CHINA – Ji Dan Xu. Yes, her facial features are not conventionally beautiful, but her stage skills are undeniable–though she had a mishap in the evening gown round of the Presentation Show as she tripped twice. I wonder if the judges would penalize her for that, though she recovered generally well and looked lovely in her embroidered pink number. She also has a model-trim figure to her credit. But I have a feeling her best prospect for making the final cut would be a Trump Ticket–in another year, I wouldn’t object in this scenario, but this year, I feel there are other worthier choices for that ticket over her, and there are a whole bevy of utterly fierce Asians to consider. Anyway, I adore her white-and-blue porcelain-style national costume–one of the best national costumes around.
COLOMBIA – Daniela Alvarez Vasquez. Facially, she reminds me of a less-pretty version of Miss Earth – Water 2009 and Miss International 2011 1st runner-up Jessica Barboza of Venezuela. There are major factors working for her, like her fit figure, her strong stage skills, and the fact that in even-numbered years, this country would make the final cut for this pageant regardless of the representative’s facial beauty (though there were gorgeous stunners fielded during a lot of those years, like say, 1974 and 1994). But then again, there were exceptions to the even-numbered-year rule, like what happened in 1996 and 2002, and her gown presentation, though performed with the Riyo Mori Gucci Flash, just couldn’t detract from the underwhelming design. I wouldn’t count her out, but I wouldn’t be surprised either if it turns out she would be one of the rarer even-numbered-year exceptions.
COSTA RICA – Nazareth Cascante. Well, let’s hand it to her that she’s better than her 2010 counterpart (who unfortunately channeled Medusa during her Presentation Show), but she’s such a far cry from her gorgeous predecessor, semifinalist Johanna Solano. She would’ve been considered a middling contender in other years, but in this stratified level, she is unfortunately part of the bottom group (though fortunately, not the last-placer).
CROATIA – Elizabeta Burg. She has one of the serenely prettiest faces in this year’s batch. Though her catwalk is not as lively as most of her counterparts (nor does she make for a vibrant interview), there is a strong possibility she could get away with it the way Leila Lopes did last year as she made a strikingly distinctive presence in both rounds of the Presentation Show. If the final night judges would allow her to advance and not have reservations about her very slender frame, she could make a major splash with her distinctive long-sleeved flesh-colored beaded-and-sequined evening gown and make it all the way to the Final Five. It does evoke an Aubrey Hepburn-ish elegance and perhaps even draw out fond memories of Miss Universe 2009 2nd runner-up from Kosovo, Gona Dragusha–and this lady is leagues prettier than Gona.
CURACAO – Monifa Jansen. In most photos I find her good-looking even if I object to the fact that she’s often heavily made up. But then came the video interview and I was appalled at the sight as she registered like a drag queen. Sure she has a pleasant tone of voice, but I was taken aback at her response to the question on the crazy thing she’ll do when she learns that the world will end–“rob a bank, so I can experience being rich for once.” I wonder if such directness of response was probably a factor why she scored shockingly low back at Miss World 2011 (she did talk about unemployment in her interview with the judges). She looked a bit more feminine back then, too. Those objections aside, I could not find fault with her performance in both rounds of the Presentation Show.
CYPRUS – Ioanna Yiannikou. She doesn’t register very well in several photos, that many pageant fans and pundits regard her as the cellar-dweller. Well, she’s obviously raw and her figure definitely pales compared to the majority of this year’s delegates. But on video, she registers as a pretty face–she’s more telegenic than photogenic, I discovered. Still, that red evening gown she wore is an ill-proportioned monstrosity. Her figure and that evening gown conspired to indeed relegate her in the cellar, even if her telegenic face redeemed her somewhat.
CZECH REPUBLIC – Teresa Chlebovskà. She is one of the more gorgeous faces in this year’s competition. And she has strong skills onstage as her performances in both rounds of the Presentation Show are faultless. She has an inside track of making the semifinals. In another year, she could even be in serious consideration of making the Top Five, but this year, it’s quite cutthroat with so many top performers to choose from.
