‘Stay tuned for real-time updates from the Miss Universe 2023 event!’
SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador — Michelle Marquez Dee swayed her body. She showed her signature feisty look. She posed and strutted around the stage.
The crowd roared — and it seemed that was all needed to know about how well the reigning Miss Universe Philippines fared on Wednesday night here during the preliminary round at the 72nd Miss Universe competition.
Dee, considered as one of the best candidates from the Philippines that had dominated the beauty pageant for the last 15 years, sizzled in a satiny red one-piece swimsuit and sparkled in her exquisite deep-green evening gown.
The beauty queens, representing 84 countries around the world this year, took to the stage at the José Adolfo Pineda Arena.
Although judges’ scores from the night were not disclosed, many reporters and bloggers covering the event live from the Media Center, located next to the sporting arena, were impressed and speculated that Dee is certainly a frontrunner based on her performance.
“She (Michelle) is definitely among the top 10 standouts tonight. I can’t wait to see what she is going to show us at the coronation night,” said Allan Andino, a reporter for TV Costa Rica who has covered Miss Universe pageants since 2009.
San Salvador, the host country’s capital, was under tight security on the day of preliminary competition. Police officers with high-powered guns were deployed across the city.
“There were police checkpoints everywhere. The city closed off the area about two blocks from the arena,” said Davis Urdaneta, a Filipino who traveled from Toronto, Canada to watch the coronation night.
Media representatives from around the world were bused from Universidad del Salvador to the Media Center, and all attendees who bought tickets for the event were provided free transportation to get to the arena.
“I admire them for making sure that everyone is safe. This is one of the biggest events in the world. You just never know — someone could put us in danger. But I am disappointed that they didn’t give us the opportunity to cover the show from the venue or take photos live on site,” said Edy de Leon, reporter for California’s Lo Nuestro Television Centroamericana.
But Dee is already a winner. Early this week she topped the pageant’s “Voice for Change” online voting. Miss Universe organizers will announce at the coronation night the three winners; each will receive $12,000 for a cause of their choice.
Dee is long-known for her advocacy on autism awareness and inclusivity.
A few hours before the preliminary round, Dee had a closed-door interview with judges, including Dr. Connie Mariano, a Filipino American physician who was born in the Philippines and raised in Hawaii.
“Overall happy with how everything went! Glad that I was able to highlight the most important aspects about my individuality and I pray it was well received and understood by the judges,” Dee posted earlier on her Instagram.
Her performance at the interview and preliminary round will determine the Top 20 finalists who will advance in the competition during the coronation night, slated for Saturday night (Sunday morning in Manila), November 18.
Other Miss Universe 2023 judges are Carson Kressley, actor and designer; Halima Aden, fashion model; Mario Bautista, award-winning musician; Sweta Patel, Roku’s program management director; Giselle Blondet, Puerto Rican actress; Denise White, entrepreneur and crisis manager; and Avani Gregg, social media personality.
Dee is vying for the Philippines’ fifth Miss Universe crown, after Gloria Diaz in 1969; Margarita Moran, 1973; Pia Wurtzbach, 2015; and Catriona Gray, 2018.