MISS WORLD 2013: AT THE HOMESTRETCH (YELLOW TEAM, PART 2)

NETHERLANDS – Jacqueline Steenbeck.  For many pageant fans and pundits, her frizzy curls are a bit of a turnoff.  But at least she made an impression in the Sports challenge as part of the winning team and apparently being present in all the four rounds in the final (volleyball, waterbucket, plank race, and tug-of-war), so she or Slovakia is likely going to be the solo champion.  Plus she has strong communication skills (with a fascinating story about being a midwife and scheduled to deliver her sister-in-law’s child) that could make her a contender for the all-important judges’ interview, and she has her “Free-A-Girl” Beauty with a Purpose project which I find noble.

UPDATE:  It has been announced that she’s the winner of the Sports challenge.

In the middle of her volleyball game.

NICARAGUA – Luz Decena.  She was short-listed in the Sports challenge final.  It is known she sat out of the Volleyball round and made way for Canada and Tunisia, and saw action in the remaining rounds.  Though lookswise, she is otherwise not that remarkable, she does have a vibrant personality (even if she can only speak Spanish).

Lifting waterbuckets at the Sports challenge.

POLAND – Katarzyna Krzeszowska.  Pageant fans and pundits have a good impression of her, but thus far she has not figured in any of the challenge events.  She seems polished enough, so what gives?  Anyway, hopefully the numerous charities as rattled off by her Beauty with a Purpose video could give her an edge.

RUSSIA – Elmira Abdrazakova.  Pageant fans and pundits didn’t have a high regard for her when she won her national pageant, but at least she figured in the Top 32 of Beach Fashion.  She does make a good impression and could be classified as good looking (and at some angles, could sometimes pass for Megan Young).    Now much remains to be seen if she’ll be favored in the judges’ interview.

SAMOA – Panina Paeu.  She is attractive, and she speaks with a charming New Zealand accent.

SLOVAKIA – Karolína Chomistekova.  Though I think Miss Czech Republic is prettier, this lady seems to have the bigger edge as she figured in three challenge events thus far:  she made Top 32 of Beach Fashion, she seems to be on-track to be the champion of the Sports challenge event (it seems to be either her or the Netherlands) and with her violin playing skills she made the finals of the Talent challenge.  Only a disastrous interview would prevent her from being a shoo-in for the Top 20 but thus far she seems to be a good communicator with a likable personality.

The thrill of victory.

SOUTH SUDAN – Modong Manuela Mogga.  Her dark ebony skin and her prominent eyes are key for her to make an impact in the looks-oriented challenge events, making the Top 32 of Beach Fashion and making a major splash becoming a Top Model finalist.  Her lacy white number at the Top Model event seemed sheer, but fortunately covered by strategically placed lace.  She is well-spoken, though not as eloquent as last year’s Miss World – Africa Atong Demach, but it looks like she’s on track for a Top 20 spot.

SWITZERLAND – Cindy Williner.  After an absence of a few years, it’s nice to see this country back in this pageant.  Sure she is plain and has not figured in any challenge event, but it’s a start, at least.  She may not have a Beauty with a Purpose video, but she has a project that is documented on the Miss World website.

TANZANIA – Brigitte Lyimo.  She seems rather raw, so it is expected why she has not figured in any challenge event thus far.  She has made serious inroads in her Beauty with a Purpose project on albinos, it was announced she placed 3rd.

TUNISIA – Hiba Telmoudi.  Here is another country that is nice to see back after a 35-year absence.  The previous representative was memorable for trying to keep a veil on her face until she was threatened with disqualification.  There are no qualms for this lady regarding the face, as it’s there for all to see.  She is attractive, though the closest thing to making the fast-track was participating in the volleyball round of the Sports challenge.  Wonder if we’ll see the caliber of the one who won 1st runner-up at Miss International back in 1996?  Still, we should treat this country with a warm welcome.

