Before I proceed with the Final Five, I would need to further discuss my conspiracy theory about what the puppet-masters’ agenda is.  The puppet-masters’ agenda was to advance the cause of Priscila Machado despite any public uproar, if possible make her win this pageant.  A secondary agenda is to advance the cause of the Luso girls by preventing direct rivals from advancing and competing head-to-head with them.

The Final Five contemplating their fate (photo courtesy of Andy Cohen at http://www.bravotv.com/watch-what-happens-live/season-4/blogs/andys-blog/happy-wednesday)

But there are limits to what the puppet-masters can do–for instance, they cannot upset directors who have close connections with Trump’s organization like China’s Yue Sai-Kan and Ukraine’s Oleksandra Nikolayenko with her businessman husband Phillip Ruffin, and in general, the celebrity panel’s decisions are beyond their direct influence (despite the presence of two Brazilians and the soccer connection with a third judge).  So it’s simple to explain how China and Ukraine advanced all the way to the Final Five–and because Malaysia’s director Andrea Fonseka does not have much clout with Trump’s organization, the puppet-masters had their way in preventing poor Deborah Henry from taking her rightful place in this hallowed group.  Angola is due to the Luso connection, of course.  What about the Philippines?  I think the puppet-masters did not account for her that much early in the game and did not perceive her as a serious threat until after the Presentation Show, but then decided to allow her to advance on merit anyway since they are aware of the groundswell of popular internet support for this lady.  But the puppet-masters counted on the patriotic tendencies of the two Brazilian judges (race car driver Helio Castroneves and model Isabeli Fontana) and the soccer connection with CONCACAF*1 executive vice president Italo Zanzi (who happens to exude the vibe of a handsome Brazilian businessman even if he’s actually American of Italian descent) to ultimately advance Priscila’s cause at Shamcey’s expense in the end.

*1 CONCACAF – Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football.

China's national director Yue Sai-Kan (photo courtesy of yuesaikan.com)
Phil Ruffin and Ukraine's national director Oleksandra Nikolayenko (photo sourced from exposay.com)
Little clout with Trump & Co.: Malaysia's national director Andrea Fonseka (photo sourced from estherlke.blogspot.com)
Helio Castroneves (photo sourced from People.com)
Isabeli Fontana (cover photo courtesy of Deutsch Vogue)
Italo Zanzi (photo sourced from americandreamshow.com)

It’s interesting to note that this is the first time in 28 years that no representative from a Spanish-speaking country made the final five or six (from 1990-97).  Someone might need to correct me on this, but this is also the first time since 1988 that there was no Spanish interpreter needed onstage (Miss Mexico, Andrea Olivares, spoke perfect English, if I could recall).  Interpreters were still needed, of course, in Ukrainian, Chinese, and Portuguese.  It’s also interesting that based on the web interviews, the finalists who needed interpreters could speak English, so some pageant fans and pundits felt that they have an unfair advantage as it could be assumed that they strategically used the interpreters to garner extra time to formulate their thoughts.

Precision Translating Services (photo sourced from stujay.com)

It’s about time to discuss the five finalists, starting with:

4TH RUNNER-UP: CHINA – Luo Zilin.  I was right!  Though of course she did not share the same physical look or style (Miss Angola is the closest one in this respect), she is this year’s Venus Raj.  Despite the low fan-meter scores (which a colleague of mine at the office viewing party speculated was due to severe internet restrictions in China), she delivered on the hype as a stage dynamo, and in the final interview round, she was the one who gave the weakest answer.  When asked by Isabeli Fontana about if she thinks public nudity is appropriate or inappropriate, she gave a generic answer by saying, “Every country has its rules and regulations and its own habits as well; we should respect them and be more understanding.”  Just like in Venus Raj’s situation, the answer itself was not bad, but it could’ve been articulated and constructed better.  Though she’s more gorgeous, glamorous, and charismatic than Miss Universe 2002 2nd runner-up Zhuo Ling, her placement is fully justified.