DENMARK – Josefine Hewitt. In photos and in her video interview, she registers as a worthwhile contender–perhaps not in serious consideration for the finals, but worth some attention. But then she walked onstage in the Presentation Show and lo and behold–a disaster! In the evening gown round, she sported an ill-fitting, unflattering, tacky-and-dated (would’ve probably passed muster in the 1980s) long-sleeved black frock and in the swimsuit round though she has a slender figure you cannot help but be turned off by her slouchy, awkward catwalk. It was one of the worst Presentation Show performances I have ever witnessed. Ironically, in her Miss Universe website profile, there is a quote (“In Her Own Words”) where she said “Through a volunteer program, I got to teach 57 young girls how to walk the runway. It was great to see and feel the changes the girls went through in a few hours. They were so happy and grateful, it was an experience that truly warmed me.” I hope it’s a case of teachers who could teach it but could not do it, because I’m frightened at the thought of 57 young girls imitating her Presentation Show catwalk. The wacky dance she did clad in her mermaid costume the next day does not do anything to redeem her.
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC – Dulcita Lynn Lieggi. She actually looked great in her Fadil Berisha photograph but in general, she’s more of a member of the P.A.T.I.S. crew. Though her half-Italian half-Caribbean heritage should theoretically allow her to look good with a tanned complexion, her Fadil Berisha photo seemed to unleash her beauty best when she’s fairer skinned.
ECUADOR – Carolina Andrea Aguirre Pérez. There were some pageant fans and pundits who found some candid photos of her in activities underwhelming, but it turns out she was probably reserving her energies to when it mattered most, like the Presentation Show. She was sexy in her rose-embroidered red-and-beige evening gown, and showcased her trim and fit figure with aplomb during the swimsuit round. She is on track in becoming the third ever semifinalist for this country.
EL SALVADOR – Ana Yancy Clavel. This country is notoriously uneven in terms of the quality of its contestants over the years–at least this year, they have fielded a worthwhile member of the P.A.T.I.S. crew. In other years, she would’ve been probably be in more serious contention for the finals.
ESTONIA – Natalie Korneitsik. It’s ironic that she didn’t trip at all during the Presentation Show, but the following day (when the leaky ceiling issue was probably supposedly resolved), she tripped on her skirt during the National Costume show. With a bevy of pretty faces this year, she has one of the relatively homelier ones, though if she competed in another year she would be considered as reasonably attractive.
ETHIOPIA – Helen Getachew. She has one of the most gorgeous faces in this year’s competition, but she has one major, major liability that affects everything she does–lack of energy or vitality. In her video interview she came off as extremely serious, and aggravating matters was that her dating story was a major nightmare–being set up on a blind date with a guy who mugged her days before. Her greeting onstage as she introduced herself was low key, and her catwalk was likewise wan and enervated. It is almost as if she doesn’t want to be there, which is such a shame as she has great potential. In fact, she reminds me of Cosby Show star Keisha Knight-Pulliam, who grew up to become a major babe.
FINLAND – Sara Yasmina Chafak. Unlike recent Finnish delegates to this pageant, this lady has strong, polished stage chops to complement the other prerequisites to make in impact in this pageant: great figure, articulate and charming personality, and facial beauty (or distinctive charisma if you lack the last factor). Previous recent Finnish representatives tend to falter in the stage department. We have to give her credit that she worked an otherwise disastrous low-cut orange gown with shredded skirt with aplomb, but I have a feeling that gown may be the main obstacle that would prevent her from breaking a 16-year-long drought (the last time this country placed was back when the half-Nigerian Lola Odusoga became 2nd runner-up to Alicia Machado, also in Las Vegas). Still, perhaps a Trump Ticket might be in order and she could be a worthy candidate for it.
FRANCE – Marie Payet. In other years, I would’ve said that this lady delivered a performance that would sustain this country’s three-years-and-running streak in the semifinals. But this year, I’m not certain if she’ll be guaranteed of making the final cut, as there were other strong performers out there, too. But I’ll not count her out and she is still in serious consideration. Her answer to the “Armageddon” question amused me–she will eat chocolates on top of the Eiffel Tower since she could not do so during this contest if she wanted to win.
All images courtesy of Miss Universe, LP, LLLP, unless otherwise indicated.
COMING UP: GABON to IRELAND