I’m extremely tickled at the thought that the three ladies who ended up as the Top Three in this year’s pageant came from countries with the most vocal and passionate of pageant followers, especially across the web.  That was why I came up with the term “Pageant Ga-Ga Countries” in the title of my review.  Two of these were highly favored by the judges from the get-go, while one of them, though already also well regarded by the judges, surged because of her much vaunted stage presence, superb communication skills and the energy provided by her extremely vocal supporters in the audience at Earl’s Court.

3RD PLACE:  PUERTO RICO – Amanda Vilanova.  In the preliminary judging, she was a close second behind the leader, as she does possess good looks (though maybe not as stunningly gorgeous as some other representatives from this country in other pageants) and an engaging personality with superb communication skills.  She then surged to the lead after qualifying for four fast-tracks (missing the cut in Top Model), shining particularly in Talent with her admittedly entertaining lip-sync performance with a bi-gender twist.  With the presence of the Lady Forsyth (this is the name I shall refer to Miss World 1975 winner Wilnelia Merced from now on) and her husband expressing their support for her, people might be primed for her victory, though some pageant fans and pundits would object if that happened.

Then Julia Morley announced that she ended up in 3rd Place.  So what gives?  She did look great in her stiff silk red strapless gown with crystal shoulder trim, but the final night judges were more impressed with the other two who eventually ranked ahead of her.  Her speech emphasizing “I believe I possess these qualities” simply cemented her 3rd place finish.

With her teammates at the Sports fast-track event in Scotland, fourth from left. With her are: Singapore, Sweden, Scotland, Trinidad & Tobago, and Uganda. You can also see Venezuela clapping at the leftmost in this picture. She placed 11th in this event, by the way.
At Beach Beauty (ranked 9th)
Performing at the Talent Fast-Track final during the Beauty with a Purpose gala event. She placed 3rd.
To represent her placement in BWAP, here is her with the other Talent finalists during the gala event, serenaded by Filipino kid singer Clarke Gamul. She placed 12th in BWAP.

2ND PLACE:  PHILIPPINES – Gwendoline Ruais.  I have always believed that Miss World would have been the best venue where her unconventional brand of beauty would have the best prospects of making an impression, even when she competed at Bb. Pilipinas when they had the franchise in 2010.  In fact, here is the video I made for Mabuhay Beauties when I reviewed her during her stint there:

Of course she only ended up a semifinalist that year.  She then joined the following year when the franchise was transferred to TV personality/socialite Cory Quirino’s Miss World Philippines, and the rest was history.  Little did I know that she would fare this phenomenally well.  It helped that Cory Quirino’s ties with this organization was described and speculated by pageant fans and pundits as similar to China’s Yue Sai-Kan with Trump and the Miss Universe Organization, but I think clinching the deal was the enthusiastic energy of her supporters present at Earl’s Court during the finals, almost akin to those at Las Vegas when Venus Raj competed at Miss Universe last year.  The roar of the crowd was palpable from the time when she first appeared.

Miss World Philippines director Cory Quirino
Miss Universe China director Yue Sai-Kan (image sourced from womenofchina.cn)

To those pageant fans and pundits baffled at her extremely high placement and even the 9th place score during the preliminaries, let me note that though one category was “beauty, grace, and charm” and they would believe she lacks in the “beauty” part, well, I think the “grace and charm” portion allowed to still earn points in this department, though we can theorize she fared better in the “figure and deportment” and the “intelligence, poise, and personality” portions of the preliminary judging.  She exudes an aristocratic presence, justifiably so considering her family on her father’s side were indeed bonafide aristocrats who once welcomed Queen Elizabeth when her grandfather was mayor of Paris, France.  Plus, her much vaunted communication skills (she was prominent providing commentary soundbites especially during the video of the Cambridge University visit as aired during the finals even if she was not one of the selected speakers) and her expressing a great attitude and commitment to help others (loved the line where she said stressed she knows it’s a job) helped win the judges to her side that helped her edge out erstwhile favorite Puerto Rico.