3RD RUNNER-UP: PHILIPPINES – Shamcey Supsup.  Why did Portugal win the popular vote?  It was initially speculated amongst my colleagues at the office viewing party that it might be that other countries were giving Shamcey low scores, pulling down her average.  I believe it’s more because she made the cut with the preliminary panel, hence the delegate with the next-best average score was given the popular voting slot.  Her distinctive hip-swaying catwalk moves, described by Filipino pageant fans and pundits as the “tsunami walk”, do make her stand out onstage.  I do like her moves, though I wouldn’t describe it as “tsunami” but more of “samba-fied”, as she moved in-sync with the syncopated bossa nova and samba beats.  Those distinctive moves helped her get away with a gaffe in the swimsuit round, when she failed to remove the shawl on her neck–it looked like she kept the shawl on deliberately for a distinctive touch.  Of course her elegant evening gown presentation left no room for any negative comments, as it received universally positive notices.

The question posed to her by actress Vivica A. Fox about changing her religious beliefs for the person she loves is actually a lose-lose proposition.  Saying “no” would create the impression that you are conservative and maybe even close-minded–it could turn you into the next Carrie Prejean*2.  Saying “yes” would leave conservative viewers with the impression that your moral principles could be easily compromised.  Trying to weasel out of it with a “maybe” would leave people with an impression that you are wishy-washy.

*2 Carrie Prejean was notorious for fielding Perez Hilton’s question about gay marriage, taking a staunch conservative stance.  She ended up 1st runner-up in Miss USA 2009, but her reputation is tarnished forever especially with the revelation of some unsavory shenanigans.

We have to hand it to Shamcey that she gave the best answer she could by taking a firm stand: “If I had to change my religious beliefs, I will not marry the person that I love because the first person that I love is God, who created me. And I have my faith, my principles, and this is what makes me who I am. And if that person loves me, he should love my God too.”  You may disagree with what she said, but you have to respect what she stood for.  My mom, who is not into Shamcey’s facial beauty as she doesn’t find wide Julia Roberts-style mouths to be beautiful, thought she gave the best answer of them all as the answer jibes with her staunchly conservative Roman Catholic beliefs.  And considering the degree of difficulty of this question, plus the fact that Shamcey instantly spoke from the heart and did not require an interpreter to answer it, she indeed gave the best interview performance of the Final Five.  We learned later on that she has personal experience to draw upon this question as her boyfriend converted to her faith.

During the viewing party, my colleagues felt based on her answer she should be the next Miss Universe or be at least 1st runner-up to Angola.  Though the sentiment was that she deserved a better placement, we Filipinos are proud of her finish (and her subsequent hero’s welcome with city-wide motorcade parade after she flew back home was well-earned).  She now belongs to an illustrious list of 3rd runners-up, with Lalaine Bennett (1963), the late Chat Silayan (1980), and Desiree Verdadero (1984).  The only runner-up placement we are missing is 2nd runner-up…

Lalaine Bennett (photo sourced from missosology.info)
Chat Silayan (photo sourced from pageant-mania.ephpbb.com)
Desiree Verdardero (TV capture photo sourced from http://www.geocities.ws/heimlich_20886/decade_80s_part2.html)
Shamcey's homecoming (photo sourced from http://www.crisiboy.com

2ND RUNNER-UP: BRAZIL – Priscila Machado.  Okay, before I pour on the vitriol, we do have to concede a few things: first, she is indeed good looking and attractive (though not in a sympathetic, likable beauty kind of way) with a buffed, trim figure to boot; second, she does have excellent stage presence and fierce catwalk moves; third, her canary yellow satin gown was a major improvement from the pink gown she sported at the Presentation Show; and fourth, when asked by countryman Helio Castroneves with an awkwardly phrased question, “What would you do to avoid fighting a war that you did not agree with it?” she gave a strong answer: “First of all I would explain to people that the premiere quality of human being is respect. And more war is not based on respect. It’s always based on misunderstanding, it’s always based on a lack of education. So I would tell this person that we should respect each other as human beings.”  Plus, I read a report from a pageant fan from a popular pageant messageboard at the venue who posed with her and several other contestants that she’s gracious to him (in contrast to Miss Venezuela).

I can accept that she does belong in the Top 16.  But advancing into the Top 10 in lieu of, say, Venezuela?  It’s a bit of a stretch, if you ask me.  But all the way to the Top 5 instead of Australia or Costa Rica?  Maybe it is strategic that Australia came on first in the evening gown round and she was among the last contestants parading as there is the tendency of judges to score higher towards the latter half of the competition.  Do the puppet-masters have a hand in how the order of semi-finalists was set up?

