MISS EARTH 2011: AT THE HOMESTRETCH (CONCLUSION)

SRI LANKA – Poojani Wakirigala.  Like Miss Indonesia, for personal or religious reasons she has decided to miss out on the Press Presentation, even if she was already in the country by that time.  She’s attractive, though I wouldn’t put her in serious contention for the finals.

SWEDEN – Renate Cerljen.  She may have needed a Trump Ticket to enter the Top 15 at Miss Universe two years ago, but in this pageant, she’ll be a shoo-in for the semifinals based solely on her own merit.  She is indeed a complete package of good looks, trim figure, solid catwalk skills and stage presence, and strong communication skills.  Now, some pageant fans and pundits hyped her as a front-runner or on target for an element.  I don’t think she’ll earn an element, but she is in target for landing in the Final Eight.

SWITZERLAND – Irina De Giorgi.  This blonde is one of the underrated contenders out there, not generating much buzz but has strong merits in both beauty, poise, and communication skills.  I wouldn’t mind seeing her as one of the possible sleeper surprises.

TANZANIA – Nelly Kamwelu.  She is the successor to Netherlands’ Desiree van Den Berg as the winner of the Natascha Börger Hardest Working International Beauty Queen title, seeing action in three major international pageants in a span of four months.  There are some fans hyping that she’s the best representative from Africa in this year’s batch, but to be blunt I disagree with that.  There is a good reason why she missed the final cut at Miss Universe and Miss International, despite the fact that I concede she’s polished and a good communicator.

Performing a belly-dance during the Talent competition (photo courtesy of Melvin Sia for OPMB Worldwide)
At Miss Universe (image courtesy of Miss Universe LP, LLLP)
At Miss International (courtesy of International Beauty Congress)
Go, Desiree, hand over your title to Nelly! (Photo sourced from ocean-blu.blogspot.com)

THAILAND – Niratcha Tungtisanont.  I would classify her facial beauty as an unconventional sort, but what she lacks in that department she more than makes up with a polished presence and charisma.  I do feel she could be in contention for a semifinal slot, but I doubt if she’ll be as successful as her predecessor who garnered Miss Earth-Water.

TRINIDAD & TOBAGO – Melanie George-Sharpe.  Lookswise, she has her exotic appeal though I’m not sure if it fits well with Filipino tastes.  If the judges are more open minded she could be in contention for a semifinal slot, but knowing our tastes, she would simply be regarded as a worthwhile contender.

TURKEY – Merve Saribas.  With her solid balance of good looks, sexy figure, polished stage presence and good communication skills, she is by far the best contestant fielded by this country to this pageant so far.  With the ferocious Latinas and European standouts like Czech Republic, Hungary, and Sweden, though, it would be a challenge for her to generate the breakthrough for her country in this pageant.

UKRAINE – Kristina Oparina.  Though pageant fans and pundits were raving over Crimea (an autonomous region of this country), this lady is arguably the more balanced package as she has a pretty face, too with a buffer body (probably because of her background as a ballroom dancer).  Yes, she’s on track for a slot in the semifinals.

Performing a solo ballroom-dancing-style act during the Talent competition (photo courtesy of Melvin Sia for OPMB Worldwide).

U S A – Nicole Kelley.  Yes, she’s perky like your typical American beauty queen.  Though she’s better than some of the representatives sent by this country during this pageant’s earlier years, it is likely going to be an uphill battle for her to make inroads into the finals.

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – Kara Williams.  I’m a bit surprised when I saw the country this lady is representing–this country is typically represented by a dark-skinned Caribbean girl.  Anyway, just like Miss U.S.A., her best prospects for this pageant is a credible showing.

