The Gowns! The Makeup! The endless wishes for World Peace!
It’s time for the pageant of all pageants, Miss Universe. (7pm ET Tonight on FOX) Some people who’ve seen Miss Congeniality too many times but conveniently forgot the ending, say these types of events are irrelevant at best, sexist at worst, pitting women against each other. But in a Cocktail Convo, Ashley Graham is telling us none of that is true.
Controlled Chaos: It Ain’t Pretty
Ashley will be the backstage reporter during tonight’s show from Thailand. On stage the show looks like smooth sailing. But behind the scenes, it’s controlled chaos that could become uncontrolled chaos at any moment.
“You are so right!” Ashley told us “Some girls are running in this direction other girls are running in that direction. There’s hair and makeup being changed. There’s outfits being changed. Then they have to line up because everything is in order. And if you’re not in your actual spot then people could be like ‘who’s that supposed to be?’ And then it gets crazy.”
And crazy is just what Ashley is there to capture. “Of course there’s this moment where the girls get a little nervous because they’re going out and they’re showcasing themselves on stage to the whole world. So it’s really fun to get that real, raw emotion from each of the girls, and to hear what they’re feeling, what they’ve been going through, what their preparation has been like.”
Sisterhood of the Traveling Gown
We wanted to know if, in the chaos, things ever get catty. Ashley saw where we were going and smacked down the idea. “The camaraderie backstage is also really beautiful, to see these women stand up for each other.”
Ashley’s an accomplished model who’s graced the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, so she knows the drill of looking perfect, hitting your mark, and striking a pose. So in all the backstage back-and-forth, do the contestants ever come up and ask for advice? “No they don’t come up to me and say that. Because if they come up to me and say that, then I”m gonna ask them about it in an interview later!”
But that’s not to say the ladies keep their distance. “A lot of them say ‘hi,’ and then when we’re actually talking then I get to ask some of the hard questions. It’s really fun being there and I get to know some of the girls on an intimate level.”
A Trans-cendent Contestant
In a time when some wonder if Miss Universe and its analogs are still relevant in the cultural zeitgeist, along comes a contestant that screams relevant fabulousness. Angela Ponce is Miss Spain, and the first transgender woman to compete in the pageant. Not only that, but she’s a heavy favorite to wear the crown at the end of the night. “Well I haven’t met her yet but I’m really excited to meet her.” Yes, Ashley is totally here for this. “I’m so proud of Miss Universe for creating this lane for her. I think that is very important. And I think that the chances are high for any of the girls.”
And Ashley told The Cocktail that when it comes to relevance, Miss U is right where it should be. “It’s really important in this climate that we’re living in right now that we talk about women’s rights, and that we talk about them on every spectrum. And that’s what these women are doing.”
The girls keep it personal, and that keeps it relevent. “They’re speaking from their heart about who they are, the experiences that they’ve been through, and how they’re fighting to continue to have that control and get more control. They’ve signed up for this competition. They’ve signed up to make this a part of their lifestyle. And this is their choice.”
“I think that as time has changed, so has the competition. Because the women are constantly changing.”
Making Her Personal Picks
Like all of us at home, Ashley will be silently judging and figuring out who’s gonna win. And it ain’t easy. “It’s hard to say when you’re looking at everyone. There’s nearly a hundred women. And in that nearly a hundred, it’s really hard to narrow everybody down.”
Ash prefers to let the preliminary competitions cull the herd. “When it gets down to the top ten, that’s when I start making my own bets in my head like ‘okay, who’s gonna be top three? Who’s gonna be top two?'”
But personal choices aside, she wants us to know she’s here for all of them. “It’ll be really fun to see who gets crowned Miss Universe this year. I wish the best for all of them.”
She’ll Bless The Rains
And once the crown is a fixed, the confetti falls, and the mascara is finished running, Ashley will leave Thailand, but she’s not coming home right away. “I’m headed to Africa right after Thailand. I’m very excited to spend the holidays there.”
That’s right, she’s catching a flight for a holiday most of us can’t imagine. “Well I’m going to Ethiopia with my husband and best friend, because she’s Ethiopian and we’re going to spend Christmas there. You know, I’m never going to give up the chance for an adventure.”
We wanted to know if she would go on safari. It seems her plans are still up in the air, but Ashley told us she’s totally down for the food. “I don’t know. There’s going to be.. I don’t know what I’m getting myself into, but I know I’m going to be eating with my hands a lot and I’m so excited. It’s just going to be fantastic.
The Critic’s Cocktail Recommendation
The Tej Cocktail. It’s a homemade Ethiopian Honey Wine that I once had at a party during the Toronto International Film Festival. This way you can join Ashley on her Ethiopian adventure, without the hassle of holiday travel or jet lag!