“And the winner of Miss Brazil USA San Francisco 2012 is!…” Cristina Ribeiro, the Artistic Director / Executive Director / Host of the night was near tears when she was about to reveal the final result.

“Isabela! Isabela! Isabela!” the crowd roared.
On stage, Fernanda Rodrigues, Isabela Serafim, and Jessika Brandao held hands, all but Isabela had their eyes locked to Cristina. Isabela shut her eyes. Behind them, Jessica Sanches (3rd place), Amanda Antunes (runner-up), and Vanessa Bertollo (Miss Popularity) looked on. At that moment, the pressure peaked and Cristina was the single object of attention in the room. Please, just announce the winner already! The crowd grew restless with each seconds passed, their shouts became deafening.

Not to be outdone, Cristina screamed to the microphone, “FERNANDA RODRIGUES!!!!

All of the sudden, (a whole different section of) the crowd cheered, engulfed in a sense of frenzied, unbridled joy. Trying to hear Fernanda’s winner remarks was a meaningless waste of effort,  and she quickly received her crown, sash, bouquet, and a great deal of photo opportunities with everybody. The judges went on stage to congratulate the winners and the top 6 finalists. Flashes everywhere. The cheering continued, the night was still young after all…it’s only 11:15pm.

Now, let’s rewind to the 4.5 hours prior, where things were (relatively) calmer. This is a beauty pageant after all, so some amount of intensity and drama is expected. But to see the amount of energy climbing and climbing as the night went on, it was amazing to experience, if not a little bit exhausing.

If you’d like to see the whole photo album, please go to Fafafoom Facebook page.

0. The Backstage

Final rehearsals / sound checks were booming on stage; make-up and hair (MUAH) crew led by MUAH Director Arlene Coleman was just finished with the contestants. The Lead MUA was Annie Cheung Lam (of Motives), and the team consisted of Lourenda Betlazar, Joana (Jhoe Enna) Imperial Tajuna, Hanh Le, Mel’s Tan, Vinnia Jessica Tjhin, and Alexa Walsh. Arlene beckoned Joana to help with my make-up, and shortly after I sat in a chair and let Joana did her magic :)

That’s when I started scanning around the room. More guests were coming, more photographers were showing up and either testing their settings or taking pictures, and a videographer recording the backstage situation. Out of my peripheral vision, I spotted Georgianne Quiroz, the CEO of Miss Brazil USA San Francisco having her makeup done (but looking at the walkie-talkie and camera on her lap, it seemed she’s multi-tasking as well). Arlene was running around making sure everybody got taken care of.

“7:30,” she said, smiling.
“Everybody needs to be finished by then. No MUAH afterwards, these people get to party too.”

And judging from the time, 7:30pm was less than 30 minutes away.

The woman of the night Cristina Ribeiro (Executive Producer and Art Director) emerged backstage, checking the slew of judges that arrived, as well as the performers. Confirming the MUAH deadline with Arlene, she then asked, “How about touch-ups?”
Arlene smiled and shook her head :)

Shortly after, Cristina had her hair done by Daniel Rita (of Beauty Intoxication), whose team consisted of Jazzmin Perdorsa and De’Shawna Phillips. I didn’t know how, but somehow by 7:30 everybody was done and the backstage area was cleared from all MUAH tools/bags/etc. Those who came late to get their MUAH done past 7:30 (even if it’s a contestant) were promptly refused. By 7:40pm, the backstage was bare. Amazing.

More guests poured in to Broadway Studios, and between 8pm to 9pm, the room got louder and louder. Chairs became difficult to find, and you had to deftly navigate yourself to the bar if you wanted drinks. Thankfully my table got great company of Arlene herself, upcoming designer Roenna, beautiful chef Elaine, and lastly Mrs. Vietnam of Sacramento Helen. Time passed by quickly when you’re in great company :)

And who could forget the thrice boomed announcement, “If you park your car on Broadway, your car will be towed by 11pm. It will cost you $500. Thank you and enjoy your evening!”

Sure enough, sometime that night, I heard whispers of somebody’s car being towed. OK.

