I have to say that this year’s group of delegates is highly competitive.  Is it of the same caliber as, say, 2010?  There are some arguing that this batch is better, but in my reckoning, it’s hard to make a call at this point, and I still have a soft spot for batch 2010 (even with the way they were treated that year).  Based on photos it seemed figuring out the likeliest contenders would seem murky–it was only during the presentation show that the wheat was separated from the chaff, but even then, the chaff are not as disposable as in previous years.  Even the weakest links have redeeming qualities.  This considering that the roster tied last year’s record of 89 delegates.

The Presentation Show also featured some mishaps–it was subsequently reported (and referenced in next day’s National Costume competition) that there was a leak in the stage ceiling that led to those mishaps.  But still, those mishaps have made the show memorable (for better or worse) and to the delegates’ credit, they followed Miriam Quiambao’s directive in 1999 to rise up immediately after the fall.  There are also some interesting evening gown trends–like bright Grecian yellow gowns worn by the first and last contestants in alphabetical order; the way the foundation garment for some gowns are swimsuits that are then draped with overlaying garments so it becomes a gown; a similar trend with European contestants wearing minidresses with trains so those outfits could qualify as gowns; shorter contestants sporting large flouncy mermaid hems; skirts that seem to have been run through shredders; gowns laden with reflective glittery sequins; rose petal inspired numbers; and many more.

I also have to note about the online interviews–I partly miss the sound effects of the past two years, but I do like the topical relevance of the questions asked–holiday traditions and the talk that the world would end (supposedly two days after this pageant concludes, if the Mayan calendar is to be believed).  It’s a good thing that in general all 89 contestants took a light-hearted approach tackling the “Armageddon” question.

Now, without further ado, let us look at the 89 delegates starting with…

ALBANIA – Adrola Dushi.  She definitely pales behind the hot, sexy bombshell that was  2010 semifinalist Anxhela Martini, but no one can fault her performance during the Presentation Show, as she did have strong stage chops, had a lean-and-mean slender figure, and worked her Grecian-style yellow satin number with panache.  Still, her best prospects for making the final cut would be a Trump Ticket, but I won’t be making serious objections if she was granted one.

ANGOLA – Marcelina Vahekeni.  Yes, her styling is generally polished and her figure is well-proportioned, but her prospects in making the final cut, much less duplicating Leila Lopez’s win last year, are a long shot.  In the evening gown round of the Presentation Show, she sported a gorgeous one-sleeved golden gown with lacy rose overlays, but she walked lousily in it.  She made the biggest splash in the National Costume competition the following day with a provocative printed dress depicting barechested African women–the male host that night aptly commented that it seemed like he’s watching a National Geographic documentary as co-host Miss USA 1995 Shanna Moakler educated the audience that in Angolan culture, native women are barechested until they get married and have children.

ARGENTINA – Camila Solórzano.  Her features may be a bit too angular for comfort, but otherwise she’s a polished contender, with prior experience competing at Miss Earth 2008.  In a less competitive year, she could’ve been a more serious semifinalist prospect, but in this kind of group, we do have to commend her for a creditable performance.

ARUBA – Liza Helder.  In a hasty search for a representative for her country, she was the only one who applied so the title was automatically granted to her.  But we have to give her credit as she proved to be more attractive than what most pageant fans and pundits thought, and her performance, though may not be enough to make the final cut, is nothing to be embarrassed about.  Her biggest splash was her provocative white costume for the National Costume competition–it’s basically a nude bodysuit overlaid with swirly white sequined accents.

AUSTRALIA – Renae Ayris.  She is on track in sustaining a streak for her country in this pageant and make the final cut.  She delivered consistently on a high level, with a charming video interview, gorgeous swimsuit figure, dreamy pink evening gown, and star charisma of a Victoria’s Secret supermodel.  Sure her national costume is underwhelming, but costumes do not determine who makes the final cut anyway.  It is difficult to see if she can make all the way to the Top Five as it’s turning out to be a cutthroat battle with several contenders who could make persuasive cases for their causes.  I couldn’t envision a Top 16 without this lady in the mix.

BAHAMAS – Celeste Marshall.  She is part of the P.A.T.I.S. crew (pretty-enough, articulate-enough, trim-enough, intelligent-enough, and stageworthy-enough)–a crew of ladies who deserve notice on their own terms, but somehow could not generate that much needed standout impression.  I do like the fact that she bucked the usual carnival trend for her national costume, as she wore a pirate outfit instead.

