On a windy evening at the poolside of Versailles Palace in Alabang, while the moon is waxing towards a full phase, 80 international delegates gathered while a celebrity panel of judges determine who among them would earn the right to be called Miss Earth 2012.
The opening number featured the 80 delegates dressed in their national costumes strutting across the poolside catwalks to the strains of Jennifer Lopez’s recent hit, “Dance Again” (last year, they were in fatigue-style wear dancing to another J. Lo song, “Papi”). Unlike in previous editions where pre-taped introductions were the norm, this year featured live introductions by the 80 delegates. It was a refreshing throwback, and was well paced (it potentially would’ve been dragging, but all 80 delegates fortunately gave simple, brief, and perky introductions–Spain’s Nathalia Moreira may have given a longer introduction than most but she delivered it with memorably lively flair).
The event was hosted by Marc Nelson, Miss Earth-Air 2009 Sandra Seifert, and Miss Philippines-Air 2006 (and ABS-CBN newscaster) Ginger Conejero. All three were very strong and effective hosts with near-flawless communication skills.
The format of the rest of the pageant followed the lean-and-mean format employed last year–the Top 16 were selected and would parade in swimsuits, then whittled to a Top Eight who will compete in evening gowns, then halved to the Final Four where they would be asked a final question. In between the swimsuit and evening gown rounds, there is a musical guest.
This year, the fact that it is held in an outdoor, posh country club venue inspired adding synchronized swimmers to accent both the swimsuit and evening gown rounds. The swimsuit round was likewise augmented by dancers clad as marble statues, and the evening gown round featured some dancers clad as matadors. The 16 semifinalists in the swimsuit round strutted to the strains of David Guetta’s dance hit “Little Bad Girl” (featuring Taio Cruz & Ludacris) while for the evening gown round the eight finalists walked to the strains of Rihanna’s latest hit, “Diamonds”.
This year’s musical guest is Filipino entertainer Billy Crawford, performing a soon-to-be-released-in-Europe dance track called “Take It Off”*. It is a listenable Euro-club number, and Billy danced up a storm with G-Force, though I sense it was fully mimed instead of sung live.
* Billy Crawford actually has made a major splash in Europe, especially in the early to mid 2000s. He particularly was huge in France, Netherlands, and Belgium, especially with his 2002 song “Trackin’”
Now, let me proceed to discuss the Top 16. Before the Top 16 were called out, all 80 delegates were clad in orchid-colored bikinis designed by Ricky Abad. The Top 16 then changed into gold-lamé bikinis by the designer and paraded across the dedicated catwalk on the pool.
ITALY – Giulia Capuani. Though I placed her among the ladies in my “Bubbling Under” list, based on her performance during the evening, she seemed to be the weakest link with a less than perfect figure and raw catwalk. I found her worthy of belonging in this group, but I wonder how Turkey (Ilnur Melis Durasi) or maybe even Paraguay (Alexandra Fretes) would’ve done in her place.
MEXICO – Paola Aguilar. She’s the one I deemed least worthy of belonging in the Top 16. I’m so not into her face. But then, it seems she has a pair of assets that seemed to win over the preliminary judges–she leads the BB Sweepstakes for this pageant, apparently. Though the thing is, those assets are apparently store-bought than forces of nature–considering the environmental bent of this pageant, why was this not taken against her?
GERMANY – Nel-Linda Zublewitz. It’s very much expected that she makes the cut as she amassed a lot of medals prior to the finals, and she has garnered buzz for her refreshing girl-next-door prettiness. There were others who outshone her in swimsuit for this evening, but she firmly is worthy of belonging in this group.
KOREA – Sara Kim. Her inclusion made me less upset over Thailand’s (Waratthaya Wongchayaporn) exclusion. She is utterly adorably cute that she is worthy of belonging in this group.
SCOTLAND – Sara Pender. I’m glad this comely blonde British lass got the necessary notice and made the final cut. Sure, she doesn’t have what it takes to go beyond the Top 16, but her presence in this group is very welcome.
JAPAN – Megumi Noda. Her inclusion was a pleasant, delightful surprise to me, but she proved she got skills and presence to be worthy of belonging in this hallowed group, that I’m not that upset that Thailand and Malaysia (Deviyah Daranee) were shut out as a result. I got to chat with her after the finals and am glad to hear she is aware of her manga namesake. She’s quite a charmer.
POLAND – Justyna Rajczyk. She’s a sleeper, but clearly worthy, surprise in the semifinals. She delivered a bouncy swimsuit catwalk that I felt is worthy of advancing further into the Top Eight, over the two Asian ladies who advanced over her. She came off as a ray of sunshine with her bubbly ingenue prettiness.
COSTA RICA – Fabiana Granados. With her body for sin and strong catwalk, I am most upset that she failed to advance further to the Top Eight while a couple of Asians who I deemed weaker advanced in her place. I suppose it’s consolation enough that she helped break the eight-year drought encountered by her country in this pageant.
All images courtesy of Miss Earth unless otherwise indicated.
COMING UP: THE TOP EIGHT