Vincent Ruais, Gwendoline's father, as a child in 1957 greeting Queen Elizabeth II (image courtesy of Malou Ruais, for the official Miss World Philippines fanpage).

I have this feeling that Gwen is actually aware of her detractors, that is why she employed the savvy strategy of wearing minimal makeup as much as possible, almost to the point of being bare-faced.  Plus, the epithets hurled against her by her detractors and her half-French heritage made me recall a controversy involving Elodie Gossuin, the French semifinalist at Miss Universe 2001 (and later on winner of Miss Europe 2001).  Journalists who did not know the nature of the website where the report of a “Miss France is actually a transvestite/transsexual” (it’s a news spoof website a la “The Onion”) reported it as if it was a fact and temporarily caused a stir to poor Elodie’s distress.  Of course, as Elodie would state, she’s “100% natural”, and the same applies to Gwen.

Elodie Gossuin at the finals of Miss Universe 2001

Reflecting at what her detractors were saying and me associating it with Elodie also made me think of that Lady Gaga song, “Born This Way”.  Yes, Gwendoline is “born this way” (in the natural, biological sense, even I can understand the irony that the song also celebrates “other” things, and also that Lady Gaga herself was accused of a similar charge) but she made the most out of it.

On a final note, I salute the fact that Gwen now is part of a lofty group of ladies who achieved the farthest so far at Miss World, equalling 1973’s Evangeline Pascual’s 1st runner-up finish, and beating Ruffa Gutierrez’s 2nd runner-up finish in 1993.  I think as I predicted in my homestretch article, she will pave the way for our first winner, I believe.  And I believe the key is to look for someone like this lady (even though the lady herself is no longer likely to be inclined to compete anymore as she now has a successful TV career–besides current national pageant rules disqualifies those that have seen action in a major international pageant).

Miss World 1973 1st runner-up Evangeline Pascual (right) with 2nd runner-up Patsy Yuen of Jamaica and Miss World 1973 Marjorie Wallace of the USA.
Miss World 1993 2nd runner-up Ruffa Gutierrez (right) with 1st runner-up Jacqueline Mofokeng of South African and Miss World 1993 Lisa Hanna of Jamaica.
The Miss World 2011 Top Three.

MISS WORLD 2011:  VENEZUELA – Ivian Sarcos.  From the get-go, she is the most gorgeous and charismatic of the 113 contestants who competed in this year’s pageant.  Pageant fans and pundits from all over (including myself) rave rapturously at her sight.  Sure, during the finals she sported a humongously gaudy sequined pink gown, but it worked in making her stand out even further from the pack.  Sure, thanks to those fast-track points Puerto Rico momentarily overtook her in the lead on the scoreboard going into the Top 15, but we all know at the moment the finals began this competition was hers to lose.  And this lady never let go and dominated over everyone, even if she couldn’t speak English.

Some pageant fans and pundits observed that apparently there is a certain type of Venezuelan that would end up winning this pageant–long, abundant ebony tresses with prominent eyebrows seemed to be a common denominator (though blonde 1981 winner Pilin Leon is an exception to this rule).

Miss World 1955 Susana Duijm Zubillaga (photo sourced from beautyinpageants.blogspot.com)
Miss World 1984 Astrid Carolina Herrera
Miss World 1991 Ninibeth Leal Jimenez
Miss World 1995 Jacqueline Aguilera

But considering her complexion is dusky and her features having that vaguely “native” exotic touch, she actually reminded me of someone else, but similarly Latina:  THE LADY FORSYTH.  Plus I also get a vibe from another 1970s Venezuelan beauty queen, Miss Universe 1976 1st runner-up, Judith Castillo.

Miss World 1975 Wilnelia Merced, the Lady Forsyth, from Puerto Rico
Miss Universe 1976 1st runner-up Judith Castillo (image sourced from paraiso-de-reinas.blogspot.com)

Her beauty and charisma is such that I believe whatever she said in her Final Seven speech would simply be beside the point.  Well, she did make a good point with the first part of her speech where she stated (via interpreter): “I believe that the next Miss World should be a woman of sensibility and reason. I believe the woman should be committed to the organization to help people in need, a beauty with heart.”  She then continued on but the interpreter didn’t translate it (I found out she went on to say “One more thing: I believe in destiny and I believe that God has a divine plan for every human being. And I am here because we worked together…” and went on to mention the background that despite her being an orphan at a young age, she worked to overcome her circumstances.  Despite not earning points from BWAP, she exudes such a simpatica vibe that you know she is willing and committed to perform the job required of a Miss World.  Even other directors were rooting for her victory.

