MISS UNIVERSE 2011: AT THE HOMESTRETCH (CONCLUSION)

Because of a feed drop by Livestream which they couldn’t rectify when they rebroadcast the Presentation Show, I can only assess the gown performances of the ladies from St. Lucia to Ukraine based on photos and the callback after Miss Vietnam’s presentation.

ST. LUCIA– Joy-Ann Biscette.  She has the exotic facial features that have the potential to turn major heads if she knows how to create a distinctive persona.  Unfortunately, she only blended with the crowd throughout her Brazil stint, and during the Presentation Show she wore one of the worst frocks of the night, a frumpy yellow gown.  She didn’t make a fierce impression in swimsuit as I noticed how small her frame is relative to her head.

SWEDEN– Ronnia Fornstedt.  As hers were the first pictures that appeared online as the Miss Universe activities began, she initially made a big splash with pageant fans and pundits.  She’s then overshadowed as other favorites came in, but she’s still strong.  I don’t know how well she worked her pink sequined evening gown onstage, but the gown looked good.  She is the winner of Miss Photogenic (polled by a group of judges instead of public vote after a long time, just as it ought to be).  A Trump Ticket may be in order for her.

Winning Miss Photogenic

SWITZERLAND– Kerstin Cook.  There were pageant fans and pundits who like her and believe her to be in serious contention, but to my eyes she’s just another pretty face in the crowd.  She’s solid, but not really memorable, during the Presentation Show.

TANZANIA– Nelly Kamwelu.  She already had an international pageant experience winning the Miss Southern Africa International earlier this year.  But even with that on her belt, in my opinion she is one of the weaker delegates out there.  I find her face rather unattractive, and her figure is not trim and fit, as reflected in the Presentation Show.

THAILAND– Chanyasorn Sakornchan.  Facewise, she couldn’t compare to her predecessor, Fonthip Watcharatrakul.  But she has enough skills to generate some charisma and make a positive impression.  In photos, the blue one-shouldered midriff-baring sequined number she sported during the Presentation Show seemed like a hot mess, but if I gauge her swimsuit catwalk and if she did a similar catwalk in it, she may have worked that dress well.  She’s another above average contender from Asia, but she is likely to be drowned out by the three Asians-Most-Likely (China, Malaysia,  and the Philippines).

TRINIDAD & TOBAGO – Gabrielle Walcott.  This Miss World 2008 2nd runner-up suffered a bit from the Zizi Lee Syndrome—losing luster three years after causing a sensation and placing high at Miss World.  She’s still attractive, and her personality, communication skills, and intelligence are still very much intact, but she seemed to have aged significantly and that is hindering her from maximizing impact.  Wrong choice of makeup during the Presentation Show (bright red lips instead of a more natural shade) detract from her otherwise strong performance.  The way her face was made up make her look like a relative to Mayra Aldana and Chloe Beth Morgan.  A Trump Ticket would be needed for her to advance.

Gabrielle at Miss World 2008, with India's Parvathy Omanakuttan (1st runner-up) and Russia's Ksenia Sukhinova (winner). (Photo courtesy of Miss World Organization)

Zizi Lee at Miss Universe 2004

TURKEY– Melisa Aslı Pamuk.  It’s a good thing thatTurkeydecided to field its winner to compete her instead of a runner-up.  Her face is gorgeous, and the fact that she actually resides in the Netherlands makes me dream that she could be the new Azra Akın (Miss World 2002).  Well, she does have solid communication skills and likability as displayed in her web interview, but she doesn’t possess Azra’s legendary effervescence.  I think her strapless red gown during the Presentation Show had a nice silhouette and she looked beautiful in it.  But I have an issue with her swimsuit presentation as her belly looked like she ate something heavy—if she has modeling aspirations, she will not be able to book her go-sees this way.  Still, I would rate her as a worthwhile contender and stronger than your typical Turkish Miss Universe contestant.

Azra Akın (Photo courtesy of Miss World Organization)

TURKS & CAICOS – Easher Parker.  She’s one of the better representatives sent by this country to this pageant, though she’s no Carmelita Ariza (the semifinalist from 1987).  Her Presentation Show performance was solid, and she made the most of what she had.

