Three of the ladies who made the Final Five, I predicted would make it. One that I didn’t get was one that I have a high regard–but she turns out to be a great sleeper choice, and it seems she would be delivering on her promise in possible national pageants to come. The other one I didn’t get, well, she has such a gift of gab that she was able to go far with it–but then again she was also on the radar with other pageant fans and pundits. For the final round, all five finalists were given one question asked by the reigning Miss World, Yu Wenxia: “Why do you want to become Miss World Philippines?”
4TH PRINCESS: CANDIDATE NO. 18 – Osmarie Linn Osuna. I didn’t know that much about her, but I noticed that she has great looks that I believed she had the potential to go very far, especially in future national pageants. Little did I know she was already polished at the get-go, with excellent English diction and good presence of mind to boot. Sure in the evening gown round her white gown is a bit pageant patty (that Nick Verreos panned it), but she worked it well. For the semifinal Q&A she was asked about what can make a woman powerful. She gave a well-put answer about having a strong heart with the willingness to serve an dgive to others in need, and the way you influence people to achieve these goals. For the final question, I think the reason why she was then relegated to the bottom of the final five was that her answer is more in the tone of what she has instead of what she was willing to give, a pitfall that prevented other Miss World finalists from winning it all–“I am ready. I have what it takes: beautiful face and body, strong heart willing to serve others. I can bring home the Miss World crown.” Anyway, what she has achieved is an auspicious start, and I can predict an upward trajectory for her from hereon. In fact, I can recommend to the Kagandahang Flores camp that she’s already more than ready to compete in Bb. Pilipinas–and with her resemblance to 1994 Miss International semifinalist Alma Concepcion, she can even clinch the Bb. Pilipinas – International title (this is a title that beauty camp has been clinching regularly).
3RD PRINCESS: CANDIDATE NO. 19 – Maria Bianca Paz. Two years ago, she garnered Best in Evening Gown and 3rd Princess in this pageant. This year, she also got the exact same outcome, though she also garnered two additional special awards: a tie for Heart of Miss World Philippines award with Karla Patricia Alas, and Miss Redux Fat. I personally found two other gowns to be better than hers, but I’m okay with her win as Best in Evening Gown–the long-sleeved white gown has a provocative low V-neckline and intricate lacy embroidery. I think going into the semifinals she was actually a rung higher than her eventual placement, but as the Q&A rounds progressed, she was overtaken. For the semifinals, she was asked about what qualities make a Filipino distinct from the rest of the world. She gave a strong answer about our knack for hospitality and our family values. In my reckoning, she ran fourth in the semifinal Q&A behind the excellent responses by Megan, Zahra, and Osmarie, and to be honest her response to the final question was in my opinion the weakest of the Final Five: “I’ve been through many challenges. I can’t think of a better venue to inspire people other than Miss World.” Still, it’s a great showing in her last hurrah in pageantry that is worth saluting.
2ND PRINCESS: CANDIDATE NO. 5 – Zahra Bianca Saldua. Facewise and figurewise, I’m not that into her, but ironically her sporting a one-piece swimsuit and her heftier, more voluptuous built made me realize that amongst this year’s group, she’s the winner of my personal BB Sweepstakes award for this pageant. In terms of actual special awards, she garnered two: Miss Friendship and Miss Pantene. I have a sense her well-known gift of gab would be her ticket to make the cut, but little did I know it will make her go all the way to this high ranking. I think her BB quality helped her garner an edge in the swimsuit round, and though Nick Verreos ranked her navy blue gown as his least favorite (which based on photos, I have to agree), one has to note that she actually gave that otherwise tacky number a dramatic catwalk presentation that I actually scored her high in her evening gown performance overall.
But as the question and answer rounds came in, she came up with all aces. In the semifinal round, she impressed in the casual chit-chat about why unlike the 24 other candidates she sported a one-piece swimsuit with a shawl wrapped around her waist. She eloquently explained about her Moslem religion and how confident she is that you can be viewed as beautiful without having to expose your body. In the official semifinal question, she was asked about what she does on a weekend. She explained that with her kind of job (as a radio DJ and newscaster) she works practically 24/7, but the little spare time she has she spends it with family and doing sports like basketball, soccer, and a couple of other sports. For the Final Five question, she was again extremely eloquent with this answer: “When I was 10 years old, I told my parents I wanted to be part of the United Nations. I wanted to be an Ambassadress of Goodwill. Whether I win or not, I want to continue with my charitable work, and I hope you give me that chance.” Based on her answer alone, she probably could have been the winner, but in terms of overall impression, the fact that she went this far is already great achievement enough.
