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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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