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

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”.

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