I have this gnawing feeling by the time she crowns her successor in Ordos this coming July, she will learn a significant amount of English.  And I have this gnawing feeling she will continue on the same trajectory as the Lady Forsyth, probably with her love of tea (as quipped by her roommate, Spain) she would probably even end up marrying a prominently wealthy Englishman…

As elegant as a swan posing inside the London Eye.

All in all, there are several strides made in the right direction during the finals of this years Miss World pageant that I hope would be retained.  Just make sure they exercise due diligence in the accounting of the scoring and the rankings (have the results properly audited would be a good step), plus a little more onstage competition would be the only things they needed to make those stalwart ga-ga pageant fans turn over and rally to their side.

All images courtesy of Miss World, Ltd. unless otherwise indicated.




I half-expected that the Final Seven that were called out would not exactly match the Top Seven on the scoreboard.  But several pageant fans and pundits wished that the ones who were yanked out to make way for the eventual finalists would stay there.  I share their sentiments a bit, but I am also satisfied with the actual mix, too.  Instead of the usual puffball questions asked of them in recent years, they tried to add a casual element by featuring the Final Seven’s roommates, then borrowing a feature of the pageant back in the 1990s, they make a speech on why they should be the next Miss World.  But after an awkward exchange exacerbated by the language barrier as the second finalist could not speak English (plus perhaps time constraints–to make way for Chief Mandela later on, of course), they decided to abruptly stop the roommate portion and just instructed the finalists to simply present their case on why they should be the next Miss World.  I actually liked the “roommate” portion and hope they can keep it despite the botched execution this year and fine-tune it for next year’s edition.

The Top Seven

Now, let us proceed to review the Final Seven, starting with:

7TH PLACE:  SCOTLAND -Jennifer Reoch.  She actually grew on me, as I thought that lookswise she pales behind several of her predecessors.  I still find her predecessors prettier, but she does have a spark (especially displayed when performing the Scottish jig in the “Dances of the World” segment) that in hindsight I can see why the preliminary judges rated her so highly.  Going into the Top 15, she was a close second behind Ukraine to clinch the Miss World – Europe continental title, but as Ukraine failed to make an impression with the Sorority* and other members of the panel (some of whom might have been part of the preliminary panel who didn’t really score Ukraine that high), Ukraine fell to 9th place.  But there was another European who advanced in Ukraine’s place, and ultimately the final speech made by that European again beat this lady to the punch and she didn’t clinch the Miss World – Europe title.  Her speech was not really bad at all, but I have this gnawing feeling that the judges preferred those who expressed the attitude and willingness to take the job than those who would claim that they possess the qualifications for the title.

* Former Miss World winners.

Performing her Scottish jig.

6TH PLACE:  SOUTH AFRICA – Bokang Montjane.  Going into the Top 15, Zimbabwe’s huge accumulation of fast-track points made her a contender to win Miss World – Africa, and this lady was nipping closely behind her in 10th place.  But then the final night panel felt that this lady generated a better impression than Zimbabwe and ranked her fifth to help her gain the points to advance into the Final Seven and clinch back the Miss World – Africa continental title.  Several pageant fans and pundits felt Bokang copied the look of her key rival at Miss Universe earlier this year, the winner Leila Lopes of Angola.  Yes, there was indeed a resemblance in terms of elegant bouffant hairdo and color of garment, but I felt she was channeling another Miss Universe winner (who also has Miss World ties, being an also-ran contestant in 1997), Miss Universe 1999 Mpule Kwelagobe of Botswana.  But she worked the obviously borrowed look well, so I will not accuse her of being a copycat.  Instead, I will celebrate the fact that she finally achieved her best pageant showing after missing both Miss Universe and Miss International and making the Top 16 in Miss Earth.  Again, it seems the judges were not into answers where the contestants stressed that they have the qualifications of the job, that is why she ended up in this position.