VENEZUELA – Caroline Medina.  When she set foot in the Philippines, there were some pageant fans and pundits who felt slightly underwhelmed as they felt her predecessors were better looking with more charisma.  I agree this country has fielded some stellar and gorgeous gems in recent years, and yes, her predecessor Mariangela Bonnani is way more beautiful, but this lady still looks great.  What I first visualized when I first saw her was this year’s English representative to Miss World, Alize Lily Mounter, who may not impress pageant fans and pundits facewise, but delivered the goods and finished fourth overall in that pageant.

Several pageant fans and pundits have noted her deadringer resemblance to Miss Venezuela-Universe 2004 Ana Karina Añez, who had the dubious distinction of breaking Venezuela’s 20-year semifinalist streak in that pageant, and wondered if Caroline would likewise break Venezuela’s stellar streak that began with Alexandra Braun’s victory six years ago.  I believe she will sustain and not break a streak, and in fact is on track of probably even garnering an element–she has garnered favor with every Filipino she encountered as she reportedly has one of the most charming and sympathetic personalities in this batch (partially explaining the lion’s share of sponsor’s prizes she won).  And she’s already a proven quantity in terms of delivering when it counts–she has a win at the prestigious pan-Hispanic pageant Reina Hispanoamericana last year under her belt.  Definitely one to watch out for.

As winner of Reina Hispanoamericana 2010 (photo sourced from beautypageantnews.com)
Ana Karina Anez (image courtesy of Miss Universe Organization LP, LLLP)
Alize Lily Mounter (image courtesy of Miss World Ltd.)

VIETNAM – Phan Thi Mo.  Filipino pageant fans over the Internet initially snickered when they read out her name, as it sounds like the Filipino phrase for “your panties”.  Though personally I thought I’ve seen better looking ladies from this country, she has been given a stellar and respectful reception by the Filipinos she personally encountered, with some providing her with praise.  I’m still not that convinced that she has an inside track to the semifinals, but I can concede that she seems to be a worthwhile contender.

During the sans-makeup preliminary judging (photo courtesy of Phan Thi Mo)

WALES – Emma Franklin.  What is it as of late that this country fields short girls to major international pageants?  If it weren’t for Miss Ghana, this lady would’ve been the shortest representative out there.  She’s also arguably the weakest link amongst the ladies in the British Isles.

ZIMBABWE – Thandi Muringa.  Miss Botswana might be better-looking and with a better figure, in my opinion, but this lady seems to have an edge when she opens her mouth as she speaks eloquently and sounds committed to the environmental cause.  A slot for an African is a tightly contested fight between these two ladies, in my opinion.

Press Presentation and Evening Gown images courtesy of Carousel Productions, and National Costume images courtesy of Bruce Casanova for OPMB Worldwide.

Now that all 84 delegates are accounted for, let me trot out my leaderboard to show how I think they all stand:

TOP CONTENDERS:  CZECH REPUBLIC, ECUADOR, INDIA, MEXICO, VENEZUELA

SHOO-INS:  HUNGARY, PARAGUAY, SWEDEN

LIKELIEST:  AUSTRALIA, BELGIUM, BOLIVIA, BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA, BOTSWANA, BRAZIL, CHILE, CHINESE TAIPEI, COLOMBIA, CRIMEA, EL SALVADOR, FRANCE, GUAM, ITALY, JAPAN, KOSOVO, PANAMA, PORTUGAL, PUERTO RICO, RUSSIA, SLOVENIA, THAILAND, UKRAINE, ZIMBABWE

EXCELLENT:  BELIZE, ENGLAND, GUATEMALA, INDONESIA, LATVIA, LUXEMBOURG, NETHERLANDS, NORWAY, PERU, ROMANIA, SCOTLAND, SLOVAK REPUBLIC, SWITZERLAND, TRINIDAD & TOBAGO, TURKEY, VIETNAM

INTELLIGENCE/PERSONALITY/ENVIRONMENTAL FACTOR:  NEPAL, PAKISTAN, PHILIPPINES, SOUTH AFRICA

VERY STRONG:  AUSTRIA, CANADA, CURACAO, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, GERMANY, GUADELOUPE, ISRAEL, KOREA, MARTINIQUE, NORTHERN IRELAND, SINGAPORE, SRI LANKA