I feel that the puppet-masters somehow took a major liking to Priscila beginning from her stint in her national pageant that they moved heaven and earth to make her win over some perceived worthier favorites.  Then, they strong-armed the Miss Universe Organization (or made them an offer they cannot refuse) into accepting her entry even if her nude modeling photos were clearly in breach of the rules of the pageant (whether they were released with her authorization or not–the fact is there is video footage that seems to show she allowed herself to be photographed and filmed in such a scandalous fashion, and they are obviously not for the purpose of a worthy cause like breast cancer).  Then, of course, the scheming and machinations continued all throughout this pageant, with Malaysia, Aruba, Nicaragua, and yes, even the Philippines, as casualties.  When we witnessed Brazil and Angola holding hands together, I shuddered in fear that these might end up as the final two.  Thank goodness there were enough independent-minded judges that prevented that outcome.

Luso girls as the last two standing? Not if Miss Ukraine can help it!

But I have to concede that perhaps Priscila does serve a purpose as she became like the villainess of this pageant.  She turned into the girl you just love to hate as she kept on advancing to the next rounds.  And villains do make for compelling TV–just think of people like Richard Hatch, Russell Hantz, Jerri Manthey, and Parvati Shallow in Survivor.  And considering her physical resemblance to former American Idol judge Kara Dioguardi, and how netizens expressed such an aggressive dislike for her (I’m not one of them, in Kara’s case), I just can’t resist that Priscila shares a parallelism with her döppelgänger.  Her raised arm gestures when she was announced as 2nd runner-up is viewed by most pageant fans and pundits as a gesture of defiance and arrogance.  Somehow, I had visions of Richard Nixon’s raised arms victory pose when she did that.

Richard Hatch (photo courtesy of CBS)
Russell Hantz (photo courtesy of CBS)
Jerri Manthey (photo courtesy of CBS)
Parvati Shallow (photo courtesy of CBS)
Kara Dioguardi's bikini moment at American Idol Season 9 finale
A gesture of arrogance and defiance?
Richard Nixon's farewell pose (photo sourced from ihatewhatyoulove.blogspot.com)

Where would she go to next?  I can imagine Rede Bandeirantes setting up a full-fledged campaign to turn her into the next telenovela superstar–but my suggestion is the roles best suited for her are glamorous, scheming villainesses like, say, a remake of the Mexican telenovela Rubi, or maybe a  remake of Melrose Place with her playing the Heather Locklear role, or maybe the role of the vain, evil queen in a live-action remake or update of Snow White.

Rubi telenovela (image courtesy of Televisa)
Heather Locklear in Melrose Place (image courtesy of CW)
Evil Queen in Disney's Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs (image courtesy of Walt Disney)

The message that Miss Universe seems to be sending lately to Brazil that their best key to success is to field villainess types like 2007 1st runner-up Natalia Guimarães and this lady.  I hope this trend would not sustain for years to come–Brazil is more known for the sensual type of beauties like Miss Earth winners Priscilla Meirelles (2004) and Larissa Ramos (2009), and I would definitely prefer sympathetic types like those two winners along with, say, 2003 semifinalist Gislaine Ferreira anytime.

NÃO! Natalia Guimaraes
SIM! Miss Earth 2004 Priscilla Meirelles (photo sourced from tvrage.com)
SIM! Miss Earth 2009 Larissa Ramos (photo sourced from bestinswimsuit.blogspot.com)
SIM! Gislaine Ferreira

On a final note, I noticed the word “respect” has been bandied about in four of the Final Five’s answers.  I wonder if the puppet-masters have a hand in this, like a subliminal message to the public that we must “respect” the results…

1ST RUNNER-UP: UKRAINE – Olesya Stefanko.  I should have kept a keener eye on her than I had.  There were several pageant fans and pundits who hyped her as a front-runner from the get-go, but I thought she was overshadowed by the likes of Russia, Finland, and Netherlands during the activities leading until the Presentation Show (and I was keeping the faith that Kosovo would deliver when it counts).  I did give her respectably high grades when I reviewed her web interview, but I didn’t think that much of her then.  And because of the drop of webcast feed by Livestream during the evening gown round of the Presentation Show, I missed what turned out to be a sensational evening gown performance to rate her higher in my “fearful” forecast.

