War of the Orchids: Battle Erupts Over Miss Universe Bouquet

Catriona Gray holds a bouquet designed by Thai florist Phiyawat Meephaithoon, right, upon winning Miss Universe 2018 on Monday.
Catriona Gray holds a bouquet designed by Thai florist Phiyawat Meephaithoon, right, upon winning Miss Universe 2018 on Monday.

BANGKOK — In the arms of newly crowned Miss Universe was placed a bouquet of orchids meant to bring pride to Thai florists – but which inadvertently brought out some of the nastiest classist statements online.

What were the final moments of a 500-million-baht ceremony Monday was the pinnacle of pride for florist Phiyawat Meephaithoon, who had prepared the living confection of purple, blue and pearl cradled by Catriona Gray for her big moment.

Read: Philippines’ Catriona Gray Crowned Miss Universe 2018

“It’s been the dream of this country boy to make a bouquet for Miss Universe, and the day is here,” Phiyawat said afterward. “This might not be the prettiest bouquet, but I made it with my heart for the pride of Thais.”


That’s when his fellow florists pounced, with sharpened shears. Calling the arrangement homely, some of the big names in flower-arranging let loose flames dripping with class malignancy to singe the furthest corners of the virtual kingdom.

“The end product looks like a monster rather than a bouquet. People who like it are of a different class than me. There’s a lot of people in society, including these hiso country folk,” Ekkaphap Lamphun, owner of florist brand Gettava, wrote online. “Everyone’s laughing at it.”

Photo: 2018 Miss Universe / Facebook
Photo: 2018 Miss Universe / Facebook

Ekkaphap said his firm turned down the Miss Universe job because it “doesn’t need to do free work to get publicity” and didn’t need to “appeal to the masses.”

It was shots-fired in the decorative flower world.

Phiyawat retaliated, saying that the Miss Universe organization asked him to make a Thai-style bouquet.

“If you did it, you would just use expensive European flowers and think to yourself that you look chic, hi-class and classy while looking down on what everyone else in the country likes,” Phiyawat wrote. “Do you ever respect your own country’s culture? You don’t even respect others in your field.”

While Miss Universe 2017’s slip-up on answering the final round question about social issues stirred a related debate among Thais, this year it was whether the bouquets and dresses – which had to represent Thainess – also objectively looked good enough to represent the host country.

Read: Miss Universe Maria’s Flub on ‘Social Movement’ Stirs Debate

The drama was widely shared online, especially by Crossboxs blog, which summarized the drama in a post shared almost 4,000 times in one day. Most of the public sided Phiyawat’s arrangement, with netizens filling Gettava florist’s page with negative reviews.

“Don’t give flowers full of jealousy to people you love,” wrote Natnicha Boonphueak succinctly.

Ekkaphap Lamphun in a video about his florist brand.

The Dresses

Not only did Thailand’s white elephant national costume fail to snag an award, a blue-gray evening gown worn by Miss Universe Thailand 2018 Sophida “Ning” Kanchanarin is also currently the center of another drama. A politician filed criminal lese-majeste complaints against a YouTube star for criticizing the dress, designed by Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana.

Internet TV host Wanchaleom Jamneanphol wrote the controversial statement on Facebook, asking why people were allowed to pan another one of Ning’s gowns – a highly-criticized red dress designed by celebrity designer Polpat “Moo” Asavaprapha – but not one by the princess.

Upon going to the police, the politico who filed the complaint, Kitjanut Chaiyosburana, was arrested too on an outstanding warrant for fraud.

Read: Police Arrest Politico Who Filed Princess Dress Complaint

Another one of Sophida’s evening gowns – the bejeweled red one she wore onstage at the final round – has been widely panned, with netizens comparing it to a likay stage costume.

A widely-shared meme comparing Miss Universe 2018’s evening gown to a likay stage performer’s dress. Photo: Naenai1990 / Twitter

Polpat said Sophida asked the dress to be red since it was her lucky color.

“Taste is in the eye of the beholder. A hundred people have a hundred different tastes,” Polpat said. “This dress was inspired by Queen Sirikit’s outfits in the ‘60s and ‘70s, when Thailand was opening up to the West. Her Highness had world-class designer design outfits for her that had an Eastern flair to them.”

Polpat said he would not design next year’s dresses for Miss Universe even though he had done so for four years.

“Khun Moo, didn’t learn from your mistakes? All of them totally kill the beauty queens. It’s full of crystals, and still not as pretty as likay costumes,” user @importnew2233 said about Polpat’s Miss Universe gowns.

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