STRONG:  ARUBA, BAHAMAS, ESTONIA, HONDURAS, IRELAND, LEBANON, MADAGASCAR, NEW ZEALAND, SPAIN, TANZANIA, U.S.A., U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS

VERY GOOD:  DENMARK, MALAYSIA, WALES

GOOD:  GHANA, MACAU

FAIR:  CHINA, HONG KONG, NIGERIA

Now, here’s my fearful forecast:

ELEMENTS:  CZECH REPUBLIC, INDIA, MEXICO, VENEZUELA

FINAL EIGHT:  ECUADOR, HUNGARY, PARAGUAY, SWEDEN

TOP 16:  CHINESE TAIPEI, COLOMBIA, GUAM, JAPAN, PHILIPPINES, PUERTO RICO, RUSSIA, ZIMBABWE

BUBBLING UNDER:  AUSTRALIA, BELGIUM, BOLIVIA, BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA, BOTSWANA, BRAZIL, CHILE, CRIMEA, EL SALVADOR, FRANCE, ITALY, KOSOVO, PANAMA, PORTUGAL, SLOVENIA, THAILAND, UKRAINE

STRIKING DISTANCE:  BELIZE, ENGLAND, GUATEMALA, INDONESIA, LATVIA, LUXEMBOURG, NETHERLANDS, NORWAY, PERU, ROMANIA, SCOTLAND, SLOVAK REPUBLIC, SWITZERLAND, TRINIDAD & TOBAGO, TURKEY, VIETNAM

Here’s looking forward that the preliminary judges selected their choices wisely.  Good luck to all the girls!

JUST ME!

JOSEPH

MISS EARTH 2011: AT THE HOMESTRETCH (PART 5)

PANAMA – Marelissa Betancourt.  There is something about her styling that made me think: “1980s Hawaiian Tropic”.  It’s probably the fact that her hair coloring is blonde with dark roots peeking out, and styled in a wavy manner.  I feel this styling hinders her chances of generating that much needed buzz, because she has potential to become one of the front-runners–she has a pretty face  and she is an excellent speaker who has demonstrated a commitment to the cause espoused by this pageant.  Her figure may need a little more toning and streamlining, but it’s still fitter than most people.  A makeover would help tap her great potential, and hope she can see action in another major international pageant.

Image courtesy of Boyet Blas/Noli Berioso for Mabuhay Beauties

PARAGUAY – Nicole Huber.  She was a last-minute replacement for the original representative, who sprained her ankle and could not compete.  The press kits during the press presentation still featured the name and photo of the original representative, and I’m not sure if the press is aware that the one actually competing is this Miss World 2011 Top 20 quarterfinalist (she actually ranked a heart-breaking 16th place).  I think she’s got what it takes to go all the way to the Top Eight finals, as she has a buffed figure, has good-looking features, and is a strong communicator.

PERU – Maria Gracia Figueroa.  Her features, though of a fair mestiza type, are an acquired taste to my eyes (though catnip for those who love anything fair-skinned).  With more formidable contenders amongst the Latina contingent, she was among those relatively left in the dust.

PHILIPPINES – Athena Imperial.  Looking at her during the Press Presentation, I had visions of Charice if she decided to pursue a more mature image down the line (you know she can’t always remain a teenage ingenue prodigy for long).  Whether that could be an advantage or a disadvantage would be dependent on how you would respond to that kind of image.  I am aware this lady had her share of detractors, but she has one gift that could not be denied–it is probably prophetic how she is named after the Greek goddess of wisdom, as this is her ace that could give her the edge to break through despite the misgivings of several pageant fans and pundits and offset any perceived liabilities.  If she’s able to pass muster in the looks rounds in the eyes of the final night judges, she could end up a possible usurper over the perceived favorites and maybe even garner herself an element.