UKRAINE– Olesya Stefanko.  She exudes the vibe of a modern-day Brooke Shields with a touch of Vanessa Paradis thrown in.  Though I thought during the pageant activities that she seemed overshadowed by Miss Russia, during the Presentation Show she was luminous.  I didn’t see her individual gown performance, but the way she flounced her billowy white gown during the callback made me infer she performed sensationally in it, and she was awesome during the swimsuit round.

Brooke Shields in the Calvin Klein ad (and nothing else, according to the notorious TV tag line)
Vanessa Paradis (photo sourced from celebgal.net)

URUGUAY– Fernanda Semino.  When I looked at her from afar during the Presentation Show, she resembles Alyssa Campanella for some odd reason—I think she shares the same shade of red hair as Alyssa in my eyes.  She’s actually a worthwhile contender, performing solidly in both rounds of the Presentation Show.

U S A – Alyssa Campanella.  Rare is a Miss USA delegate that pageant fans and pundits actually root for to win Miss Universe.  I think the last two instances this happened were in 1983 (with Julie Hayek) and 1996 (with Ali Landry).  All pageant fans and pundits have been rooting for this charming and gorgeous former Miss Teen USA 1st runner-up to triumph on the road to Miss Universe, starting from her two less-than-successful Miss New Jersey USA stints, then her eventual victory as Miss California USA, and finally nailing the whole shebang as Miss USA.

At Miss Teen USA 2007 (with the notorious Caitlyn Upton, far left).
At Miss California USA (photo sourced from zimbio.com)
At Miss USA

There were already murmurs of concern amongst pageant fans and pundits that Alyssa seemed rather skinny even during her Miss USA victory.  But it is still believed she has the qualities to become USA’s 8th Miss Universe, as she is a stage dynamo and is a bright communicator.  We willingly overlooked concerns over her skinny frame until it is revealed in stark relief during the Presentation Show.

At the Governor's Palace Gala Dinner

Several pageant fans and pundits panned the short-sleeved gold-embroidered blue gown but in my opinion she actually pulled it off rather well.  But her gaunt frame is already such an uncomfortable sight that could not be distracted by her still-awesome stage skills.  Then came the swimsuit round, where jaws dropped in shock at her stick frame.  It didn’t help that she seemed to have an uneven spray tan that made her look rather splotchy.  My heart broke as I sincerely wanted her to win it all.

She tried to assuage those anorexia concerns in Facebook by stating she actually eats six times a day.  I think this would be possible only if: a) she suffers from bulimia; b) she is suffering from a rare metabolic disorder; or c) she is recovering from Churg-Strauss syndrome, the disease that almost felled Everything But the Girl member Ben Watt.  I still want to keep the faith and want this lovely girl to succeed, but I’m not comfortable with the message she’s sending with her current body frame.

U S VIRGIN ISLANDS– Alexandrya Evans.  Her best quality is her communication skills, as displayed in her web interview.  Other aspects are below par, especially her figure (too thick for pageant standards).

VENEZUELA– Vanessa Gonçalves.  As Osmel Sousa displayed her progress prior to her arrival in Brazil, many pageant  fans and pundits felt sick to the stomach with the way she looked obviously manufactured, that she’s like a fem-bot.  Some have even coined a term for her: “Frankenzuela”.  So it’s such a turn-off that during a press call while being asked about plastic surgery, she denied through her obviously botoxed face that she had anything beyond a boob job at age 19.  Her supposed Brazilian heritage also seemed tenuous at best as reports in Brazil state that locals found her Portuguese incomprehensible (they say Bolivia and Costa Rica did a better job speaking the language).

Transition... (photo courtesy of estacionreal.com)
Fembots...I just can't resist (photo courtesy of New Line Cinema)

I found it amusing how a fan-constructed YouTube video speculating how her web interview would end up like actually turned out to be very similar to the actual thing.  The key differences though are that Vanessa sounded rather pleasant when she speaks and she has hand gestures to make up for her frozen facial expressions.  I also thought that the makeover Osmel gave her made her look like Trump’s ex-wife Marla Maples, which I don’t think is a good thing considering the relatively acrimonious divorce.

Marla Maples (photo sourced from fashion.rightcelebrity.com)

But Venezuela definitely could not be denied.  Besides the feathery blonde-streaked hairdo she sported throughout, Vanessa delivered sensationally during the Presentation Show.  She was fierce in a nude and sheer (with floral accents strategically placed all over) one-sleeved number, and her figure during the swimsuit round was indeed one of the best, if not the best, and she strutted fiercely to showcase that hot figure.  I suppose this is like the Claudia Moreno factor—despite objections with the person’s lack of facial beauty (or in this case, the fact that it’s artificial), ferocious stage moves would help you go very, very far.

