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.
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.
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.
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.
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!