Charice (sourced from videokeman.com)
A statue of the goddess Athena (sourced from http://www.nashville.gov)

PORTUGAL – Susana Nogueira.  This year, this country fielded very attractive contenders in the Grand Slam pageants.  It even enjoyed a surprising but welcome breakthrough at Miss Universe this year, landing in the semifinals for the first time ever.  This brunette has lovely girl-next-door features that could become highly appealing and that she could conceivably pull off another breakthrough and land its first semifinals finish in this pageant, too.

PUERTO RICO – Agnes Benitez.  This tanned lady exudes a great amount of sex appeal.  But there are some angles that I found unflattering when I saw her in person, that I wondered if she could pass muster in the famous sans-makeup preliminary judging.  A sans makeup shot with Panama and Paraguay shows she does have good features, albeit maybe with a tendency to look a bit worn out or tired-looking with the eyebags.  I think she still remains in strong contention for a finals slot.

Sans makeup with Paraguay and Panama (photo sourced from Missosology)

ROMANIA – Jihan Shanabi.  Though her hair color is not jet-black brunette, I think she classifies as a “Drusilla” type.  She has the good looks and trim figure to be regarded as a worthwhile contender.

RUSSIA – Alena Kuznetsova.  With the exception of 2004, latecomers (which I will classify as those who arrive after the Press Presentation) don’t typically make the final cut.  This lady is likely to be that rare exception, as her jet-black tresses framing her fair-complexioned face and luminous blue eyes along with her lean, lissome, statuesque frame make a major sensation.  She could conceivably end up among the Final Eight.

From a fashion event (photo courtesy of Melvin Sia for OPMB Worldwide)

SCOTLAND – Amanda Quinn.  She has a pretty-enough face, though her figure is not as trim or buffed as other contenders out there.  In general though, I could consider her a worthwhile contestant nevertheless.

SINGAPORE – Felicia Orvalla.  In real-world terms, she could be classified as a babe.  But in pageant terms, it will be an uphill battle for her to make that much needed major impression, but she has been receiving positive notices from some pageant fans and pundits.

SLOVAK REPUBLIC – Romana Procházkova.  She and Canada are battling for the BB Sweepstakes award for this pageant, especially with her penchant for low-cut strapless dresses during the Evening Gown and National Costume competitions.  This brunette has a pretty face, though her figure is below par what we expected from representatives of this country.

SLOVENIA – Rebecca Kim Lekse.  She looks like a slightly less-polished hybrid of Katherine Heigl and Jessica Alba.  She is actually very solid in all aspects overall, and has been generating significant positive notices.  I don’t mind seeing her as a sleeper surprise for the semifinals.

Jessica Alba (photo sourced from dhallywoodactress.blogspot.com)
Katherine Heigl (photo sourced from prohaircut.com)

SOUTH AFRICA – Dominique Mann.  She earned distinction by winning the Miss Talent special award with her song-and-acrobatic-dance performance of “All That Jazz” from the musical “Chicago”.  It’s interesting to note that Miss World tends to reward singers for this distinction, while in this pageant, body movement is essential as dancers and/or any display of acrobatic or bodily prowess are better valued here.  Sure, this lady sang, but what clinched the deal were those body contortions that were the product of her gymnastics background.

A shot from her winning talent performance (photo courtesy of Bruce Casanova for OPMB Worldwide)

SPAIN – Veronica Roldan.  To be blunt, her facial features are too strong for my taste.  I know Miss Espana no longer holds the franchise for this pageant, so we could expect an uneven run for this country from now on.

Evening Gown and Press Presentation images courtesy of Carousel Productions, and National Costume images courtesy of Bruce Casanova for OPMB Worldwide.

COMING UP:  SRI LANKA to ZIMBABWE and the “FEARFUL” FORECAST