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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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