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.



LEBANON – Nathaly Farraj.  In real world terms, she could be regarded as a babe, but in pageant terms she is not in serious contention for the semifinals.  Her best prospects is a credible showing.

LUXEMBOURG – Natascha Bintz.  This blonde is a refreshing surprise from this country as the tiny duchy usually sends middling contenders in various international pageants.  In fact I can argue that she is probably the best representative from this country in any major international pageant for the past decade.  She could be a sleeper semifinals possibility.

MACAU – Cherry Ng.  This Miss World 2010 veteran is actually polished enough, though it’s still an uphill battle for her to be in serious contention for the finals.

MADAGASCAR – Miando Ratsimiahotrariva.  The first thing that popped in my mind when I first saw her in the press presentation was she would’ve been a shoo-in to be shortlisted in Miss World Beach Beauty.  She has those exotic features and the natural fit (though not buffed) figure that Miss World tends to appreciate.  For this pageant, though, her looks are not the sort that make Filipinos turn their heads, so it would’ve been an uphill battle for her to make that much needed impression.  In fact she could be deemed as raw and unpolished.  Still, it’s nice she got significant face time in Miss Italy’s YouTube videos, as she’s one of the roommates.  A great tidbit learned from one of Miss Italy’s videos:  “Malagasy” is actually pronounced like “Malagash”.

Image courtesy of Jonas Yu for Critical Beauty

MALAYSIA – Tze Hui Tay. You have to hand it to her that she makes the most of what she has.  Still, it will be an uphill battle for her to make an impression with this crowd and be in serious contention for the semifinals.

Image courtesy of Jonas Yu for Critical Beauty

MARTINIQUE – Coralie Leplus.  What I noticed first and foremost about her is her asymmetrical haircut.  The left side of her head is very short to the point that it’s almost shaved, and the right side is shoulder-length.  To be blunt, we have been spoiled with stunners like Murielle Celimene (2004) and Pascale Nelide (2009) that she could be considered a let-down.  Still, she’s a worthwhile contender in my book.

MEXICO – Cassandra Becerra.  She is the first person to arrive for the competition, and attention remains fixated on her since then.  She has the glamorous and charismatic Latin good looks that make me recall Miss International 2009 winner (and Miss World 2008 semifinalist) Anagabriela Espinosa, and I have this feeling she is on track to win it all.  Though judging from the photos I would’ve preferred India to win Best in Evening Gown, she is a worthy winner of that special award.  I think the only hindrances to her garnering an element in this year’s pageant is if they decided to style her hair like Little Lulu, which was Anagaby’s downfall back at Miss World 2008, and perhaps if she would have a “major major” epic fail in the Q&A round (which is doubtful as I feel she’s a solid communicator and a focused-enough competitor for that).

Miss International 2009 Anagabriela Espinoza (image courtesy of CNS Photo)
A styling must-to-avoid (image courtesy of Miss World, Ltd.)

NEPAL – Anupama Aura Gurung. During the press presentation, this lady engaged the audience with her lively speech expressing her love for our country.  Though it will be an uphill battle for her to be in contention for a semifinals slot, she makes a positive impression.  There are angles where she resembles Philippine theater actress Pinky Amador.

Pinky Amador (sourced from pinkyamador.com)

NETHERLANDS – Jill Duijves.  She initially appeared seeming to have spent a bit too long in the tanning bed, but as the days wore on, the tan faded and several pageant fans and pundits are noticing her as a sleeper possibility for the semifinals.

NEW ZEALAND – Alexandra Scott.  What I noticed most about her is that she looks rather mature for her biological age.

NIGERIA – Munachi Uzoma.  She’s one of the latecomers.  To be blunt, her very native features are not the sort that would make her in serious contention for the finals.

NORTHERN IRELAND – Alixandra Halliday.  She has angular features, but in general this lady is attractive enough to make a positive impression.


