Wherever you view the 72nd Miss Universe pageant on November 18, you will see a familiar face apart from this country’s representative, Faith Gillezeau.
That is the face of Trinidad and Tobago’s own Miss Universe 1977, Janelle “Penny” Commissiong.
The former Miss Universe is one of 11 members on the selection committee of this year’s pageant at José Adolfo Pineda Arena in San Salvador, El Salvador.
While there was no comparison being a judge or a contestant, it was “two ends of the pendulum” but there was pressure to do well on both sides, she said in WhatsApp responses to questions sent to her by Newsday.
Being a part of the selection committee was a “tremendous honour” for her but one that came with tremendous responsibility.
It is her first time being asked to judge, although she had been invited, over the years, as a guest, she said.
Salvadorans were “enthusiastic” for the event.
“El Salvador has been an incredible host country and has pulled out all the stops. It promises to be a fantastic production on all accounts,” she said.
She had the opportunity to explore the San Salvador region which she described as “extremely verdant and vibrant” with lots of tourism-related sites and activity.
On her Instagram page, Commissiong was seen in various activities as being part of the selection committee. In her Instagram stories, Commissiong showed various videos and photos in her preparation for the show.
Gillezeau grabs attention with Scarlet Ibis Moko Jumbie
Gillezeau walking on stilts has also been gaining attention. For her national costume, she wore a Scarlet Ibis Moko Jumbie costume.
In an Instagram post on Thursday evening, she said, “A moko jumbie far away from home on the Miss Universe stage. Can you believe that?”
She thanked her designer and friend, Douglas John for believing in her.
“You hard work pulled a small idea out of my mind and spun it into gold and for that, I will be forever grateful,” she said.
She also thanked mas maker and popular stilt maker Junior Bisnath. He was her instructor, she said in that post.
Her stilts were custom-made by Bisnath and he worked with her consistently to ensure the idea would come safely to life “with the full respect and reverence for our culture it deserves.”
Former San Fernando mayor Junior Regrello also received thanks from Gillezeau who said he had custom cases made when the stilts could not fit in her luggage.
“Here in El Salvador tonight, far away from home (and still dressed up like a tall bird), I love my country more than ever and even better, I feel they love me back. Thank you,” she said.
Her designer John said words could not express the true emotion of the “history-making accomplishment."
“The poise, grace and the confidence shown by you, Faith Gillezeau will forever be an eternal memory etched in my heart,” he wrote.
Philippine Entertainment Portal website, pep.ph listed Gillezeau’s costume as one of the 12 national costume standouts in the pageant.
There are 84 countries represented at this year’s pageant, with its first-ever married contestants and two transgender women representing Netherlands and Portugal, a CNN article reported.