What a difference a year makes. Last year, I bemoaned the quality of the contestants in this pioneering and regularly-held male pageant. Worse still, some of the handsomer favorites were surprisingly then shut out to pave the way for a slew of headscratchers–I particularly lamented the fate of Brazil’s Lucas Malvacini, who I thought had what it took to win it all. I suppose it’s about time there is a male equivalent of the Ruth Ocumarez award, and for male pageants, I will now call it the “Lucas Malvacini” award. This year, we are treated with a host of high caliber stunners–I think about 5-10 of them could beat the reigning winner, Chen Jian Feng from China, in a head-to-head battle (though even during his stint last year, he already has strong appeal that made him a worthy winner). Moreover, based on who is present (including the late arrival from Nigeria), it seems we have a tie for record turn-out of contestants. There are still a few relative duds, but the dud-to-star ratio dropped precipitously from last year.
The thing that I’m a bit saddened about this year’s pageant is that the timeframe for activities is abbreviated, only a mere 9 days. With such a stellar group, we want to see more of them and wish there are more items in their itinerary to enjoy Thailand. However fleeting the moment is going to be, a development worth relishing is that the official portraits are being taken by rising Thai photographer Haruehun Airry, who is now developing a reputation as a premier photographer of male physiques and is probably like the equivalent of Fadil Berisha at Miss Universe. The results, as you will see below, are stunning (and admittedly swoon-inducing).
Now, let’s weed out the (few) duds and celebrate the numerous stars starting with:
ALBANIA – Greit Çollaku. There are fans who respond well to his slim frame and boyish features, especially his sensually pouty lips. But his sort of physical qualities are not always the sort that the powers-that-be appreciate enough to make inroads into the semifinals. Still, he is a well-regarded contender in a major embarassment of riches.
AUSTRALIA – Lee Stefan Stamkowski. He possesses some important physical qualities that we expect in an ideal Manhunt International winner: manly handsome features, beefily buffed physique (without going into bodybuilder extreme), and overall charisma. He is not as buzzed about as other favorites, but I am rating him as one of the front-runners.
BAHAMAS – Drew Palacios. He is only one of two black contestants in this year’s pageant. Though I don’t expect him to win, his standout complexion, striking good looks, and beefily muscular physique could propel him all the way to the Top Five.
BELGIUM [EDIT 08 APRIL 2014] – As per contestant’s polite request, name and image are removed. However, moving forward, any similar requests will not be entertained and will instead will result with verbatim request being added or posted to review in question and with potential for further ridicule by netizens.
BOLIVIA – Diego Soto Arce. The organizers expressed a sentiment that they tend to prefer their contestants clean-cut. Though Lebanon, Romania, Turkey, and Vietnam disobeyed that directive and remained scruffy (and besides, there were some scruffier contestants who went far over the years), this guy most likely heard the directive that he shaved his goatee off by the time of the press presentation. He looked distinctively swarthy during his early appearances, and now without the goatee, he doesn’t have a standout feature (except for his tall height) as his face looks rather ordinary.
BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA – Tarik Šubara. Here is another member of the boyishly cute and lankily built contingent. But he seems to have some buzz and appeal that could help him edge out his counterparts and make the final cut.
BRAZIL – Marcio Berg Lusardo. In real-world terms, he would be regarded as extraordinarily handsome. But in my reckoning he pales behind his predecessor in terms of appeal and charisma, and he often looked like he has constant insomnia with his eyebags. Still, I noticed in candid shots he exudes an outgoing personality, and that could win over the powers-that-be, so there is still that possibility he would avoid Lucas Malvacini’s fate.
BULGARIA – Daniel Georgiev. If he competed last year, he would probably be considered a standout. But with the astounding embarrassment of riches that is this year’s batch, he seems to be one of those worthy contenders being overlooked. File him as an underrated gem.
CAMBODIA – Sary Phanith. His facial features are a bit too mature to be in contention for the finals, but he does have a nice, outgoing personality judging from some candid pictures of some activities. In fact, considering the photos taken by himself with other contestants, it might seem that he might benefit from a new rule that one of the Top 15 would be determined by votes amongst the contestants themselves.
CHINA – Liu Mingxiong. He is not expected to duplicate the victory of Chen Jian Feng, but he seems to have an inside track of making the final cut. Even if his facial features are on the mature side, he still exudes enough sex appeal and charisma to make a great impression.
COLOMBIA – Jorge Leon Perez. Most Haruehun Airry official photos for this pageant would be the best photo taken of the contestant. This is one of the exceptions as for some odd reason his facial features seemed non-descript here while on most other photos he actually looks handsome. I actually regard him as a Top 15 possibility.
COSTA RICA – Jorge Suarez Gomez. His Haruehun Airry portrait made me recall someone familiar: former soldier and now senator Antonio Trillanes IV. He actually has handsome features, but in most other candid photos, his hairstyle seemed too greasy–it gave me visions of Latino gangster thugs in a U.S. barrio with his look. He should tone down on the hair gel, and maybe get a haircut.
CZECH REPUBLIC – Adam Klavik. He has one of the handsomest faces in this year’s competition. It’s such a shame that he rarely projects sparks in most photos and his lean frame, though undeniably fit, lacks definition unlike buffer contenders out there.
All images courtesy of Haruehun Airry and Manhunt International unless otherwise indicated.
COMING UP: DENMARK to LESOTHO.