NORWAY – Marion Homlong.  This Nordic brunette qualifies as attractive, though she’s a longshot to be in contention for the finals, unlike, say, Miss Sweden.  Generally a solid contestant, though, who deserves credit.



PAKISTAN – Sanober Hussain.  This country is known to be staunchly Muslim, and they usually make a big fuss when they see a representative competing in a beauty pageant, much less walking in a bikini.  Yet, this lady has no qualms appearing in a two-piece swimsuit during the press presentation.  So what gives?  The key is when you listen to her speak–she speaks with a distinctive London accent, so she’s actually an expatriate based outside of the country she’s representing (well, all ladies representing this country at this pageant over the past years are expatriates, anyway).  Pageant fans and pundits assumed that because of her YouTube videos, Italy was a cinch to win the Friendship title, but apparently this lady has a broader circle of friends than Italy hence she clinched this instead.  In general, she’s a worthwhile contender.


Photo courtesy of Boyet Blas / Noli Berioso for Mabuhay Beauties
Miss Friendship winner (photo by David Natanawan for Critical Beauty)

Evening gown images courtesy of Carousel Productions, Press Presentation images courtesy of Boyet Blas/Noli Berioso of Mabuhay Beauties or Melvin Sia for OPMB Worldwide or Carousel Productions, and National Costume images courtesy of Bruce Casanova for OPMB Worldwide.



GUAM – Anna Calvo.  For me, she has one of the prettiest faces in this year’s batch.  Not only that, she is an excellent and well-educated speaker.  Sure she does not shine in photos or onstage that much, and her figure may not be as buffed as the front-runners out there, but in person she’s very lovely.  I’m rooting for her to make the final cut–she’s my sentimental favorite.

GUATEMALA – Ana Luisa Montufar.  I find her features a bit angular for comfort, but she’s undeniably polished and competitive, with a buffed figure to boot.  Another worthwhile member of the formidable Latina contingent.

HONDURAS – Stephany Hernandez.  Now meet one of the weakest links from the Latina contingent.  She has potential as she has attractive features, but she doesn’t know how to capitalize on them, and having a less-than-buffed body simply exacerbates the situation.  She also seems very raw.  With a proper grooming and makeover (plus maybe time in the gym), she can transform herself into her country’s equivalent of Andrea Fonseka.

HONG KONG SAR – Luo Wenxi.  Despite having a distinctive hairdo and round face, I don’t see her in serious contention for a semifinals slot, and she’s clearly totally unpolished to boot.  For some odd reason I have visions of her dressed in some Anime cosplay clothes, or in a less savory fashion, the object of some sleazy old man’s fantasies.

Anime cosplay girl (image sourced from yed.org)

HUNGARY – Dora Szabó.  Yes, her beauty is actually of an unconventional sort (she has a passing resemblance to “Showgirls” star Elizabeth Berkley), but I have to argue that she’s the best this country ever fielded to this pageant thus far.  With her complete package including a buffed figure, outgoing personality, and strong communication skills, she can make the breakthrough into the semifinals.

Elizabeth Berkley (image sourced from eonline.com)

INDIA – Hasleen Kaur.  Despite some unflattering early candid photos, this lady knows how to turn on the charisma when it counts.  Could she bring forth the Indian back-to-back victory?  It is highly possible, especially if she makes it all the way to the final interview round.  Not only is she an eloquent speaker, she knows how to communicate in a manner that reaches out to the audience–this is especially evident as she made one of the, if not THE best speech during the press presentation.  I only saw one evening gown photo, but she looked dreamy in it, in my opinion.  I think she is guaranteed an element.  Yes, she is clearly going the salvage her country’s weak 2011 pageant season.