If you’d like to see the whole photo album, please go to Fafafoom Facebook page.

1. Get The Party Started

It was 9:15pm. The room was really packed and the crowd grew a bit restless. As if on cue, a short announcement for starting off Miss Brazil USA San Francisco was heard, the judges emerged from backstage and took their seats. Lastly, the hosts emerged. Cristina and Justin Parucha (pictured right) did a little bit of stage walking choreography (courtesy of Cristina, naturally) before thanking the audience for coming, promising a night of beautiful girls and a whole lotta fun…..starting with Samba Queen Maisa Duke!

The audience got to see the tips of Maisa’s headdress peeking through from the backstage curtain and cheered. But some unknown force prevented Maisa from gracing the stage as Cristina and Justin once again took the stage.

Ah! Of course, we needed to do national anthem of USA and Brazil. After an extended silence, a short, near-the-end Star Spangled Banner was sung, giving way to the Brazil national anthem Hino Nacional Brasileiro.
It was my first time hearing people singing in Portugese in such passion and togetherness (and on-pitch!) for the whole two choruses. I couldn’t help smiling the whole time, the beautiful national anthem sung by the mostly Brazilian crowd at Broadway Studios. WOW.

So now’s the time for the Samba Queen Maisa Duke to grace the stage! Oh, and she’s really worth the wait. She’s a marvelous body of work and the audience just got another dose of energy just from watching her move across the stage.

If you’d like to see the whole photo album, please go to Fafafoom Facebook page.

2. The Beauty Pageant

After Maisa’s incredible performance, the Contestants Grand Opening portion commenced. (In this order) Amanda Antunes, Anna Yuri, Fernanda Gabriella, Fernanda Rodrigues, Isabela Serafim, Jessica Sanches, Jessika Brandao, Juliana Picoli, Natalia Araujo, Natalia Sumodjo, Nathalya Souza, and Vanessa Bertollo graced the stage for the first time, wearing costumes provided by Marise Oliveira with Agua’s Art Clothing from Brazil.

But perhaps nerves and excitement were still intact as they moved about the stage a little bit too quickly. So looking at these beautiful girls with myriad of costumes required time to “digest”, and there was no adequate time to do that.

Shortly after, The Miss Brazil USA San Francisco CEO Georgianne Queiroz (pictured left) came on stage to thank the sponsors. She’s the reason why these girls were competing that night. As a model herself, she was encouraged to compete in Miss Brazil USA San Francisco, only to find out that there’s no such competition in place yet.

Enlightened, she decided to hold the first ever Miss Brazil USA San Francisco; the winner is to be included in the national Miss Brazil USA competition. Hats off to you, Georgianne!

The Contestants Poise and Confidence Portion followed suit, with all the contestants clad in bikinis provided by Nide Hall with Charmosa, who also happened to be one of the judges.

This segment was definitely a huge hit for the audience (naturally :). Different crowd section cheered for each contestants, however there’s no denying that everyone has great body (I mean, they’re Brazilian….hello!). My personal favorite physique was Vanessa Bertollo (pictured right). Toned, fit, and WOW Gorgeous.

During this portion, the contestants were asked which San Franciso Bay Area region they were representing and what they like to do to have fun. As you already know, the generic answer of hanging out with friends and shopping were the most repeated answer. Except for Jessica Sanches whose answer had spunk and provided the much-needed jolt of energy, the Q&A was too predictable at best. But let’s be honest, this portion was less about the Q&A and more about looking at beautiful girls in bikini gauging the contestants’ personality.

A quick break followed; we got to be introduced to Rosangela McVey from FERI Global Wealth Trade, which provided the jewelry prizes the winners got to bring home. We also got to see an intense and energetic performance from Aguas da Bahia Dance Company, choreographed by judge Tania Santiago.

The evening continued with Contestants Evening Gown Portion. This time, they paced their walk really well and posed long enough for everyone to take pictures. It’s great to see their confidence grew as the competition went on, however I felt the audience also got louder as the alcohol intoxication level got higher. But everybody had harmless fun and in great mood…so perhaps that was what a party at Rio is like. Cristina did say that and I believe her.