Miss Universe 2011 Leila Lopes (image courtesy of Miss Universe Organization LP, LLLP)
Miss Universe 1999 Mpule Kwelagobe of Botswana (images courtesy of Miss Universe Organization LP, LLLP)

5TH PLACE:  KOREA – Doe Kyung-Min.  Despite garnering 22 points from her placements in Beach Beauty and Top Model plus credit for submitting a BWAP project, she slid downwards from 4th place in preliminary judging to 13th place going into the Top 15, overtaken by the upsurge of the Fast-Track Queens like Zimbabwe, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, England, and yes, Philippines.  Good thing the final night judges responded wonderfully to the retro-look she sported for the evening–Project Runway Season 2 finalist Nick Verreos blogged raving she looked like a “Spartan Goddess–or one of the Diva Mistresses of a Mongol King” and ended by calling her a “Korean J-Lo”.  I knew she had star quality when she set foot in London, and her retro look made me recall the famous “Nobody” video by superstar K-Pop girl group Wonder Girls, and she could easily fit in a scene with them (or be part of the group).  But then, looking at the bouffant hairdo, I also had an extra flashback to another Miss Universe–the regally elegant Miss Universe 1965 Apasra Hongskula of Thailand.

Miss Universe 1965 Apasra Hongsakula (image sourced from sunflowerqueen-universe.blogspot.com)

The final judges ranked her fourth place overall (just like her original preliminary ranking) on finals night, which helped her recover her standing and oust Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Spain to land that coveted Final Seven spot.  But in the end, the judges were then slightly more impressed with England’s speech that she ended up fifth place overall.  She was the first finalist called onstage so they did a roommate interview with Miss Japan, who describe that a key quirk of this lady is that she sleeps a lot.  She defensively countered that her roommate slept a lot, too…

4TH PLACE:  ENGLAND – Alize Lily Mounter.   She surged from a tie for 15th place to 8th place going into the Top 15 thanks to her Beach Beauty win, Top Five placement in Top Model, and being shortlisted in BWAP.  Then, she earned a Final Seven slot as the final night judges ranked her in a tie for 6th place with Scotland (well, she somehow exuded a semi-ethereal presence in her otherwise pageant-patty sequined one-shouldered blue gown).  She then finally beat Scotland when she made her final speech as she stressed more about the experience she had at the pageant instead of emphasizing her qualifications (though she still stated that term–“I do have the quality that Miss World should have…” and then described her traits “…I’m kind, genuine, down-to-earth girl and I like helping others and making people smile…”

It’s nice that England finally made the final cut since the United Kingdom was split to its constituent countries in this pageant starting in the year 2000.  Like Scotland, I found her attractive and started to appreciate her looks better during the finals but still found several of her (non-finalist) predecessors better looking.  I wonder if it took for her country to host the pageant for this to happen, or would the outcome still hold if this was held in another venue, like, say, Sanya again?  Not only she clinched the Miss World – Europe continental title with her placement, she also won Miss United Kingdom.  Now, wonder if she’ll see action in Miss International next year (this year they were absent for some unknown reason)?



Before I discuss the Top 15, I think this is the best time to address gripes most pageant fans and pundits have about a lack of onstage competition during the finals. Admittedly the only basis for the judges to whittle down the Top 15 to a Final Five or Seven for the past few years was overall visual stage impression for the few minutes that they appear onstage, which many felt is not sufficient enough and does not make for an exciting program.  I do agree that it would make for a much better pageant if there was more time devoted to highlight the Top 15 individually (besides the winnowing down from the Top 20 in this year’s edition), like onstage or even video interviews, at the very least.  They were able to feature individual video interviews from 2002-2007, so why can’t they bring that back?  I don’t mind extending the pageant finals longer to accommodate that, and of course most fans and pundits would probably prefer cutting back on the entertainment (which the host committees and sponsors might object).  For me, the more they highlight the contestants themselves during the finals, the better.