Her white evening gown evoked two now-classic evening gown performances by Miss Universe winners.  First, the gown itself resembles Oxana Fedorova’s white Gucci finals gown, but with halter-type shoulder straps and being cinched below the bustline for an empire-waist effect.  Second, she walked in the gown by performing the Riyo Mori Gucci Flash.  She clearly made an indelible impact with that performance.

Oxana Fedorova (photo courtesy of Getty Images)
Riyo Mori

For the final round, she was asked by Miss Universe 2003 Amelia Vega if she would want to trade places with anyone, who would it be and why.  She responded, “I simply live my life and I’m very satisfied with it. But if I did have the chance to trade positions with someone I think I would choose Cleopatra. I think she is a very powerful and strong woman who is very much worthy of respect. And I think a woman could also be a leader like Cleopatra.”  Cleopatra was a very controversial figure over the centuries, but recent historical evaluations seem to have placed her in higher regard for her political skills, that is why it is now considered an acceptable answer.  Though of course, I still prefer Shamcey’s Q&A performance, I know that winners are now determined by overall impact, not solely by the final answer.  And well, Olesya’s beauty and stage presence is undeniable–a colleague at the viewing party compared her face to Natalie Portman’s and I started to see the resemblance (though I still maintain that she looks more like Brooke Shields with a bit of Vanessa Paradis thrown in).  Her bringing forth Ukraine’s best placement to date is indeed justifiable.

Natalie Portman (photo sourced from celebrityscoops.net)

ANGOLA – Leila Lopes.  Though my stomach turned at the machinations involved to pave the way for this lady’s victory, I totally and wholeheartedly accept this woman as the winner.  Though I found her catwalk to be dreadful and graceless, you cannot deny the distinctive presence she makes onstage, especially with her hair up in a regal updo.  I guess that’s why the rules have changed that resulted to her benefit.  Well, there is also precedent in America’s Next Top Model, Cycle 15, with the gangly and statuesque Ann Ward winning despite a not-so-solid catwalk (she is known for taking stunning photos, hence being called first the most in the elimination challenges).

America's Next Top Model Cycle 15 champion Ann Ward (photo courtesy of CW)

During the final Q&A round, she was asked by Filipina Broadway superstar Lea Salonga about if she were to change any physical characteristic, what would it be and why.  She answered in Portuguese (with her translator butting in to interrupt her train of thought), “Thank God I’m very well satisfied with the way that God created me and I wouldn’t change a thing. I consider myself a woman endowed with inner beauty, I have my principles, I have acquired many wonderful principles from my family and I plan to follow these through the rest of my life and now I want to give all of you a piece of advice: Respect one another.”  If it weren’t for the inappropriately superfluous “piece of advice” part (so she can add the key word “respect” of course), the answer is absolutely perfect.

Looking at her gorgeous face intently, I get images of Black Box frontwoman*3 Katrin Quinol and R&B singer Monica.  The controversy over Katrin Quinol’s lipsynching over Martha Wash’s (and Loleatta Holloway’s and eventual M-People singer Heather Small) vocals made me reflect on the current brewing controversy about her allegedly fraudulent entry in the regional heat of her national pageant (the Miss Angola UK contest).  It might explain her weaker-than-expected facility in English plus the fact that why is she still a college undergraduate at age 25, but I also wonder–wouldn’t this issue have been raised much earlier before or immediately after her victory in her national pageant?  Why is this issue raised just now?  Is there credibility to this issue?  I definitely would give Leila the benefit of the doubt here, and I feel the likely scenario is that the controversy would be rendered moot and Leila will go on to complete her reign.

*3 In a less savory sense of the word.  A frontwoman for a band would typically mean the lead singer, but in Katrin’s case, she’s used as the “image” mouthing the lyrics sung by other singers for music videos and “live” appearances.

Miss Universe garnered its lowest US TV ratings ever with this edition.  I could totally understand judging from the subpar production and the machinations involving the host country.  If rumors of next year’s pageant going to be held in Brazilian soil again is true, I hope that there would be a livelier, more spirited production next time, and that any Machiavellian scheming and machinations be absent or kept to a minimum.

Congratulations, Angola!

All images courtesy of Miss Universe Organization, L.P., LLLP, unless otherwise indicated.