1ST PRINCESS: CANDIDATE NO. 10 – Janicel Lubina. In technical terms, she has the best body and she in my opinion (and Nick Verreos, too) sported the best evening gown of the night. Her white intricately embroidered sheer evening gown was an eye-popping provocative sensation–onstage and on TV you would believe she was nude underneath (but upon closer photo inspection she was actually protected by flesh-colored bodystocking up to her upper thigh). Her Best in Swimsuit award was well-earned, and I have a feeling they were in the mood to spread the wealth a bit so they awarded the Best in Evening Gown to another lady instead of making this one win both. For the semifinal Q&A she was asked about who is her personal idol. She gave a sincere answer about Beyonce, and how she makes her realize that a brown complexion like hers could indeed be beautiful. In my opinion, in terms of the quality of the semifinal answers I would’ve ranked her fifth–there is more to Beyonce than her complexion, remember, like her talents and how she espouses about empowering women, for instance.
For the final question, this is her response: “Because I would like to unite physical beauty and a message of hope, perseverance to the world, knowing people can relate to my humble beginnings, that poverty is not a hindrance, that’s the essence of Miss World. Beauty with a purpose, beauty with giving.” I was surprised at the eloquence of this answer as thus far she did not sound this eloquent in most interviews. I have this feeling the Kagandahang Flores camp prepared her in case she was asked this type of question, and she was ready with this response. Then, it started to dawn on me that she is starting to be positioned to be like one recent Miss World winner–remember Miss World 2011 Ivian Sarcos, and her similar rags-to-riches story? This can be a compelling argument that this lady can actually have what it takes to also finally win it all for our nation. Still, I think her current placement is apt. But this poses interesting strategic possibilities for the Kagandahang Flores camp: 1) Should they field her for next year’s Bb. Pilipinas with the hope of clinching the Miss Universe Philippines title? (Her online fans seem to be clamoring for this one) 2) Should she forfeit this year’s prizes as 1st Princess to compete again next year for Miss World Philippines? 3) Should she keep her position as 1st Princess and try again two years later a la Bianca Paz? I personally would choose option 3 as the safest, best option, especially if Megan actually wins Miss World, though the other two options are also very deliciously viable.
MISS WORLD PHILIPPINES 2013: CANDIDATE NO. 20 – Megan Lynne Young. First, click on my reaction to her victory here. Now let me now go down to earth and discuss her performance during the finals. In technical terms, she was edged out by Janicel Lubina in swimsuit and evening gown, but her gorgeous face and inner sparkle (plus that undeniable charisma) helped her neutralize Janicel’s advantage and ultimately take the lead. Yes, Janicel is very buffed (she’s not the reigning Slimmers World Miss Bikini Philippines for nothing) but Megan is not very far behind in that department, and though Janicel caused a jaw-dropping sensation in her white evening gown, Megan delivered a serenely regal presence in her sparkling, shimmering royal blue Eric delos Santos low-cut gown. I suppose to spread the wealth again, they did not grant her the wins as Best in Swimsuit and Evening Gown, but she eventually got the lion’s share of special awards anyway. Let’s tally them all: Miss World Laguna, Best in Fashion Runway, Miss Sports (by Fila), Miss Bold & Glamorous by Revlon, Miss Olay, and Bench Body.