TURKEY – Ruveyda Öksüz.  She seems to be a pretty and refreshing ingenue, but she has not figured in any of the challenge events thus far, and she seems to not have a Beauty with a Purpose project.  Could she be in contention for the “Holly Carpenter” award?  Or at least could she have earned some credits in the Top Model event, as she looked rather elegant and polished in the event?

UGANDA – Stellah Nantumbwe.  She is notable for her eyebags.  Her redeeming factor is that she seems to be well-spoken.  It is not surprising why she has not figured in any challenge event thus far.

UKRAINE – Anna Zayachkivska.  She is one of only five ladies who figured in both the finals of Beach Fashion and Top Model.  She also garnered 3rd place in Talent as she sang an original song in Ukrainian.  Miss Georgia may have targeted her in particular regarding her placement in Top Model, as it was reported she was awkwardly carrying the skirt of her gown, though I think there is justification in her placement as she still looked regal and elegant, and there are princesses in antiquity who carry their voluminous skirts in that manner.  It seems that besides the usual suspects of Spain, Brazil, and France, this lady may be the possible usurper of the Filipinos’ collective dreams of finally garnering its first  Miss World title.  It’s interesting to note that though there is documented video footage of her working with children, there is no Beauty with a Purpose project submitted and reflected on the pageant website or on Miss World’s official YouTube channel.  But then again, remember when Ivian Sarcos won two years ago even without earning points for such a project?

UZBEKISTAN – Rakhima Ganieva.  Though her introduction video showed her with a crown, reportedly she is repudiated by Uzbek officials, claiming they never held a pageant, even accusing her of not being a native of their nation and lying about her background.  So far she isn’t disqualified, but neither is she figuring in any of the challenge events.

VIETNAM – Lai Huong Thao.  She is another competitive contender from Asia, but is currently overshadowed and she even failed to figure in any challenge event thus far.  It seems she has no Beauty With a Purpose project.  So she’s now ending up as “just another pretty face”.

Now with the Yellow Team all accounted for, let me trot out my leaderboard for this group:

TOP CONTENDERS:  GHANA, iTALY, UKRAINE

SHOO-INS:  AUSTRALIA, SLOVAKIA

LIKELIEST:  BULGARIA, COTE D’IVOIRE, CZECH REPUBLIC, MALAYSIA, MARTINIQUE, NETHERLANDS, RUSSIA, SOUTH SUDAN,

CHALLENGE EVENT FACTOR:  BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS, CANADA, NICARAGUA, TANZANIA

EXCELLENT:  GEORGIA, IRELAND, NAMIBIA, POLAND, TURKEY, VIETNAM

VERY STRONG:  MACEDONIA FYRO, SAMOA, TUNISIA

STRONG:  FIJI

VERY GOOD:  SWITZERLAND, UZBEKISTAN

GOOD:  HONDURAS, UGANDA

MISS WORLD 2013: AT THE HOMESTRETCH (YELLOW TEAM, PART 1)

YELLOW TEAM:  This team features a whole host of ladies from Eastern Europe, plus some sleeper contenders who might usurp the crown away from the favored ladies presumed to be in the Red, Blue, and even Green teams.  The have already collectively won the Sports challenge and the 2nd to 5th places in the Talent challenge finals were from this team.  Could they dominate in the finals?  Let’s begin with…

AUSTRALIA – Erin Holland.  The drop-dead gorgeous 2nd runner-up from last year, Jessica Kahawaty, is a tough act to follow.  But this lady is likely to fare pretty well and hold the fort.  This opera singer predictably made a splash in the Talent challenge event, placing second behind Indonesia.  She’s also a good looker and a strong communicator, so prospects are strong she’ll secure at least a Top 20 placement.

UPDATE:  She also placed 2nd in Beauty with a Purpose.  She is on track to be in the Top 10 as a result.

BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS  – Kirtis Malone.  We typically expect this country to fare in the bottom of the pack, and lookswise, it seems to be a likely scenario for this lady.  But this lady possessed a major talent, and with her performance of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” (channeling the X-Factor (UK) Series 5 champion Alexandra Burke’s version), she earned 4th place in the Talent challenge final.  Added with strong communication skills to boot, she probably generated the best possible placement this country might ever have in this pageant.

BULGARIA – Nansi Karaboycheva.  She’s a cute and pretty ingenue, though a tad raw, in my opinion.  I found it odd that she generated a whole lot of YouTube hits for her contestant introduction video, but well, she is a pretty babe, and perhaps she does have a fan base that I’m not quite aware of.   Anyway, though she’s ranked as a mere reservist, she was prominent playing volleyball in the Sports challenge.  She also made the Top 32 in Beach Fashion.  Who knows, she might figure in the Top 20 if the judges don’t mind her halting conversational skills.

Volleyball with teammate Miss Netherlands

CANADA – Camille Munro.   Pageant fans and pundits don’t have a high regard for her looks, and would relegate her to the bottom.  But then, she got to participate in the volleyball round of the Sports challenge final even if she was not one of those short-listed, and her dancing skills earned her a slot in the Talent challenge finals and actually ended up in 5th place.  She seems to also be likely to be a factor in Beauty with a Purpose, and she has great communication skills, so she might fare better than most pageant fans and pundits may expect.

5th place contemporary dance performance.

COTE D’IVOIRE – Aissata Ezzedine.  She is one of the better looking contestants from her continent in this year’s pageant, and it is not that surprising she figured in the Top 32 of Beach Fashion.  Now her making the Top 20 would depend with how she impressed the judges in the interview rounds, and how they highly regard her unique Beauty with a Purpose project (about ulcer of buruli).

CZECH REPUBLIC – Lucie Kovandova.  I initially thought she would make serious inroads into the Top 20 as she made an initial splash making the Top 32 in Beach Fashion.  But not much else is buzzed about her since then and she didn’t figure in any other challenge event (unlike her Slovak counterpart who made it in three events).  We just hope that she impressed the judges in the interview rounds.

FIJI – Caireen Erbsleben.  Well, she’s okay looking, but not a standout, but it’s nice to see this country seeing action in this pageant.

GEORGIA – Tamar Shedania.  She seemed to be regarded as an early favorite, as the reigning Mr. World, Francisco Escobar posted her photo on his page.  But as the challenge events came around, she failed to figure in any of them.  It might also seem she fell out of favor as she expressed dissatisfaction over her non-placement in the Top Model challenge event (though the gripe was now deleted from her Facebook page), and she then posted her portfolio of modeling covers and appearances in Roberto Cavalli’s fashion shows and FTV (Fashion TV).  Knowing how Miss World works, it will not win them over to her side, unfortunately.  I think what hindered her in the looks events were styling issues and how she approaches them–like being too heavily made-up in the Beach Fashion event for instance, and looking too fierce instead of regal in the Top Model event.  It’s just too bad that she couldn’t catch a break in this pageant.  Like Miss Argentina, her “selfies” were way more impressive (there are shots where she actually looked like Natalie Portman).

Doesn’t she look like Natalie Portman in this “selfie”?

GHANA – Carranzar Naa Okailey Shooter.  When I first laid eyes on her in her impressive introduction video, one lady came to mind:  US First Lady Michelle Obama.  It’s as if I see a skinnier, younger version of this glamorous and dignified icon.  She’s radiant, gorgeous, articulate, educated, and charismatic.  Her cause is similar with Cote D’Ivoire, tackling buruli ulcer, but she presented it more effectively that she made a bigger impact.  It’s not surprising that she made the Top 11 of Beach Fashion.  It might be a bit surprising she failed to hit the Top 10 of Top Model, but I think despite some fans and pundits panning her headdress in that event, she seemed to still look stunning and probably missed the cut by very little.  It might seem that Cameroon might have the edge for the Miss World – Africa title (with finalist showings in Talent and Top Model) , but there is still room for her to wrest that title back.  I wonder if there is extra credit due as even if she was not short-listed for the Sports challenge, she participated in the Waterbucket portion as some photographs reveal.

