Former Miss America and a runner-up chime in about Miss Universe flub

Last night’s verbal faux pas by Miss Universe emcee Steve Harvey was the mistake heard round the world. Harvey misread the winner as Miss Colombia when in fact she was first runner-up. Miss Philippines had actually won top honors. “I have to apologize,” Harvey said moments later in the live broadcast of the pageant. “I take responsibility,” said Harvey. ”Horrible mistake.”

“I take responsibility,” Harvey said. ”Horrible mistake.”

Former Miss America winner and Seminole resident Nicole Johnson didn’t watch the live broadcast – but she soon found out about it. “I saw the firestorm on Facebook,” Johnson said. “It was heartbreaking to see the heartbreaks on the two women’s faces. The confusion, the disappointment and I can’t imagine the psychological turmoil they’ll be dealing with now in the days that follow.”

Johnson says her own crowning as Miss America back in 1999 happened in a blur. “I was just trying to hold it all together, waiting for everything to unfold,” she said. Johnson says she understands how Harvey might have made a mistake, confusing first place with first runner-up, because she’s announced the winners in other pageants. She says in the heat of the moment there is a lot of pressure.

St. Petersburg Police spokeswoman Yolanda Fernandez, a former News Channel 8 anchor, was crowned Miss Alabama in 1982. Fernandez ended up as third runner-up in that year’s Miss America contest. “What a catastrophe,” Fernandez said of the Miss Universe mistake. ”You’re at the big moment, the crowning moment and you call out the wrong person’s name—how do you fix that,” Fernandez said.

“What a catastrophe,” Fernandez said of the Miss Universe mistake. ”You’re at the big moment, the crowning moment and you call out the wrong person’s name. How do you fix that?”

Presidential candidate and former Miss Universe Pageant owner Donald Trump has an idea. He’s suggested naming both women as co-winners. “I think that’s probably a good idea,” Fernandez said. “Because at that level, they were pretty closely matched.”

Johnson disagrees and insists there can only be one Miss Universe — especially now that everyone knows the score. Still, she says both women can end up as victors on some level. “Using the experience of heartbreak and misunderstanding to maybe help other people get through tough times,” Johnson said.

Johnson knows a little about adversity. She has diabetes and wore an insulin pump during the swimsuit segment of Miss America. “Who would have ever guessed that a woman with a chronic life-threatening disease wearing medical devices on a daily basis would be selected,” Johnson said.

She went on to earn a doctorate degree in public health and now serves as an international advocate for diabetes issues. “Everybody has a challenge,” Johnson says. “It’s how we approach that challenge and attitude toward life that helps us accomplish our dreams.”

 

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