In the semifinal Q&A, she was asked about her favorite hobby. She sincerely answered about her love of video games, online games, and other tech stuff. The sincere and fluid delivery of her answer for me made her top the semifinal round. For the final Q&A, this was her response: “Miss World Philippines is selfless and to be selfless, you need to have a heart. If I win Miss World Philippines, I would give myself wholeheartedly to be of service. Beauty with a heart.” Based on the transcript alone, you can argue she didn’t give the best answer, that Zahra and Janicel gave stronger answers. But well, again, the way Megan fluidly and sincerely delivered her answer, and of course her overall performance (and yes, charisma and star quality) made her a totally deserving winner. And once the crown was on her head, it dawned on me that she has a resemblance to two classic Filipina beauties from rival pageants past–I noticed she has Miss International 1979 Melanie Marquez’s lips and cheekbones, and I recalled a classic photo of Miss Universe 1963 3rd runner-up Lalaine Bennett and how Megan looks like a deadringer for her. It also entered my mind that she also has the hip, modern vibe that Miss World 1998 Linor Abargil reportedly has, though of course Megan is leagues more gorgeous than Linor.
I was surprised that Megan got the Sports award as I thought that would’ve gone to someone like basketball-playing Candidate No. 15, Maria Lily Teresa Salazar. But it seems that either the other 24 contestants are simply not really that athletic (and we never figured in sports challenges in Miss World, anyway), or perhaps there is a hidden athletic edge that Megan has that she can bring our country in contention for the Sports challenge event–just like the way the model-glamorous Miss World 2002 Azra Akın demonstrated a hidden athletic edge in the British reality sports competition The Games 10 years ago. If that is the case, it is possible that Megan can conceivably figure in the short list of all the Miss World challenge events: Beach Fashion, Top Model, Sport and Fitness, Talent, Beauty with a Purpose, and World Designer Award. If a Multimedia challenge is also included like last year, Megan would likely ace that, too.
I heard from a pageant insider friend of mine that Megan has some rap skills, so I thought that could be a way she can gain an edge in talent, even if it is likely that opera-singing Miss World Australia, Erin Holland, is the front-runner for this event. Sure, Megan was fine singing the Cure’s “Lovesong” (done in the style of Adele’s cover version) at this pageant’s talent competition, but I suppose I’m too spoiled rotten by American Idol Season 12 champion Candice Glover’s killer cover version that everything else paled in comparison. Some rap-sung ideas that came to my head include Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ “Can’t Hold Us”, Rihanna featuring Jay-Z’s “Umbrella” (inspired by American Idol Season 10 finalist Naima Adedapo’s version), and Nicki Minaj’s “Starships” (though sanitize the lyrics). Readers out there–what other song suggestions can you think of?
[Please indulge me as I squeeze in a review of the recently released video by my favorite group, Pentatonix, with their cover version of “Can’t Hold Us”: As usual, freaking awesome, and with a wonderfully edited video featuring sequences of each band member front-and-center with differing wardrobes that seem to reflect their personalities–like formal Kevin, preppy Mitch, edgy Kirstie, dark Avi, and hip-hoppy Scott. Also love the slightly customized lyrics, and Mitch channeling Nicki Minaj when he rapped his lead part. It’s ironic that during the Sing-Off’s hip-hop themed week, they did not rap, but they rapped real well here.]
I’m extremely confident that Megan has what it takes to nail Beach Fashion and especially Top Model–I already have visions of her face gracing an international ad campaign for a major cosmetics company, like Miss World 2001 Agbani Darego and Miss World 2007 Zhang Zilin. I’m also confident with the help of Cory Quirino, they will also showcase a Beauty with a Purpose project worthy of a shortlist (and they can even add in the work she did for TV network rival ABS-CBN in the aftermath of the heavy monsoon rain fueled by Typhoon Maring that befell on her coronation night).
On a parting note, I’m so excited over Megan’s prospects at this year’s Miss World pageant. If everything works as we expect (and looking at who her competition would be), I can feel that history will be made. Me and 90+ million other Filipinos are praying for that. I wonder if the deluge that occurred on the night of coronation is a precursor to the blessings she will receive in Indonesia this September?
All images courtesy of Bruce Casanova, Melvin Sia, and Jory Rivera for OPMB Worldwide unless otherwise indicated.
P.S. I’m inspired to post Lana del Ray’s “Video Games” because of Megan’s semifinal answer. Come to think of it, that can also be a song idea. I also have a mash-up idea as the chorus reminds me of The Cure’s “In Between Days” and the refrain reminds me of Paul Simon’s “The Obvious Child”.