There were some pageant fans posting in various messageboards who claimed that no actual judging was taking place during the finals, that the judges were not seen writing down their choices to determine the next cut and the final decision.  Unless they can provide concrete evidence of this besides writing and posting, I will give the panel of judges (half-composed of the Sorority of former Miss World winners) the benefit of the doubt and maintain there was judging made during the finals.  The only time there was no final-night judging was in 2004, since the final results that year were determined by a Eurovision-style popular vote and the programme turned into a glorified American Idol-style results show.

Top Five at Miss World 2004: United States (Nancy Randall), Poland (Katarzyna Borowicz), Philippines (Karla Bautista), Peru (Maria Julia Mantilla), and Dominican Republic (Claudia Julissa Cruz) (photo by Reuters)

A case in point on how overall visual impression during finals night could affect the final outcome, let me present what happened to Mexico’s Anagabriela Espinoza at Miss World 2008.  Prior to the finals, she performed a hat-trick of figuring in all five fast-track events, including winning Beach Beauty.  She placed impressively in all of them, that you have to believe she was highly favored by the judges and should’ve been a shoo-in for the Top Five (or even a Top Three finish).  But during the finals, her onstage styling was a bone of contention, as some pageant fans and pundits compared her to cartoon character Little Lulu.  As a result, not only did she fail to make the Top Five, Miss World-Americas was awarded to Venezuela’s Hannelly Quintero.  Well, at least Anagaby had the consolation of winning Miss International the following year…

Little Lulu hairdo? Mexico's Anagabriela Espinoza at the finals of Miss World 2008
The Continental Queens of Beauty in 2008 (from L-R): MW-Americas -Venezuela (Hannelly Quintero), MW-Asia & Oceania - India (Parvathy Omanakuttan), MW-Europe - Russia (Ksenia Sukhinova), MW-Caribbean - Trinidad & Tobago (Gabrielle Wolcott), and MW-Africa - Angola (Birgith dos Santos) (photo courtesy of Global Beauties)

I was wondering with the current points system in place if the preliminary and fast-track scores would carry over in the final results.  After Miss World released the final results post-pageant, it turns out it did carry over instead of being reset to zero.  The results of the judges ratings on final night then translated into scores.  For the semifinal round, it worked like this:  50 points for 1st place, 40 points for 2nd, 30 points for 3rd, 20 points for 4th, 15 points for 5th, 10 points for 6th and 7th (which would be considered a tie for 6th), five points for 8th to 10th, and two points for 11th to 15th.

Now, without further ado, let me discuss the Top 15.

15TH PLACE:  INDONESIA – Astrid Ellena Yunadi.  Well, let’s give her credit as she has merits to be worthy of belonging in this hallowed group–she is pretty, and she is very intelligent and articulate (with good English skills–just work on her subject-verb agreements, though).  Her piano skills and her BWAP win of course helped her earn the points necessary to nail this slot.

14TH PLACE:  ITALY – Tania Bambaci.  She avoided the fate that befell St. Barthelemy, Russia and Trinidad & Tobago because she placed 10th in Beach Beauty and 2nd in Top Model.  The judges seemed to like her a bit better on finals night as she earned five points, which did not affect her overall standing but at least widened her lead over Indonesia.

Top 10 in Beach Beauty and 2nd in Top Model

13TH PLACE:  US VIRGIN ISLANDS – Esonica Veira.   She earned significant points by being shortlisted in Beach Beauty and Beauty with a Purpose, but it took her 2nd place finish in the Talent fast-track to secure her Top 15 standing.  She was tied at 11th with Sweden going into the finals, but the final night judges ranked Sweden in the Top 10 and her only in the Top 15, that the tie was broken and she was officially 13th.

Her Michael Jackson number secured her place in the Top 15.