Each constestants were asked a specific question chosen by the judges. Just as with the Poise and Confidence portion, Cristina did the Portugese-to-English-and-back-to-English-again translation duty for some of the contestants.

One notable answer was from Amanda Antunes who cited Jesus Christ as her perfect role model. Nathalya Souza also came very prepared; she eloquently named a charity that she’s going to donate to if she was to win the competition. But I have to say that hearing most of the contestants’ answers was getting harder as the crowd grew really loud.

I was initially expecting the next guest performer, Ethnik Savage to raise the loud bar even higher with his rap performance. Interestingly enough, most of the crowd grew mellower during his performance. Even photographers took less pictures during this performance. Not sure what happened there…he performed solidly, though.

If you’d like to see the whole photo album, please go to Fafafoom Facebook page.

3. The Results

Shortly after Ethnik Savage’s performance was over, Cristina and Justin came to the stage to announce the final 6 contestants. Isabela Serafim, Jessika Brandao, Vanessa Bertollo, Jessica Sanches, and Amanda Antunes were announced and came to the stage. The announcement of the 6th person was not without disagreement.

Cristina asked the crowd, “Who do you think is the last finalist?”
A segment of the crowd behind me chanted, “Fernanda Gabriela! Fernanda Gabriela! Fernanda Gabriela!”
Cristina took a pause, smiling and scanning the crowd, before announcing, “The last finalist is! Fernanda…”
“Gabriela! Gabriela! Gabriela!”


And a whole new section of the crowd cheered wholeheartedly. The brazilian beauty Fernanda Rodrigues then graced the stage after such a dramatic announcement.

There was another Q&A session following the six finalists’ announcement, but at this point the audience was in such state of frenzy that it’s nearly impossible to hear them. Plus, there was an added “complication”…the results for the winners were tied. It’s about 10:30pm when this tie was announced.

New judges’ results were tallied, Justin looked annoyed at the situation (he and Cristina did not have a descent chemistry that night), Cristina tried to buy extra time by inviting anyone to ask questions to the contestants (an opportunity that Daniel Rita took), and the crowd grew even louder. At some point, Miss Bay Area 2011 Veronique Rouhana also graced the stage to wish all finalists good luck.
In the midst of it all, I had to commend the six finalists. They were so poised, elegant, still as energetic as ever, and very gracious for their participation in Miss Brazil USA San Francisco 2012.

There were some hilarious impromptu moments courtesy of Cristina during the retallying, but finally the new results were in. Two seemingly exhausted judge representatives delivered the new results to Cristina.
Almost hurriedly, the results were delivered. Vanessa Bertollo (Miss Popularity) was first announced, and the 3rd place went to Jessica Sanches (pictured left).

Emotions were running high at this moment, and runner-up Amanda Antunes almost didn’t get her due announcement. But the drama peaked right after and what happened was history. Fernanda Rodrigues won the title Miss Brazil USA San Francisco 2012 and would be going to New York to compete in the nationwide Miss Brazil competition in early November.

A great number of people took the opportunity to take pictures of the winners (and for some of them, WITH the winners). I slipped out to go upstairs, where the rest of the contestants were getting ready to go home.

Just like there were winners, there were losers. Isabela was grieving and being comforted by her friends. It was pretty clear from the beginning that Fernanda Rodrigues was an early favorite, something that she carried through all the way. However, between Isabela, Fernanda, and Jessika, I honestly thought Isabela would win. I felt her bitterness, but I hope she’ll emerge stronger and perhaps compete again next year!

Congratulations again for all the winners, and most special thanks to Cristina for inviting me. She’s a dear friend and will always be an inspiration for me. Also Arlene Coleman, who’s a great company throughout the night. Good luck with Fernanda for presenting San Francisco in Miss Brazil USA!

The after-party (with DJ Lucas Med and ZUMBA with Raquel Call) continued long after we left, so it’s true that Brazilians REALLY know how to party :)

Until next time,

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