also went through a long title drought. They waited for FIFTY SIX years before they won last year’s competition. Imagine that the Colombians were also hungry for a win. Now for this year’s competition, people had high expectations of Ariadna Gutierrez. So much so that her odds of winning this year’s title, according the Las Vegas gamblers were a +650. In other words, there’s a big chance they could win back-to-back Miss Universe titles. So imagine all that pressure on Ariadna’s shoulders. Then she made it through the top 15, top 10, top 5 and into the top 3. Colombia’s back-to-back dream was within reach. She heard her country’s name announced as the winner. She’s given the crown and the bouquet. An embrace from last year’s Miss Universe and fellow Ms Colombia, Paulina Vega signaled that she achieved their country’s dream. She can finally relax after months of pressure. BUT THEN, THE HOST CORRECTS THE DECISION. She actually lost. She failed the objective. If you were in that position, how would you feel? Would you also not feel cheated?
    • Some Filipino netizens got mad at her for her insistence in her instagram account that she was the rightful Ms. Universe. Just like with the Miss Germany interview, why can’t we let her be? Arguably, she lost the most in that whole debacle. We all know that we won, why must we correct her?
    • And should we bicker with the Colombians because they insist that they were robbed? Well if you do a quick search on Twitter, back in 2012 us Filipinos also cried foul when USA’s Olivia Culpo won while our bet Janine Tugonon settled for 1st runner-up:Twitter Reactions Miss U 2012
    • We need to understand that what we felt 3 years ago, was probably the same thing the Colombians are feeling right now. You can even argue what they’re feeling right now is far worse because they literally thought for three minutes they won. Let’s cut them some slack, we know the feeling all too well.
  • Unfair to the other candidates: Some Filipino netizens cried foul when the other candidates went straight to Ms. Colombia and only a few congratulated Ms. Philippines. Moreover, some felt further insulted when they chanted “CO-LOM-BIA! CO-LOM-BIA!” when Ms. Philippines exited the stage. That to me, again, was unfair speculation on what happened. What they showed was far from being disrespectful. To me, it was a genuine expression of solidarity after one of their own was EPICLY EMBARRASSED. They knew Gutierrez lost more than Wurtzbach that’s why they all wanted to show their sympathy. Instead of expecting cattiness, we should have expected compassion from the smartest, and most beautiful women in the world because that’s what they showed in that moment. This was what Ms. Germany flubbed in her interview and what she cleared up in her apology.
    • P.S. That “Pia, get back, Pia get back” soundbite happened while Wurtzbach was about to be escorted to the backstage for her crown and sash. So you can ALSO assume that it was just a call for her to go backstage and not a warning for her to stay away from Ms. Colombia
  • Unfair to Pia Wurtzbach: YouTube user carthal eloquently summarizes why it’s unfair to say that Pia cried backstage because she was bullied:

Carthal comment

It doesn’t fit Pia Wurtzbach’s narrative of persistence and confidence to suddenly be affected by a simple misunderstanding.

Yes it’s a shame for Pia not to have a proper crowning moment in front of the audience, her fellow candidates and in front of everyone watching. But then again, PIA STILL WON. We all know whose name will be in the record books and the Miss Universe wikipedia page, so why should we still care IF there was a squabble?

And a google search of “Miss Universe 2015 unseen footage” would yield these video with these titles:

Unseen Footage primed titles
“ignored” “shunned” “brushed aside”

just like the Ms. Germany Interview, these video titles were phrased in a way that can already suggest something to the user even without viewing the video (why not “Unseen footage of Miss Universe 2015 Pageant”?).

 


 

So what I wanted to say here is that we can learn a lot of things from this unfortunate event. We can learn something about ourselves, our differences and similarities with other cultures (and how each culture handle unfortunate circumstances) and the importance of design in affecting user experience.

Congratulations to Pia Wurtzbach! I’m looking for our country’s chance for a back-to-back!

 

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Design and Cultural Differences: Understanding the Storylines from Ms. Universe 2015

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