UPDATE:  It seems Miss World – Africa is now safe and secure in her hands.  She ranked 3rd in Beach Fashion and 7th in Beauty with a Purpose.

At the Waterbucket round of the Sports challenge final
US First Lady Michelle Obama (image by Michelle Misener for Huffington Post)

HONDURAS – Monica Elwin.  Most Central American contestants in this year’s pageant are plain and rather unpolished, and this lady is one of them.  Considering she didn’t figure in any of the challenge events, it’s highly likely she’s at the bottom of the pack.  A redeeming factor is her amusing profile video.

IRELAND – Aoife Walsh.  She’s good looking, but we’ve seen better stunners from the Emerald Isle.  Though she doesn’t have a video handy, she has a cause for Beauty with a Purpose–Irish Autism Action.  Will she receive credits for it, at least?

ITALY – Sarah Baderna.  She is not what I would classify as a conventional beauty, but she has figured prominently in the looks-oriented challenge events of Beach Fashion and Top Model.  On top of that, she’s part of the winning Yellow Team.  She may not have taken part in the Volleyball round, but she took part in the rest.  Though she may not have a video of her project, she does have a presentation that you can find on the Miss World website, about the site of Emilia Romagna.  Wonder if this makes her a Top Five contender and possible crown usurper?

Walking the plank with Miss Netherlands.
With Miss Philippines

MACEDONIA, FYRO – Kristina Spasenoska.  It’s odd that I couldn’t find a solo photo of her in sarong (a similar situation with Miss Botswana).  Anyway, she seems to be an attractive lady but she seems to be ending up as “just another pretty face” as she failed to figure in any challenge event.

MALAYSIA – Melinder Bhullar.  In an extremely competitive Asian group, this pretty and articulate contender couldn’t seem to catch a break as she failed to figure in any challenge event short-list.  All she could hope for to make serious inroads is if she impressed the judges in the interviews and her Beauty with a Purpose project, and if she earned some credits in the Top Model competition (she looked rather elegant that I think she made a positive impression).

UPDATE:  She is due for an upgrade as it’s announced she ranked 5th in the Multimedia event.  Glad to hear she’s finally back in contention.

MARTINIQUE – Julie Labrasseur.  With her trim figure and distinctive braids, she figured in the Top 32 of Beach Fashion.  She’s attractive, but there are stunners from this French département d’outre-mer that I have witnessed before (from Miss Earth, though).   She resembles American Idol Season 10 finalist Naima Adedapo.

American Idol Season 10 finalist Naima Adedapo (image courtesy of Fox)

NAMIBIA – Paulina Malulu.  She made the Top 15 of Miss International last year, but so far she is not making an impression in this pageant.  There are a few other Africans who have the edge thus far, but she’s hoping to turn the fortunes around by parlaying her strong communication skills to impress the judges and hope that her Beauty with a Purpose project gets noticed.

All images courtesy of Miss World Ltd unless otherwise indicated.

COMING UP:  YELLOW TEAM, PART 2

MISS WORLD 2013: AT THE HOMESTRETCH (RED TEAM, PART 2)

FRANCE – Marine Lorphelin.  When she won Miss France, most pageant fans and pundits (including myself) felt that she was a gorgeous face but uncertain if she’ll sparkle when it counts in international competition.  Any doubts were set aside when she set foot in Bali and she sparkled like a superstar in practically all her photos.  It is not that surprising that she figured in the finals of both looks-oriented challenge events that pageant fans and pundits place in high regard, Beach Fashion and Top Model.  She seems on track of making the Final Five, and perhaps making going as far as making the Top Three.  Another bonus:  though she fell short of making the official Sports & Fitness challenge shortlist, she got to participate in the Volleyball round of this challenge.

