ISRAEL – Lina Makhuli. She facially resembles actress Chloe Sevigny. Just like that actress, her beauty is of an unconventional sort that is typically not appreciated in pageant circles. She was generally solid throughout both rounds of the Presentation Show, but well, her face could be a sore sticking point for those who don’t appreciate such features.
ITALY – Grazia Pinto. Welcome another member of the P.A.T.I.S. crew. It’s an interesting note that her gown has the dangling shawl placed in front instead of the back of most other gowns that might feature the shawl. For her costume, she likewise draped her flag in front instead of the back as would have been expected–what’s with her and frontal draping?
JAMAICA – Chantal Zaky. Jamaica has had its most successful placements in Las Vegas, with Kimberly Mais’ 5th place finalist finish in 1991 and Yendi Phillips’ 1st runner-up showing in 2010. Can Chantal join those two ladies and earn a lofty placement? Well, though she strikes a fierce presence onstage, her facial features have strong, sharp angles that may not be to most peoples’ liking–she sometimes comes off as a drag version of Glee star Naya Rivera. Plus, take note in 1996 (the 2nd Vegas edition), Jamaica didn’t make the cut (it placed 24th). So the Vegas success factor for this country may only work in every alternate edition–if it is held in Vegas again (for the 5th time), could it finally win?
JAPAN – Ayako Hara. She actually performed very well during the Presentation Show, as she displayed strong stage chops. She also has an appealing charm about her that we should take her into serious consideration–but most pageant fans and pundits are focused on three or four Southeast Asian ladies. She’s also among the few ladies who did not cite Christmas in her video interview when asked about holiday traditions–she talked about the Obon festival held in August, instead. With a few exceptions, the Asian contingent made such a major impact, it’s such a shame that it’s likely the judges (and Trump & Company) would only allot very limited slots for this region.
KOREA – Sung-Hye Lee. I’ve seen prettier Koreans than her, and I found her long oval face a bit too angular for comfort, but we cannot deny she is good looking, and she has strong stage chops to boot. Such a wealth of treasures coming from this continent this year!
KOSOVO – Diana Avdiu. There are pageant fans and pundits who would regard her as a front-runner, and she earned a special award as Miss Photogenic (no longer voted online by the public). There is something rather retro about the vibe she exuded during the Presentation Show, and it later dawned on me she reminded me of Dame Diana Rigg during her Avengers heyday as the legendary Emma Peel. It makes me fantasize how this lady will look in a mod bodysuit–and I think she’ll look hot in it! She performed at a high level onstage during both rounds of the Presentation Show, so I think she may not need to ask for a Trump Ticket to make the final cut.
LEBANON – Rina Chibany. She was trying to project a fierce expression at the Presentation Show that was why she was unsmiling during both rounds. She has a slender model’s frame and patrician features (along with her statuesque stature) that could be highly appealing in some circles, but I don’t know if such constituents were present in the judging panel (or even Trump & Co.). Still, she is a semifinalist possibility.
LITHUANIA – Greta Mikalauskytė. After 18 years of fits and false starts (yes, back in 1994 there was supposed to be a Lithuanian contestant in Manila but she was a no-show), Lithuania finally made its debut in this pageant. This girl could be regarded as a refreshing ingenue, but she is obviously not as polished and did not generate a stellar charisma like most of her counterparts. Still, it’s a good start and hope to see this country continue its participation in subsequent editions.
MALAYSIA – Kimberly Leggett. I first was not bullish on her prospects of making the final cut–primarily for the fact that this pageant tends to expect the Asian delegates to look like native Asians, and this lady is Eurasian. But then, I saw the Vegas photos, I watched her video interview, and checked her performance during the Presentation Show, and she delivered at a stratified level all throughout. Though I will not label her a sure thing, I think it’s about time to see this country make the final cut after a long 42 years–it will also be a vindication-of-sorts to compensate for the injustice committed against Deborah Henry last year. Will justice prevail this time, or will this country again be overlooked?
MAURITIUS – Ameeksha Dilchand. We have to give her credit that she’s generally a polished delegate. But her angular features are not to the liking of most pageant fans and pundits (and likely the powers-that-be).
MEXICO – Karina Gonzalez. In all Vegas editions so far, this country proved to be the most successful, with two Miss Universe winners (1991 and 2010) and a 4th place finalist (1996). Though I was underwhelmed by her online interview (I had a difficulty discerning that she wanted to go to Italy if she learned the world would end, as it seemed she omitted the “I” sound for that country when I first listened to her, and wondered if she actually said something like Tel Aviv–turns out the “I” sound was just very quickly pronounced), she does have the qualities to sustain the high placement this country enjoyed in the previous Vegas editions. She does have the great looks, the trim whistlebait figure, and the stage chops to be guaranteed a finals slot, and obviously (as reflected in all Vegas editions) she can easily count on her very vocal countrymen to show up in the Planet Hollywood auditorium in droves to passionately cheer her on. Some pageant fans seem to note that it seems she is wearing a similar gown to what Ximena Navarrete wore back in 2010–I beg to differ: though they share the same color (red) and the fabric used is mostly shiny, Ximena’s was a full satin gown with slit while Karina sported what is basically a red sequined swimsuit that is partially draped with a red skirt. Wonder if the Mexican crowd would propel her to a third Miss Universe crown, or will we see an alternate-Vegas-edition cycle (like Jamaica) where this country wins in every odd-numbered edition?
MONTENEGRO – Andrea Radonjic. Her performance is below par the other delegates–her face is relatively plain, her figure is not as buffed as most other ladies, her stage chops are just decent, and her black satin gown is just basically a mini-dress with train (a fashion pet peeve of mine).
NAMIBIA – Tsakana Nkandih. In another year, her striking African features would be appreciated as an exotic, unconventional treat. But even as she generally delivered a polished performance all throughout, she is only regarded this year as a worthwhile contender and nothing more.
NETHERLANDS – Nathalie Den Dekker. This lady’s extensive prior pageant experiences and successes (like her Miss Tourism International 2010 win and her Miss World 2012 semifinals finish) servers her well here, as she came polished and prepared. Unlike the drowning effect of Honduras’s evening gown, her pink mermaid hem number is just about the right scale that you don’t think she’s drowning in chiffon. She can sustain this country’s semifinals finish from last year. I also have to note that I like the whimsical touch of her white-sequined-bodysuit-as-national-costume, with four star-shaped accessories that evoke windmills (and they actually spin like them!)
NEW ZEALAND – Talia Bennett. There are pageant fans and pundits who are hyping her to high heavens, stating that she’s also among the front-runners. I have to say I am pleasantly surprised with her performance, and she did deliver the sort that should place her in serious contention for the finals.
All images courtesy of Miss Universe LP, LLLP unless otherwise indicated.
COMING UP: NICARAGUA to SOUTH AFRICA