12TH PLACE:  SWEDEN – Nicoline Artursson.  She and Puerto Rico were the ones who figured in the most fast-tracks with four each (I’m not counting the credits Miss World granted for those ranked below Top 30 in BWAP).   In her case, the only fast-track where she missed was Talent.  Unlike the case of Anagaby Espinoza, she didn’t win in any of the fast-tracks as her best showing was 7th in Sports (well, in the Sports fast-track video broadcast in the final, she was prominently featured for her solid golf swing).   With her Top 15 standing secured by these fast-track placements, she seemed to have been destined to a tie with US Virgin Islands–she was actually in a tie for 12th with her and Botswana after the preliminary judging, and going into the Top 15 she was tied with her for 11th.  The final night judges ranked her in the Top 10, so this was where she broke out of her tie.  Several pageant fans and pundits (including myself) may have felt she deserved a higher placement, but at least making this far was rewarding enough.

At the Sports fast-track (in blue track pants 2nd from left) with her teammates. (7th place)
At Beach Beauty (12th Place)
At Top Model (also in 12th Place)
Since I couldn't find a good solo photo of her at the Beauty with a Purpose gala, this photo of her with her fellow Nordic contestants near the London Eye (Norway, Finland, and Alicia Keys, or I mean, Denmark) would have to do. She was ranked 14th in BWAP, by the way... (Photo courtesy of Jory Rivera of OPMB Worldwide)

11TH PLACE:  ZIMBABWE –  Malaika Mushandu.  After the fast-track points were accounted for, the Fast-Track Queen skyrocketed up from 39th place in the preliminaries to 9th entering into the Top 15.   However the final night judges did not rank her high enough to retain her Top 10 ranking and she ended up yielding her standing to the eventual Top Seven finalists, Korea and South Africa.  Yes, she was in contention of winning Miss World-Africa, but the judges favored her chief rival during finals night.

At the London Eye with her fellow African contestants, in the center. Others from L-R: South Africa, Botswana, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Namibia, Nigeria

10TH PLACE:  Zhanna Zhumaliyeva.  Runner-up to Fast-Track Queen Zimbabwe, the fast-track points this lady accumulated (including her win at Top Model) helped her soar from 21st place in the preliminaries to a tie for 5th place going into the finals.  However, she was (in my opinion, unjustly) marked down by the final-night judges that allowed England, Korea, and South Africa to overtake her and shut her out of the Top 7.  To be honest, she looked impeccably astounding like an Asian Barbie doll during the finals in her white satin gown (revealing a stunningly thin waist–was her gown heavily corseted?) that she doesn’t deserve to be marked down to a mere 11th-15th place.

Holding hands with England, Indonesia, Italy, and Korea. Does her appearance deserve to be ignored by the final night judges?

9TH PLACE: UKRAINE – Yaroslava Kuriacha. She made an indelible impression with her sheer balletic grace, prominently on display during the Talent finals and on Dances of the World.  She also is a force to be reckoned with in the looks department, as she scored very high in Beach Beauty garnering 3rd place, and was 9th in Top Model.  All those points led her to soar from 15th in the preliminaries to 4th place going into the Top 15.  There was a mere 7 points that separated 4th place and 10th place, and 16 points from 4th to 13th.  It was such a shame that because of the unkempt hair she sported during the finals, the final night judges marked her down (or more likely did not include her in their Top Seven lists) and she plunged down to her official 9th place ranking.

This was taken during dress rehearsals. Her hair was unruly during finals night (image source: Vkontakte.ru)
Such balletic grace during the Dances of the World segment.

8TH PLACE:  SPAIN – Despite garnering 35 points from her 7th place finish in Beach Beauty and 8th place finish in BWAP, she fell from 3rd place in the preliminaries to 7th going into the Top 15.  Though undeniably gorgeous in the glittery silver gown she wore, she didn’t garner enough judges’ votes to be ranked in the Top Seven in the finals.  It was so close but no cigar as she ended up only one point behind the surging Korea.

It dawned on me that besides looking like actress Jami Gertz, she also shares a resemblance with “Desperate Housewives” star Teri Hatcher.

Learning her fate if she made the Top 15, with host Jason Cook
Clapping along with Sweden, Ukraine, and US Virgin Islands as eventually they would be shut out... (Scotland and South Africa weren't called out yet at this particular moment).
Teri Hatcher (image sourced from People.com)

All images courtesy of Miss World, Ltd. unless otherwise indicated.