Claudia Moreno at Miss Universe 2000.

VIETNAM– Vũ Thị Hoàng My.  I have to be honest that I’m not that into her the way other pageant fans and pundits were raving about her.  I suppose it’s like how Brazilians may not appreciate the gorgeousness of Miss Earth 2009 Larissa Ramos, or how a Nordic pageant pundit may have a low regard for blondes that other pageant pundits adored with a passion.  Anyway, she actually won me over as she did sparkle during the Presentation Show in her red lace-and-satin number during the evening gown round and strutting strongly with a trim figure during the swimsuit round.  If there will be an extra slot for a fourth Asian, she’s the one who is most likely to get it.

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

Now that all 89 delegates are accounted for, let me now trot out my leaderboard and present it to you:

TOP CONTENDERS: AUSTRALIA, CHINA, MALAYSIA, VENEZUELA

SHOO-INS: FRANCE, GREECE, NICARAGUA, PHILIPPINES, PUERTO RICO, U S A

LIKELIEST:  ALBANIA, ANGOLA, ARUBA, BRAZIL, CHILE, COLOMBIA, COSTA RICA, CYPRUS, ESTONIA, FINLAND, HAITI, KOSOVO, MEXICO, NETHERLANDS, PANAMA, PARAGUAY, PERU, PORTUGAL, SWEDEN, UKRAINE, VIETNAM

TRUMP FACTOR: CROATIA, CZECH REPUBLIC, HUNGARY, INDIA, ISRAEL, ITALY, RUSSIA, TRINIDAD & TOBAGO

VOTE FACTOR: INDONESIA, THAILAND

EXCELLENT:  ARGENTINA, BAHAMAS, BOLIVIA, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, ECUADOR, GHANA, HONDURAS, JAPAN, KOREA, LEBANON, MAURITIUS, MONTENEGRO, SERBIA, SOUTH AFRICA, SPAIN, SWITZERLAND, TURKEY, URUGUAY

VERY STRONG:  CANADA, CAYMAN ISLANDS, CURACAO, DENMARK, EGYPT, GERMANY, GREAT BRITAIN, POLAND, SINGAPORE, SLOVAK REPUBLIC, ST. LUCIA, TURKS & CAICOS

STRONG: GUATEMALA,ROMANIA,SLOVENIA

VERY GOOD: BELGIUM, GUYANA, SRI LANKA, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS

GOOD: BOTSWANA, BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS, GEORGIA, GUAM, JAMAICA, NEW ZEALAND, NIGERIA, TANZANIA

FAIR: EL SALVADOR, IRELAND, KAZAKHSTAN

If justice were to prevail, I want to see at least three Asians, two Central Americans and two black ladies representing countries beginning with the letter “A” in the finals.  So here is my “Fearful Forecast”:

TOP FIVE: AUSTRALIA, CHINA, MALAYSIA, PHILIPPINES, VENEZUELA

TOP TEN: FRANCE, GREECE, NICARAGUA, PUERTO RICO, U S A

TOP 16: ANGOLA, ARUBA, BRAZIL, COSTA RICA, NETHERLANDS, UKRAINE

BUBBLING UNDER: ALBANIA, CHILE, COLOMBIA, CROATIA, CYPRUS, CZECH REPUBLIC, ESTONIA, FINLAND, HAITI, HUNGARY, INDIA, INDONESIA, ISRAEL, ITALY, KOSOVO, MEXICO, PANAMA, PARAGUAY, PERU, PORTUGAL, RUSSIA, SWEDEN, THAILAND, TRINIDAD & TOBAGO, VIETNAM

STRIKING DISTANCE: ARGENTINA, BAHAMAS, BOLIVIA, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, ECUADOR, GHANA, HONDURAS, JAPAN, KOREA, LEBANON, MAURITIUS, MONTENEGRO, SERBIA, SOUTH AFRICA, SPAIN, SWITZERLAND, TURKEY, URUGUAY

I have this gnawing feeling that there will be surprises in store for the finals, though I do hope the final outcome would be something that we would all serenely find aceeptable.

JUST ME!