Before I proceed with the Top 10, I have to go back to my “fearful” forecast in my homestretch review, and I originally conceived my conspiracy theory to involve only one girl.  It might actually involve more than one.  I mentioned back in my homestretch review that if justice were to prevail, there would be three Asians, two black divas representing countries beginning with the letter “A”, and two Central American countries.  Well, we all know one seemingly unimpeachable Asian was shut out.  There was only one black diva who advanced, seemingly turning the pageant into a continuing gesture of tokenism.  Two ladies from Central America did advance, but the one I thought whose slot was the most secure was the one excluded.

The Top 10

I’ve already ranted earlier about the non-inclusion of Deborah Henry so that doesn’t need to be repeated.  Now, the black girl with the letter “A” country who advanced was Leila Lopes of Angola, shutting out Gillain Berry of Aruba.  The two Central American countries that advanced were Costa Rica and Panama, with Nicaragua being shut out in the process.  Miss Bahamas, Anastagia Pierre, offered a theory that they only allowed Miss Angola to advance without any other black girl in order to prevent any direct comparisons and maximize Angola’s chances to reach the final round–though Anastagia was probably thinking that she was the one who was prevented from moving further, I believe the one who was blocked was Miss Aruba.  Now, regarding Nicaragua’s non-advancement, well, this dead-ringer to Miss World 2004 Maria Julia Mantilla also has a resemblance to Miss Portugal.  So I’m thinking the puppet-masters’ agenda actually involved the three Luso* girls competing in this pageant.

* Luso is derived from the word Lusitania, the ancient Roman name for the area that is now Portugal.  This term is used to refer to anyone who speaks Portuguese or have any cultural heritage with Portugal (like via colonization).

Aruba's Gillain Berry
Bahamas's Anastagia Pierre has a theory...
Nicaragua's Adriana Dorn

I will discuss more about my theories when we look at the Top 10, starting with:

PORTUGAL – Laura Gonçalves.  It’s a refreshing thought that finally this country made a breakthrough and advance to the semifinals after participating since 1960.  She may be a tad less polished than a Latin contestant, but that makes her more refreshing that way.  The celebrity panel obviously responded well to her type of beauty and she is proven worthy of belonging to this group.  It’s a tad odd how she won the popular vote, but sifting through the arcane legalese of the rules for voting, it seems to not be based on volume of votes, but average rating given on those votes, and I’m not clear if it’s per participating country or per IP address or whatever…  One might assume that a usual suspect would’ve been the popular vote winner, but it seemed that usual suspect made the cut on her own merit (she won over the preliminary panel, most likely).  If my conspiracy theory is true, I’m not that upset over the exclusion of Miss Nicaragua to avoid generating direct comparisons to this lady.

FRANCE – Laury Thilleman.  As expected, with her competitive drive she outshone her predecessor Malika Menard.  I am aware she received major flak for her comments post-pageant about the winner, that she didn’t get to know her too well because of the winner’s normally shy and reserved demeanor.  Several pageant fans and pundits felt she’s sour-graping, but I think she’s entitled to her honest opinion and I didn’t find her comments objectionable.

PANAMA – Sheldry Saez.  During the broadcast, what everyone was talking about when referring to her were her big lips.  I only noticed that feature of hers during the finals, and all I could think of is that comedic song originally sang on the TV series “Glee”, “Trouty Mouth”.  Anyway, her performance during the telecast was just as good as it was during the Presentation Show, sexily sashaying onstage during the Top 16 swimsuit round, and looking elegant in her shimmering white evening gown during the Top 10 evening gown round.  Good thing she knows to apply the right amount of makeup when it counts.

It’s also notable that she was selected as the winner of Best National Costume, announced during the telecast in a countdown.  It is a well-deserved victory, but I wonder if there is a prize package associated with it like Miss Congeniality and Miss Photogenic.  Remember that this year the costumes seem to be presented as an afterthought.

COSTA RICA – Johanna Solano.  Finally, to make up for the equine Nancy Soto seven years ago, Costa Rica made the Top 10 with a gorgeously sexy bombshell.  During my office viewing party, a colleague exclaimed that she resembles Miss Universe 1993 from Puerto Rico, Dayanara Torres.  I did notice the Dayanara resemblance, but I also saw features of Mareva Galanter, the highly regarded gorgeous French-Tahitian non-finalist back in 1999.  She has one of the best and buffest swimsuit bodies in the group, so I was not surprised she would advance to the next round.  She wore the same satin maroon “can-can” gown, which had polarized pageant fans and pundits even as she walked well in it, so it was expected that she didn’t make the Final Five.

