I recently returned from a trip abroad to Russia. Miss Universe, Roston Ogata, our security guard Nelson and I were put up in the Ritz-Carlton in Moscow, which beautifully overlooked the Kremlin. After a day of getting settled and adjusting to the time difference, we sat for a barrage of interviews from the best and brightest of the Russian press before we recollected ourselves and prepared for dinner.
We were whisked away by town cars with our lovely guide, Irina. Our mission was dinner and out host was a mister Roustam Tariko, a wealthy chocolatier and owner of the Russian Standard brand of vodka as well as the Miss Russia Organization, among other things. The dinner was held in a room adorned with hundred-year-old woodwork and included a gigantic fireplace adding cozy warmth to the Russian bite outside. Champagne and conversation flowed as we met the soon-to-be former Miss Russia as well as Preston Mendenhall, the coordinator of the coming night's event. Roustam made his appearance, and the feast was on. We dined on a delicious assortment of caviar, latkas, dumplings, salads and cooked lamb all the while being serenaded by gypsies. Heaven existed, for a night at least, in that room in Moscow.
The next day our group received a tour of the Kremlin and Red Square. We viewed, inside and outside, the famed Russian Orthodox Churches with their golden rounded tops and ancient paintings of epiphanies and miracles. These churches and the beautiful architecture of the buildings around us provided ample opportunities for snapshots. We moved onto Red Square and viewed the Tomb of Lenin. Red Square was packed with men and women old and young alike making a day of it with an ice skating rink and various balloon and tchotchke vendors. Due to the freezing air and the impending event, we retired to our hotel to freshen up and prepare for Miss Russia.
The pageant was held about thirty minutes outside of Moscow. Stefania, Miss Universe, was to be a judge in the pageant, a first for her. The pageant was much more visual and entertaining than I imagined it would be. Towering LED panels covered the entire stage and blasted out tele-pop light beams while Russia’s finest rockers shredded and pounded the collective viscera as goddesses walked amongst us.
After a long night out it was time to pack up and leave for a ten-hour airplane flight where, left with my thoughts, I could only wonder if the past two days were real or a very lovely dream.