JOSEPH

MISS UNIVERSE 2011: AT THE HOMESTRETCH (PART 5)

PARAGUAY– Alba Riquelme.  Everything about her makes me think she’s like Miss Universe 2006 3rd runner-up Lourdes Arevalos version 2.0.  Her features are not the conventionally beautiful sort (in her video interview, her face made me think of actress Christine Baranski), but she’s a statuesque (5’11 ½”), lean-and-mean stage dynamo.  Wonder how far she could go if she makes the final cut?

Lourdes Arevalos
Christine Baranski (photo sourced from tvfanatic.com)

PERU– Natalie Vertiz.  She’s a bright-eyed pretty contender who is competing at a high level.  She possesses all the qualities that makes her deserving of a Top 16 slot: a pretty face, a buffed figure, strong catwalk skills, an interesting wicker-pattern evening gown, and excellent communication skills (judging from her video interview—like Mz. Nicaragua and Costa Rica, she speaks excellent English).  Boy, the “P” group is extremely fierce.

PHILIPPINES– Shamcey Supsup.  Prior to her arrival in Brazil, I admittedly was not totally sold on her prospects of making the final cut, that she would need the newly installed internet public vote to make it through.  I was worried she would turn into another Anna Theresa Licaros, an academic overachiever who would have a just-adequate stage presence.  But then she looked sparkling in all her appearances in Brazil, which gladdened my heart, though at this stage I only was 75% confident that she’ll make the final cut on her own merits.

Anna Theresa Licaros
Sparkle!

Though I originally suggested a different template to use (Miss Vietnam World 2009 Trần Thị Hương Giang), little did I realize another model would actually work well even if it was not successful the first time.  To my eyes, she exudes the vibe of 2006 Philippine representative Lian Ramos, arguably the best regarded Philippine delegate by pageant fans and pundits during the decade-long Millennium Drought.*7  They tweaked the Lian model by adding the Julia Roberts radiant smile, plus Miss World 2004 finalist Karla Bautista’s derring-do to wear a provocatively sheer evening gown.

*7 The Philippines missed the final cut at Miss Universe from 2000-2009.

Trần Thị Hương Giang (photo courtesy of Miss World Organization)
Lian Ramos
Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman (photo courtesy of Touchstone Pictures)
Karla Bautista (cropped from original photo courtesy of Miss World Organization)

It’s a good thing she toned down the academic overachievement in her web interview, exuding a more likable spontaneous charm instead (though I know there are a few detractors who would disagree with me here).  Then came the Presentation Show, and though I did love the glittering sheer evening gown she wore and how she walked in it, I was surprised by the rapturous praise given by pageant fans and pundits as I admittedly preferred other gown performances.  I found her swimsuit performance strong but imperfect—she needed to smooth out the transitions in her moves a bit, I thought.  Still, her overall performance made me increase my confidence that she could make the cut on her own merits to 90%.  I am aware of the Filipino fans’ consistent campaign to go to the Miss Universe website to vote and give Shamcey a high rating (and she’s topping all polls so far).  I say, do not be complacent and continue to vote just in case…

Now what about the news of the presence of Tony Award winner Lea Salonga in this year’s celebrity panel?  Along with the presence of journalist Connie Chung, I have this strong feeling that we could see three Asians in the Top Five, including, yes, Shamcey (the other two Asians are of course, China and Malaysia).

Lea Salonga

POLAND– Rozalia Mancewicz.  Amongst the fierceness that is the “P” group, this blonde is relatively the weakest link.  On her own merits she’s actually a comely, worthwhile contender, and there are pageant fans and pundits out there who would consider her as having serious inroads into the finals.  But to my eyes, I found her performance during the evening gown round of the Presentation Show to be lackluster, sporting a red lace minidress with train.  Still, she’s a worthwhile contender in my book.

PORTUGAL– Laura Gonçalves.  It’s nice to see this country back at Miss Universe after a nine-year absence, and fielding a strong contender at that (when it last competed, it also fielded a gorgeous contender in Iva Lamarão who had the misfortune of being pitted against an extreme abundance of stellar stunners).  She performed strongly all throughout but whether she did well enough to bring forth the Portuguese breakthrough is uncertain.  Can the fact that it’s held in Brazil help her cause?