Hot body to die for!
Do the can-can!
Dayanara Torres (Photo sourced from dayanaratorresbuzz.blogspot.com)
Mareva Galanter (at Miss Universe 1999)

AUSTRALIA – Scherri-Lee Biggs.  If this was held outside of Brazil, I bet this lady would easily have advanced to the Final Five.  There was a major brouhaha about her being forced to switch gowns during the Presentation Show because the original gown was deemed too risqué.  We finally got to see the “controversial” gown during the finals, and to my eyes it’s really much ado about nothing–it’s about as risqué as the glittery sheer gown sported by Shamcey Supsup, in my opinion.  There were pageant fans and pundits who panned her evening gown performance, but I didn’t see anything wrong about her presentation at all.

All photos courtesy of the Miss Universe Organization, L.P., LLLP, unless otherwise indicated.

COMING UP: The Final Five.


Let us now discuss the delegates.  It has been a ritual in recent years for the non-finalists to do a “swimsuit dance” during the swimsuit round, where they perform their moves onstage.  But this year there were a couple of changes: first, they were not clad in swimsuits this time, but in the carnival outfits they wore for their Fadil Berisha glamshots; second, instead of dancing onstage, they were dancing at the audience aisles instead.  The swimsuit dance feels even more of an indignity this year than in editions past, in my opinion.  I suppose this is the limitation of the relatively small stage they decided to use for this edition.

Miss Botswana, Larona Kgabo

Another change in this edition is the announcement of special awards–instead of being presented live onstage as in recent editions, it’s now simply noted in a pre-taped segment (from the end of the Presentation Show, in this case).  I have already cited the award winners in my homestretch review, so I can only note two standout non-finalists during the broadcast, one of them with dubious distinciton:

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC – Dalia Fernandez.  She was prominently featured in a sponsored segment by makeup and hair sponsor Chi, about jazzing up her very straight hair.  I actually preferred the straight hair better than the poofed up wavy results, though the wavy option was not bad at all.

ST. LUCIA – Joy-Ann Biscette.  In recent editions, during the evening gown round the non-finalists would walk around the stage before the finalists are presented.  You cannot miss this lady’s tackily frumpy yellow frock from a mile away, and to add to the humiliation factor she was caught tripping and bumping into the delegate in front of her (I presume it’s Miss Sweden).

Before I discuss the Top 16, please indulge me as I rant about the gross injustice that took place in this year’s pageant.  Of course, I’m referring to the exclusion of Miss Malaysia, Deborah Priya Henry, in the Top 16.  Though conspiracy theories run through my head that there were puppet-masters who may have briefed the preliminary panel to not rate Deborah that high, as she is a major threat to their agenda (what their agenda is–you’ll find out as I discuss the Final Five), there is that possibility (I’ll be giving the preliminary panel the benefit of the doubt here) that perhaps her facial features and trim figure are really simply not to their liking (they may just say that other ladies were better), that they offset her theoretically superb interview and her perfectly sensational Presentation Show performance.  It possibly could have been a close-but-no-cigar proposition amongst the preliminary panel.

Now, I can understand clearly why after she missed making the cut with the preliminary panel that the Miss Universe Organization did not come to her rescue and offer her a Trump Ticket–first, of course, is the perceived threat over a “favored” delegate (again I will tell you who my main suspect is when I discuss the Final Five), and then there is the Miss World 2007 semifinalist factor–the Miss Universe Organization probably caught wind of her previous background and wanted to stop the streak this time.  As a result, poor Deborah was shut out.

Deborah Henry at Miss World, with Mz. Puerto RIco (Jennifer Guevarra), Grenada (Vivian Burkhardt), and Austria (Christine Reiler) (Photo courtesy of Miss World Organization)

Anyway, it seems Deborah took the results stoically, as after the pageant she simply moved on and went on an enjoyable vacation in Rio de Janeiro (take note that there are stories of some delegates wondering if they’ll be going to Rio during the pageant–and that city is what most people have in mind when they think of Brazil; as we all know, they were all confined within the limits of São Paulo state).  Check her public Facebook fan page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Deborah-Priya-Henry/159843334068476.  Despite the outcome, there will always be a space for Deborah in my heart and I know thousands of avid Miss Universe pageant fans all around the world have a very high regard for this classy lady.

