Dressing a Miss Universe contestant is no joke you guys. There is a lot that goes into that package. There is a lot of people to please, starting with the Miss and the organisation directors, but most importantly the audience. The audience is a big part of the job.
The audience determines wether a contestant is a favourite or not. This gives the Miss more exposure to the media, thus making her a stronger candidate.
But I would like to start by telling you how my journey began with Señorita Panamá Organisation.
Last year in May I had the honor of styling Justine Pasek (Miss Universe 2002 and co-director of Org. Señorita Panamá) for a photoshoot with my good friend and photographer UK Maracaibo. She liked our work so much, she wanted us to take some picture for the Panama representative for Miss Universe 2017, Keity Drennan.
Keity was accompanied to that photoshoot by the other co-director Cesar Anel Rodriguez, who also liked our work. (On a side note: The pictures where SO good that they were used as the comercial material for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Panama. #happystylist)
A couple weeks after that photoshoot with Keity, Justine contacted me. She wanted to know if I wanted to work for the organisation, dressing all of the girls they where sending off to different contests. Without a doubt in my mind I said YES! (I had no idea what I was getting myself into at that point in time, hehe.)
After that, I started dressing the girls (they were five) for different events, but I mostly worked with Keity since she was the girl going to the most renowned contest.
My life turned upside down when I realised the amount of clothing each of these girls had to travel with! You have to understand that being a fashion stylist and image consultant is very different to dressing a miss. There are so many factors you have to take into consideration (for instance not repeating clothes or accessories) and the amount of clothing, jewellery, accessories, shoes, handbags… is just crazy. My mind was blown away.
In between the running to find clothing for the girls, we also had to shoot the oficial pictures for each and every one of the girls for their respective contest. That was fun though! I love doing my editorial work, it never feels like a job. That is what I most enjoy about my job. Thank you to the master Dario Moreno every single on of the pictures came out incredible!
At first, I was not very involved with the packing process, I just selected the pieces and created outfits that I thought would work. I reached out to so many Panamanian designers, and I am so happy they all loved the idea to collaborate in this project. That showed me how much they value my work and trust me. It really feels me with joy to have sent each and everyone one of the girls with suitcases filled with Panamanian designs.
Daniel Ameth Barrios (Danny) did most of the heavy lifting for the Continentes Unidos, Reina Hispanoamericana and Miss Earth contests. I have to thank him so much, because from him I learned so many things from what a miss needs to wear, what would be a drastic mistake and most importantly, how to pack and organise so many garments and make it easy for the misses to find the outfits they are supposed to wear for each event.
When it came time to style Alessandra Bueno, Miss World Panama, I decided to get more involved in the process. That is when I really learned what dressing a miss is like. For almost two weeks we stayed up to 1 or 2 A.M. creating different outfits for her to wear. Deciding which pieces we loved, and which we hated. Creating outfits, and then dismantling them to create new and better style combinations. It literally was a roller coaster ride.
The Miss World pageant is geared toward a more reserved girl. So we had to be careful with every outfit. We did not want to send her with racy or controversial clothing. What helped us most is Alessandra’s ultra chic style. She had a voice in every outfit we put together and the team work was just amazing. Her mom Marie Claire was also very involved in the process. Her mom also competed in the Miss World pageant, and that was a big plus because not only is she very stylish, but she gave us intel on what the judges like.
I am happy to report that Alessandra was told by many of the other girls competing that she was the best dressed!
Dressing Keity for Miss Universe was… I can’t even find the perfect word to describe all of my emotions. It truly was one of the most consuming jobs I have done.
This year Miss Universe contest was held in Philippines in January. Many designer workshops here in Panama close from December to January because of the holiday season (latinos take Christmas and New Years very seriously). Fortunately, many gave us the pieces before the holidays, and others delivered the garments after the holidays. But it was a very stressful time. You always feel like you don’t have enough, and that makes it so much worse.
Once again, we stayed up to crazy hours making her outfits. The whole team was just exhausted, but we kept going nevertheless. We wanted every outfit Keity wore to be a standout. She was competing with other 85 girls and we wanted her to stick out every time.
We carefully selected every piece she wore, from shoes to jewellery to handbags. Every detail was taken care of. Once we had the final outfit, we would take pictures of the complete looks and the details, so she could remember how it was styled.
But the work doesn’t stop there. Every day Keity was away, we also had to work. This year the MUO sent no agenda, instead the chaperones alerted the contestants every night what they would be doing the following day. We had a WhatsApp group where we discussed which outfit from the ones we had created she would wear the following day, and Luis Quintero the hair and makeup stylist told Keity what makeup and hairstyle she should wear.
I’m not going to lie and say it was a smooth ride. There where a lot of disagreements regarding looks, mostly the night gowns and the final dress. But in the end, everything that was chosen, was something Keity felt beautiful in. The most important part of this job (stylist to a miss) is to make her feel beautiful so that she can radiate confidence.
I have grown so much from this experience, not only work wise, but as a person. I have learned to take criticism and get better from it, and block bad energy. Working in such an international platform is crazy, but there is only space to grow from here. And next year, I will be ready to do it even better.