BELGIUM – Laura Beyne.  Pageant fans and pundits have a high regard for her though they are frustrated that so far despite her prettiness (a lovely mocha blend of Caucasian and African) and her sterling qualities (she has a charming personality and strong communication skills) she is not buzzed about as other contenders out there.  She has a knack for turning what could’ve been liabilities into assets–her figure might be thicker than what most pageant fans and pundits might have been accustomed to, but it’s a healthy and fit figure worth emulating and she worked that figure with aplomb in the swimsuit round in the Presentation Show; and she strutted her otherwise overly simple orange gown with slit with flamboyant flair.  Two years ago, Cilou Annys earned a Trump Ticket and made the Top 15–I hope a Trump Ticket can also come her way as she is worthy of it.  During the National Costume show, I was amused by the remarks of the male host as he referred to the leaky ceiling the previous day and that the umbrella that she accessorized with her national costume would’ve been perfectly useful for that issue.

BOLIVIA – Yessica Mouton.  Here is another member of the P.A.T.I.S. crew–in another year, she would probably be regarded in more serious contention for the finals, but despite a worthwhile performance, she is drowned out by other buzzed about stunners out there.

BOTSWANA – Sheillah Molelekwa.  She is very attractive and is a worthwhile contender.  A notable thing I observed in her video profile was that when she was asked about “Holiday traditions” she referred not to Christmas, but to her nation’s independence day (which takes place three months before Christmas)–she is probably not aware that the “Holidays” is a politically correct euphemism for Christmas.  She is also a victim of a horrendously ill-fitting and poorly-styled evening gown–it’s a poorly tailored satin number that is overlaid with what looks like lace window curtains.  Unfortunately she doesn’t have the charisma of a Sophia Loren* to pull that look off.  She redeemed herself a bit the next day during the National Costume show with her fierce stances in her leather dress.

* There is this oft-told anecdote that was featured in her own bio-pic TV miniseries where a young Sophia was too poor to get a dress for a contest or a formal occasion so they had to fashion a dress out of window curtains.

BRAZIL – Gabriela Markus.  I like her better than Miss Universe 2011 2nd runner-up Priscila Machado, even though I still wish they fielded a prettier girl (and this country is so loaded with those).  But she is competing at a high level that I won’t raise serious objections if she made the final cut.  She has strong communication skills if we gauge her online profile interview, and she delivered a top-notch performance onstage during both rounds of the Presentation Show.  The refreshing part of her costume is the absence of a headdress–we typically expect this country’s costume to feature a headdress (I suppose it’s a Carmen Miranda stereotype).

BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS – Abigail Hyndman.  She does come off like a homelier cousin of singer/actress Jennifer Hudson, and it is highly unlikely she’ll make the final cut.  Nevertheless, I like the sassy homegirl vibe she exudes in her video interview–[in a homegirl voice] “Girlfriend, we should hang out together one day!”

Jennifer Hudson (image sourced from justjared.com)

BULGARIA – Zhana Yaneva.  There are some pageant fans and pundits who would place her in the bottom of the heap.  I think that’s uncalled for because she’s actually good looking in my reckoning.  In fact, I found nothing disappointing in any of her performances, whether in interview, in the Presentation Show, or even in the National Costume show.  Sure she didn’t perform in the same level as the leading contenders out there, but there is nothing to be embarrassed about anything she did.

CANADA – Adwoa Yamoah.  I’m not into her facial features, but we have to hand it to her that she has solid stage skills and she does make a polished presence.  Sure, we miss the presence of the original designated representative Sahar Biniaz (who had to miss this because of an injury), but she performed creditably enough.  I have serious misgivings about her national costume–sure it’s supposed to represent Canada’s multiculturalism, but  it still exudes the vibe of a cheesy, homemade Central American carnival costume (well, it was announced it was made in Panama, and remember that the director for this country is of Nicaraguan origin).

CAYMAN ISLANDS – Lindsay Japal.  There is something about her facial features that remind me of two stunners–she looks like a cross between Miss Universe 2010 Ximena Navarrete of Mexico and Dancing with the Stars correspondent Brooke Burke.  There are pageant fans and pundits who felt she performed strongly enough to be in serious contention for the finals, but I have a feeling she is being overshadowed by stronger performers out there, though her performance should be regarded as commendable.

Miss Universe 2010 Ximena Navarrete
Brooke Burke (image sourced from ifood.tv)

CHILE – Ana Luisa König.  She is gorgeous, and in my reckoning Victoria’s Secret should hire her right now to model for their fashion gala next year.  There are pageant fans and pundits who would regard her as a front-runner, but I have a quibble with her evening gown performance–it’s a simple though lovely coral dress, but I find the way she carried the skirt part rather awkward; it registers as such in both photos and video.  Still, she still is in contention of making the final cut–perhaps a Trump Ticket may come into play…

All images courtesy of Miss Universe LP, LLLP unless otherwise indicated.


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