The ladies who made the Top 20 were truly worthy as they all have key strengths that showed they indeed have the qualities to make their selection almost unquestionable.  They all strutted well onstage, all have the looks worthy of belonging in the hallowed group, and it turned out to be a closely fought competition.    I have to note that while the two swimsuit segments were topnotch, the evening gown segment was unfortunately marred by so many issues–obviously Project Runway season 10 winner Dmitry Sholokhov (who originated from Belarus) was not on-hand in this competition.   The gowns were either too satin-y, too poorly constructed, too ill-fitting, or at best, just rather blah–I would’ve probably preferred if they paraded in the gowns of their own choice instead as they are far superior.  Other than that, the three rounds were fabulous.  Let’s salute the Top 20 starting with:

LUXEMBOURG – Heloise Paumier.  This lady proves there is room for shorter girls to make the final cut, as she has great looks and a trim figure to hold her own against the statuesque glamazons and place her little-regarded principality on the pageant map.  She only takes up the rear in this group simply because there were others who made stronger impressions.

MYANMAR – Khin Wint Wah.  Even if it took the revenue-generating popular vote to ensure her placement, she justifiably belongs in this group with her own merits.  The only thing preventing her from making more serious inroads was that her presentation is a bit subdued in relation to the rest of the Top 20 that is why she doesn’t rank that high in my reckoning.

INDIA – Vijaya Sharma.  She has the prettiness and the stage chops.  But she was saddled with the worst gown among the Top 20–a sloppily designed green-and-silver satin mess.

CANADA – Suzette Hernandez.  Her exotic features are not necessarily my cup of tea, but she proved to have strong stage presence and a fit and sexy figure to make the right impression.  She also sported one of the better gowns in the Top 20 evening gown round.

POLAND – Angelika Ogryzek.  The host of the first four editions of this pageant fielded a solid, though not-as-stunning contender.  Still, she possessed strong-enough stage chops to be worthy of belonging in this hallowed group.

THAILAND – Thanyaporn Srisen.  Her features remind me of a paler, skinnier version of Miss World 2005 semifinalist from the Philippines, Carlene Aguilar.  I also noticed that her movements onstage are also a bit too affected and contrived and that is the reason why she couldn’t make it all the way to the Top Five (unlike her most recent predecessor, who landed first runner-up).  In some ways, she’s as “well-done” as Carlene Aguilar was during her Miss World stint (remember that Carlene was the original favorite to win it all that year).

Carlene Aguilar at Miss World 2005 (screenshot from broadcast)

LATVIA – Diana Kubasova.  As expected, her pageant experience helped her keep up with the best out there.  I suppose what prevented her from making the final five was that she might be a bit too polished for the judges’ tastes and they were in the mood for something fresher.

RUSSIA – Yana Dubnik.  She was the one who I presume would win it all.  So I was shocked when she failed to even make the Top Five, or even win a Continental Queen title.  So what gives?  I think in hindsight, she took an approach that didn’t quite win over the judges.  First, she was styled in a manner that made her look mature.  Second, aggravating matters was her fierce and serious demeanor all throughout–remember that in a Victoria’s Secret fashion show we see models smiling and bubbly?  She was more in a serious mode instead.  With her “blue steel” gaze and mature vibe, I had visions of Donald Trump’s current wife, Melania.  It also made me imagine that what she’s doing is scour the audience for a wealthy billionaire– [in Boris & Natasha accent] “Verr is sugar daddy?  I vant to become trophy wife.”

Melania Trump (image courtesy of melaniatrump.com)

VENEZUELA – Annie Fuenmayor.  She channeled the vibe of Miss International 2003 Goizeder Azua, which is a great compliment and means she was able to make the most of her unconventional beauty.  It’s probably tightly fought amongst her, Puerto Rico, and the eventual winner for the Continental Queen honors for her region, as I couldn’t really find much fault in her performance.  Ditto with…

Puerto Rico and Venezuela in tandem

Goizeder Azua at Miss International 2003 (image sourced from allbautyofworld.blogspot.com)

PUERTO RICO – Desiree del Rio.  Her performance onstage was also similarly faultless, but I suppose what prevented her from making the Final Five was that besides her relatively mature features, she also has a rather serious vibe when the occasion called for bouncy vibrancy.  Still the level of her performance still deserves to be commended even if she was not able to at least duplicate her strong Miss International result two years ago.

UKRAINE – Kateryna Sandulova.  She actually took the right approach, as she was vibrant and fresh onstage.  But well, amongst the European contingent there was one who looked like Miranda Kerr, and another who is favored as she’s the gorgeous hometown girl so she fell short of at least garnering a Continental Queen honor.