For the first time since 2007, this pageant is held again in Japanese soil.  But this time, it is held outside of the main Japanese islands in the outlying southern island of Okinawa.  Okinawan culture has some key significant differences from mainstream Japanese culture and based from the conduct of the events so far, it is evident by a sense of dynamism in the activities.  The seemingly beaming smiles from the 69 contestants in all photos taken in these activities seem to indicate that they are genuinely enjoying the variety of activities on hand, from appearances in soccer contests to sponsor functions to the national costume street parade to sporting the traditional yukata (the lighter version of the usual Japanese kimono).  For the first time, there was even a talent event where some of the contestants performed traditional dances (though I don’t think it has any bearing on the final results).

Anyway, even if the turnout of contestants did not break the record set in 2010, the roster of 69 is still a high number (the second highest), and we see five countries debuting in this pageant–Cameroon, Gibraltar, Haiti, Namibia, and Virgin Islands.  Myanmar made a big return after a 51-year absence (it competed as Burma back in 1961).  Though it is also interesting that China (a regular to this pageant in recent years and erstwhile host of previous editions from 2004, 2006, and 2009-2011) decided to withdraw from this year’s competition, ostensibly due to some recent political tensions with Japan.  But the Chinese are still amply represented with entries from Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong, and Macau.

In terms of quality, I have to note it is rather uneven–there are indeed some sterling standouts to pay attention to and a whole slew of possible sleeper surprises, but there is also a bevy of plain lookers out there.  I miss the high standards set in the 1990s and early 2000s (even with a smattering of a few obvious cellar-dwellers here and there), but we should not begrudge this group as there seems to be a nice lovefest going on with the palpable joy exhibited in the activities so far.

Without further ado, here is my take on the delegates, starting with:

ARGENTINA – Daiana Incandela.  Her Castillian features are attractive, and in real world terms would be considered beautiful (especially in my shores), plus she has a lean and buffed figure to boot.  But I think with the bevy of fiercer Latinas out there, her best prospect is a creditable performance.

AUSTRALIA – Sarah Jane Fraser.  We’ve seen better contenders fielded by this country, so it is unlikely this blonde will make serious inroads into the finals.

BELARUS – Anastasiya Pogranichnaya.  Her features are actually the sort that would click very well in the modeling world–after this pageant, I would suggest she should try get an agent in Paris, Milan, or New York.  I can picture her walking down a Victoria Secret runway or featured in the pages of Sports Illustrated–maybe not necessarily the top marquee name or the cover girl of that magazine respectively, but will fit in along those standards.  I’m not certain how the Okinawans (or Japanese) gravitate to her looks, but I do hope they are open enough to give her a slot in the semifinals.

BELGIUM – Aileen Decock.  She is pretty, but judging from her rather voluptuous figure, perhaps not in serious contention for the finals.

BELIZE – Destinee Arnold.  She does have a nice, cheerful smile, but that is more of her becoming a candidate for the Miss Friendship title, typically the turf of a contestant from one of the island countries in the Pacific Ocean.

BOLIVIA – Stephanie Nuñez.  In real-world terms, she could be considered attractive, but in pageant terms she is far from making any serious inroads into the finals.

BRAZIL – Rafaela Buttarelli.  She has a gorgeous face but I wonder if she would be docked points for her figure–the swimsuit photo below is either shot at a less flattering angle, or she’s truly voluptuous.  But then again, though current standards tend to go towards slim and lean, there is room for “healthier”figures out there.

CAMEROON – Francoise Odette Ngoumou.  It’s nice to see this country debut in this pageant, but considering this is Japan (and the panel of judges this year is predominantly Japanese), her features may not be well appreciated and she’ll just be relegated to the background.

CANADA – Marta Jablonska.  She has a “sugary” pretty face, and she seems to usually be overly made up in her public appearances.  She’s a quintessential pageant patty contestant.

CHINESE TAIPEI – Nianyu Yu.  She’s one of the better representatives fielded by this country.  She exudes a likeable cuteness that even if she is not expected to make the final cut, she is likely to give a creditable performance.

COLOMBIA – Melissa Varon.  The Japanese typically rarely let a dark-complexioned contestant make the final cut, unless that contestant is extraordinarily stunning.  This dusky (mulatta?) lady who resembles a striking cross between Catherine Zeta-Jones and Tia Carrere fits that category and will likely break the typical color barrier.  In fact, she could be in line to give her nation its fourth Miss International crown.  She has gorgeousness and charisma in spades.  But there is another ferocious Latina who could be in the way of her path to the crown, and they happen to usually be photographed together…

Catherine Zeta-Jones (image sourced from askmen.com)
Tia Carrere (image sourced from e-hawaii.com)

COSTA RICA – Natasha Sibaja.  To be blunt, we’ve seen better representatives from this Central American nation.

DENMARK – Line Christiansen.  She’s pretty enough to make a positive impression, but to make the final cut?  I’m not certain as she doesn’t seem to exude much charisma, that she might just end up as just another pretty face.

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC – Melody Mir Jimenez.  Her striking almond-shaped eyes, her pretty Latin features, and her lean figure are major head-turners.  It also helps that she resembles a cross between two beauty pageant titleholders, as her eyes made her look like Miss Earth 2006 Hil Hernandez of Chile, and her cheekbones resemble Miss Universe 1991 Lupita Jones (and I meant that as a compliment).  She is a front-runner for the crown, in a neck-to-race with Miss Colombia (though there might be some usurpers close by who could be in the way of their destiny).

Miss Earth 2006 Hil Hernandez (image courtesy of Carousel Productions)
Miss Universe 1991 Lupita Jones (image courtesy of Miss Universe LP, LLLP).
Could these be the Top Two?

All images courtesy of Miss International Beauty Pageant 2012 unless otherwise indicated.


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