UPDATE:  it has been announced she ranked 2nd in Beach Fashion, 3rd in Top Model, and 6th with her Beauty with a Purpose project (involving volunteering to become organ donors).  Her status as one of the major front-runners is secure.

GIBRALTAR – Maroua Kharbouch.  Arguably she’s the best representative fielded by this country since Miss World 2009 Kaiane Aldorino.  She didn’t figure in any challenge event but she is currently the surprise leader in the People’s Choice vote (in a see-saw battle with the Philippines’ Megan Young).  Reportedly this vote would be a ticket into the Final Five–would she be in striking distance of coming close to Kaiane’s surprise victory with this factored in?

GUAM – Camarin Mendiola.  She’s your typical delegate from this country, bright and sunny personality though lookswise raw and slightly exotic.  It’s obvious she didn’t figure in any challenge event, and her best strategy is simply to enjoy the most of her stay in Bali.

HUNGARY – Annamaria Rakosi.  She is an attractive, worthwhile contender with an enviably long neck.  She was short-listed in the Sports Challenge event, though she did not participate in the volleyball round (to make way for more experienced volleyball players from their group).   But she’s prominent in the other rounds like in the Tug of War finale and the Waterbucket rounds.

At the Waterbucket portion of the Sports challenge event

INDIA – Navneet Kaur Dhillon.  Last year, this country was prominent in the challenge events, winning an unprecedented two (Beauty with a Purpose and Multimedia) last year and making the initial shortlists in Beach Beauty and Top Model.  This year, this lady failed to figure in any fast-track.  Will her Beauty with a Purpose project salvage her fortunes, or will she be considered a pre-arrival favorite who then fizzled?  It will be such a shame if the latter scenario occurs as she is good looking and although she has a thick, clipped accent, she is a solid communicator.

UPDATE:  It was reported that she won the Multimedia award and placed 9th for Beauty with a Purpose.  With this development that I am now upgrading her prospects.

INDONESIA – Vania Larissa.  She won Indonesia’s Got Talent three years ago, and thus it is obvious that she parlayed her operatic singing prowess to a Talent challenge event victory.    Some pageant fans and pundits complained about her Top 11 placement in Beach Fashion and felt she’s out of place with the stunners that were selected.  They are also  speculating that with a likely victory or high placement in Beauty with a Purpose and her excellent communication skills, she might end up winning the pageant and that we are again conditioned for a homeland victory.  With the furor that led to inconvenient last minute changes, some pageant fans and pundits speculate that the crown may not be granted to her though she will probably go as far as the Final Five.  Let’s see how the scenario plays out in the finals.

Winner of the Talent challenge event with her operatic prowess.

JAMAICA – Gina Hargitay.  Just like last year’s contender, she may not be a conventional beauty, but she is the likeliest to garner the Miss World – Caribbean title  this year.  Yes, she only figured in the Top 11 in Beach Beauty and nothing else, but it is likely her strong communication skills may have impressed the judges in the interviews and thus help her edge out her Caribbean peers.

UPDATE:  She ranked 4th in Beach Fashion.

LEBANON – Karen Ghrawi.  She is notable for being crowned the national titleholder for her country the day before the activities of Miss World were to commence, so overnight she then had to fly out to Bali after her crowning.  She made a positive impression among pageant fans and pundits and her peers, though no challenge event placements thus far.

NIGERIA – Anna Banner.  Okay, she’s a far cry from the Agbani Daregos and Chinenye Ochubas of yore, but in her defense, she at least isn’t bad looking.  Enjoying the most of her stay in Bali is her best strategy.  Though not officially short-listed in the Sports challenge, she participated in the initial round of Tug-of-War along with Misses Belize and Slovenia.

