MEXICO CITY – Who won Mexico's presidential debate? According to the media and Twitter frenzy, at least, the victor wasn't any candidate but a curvaceous model in a tight gown who puzzled millions by appearing on stage for less than 30 seconds during the showdown.
Julia Orayen has posed nude for Playboy and appeared barely dressed in other media, but she made her mark on Mexican minds Sunday night by carrying an urn filled with bits of paper determining the order that candidates would speak.
Not that viewers were looking at the urn.
She wore a tight, white dress with a wide, tear-drop cutout that revealed her ample decolletage. The image was splashed across newspaper front pages and websites by Monday.
"The best was the girl in white with the cleavage at the beginning," tweeted former Mexican Foreign Minister Jorge Castaneda, who is also a New York University professor.
Orayen's name jockeyed for third and fourth place throughout the day under Twitter's Mexico City trends, where a click revealed her previous work, including an almost-nude spread commemorating Mexican Independence Day in which she appears in minimal garb modeled on images of Mexican founding father Jose Maria Morelos.
Alfredo Figueroa, director of the Federal Electoral Institute responsible for organizing the debate, blamed the incident on a production associate hired by the institute to help with the debate. The institute later issued an apology to Mexican citizens and the candidates for the woman's dress.
Figueroa told MVS radio that he had requested an aide in "sober dress."
Interviewed by the Cadena Tres TV network, Orayen said the production team gave her instructions to wear a long, white dress, but she picked it out from her own closet.
"It was my only choice for a long dress. I didn't think it would reveal as much or cause this much scandal," she said. "I learned I like myself better when I'm covered up."
At least one candidate was seen gawking at Orayen's posterior from the dais. Gabriel Quadri, who is drawing single-digit support as the candidate of the New Alliance party, said her appearance made him nervous.
"It is impossible not to concentrate your attention on a woman so spectacular," Quadri told MVS radio.
It was the only thing unforeseen in a debate that analysts said would likely have no impact on the candidates' standings in the polls. Enrique Pena Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party has for weeks enjoyed a double-digit lead over Josefina Vazquez Mota of the conservative National Action and Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the leftist Democratic Revolution Party.
Joking with the female news host and a character in the TV show who wears a gorilla mask, Orayen said she didn't totally enjoy being a 17-second sensation, especially after reading he string of nasty comments of her dress choice on Twitter and Facebook.
"It wasn't a pleasant surprise," she said, now wearing a rather conservative pink top.