“Awkward!” screamed the New York tabloid headline last Monday, the morning after a surprise turnabout finale in the Miss Universe Pageant. In what has already become a legendary example of prime time media gaffes, emcee Steve Harvey misread the card and announced that Miss Colombia, Ariadna Gutierrez, was the new Miss Universe.
But just a few minutes into her reign, as Ms. Gutierrez held her bouquet and blew kisses at the audience, a $30,000 blue diamond and topaz tiara on her head, the tables turned.
An embarrassed Harvey returned to center stage to walk back his pronouncement. "Okay folks ... I have to apologize," he told a confused crowd in Las Vegas. "The first runner-up is Colombia. Miss Universe 2015 is . . . Philippines!”
With screams of surprise from the audience, Miss Colombia appeared cool (some say frozen) as the tiara was plucked from her head and placed atop that of Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach, Miss Philippines, who appeared in a state of utter disbelief.
With the audience still in an uproar, Harvey said, “This is exactly what's on the card. I will take responsibility for this. It was my mistake. It was on the card."
Millions of TV viewers and the thousands in the live audience at the Planet Hollywood Hotel-Casino in Las Vegas were flummoxed by the Miss Universe switcheroo. After all, even in Vegas, what were the odds that the simple reading of the name of Miss Universe would get botched, the new queen so mortifyingly dethroned, through no fault of her own?
The hounds of social media were instantly unleashed, ridiculing and mocking the blunder. Mr. Harvey was not helped when he personally rushed to apologize on his Twitter feed and misspelled both Colombia and the Philippines in the initial tweet. Ouch. That tweet was soon deleted and replaced with a fresh apology, correctly spelled: “I want to apologize emphatically to Miss Philippines and Miss Colombia. This was a terribly honest human mistake. I am so so regretful. – Steve Harvey (@IamSteveHarvey)
Jokes at Mr. Harvey’s expense mushroomed, including tweets such as “Hi Mom!” – Steve Harvey saying hi to his Dad. In addition to other snarky comments, someone posted an endless rerun video loop of last year’s Miss Universe (who was Miss Colombia) removing the crown from Ms. Gutierrez.
Some cynics speculated that the whole thing was a planned prank to shore up the ratings for an event many people find sexist and way past its societal sell-by date. But as the #SteveHarvey hashtags were hot, the torrents of mockery rained down, showing how eager people are to pile on during any media feeding frenzy.
So what’s Jewish about any of this? One thing is that in the Torah, we see how often a person’s fortunes can suddenly rise or fall. Joseph was a prisoner – and then suddenly viceroy of Egypt. Esther was an unknown Jewish orphan and suddenly, queen of the Persian empire. Sudden and dramatic changes in a person’s status and stature are character tests. We may not have wanted them, but there they are, with God waiting to see what we will do with the opportunity.
Ms. Gutierrez was Miss Universe – the pinnacle of success in her 22-year-old life. But then she lost it in a minute. Media reports are that not only she, but political leaders in her country, have taken this episode very hard, and consider her to be the rightful Miss Universe and what happened a slam against all Colombian women.
In an era where people love to play the blame game, he rushed to accept responsibility.
Miss Philippines, for her part, merely referred to her sudden coronation this way: “It was a very unconventional crowning.” Will Ms. Gutierrez stay angry and bitter? Or will she play it smart and just take the book deal and look at the bright side?
Also, today our every move might be caught on camera whether we know it or not. But Judaism believes that God is always watching our actions. One day, we’ll all be watching the movie of our lives as it has played out, including all the cringe-worthy moments we wish we could take back. Steve Harvey’s mistake will not be one of those, because in an era where people love to play the blame game, he rushed to accept responsibility. His fans took notice. One posted on his Facebook page: “Thanks for being a real man! You took responsibility for your mistake. It could have happened to anybody!”
I was happy to discover what Steve Harvey wrote on his Twitter bio. It reads: Proud husband, father, comedian, daytime show host, philanthropist and author. God has blessed me with more than I could have asked for! A person who includes God’s blessings in his Twitter bio is a person who won’t need much recovery time from a media firestorm at his expense.