INDONESIA – Inez Maharani.  Though she was already in Manila during the press presentation, and despite more liberated values prevailing in her country as of late, she decided not to appear as there are still pockets of objections over Indonesian women wearing swimsuits.  Well, I have to respect her wishes (as she explained in one of the YouTube videos with her roommate, Miss Italy), though there were several Indonesians before her who had no qualms appearing in such.  They did accommodate that for the Malaysian representative last year in Vietnam.*  She is actually a worthwhile, good looking contender otherwise.  She is also memorable in Miss Italy’s YouTube videos for her singing prowess, singing Alicia Keys’s “If I Ain’t Got You”.  The winner of the Talent fast-track of Miss World, Gabriela Pulgar from Chile, won by singing the same song.  So who was better?  I’m personally torn, as though Inez has a nicer tone in her voice, her diction was so thickly accented, while Gabriela is similarly accented it wasn’t as glaring as Inez’s.  Still both are indeed strong singers.

* Appey Rowena was conspicuously absent during the locally televised Miss Earth swimsuit competition, and her introduction video during the finals was conspicuous for the absence of a swimsuit shot.

IRELAND – Rachelle Liggett.  What was most notable about her during the press presentation was her obviously making the effort to display flatter abs–well, even the buffest people while in competition or in a photo shoot do that so we shouldn’t take that against her that much.

ISRAEL – Huda Naccache.  During the press presentation, there might be some people who might assume she’s aloof and maybe even the non-sympathetic person in the batch.  But as revealed in Miss Italy’s series of YouTube videos, she’s simply more of a laid-back matter-of-fact girl (just like Miss Austria).  She has a slim frame and angular features perfect for modeling, but it is likely going to be an uphill battle for her to be contention for a semifinalist slot in this pageant.

ITALY – Angelica Parisi.  She is good-looking in a sisterly ingenue kind of way, and by that virtue alone she could be a sleeper possibility into the semifinals.  But she makes a bigger impact as she documented her stay here in the Philippines with a series of YouTube videos revealing an upbeat personal glimpse of life behind the scenes in the pageant with her as a playful, vivacious, gracious, and occasionally impish host of the proceedings.  For that entertaining series we pageant fans and pundits are eternally grateful.  Molto grazie!

JAPAN – Tomoko Maeda.  Her beauty is of an unconventional sort, but she knows how to make her presence felt, especially with her dramatic performance during the national costume competition that earned her the top prize.  It’s almost like seeing an Ines Ligron girl in action here.  Prospects of her finishing in the semifinals like last year’s Marina Kishira (who made all the way to Top Seven) are very optimistic.

KOREA – E-Seul Kim.   Most of the time, Korean representatives sent to major pageants would be renowned for their pretty faces and not much else, but there would be times where they would field feisty ladies who exhibit oodles of star quality, just like the one sent to Miss World earlier this year, Kyung Min Doe, who would then make serious inroads into the finals.  This lady, unfortunately, falls in the former category.  She’s pretty, but she seems to be missing assertiveness and spunk to standout in a crowd.

KOSOVO – Nora Asani.  There is a term I normally use to describe ladies with jet black hair, pale white complexion, angular noses, and luminous eyes–Bosnian Vamp, as this was characteristic of Bosnian representatives during the early years of the pageant like dethroned winner Dzejla Glavovic.  But since Bosnia doesn’t send these types of girls anymore, a better term is needed.  A colleague of mine, James Gannaban (Hong Kong’s Most Hyperactive Gay Boy) coined the term “Drusilla”, and I realize this might be more apt.  James would apply this term to describe this gorgeous lady.  I wonder if her face and her strong communication skills would be enough to offset her shorter-than-pageant-average height and her less-than-ideal frame.  It worked for those Bosnian girls before, so she might make the cut indeed.

LATVIA – Sanda Mezecka.  She’s a slender blonde in the similar mode of Miss France.  Though she’s attractive, she has not made a serious impression that it might be an uphill battle for her to make the final cut.

Evening gown images courtesy of Carousel Productions, Press Presentation images courtesy of Boyet Blas/Noli Berioso of Mabuhay Beauties, and National Costume images courtesy of Bruce Casanova for OPMB Worldwide.