Slovenia, Belize, and Nigeria in Tug-of-War

NORTHERN IRELAND – Meagan Green.  In my opinion, she’s the prettiest of the British Isle girls in this year’s pageant.  But the only challenge event she figured in was in Sports–and she missed out of the volleyball round and neither was she in the tug-of-war.  She wasn’t even short-listed in Beach Fashion (at least England was).  I’m still hoping she’ll still figure in the Top 30 or Top 20.

UPDATE:  She ranked 3rd in the Sports challenge.

At the Sports Challenge event (from her Facebook page)

SCOTLAND – Jamey Bowers.   Well, with Miss Northern Ireland, she figured in the Sports challlenge (though she wasn’t in the volleyball round).  Normally the strongest girl from the United Kingdom would come from this country but in recent years it seems their grip has loosened.  Hope this is just a fallow period and they will return to prominence soon.

At the Waterbucket round of the Sports challenge

SLOVENIA – Maja Cotič .  She’s actually very good looking, but the closest thing to her figuring in a challenge event was when she participated in the first round of the tug-of-war in the Sports challenge finals with Nigeria and Belize, subbing for the designated finalists.

SOUTH AFRICA – Marilyn Ramos.  Pageant fans and pundits were actually impressed when she showed up in Bali, even predicting that she’ll make the Top 15.  But then she failed to figure in any challenge event.  Hopefully, her strong communication skills and her Beauty With A Purpose project would help restore her fortunes.

SWEDEN – Agneta Myhrman.  The first thing that comes to my mind when I think of her name is the blonde singer of ABBA.  Now, unlike most people, I don’t consider the blonde singer a babe (I preferred Frida, who can look stunningly alluring if she wanted to, like circa 1978).  This lady, well, she’s far from the babes we tend to associate when we think of this country.  She is likely to figure in the bottom half of the 127 contestant roster on finals night.

UNITED STATES – Olivia Jordan.  She was a surprising shut-out in the Beach Fashion round, as she’s touted as having one of the buffest figures in this batch.  Turns out the sarong fashions that could camouflage less-than-buffed figures also sometimes have the same effect on buffed figures, especially if it results in a skinny silhouette like in her case.  But she more than made up for it by figuring sensationally in the Top 10 (UPDATE: she ranked 2nd) of the Top Model round, looking impeccably elegant and deserving of her placement.  Her charity, Children of the Night, is a long-established charity that I’m familiar with, especially since I listened to a Top 20 Richard Marx hit years back.  After missing out of Beach Fashion, she is back on track in making the final cut on September 28.

WALES – Gabrielle Shaw.  One thing for certain:  she will not duplicate the first runner-up finish of Sophie Moulds last year.  She’s not bad looking, but she’s the weakest link amongst the contestants from the United Kingdom this year.  The consolation is she is one of the Talent finalists, and sang the Les Miserables chestnut “On My Own”.

All images courtesy of Miss World Ltd, unless otherwise indicated.

Now that the 32 contestants of the Red Team are accounted for, let me trot out my leaderboard and show you how I think they all stack up:

TOP CONTENDER:  FRANCE

SHOO-IN:  INDONESIA

POPULAR VOTE FACTOR:  GIBRALTAR

LIKELIEST:  ARUBA, BAHAMAS, CHILE, CURACAO, DOMINICA, HUNGARY, INDIA, JAMAICA, NORTHERN IRELAND, UNITED STATES

CHALLENGE EVENT FACTOR:  BELGIUM, SCOTLAND, WALES

EXCELLENT:  ARGENTINA, BERMUDA, BOLIVIA, SLOVENIA, SOUTH AFRICA

VERY STRONG:  CROATIA, ETHIOPIA, LEBANON

STRONG:  EQUATORIAL GUINEA

VERY GOOD:  AUSTRIA, BELIZE, BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA, NIGERIA

GOOD:  FINLAND, GUAM, SWEDEN