PUERTO RICO– Viviana Ortiz.  Much has been said that her facial features are less than stellar, often looking like an unwieldy cross between 2004’s Alba Reyes and 2005’s Cynthia Olavarria.  But there are pundits who watched her national pageant and mentioned that her stage skills are superbly stellar, and that she also has a likably vibrant personality.  Her performance at the Presentation Show was indeed superb and stellar.  She looked sexy in a geometrically designed low-cut sheer-and-white evening gown during the evening gown round.  During the swimsuit round, though there are pundits who cited an excessive pear shape for her torso, in my reckoning I didn’t notice that and thought she was trim and buffed.

ROMANIA– Larisa Popa.  Several pageant fans and pundits dislike her pale complexion, comparing her to a vampire.  Me, I actually liked her very fair alabaster complexion and actually regarded her as attractive.  But I dislike the pink evening gown with yellow bow she wore on the Presentation Show—it was a tacky disaster!  Her swimsuit performance was not strong either, as I find her frame a bit too small for comfort.

RUSSIA– Natalia Gantimurova. She was regarded as attractive when she won her national pageant, but pageant fans and pundits thought there were others who were more gorgeous than her.  But when she set foot inBrazil, her babeliciousness shot up several notches and if we base it solely on face and figure, she has an inside track to the Top 16. She exudes the vibe of Donald Trump’s current wife, the former Melania Knauss.  Unfortunately, there are several demerits on her tally—first, her web interview was rather low-key and blasé; second, the green-and-red ballgown she wore during the Presentation Show polarized pageant fans and pundits; and third, her catwalk has that too simple “I don’t care” vibe.  It’s like Malika Menard and Irina Antonenko all over again.  I wouldn’t be too surprised if she’s handed a Trump Ticket to the Top 16.

Melania Trump (photo sourced from forums.fashionspot.com)

SERBIA– Anja Šaranović.  There are some angles where she looked like a gorgeously serene blonde, and others where her features are not too alluring.  Still, she’s one of the stronger delegates fielded by this country since Miss Universe 2003 3rd runner-up Sanja Papic.  She was solid in a pine green satin number during the evening gown round of the Presentation Show, and she gave a lively catwalk during the swimsuit round.

SINGAPORE– Valerie Shu Xian Lim.  She was a surprising but worthy Top 16 semifinalist at Miss Earth 2009.  Unfortunately, she’s unlikely to duplicate that feat—first, there are a host of stellar Asians that would take precedence over her; and second, her catwalk during the evening gown round of the Presentation Show sporting a one-shouldered silver sequined gown was less than stellar.  Well, at least we should give her props for a creditable performance.

SLOVAK REPUBLIC– Dagmar Kolesárová.  This brunette is simply not that memorable, but a least she tried to put up a good fight during the evening gown round of the Presentation Show wearing a pink satin gown with a front slit, and that she showcased a buffed enough torso in the swimsuit round.

SLOVENIA– Ema Jagodič.  She’s plain looking, and is forgettable during both rounds of the Presentation Show.

SOUTH AFRICA– Bokang Montjane.  This deadringer to supermodel Naomi Campbell is definitely performing more strongly than her stints at Miss Earth 2008 (where she became a Top 16 semifinalist and garnered a special award that was worth more than the prize package of the Miss Earth runners-up) and Miss International 2009 (where she missed the cut altogether).  Besides her touted intelligence, she was strong in both rounds of the Presentation Show, sporting a green gown with gold midriff for the evening gown round and making the most of her slim figure in the swimsuit round.

Naomi Campbell (photo sourced from stupidcelebrities.net)

SPAIN– Paula Guillo.  She has a pretty face that makes several pageant fans and pundits list her as a favorite for the Top 16.  In my reckoning, though, she squandered her beauty potential in the Presentation Show as she looked like a heavily made-up hot mess.  It’s such a shame as her catwalk in both the evening gown (clad in a light green minidress with train) and swimsuit rounds was strong.

SRI LANKA– Stephanie Siriwardhana.  Yes, in photos she looked like a cellar dweller.  But I was surprised when I watched the web interview as I actually found her looking pretty, and she’s an excellent communicator with a likable charm.  Still, everything else about her is weak, like the hot mess of a fattening red evening gown during the Presentation Show.

"Does this dress make me look fat?" (Part 3)

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

COMING UP: ST. LUCIA to VIETNAM, plus the Leaderboard and “Fearful Forecast”.