Image of Christ the Redeemer as taken by Deborah Henry as posted on her Twitter account. (Photo courtesy of Deborah Henry)

Enough of my rant… now, let’s go to the Top 16.  Now, this is the first time that it is actually difficult to pinpoint the preliminary panel choices vs. the recipients of Trump Tickets.  All members of the Top 16 have performed justifiably strongly all throughout their stay in Brazil, and have strong to superb Presentation Show performances.  If Shandi didn’t point out that she won the popular vote, I would’ve assumed Miss Portugal was either a Trump Ticket recipient or she indeed won favor with the Preliminary Panel (the former was the likelier scenario).  I got 12 of the Top 16 right, and the four I didn’t pick were all part of my bubbling under list, so I’m pleased with my performance as I only simply measure how many made this cut, without factoring in their placements (it doesn’t matter that much to me).

The Top 16 in swimsuits

The “Dizzy” portion of my title comes from the fact that I was trying to score the performances of the Top 16 and Top 10 based on their presentations, and the outcome turning out to be significantly different from the way I scored them.  Worsening matters is that during the swimsuit round, it was actually a very close race with no clear frontrunners (and the ones I assumed to be frontrunners failed to advance to the next round).  It only dawned on me a bit later after the rounds were completed that different criteria were now used to judge the delegates.  Without further ado here’s my take on the Top 16:

U S A – Alyssa Campanella.  To her credit, she didn’t look as frighteningly skeletal and poorly tanned as she did during the Presentation Show.  I feel sad that this formerly regarded front-runner for the crown endured a sudden fall from grace after her Presentation Show appearance, and I can understand why she failed to advance beyond the Top 16–the celebrity panel preferred healthier body images than what she presented.

COLOMBIA – Catalina Robayo.  Not to detract from this lady’s intrinsic merits, but if I were to replace any of the Top 16 with Deborah Henry it would be this lady.  It’s nice that she broke the even-numbered-year trend that often befalls this nation.  I have this gnawing feeling she won favor with the preliminary panel (well, she did deliver onstage and judging from her web interview she probably won them over with her vivaciousness and sense of humor) because considering the reprimand she received over the “Basic Instinct” incident I doubt that the Miss Universe Organization would hand her a Trump Ticket.

NETHERLANDS – Kelly Weekers.  Finally after 19 years, this country advanced to the next round.  This gorgeous blonde was actually solid during this round, but admittedly did not register as strong a presence as the other contenders out there, especially in a close competition such as this.

KOSOVO – Afërdita Dreshaj.  This was an erstwhile front-runner who fell a bit out of favor with pageant fans and pundits as time wore on. It could be speculated she was a Trump Ticket recipient if we base it from her obviously weak gown performance.  She did deliver well during the Top 16 swimsuit round, but perhaps the judges found her slender frame a bit too thin (though more natural-looking than Alyssa’s frame) for comfort.

PUERTO RICO – Viviana Ortiz.  During the viewing party at my office pantry, one of my colleagues commented when he looked at her that she resembles a horse.  This instantly brought me back to 2004 and recalled Costa Rica’s Nancy Soto, who also invited equine comparisons.  And lo and behold, amongst the list of hobbies in Viviana’s profile when she was announced as part of the Top 16 was horseback riding.  She was a fiery spitfire onstage with her lively catwalk and her buffed figure.  I bet she only missed the cut because the celebrity panel was not into her equine features.  Too bad we missed seeing her awesomely intricately embroidered white evening gown.

Nancy Soto (Miss Costa Rica 2004)

VENEZUELA – Vanessa Gonçalves.  To be frank, I thought with that supremely buffed body and superbly fierce catwalk, I thought she will advance to the Top 10 instead of Brazil.  She also got the highest fan-meter score during this round.  But I have this feeling that the celebrity panel saw through all the botox and plastic surgery and were turned off by it, so she didn’t advance.  There was a part of me that was happy she didn’t go as far as I was turned off by the blatant denial she made when she was asked about plastic surgery during the press call, along with the fact that she was so obviously transformed that she barely looked human.  Her griping (along with Osmel Souza) after the pageant just made me dislike her even more, despite my begrudging respect for her stage skills.

Photos courtesy of the Miss Universe Organization, L.P., LLLP, unless otherwise indicated.

COMING UP: The Top 10.