I’m actually doing this as a favor to my friend, James Gannaban, who is the main organizer of the Mr. Gay Hong Kong pageant. In last July’s Mr. Gay World pageant in Antwerp, Belgium, this country’s representative, Benjie Caraig (yes, he’s of Filipino descent), garnered 1st runner-up honors, with a balance of good looks, good physique, and standout personality. Which of this year’s crop of finalists would be worthy of taking his mantle and hopefully equal or improve his placement?
Without further ado, let us start with:
Edward Chao. I’m not into his very Chinese features, but he does have a good physique and is the strongest communicator in the group.
Tommy Leung. I’m not into twinks, but a significant portion of the gay contingent are into them, and this guy totally fits the bill. He is currently the one topping the popular poll. However, I have to note that observing the winners and finalists I know from this pageant, the judges tend to prefer guys a bit more… seasoned.
Anthony Pura. Again, a guy of Filipino descent. In my reckoning, and in my opinion, the best looking and most appealing of the group, particularly possessing luscious lips. But I observed in his vote for me video that it seems his confidence and communication skills are suspect. Can he power through on looks alone and make it a back-to-back Filipino finish for this pageant?
Ernest Kam. There are some angles where he resembles the reigning winner. And considering how Mr. Gay World favors “seasoned” contenders, his mature looks might be catnip in the international arena. But then again, he might be a bit too “uncle” for comfort.
Michael Morrill. There is usually an expatriate Caucasian competing in this contest, and this year it’s this guy. He has good looks, but I have issues with his skinny physique.
So who would win amongst this group? My sentiments might point to Anthony, but it seems to be pointing towards Edward or Tommy so far. We’ll see which quality would weigh most amongst the judges in the finals on Saturday, 19 October.
Now, let’s discuss the Top Three. They are a stunning, intelligent, diverse, and drop-dead-gorgeous trio. Without further ado, let’s start with:
2ND RUNNER-UP: GHANA – Michelle Obama, er, I mean, Carranzar Naa Okailey Shooter. Her overachieving background was her ticket to making a tie for first place with France and Jamaica after the judges’ interview with 183 points. She scored highly in Beach Fashion and Beauty with a Purpose, placing 3rd in the former and 7th in the latter, and earned the requisite 10-point credits in Sports, Top Model, and Multimedia. Despite all those points, going into the Top 10 she took up the rear and barely scraped by into this group with 278 points (she could’ve been overtaken by India if she passed the first round of Talent auditions, or if Ukraine submitted a Beauty with a Purpose project).
But as the task of whittling down the Top 10 to the Final Five (plus Wildcard) was made by the judges (including the insiders who previously interviewed her), I presume initial impressions (plus that radiant smile) helped her make the final cut, and her speech was decent and generally to the point: “I believe a Miss World should be someone who is a woman with substance , who is compassionate, and who truly embodies beauty with a purpose. If I’m given this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, I will wake up each day knowing I have an image to keep to influence the lives of young people, especially young women, to make an impact in the lives of the less privileged.” She definitely is the best Ghanaian representative I have ever seen in any major pageant thus far, and I think she can definitely become a more prominent figure in society in years to come–I have visions of her becoming like a Ghanaian Michelle Obama.
1ST RUNNER-UP: FRANCE – Marine Lorphelin. Most people seemed fixated on a Brazil vs. Philippines showdown for the crown, but this lady was always in the scene and making big waves. Besides her constantly radiant presence throughout her Bali stay, her overachieving background helped her take a tie for first place with 183 points after the judges’ interview. She also garnered big points in the challenge events, placing 2nd in Beach Fashion, 3rd in Top Model, and 6th in Beauty with a Purpose. Adding in the requisite participation points in Sports and Multimedia, she was the 5th biggest challenge scorer overall with 125 points. Going into the Top 10 she was 4th overall with a 308 point total.
I have to say that I was underwhelmed by her speech: “For me it will be an honor to become Miss World because it’s a very prestigious title and especially because I appreciate the fact that Miss World travels a lot and meets people in the world and tries to help them. So I think I’m someone natural and generous.” I personally preferred, say, Spain’s speech, though I appreciate the effort that she chose to speak in English. But I think what helped her sustain her high standing was her video, where she looked utterly radiant (she also looked gorgeous and radiant on stage, by the way), and in her soundbites, she relayed how her late grandmother wished for her to compete in a beauty pageant, and she got emotional relaying how it affected her when she passed away when she turned 18.
Besides her top ranking in the judges’ interview on the first leaderboard, there was a bit of foreboding that she will rank very high as it was noted that Miss World 1953 Denise Perrier was in the audience. There was only one other lady where the presence of an important person in the audience was acknowledged and that acted as a foreboding (one of many throughout the broadcast) of her ultimately successful fate…
MISS WORLD 2013: PHILIPPINES – Megan Young. She was only two points behind the three leaders after the judges’ interview with 181 points. Those three leaders may have the edge in terms of academic achievements and book knowledge but Megan has been greatly educated by life experience practically growing up in show business and taking primary responsibility in the care of her younger siblings as her separated parents had to work far away from them. Challenges like those would usually create a hardened, detached individual, but somehow she still manages to navigate life with optimism, open-heartedness, kindness, grace. and good humor.
I have a strong belief that she’s actually the Challenge Queen in this year’s pageant, amassing the most points out of all of them with 147. She garnered scores in all challenge events, particularly with her Top Model win, 4th place finish in Multimedia and 5th place finish in Beach Fashion. She got 15 points’ credit for her Beauty with a Purpose project, and the requisite 10 points for taking part in Sports and auditioning for Talent. All told, going into the Top 10 she was the topnotcher with 328 points.
For the final night, she looked the most regal and exquisite with her hair up in a bun sporting a sequined Francis Libiran flesh-colored number. I have to admit when I saw the sketches I was a bit underwhelmed and was with some pageant fans and pundits in thinking she should’ve reprised the shimmering blue-and-gold Eric de los Santos number she wore when she won her national pageant. But it was much better in execution and reportedly even more in person, as it was also delivering a shining, shimmering effect with the sequins. I think there was no doubt that all throughout the evening she was indeed at the top of the judges’ lists in terms of onstage presence. It was like an amalgam of Audrey Hepburn and Miss World winners Aishwarya Rai and Agbani Darego.
Her video (aired after a miscue) tugged the people’s hearts (especially the judges) as she went a bit emotional when she talked about the sacrifices she had made for her family, and how she proves that Filipinos are hard working people. She then clinched the deal with her speech: “A Miss World, for me, treasures the core values of humanity and that guides her into understanding people –why they act the way that they do and how they are living their lives. I will use these core values in my understanding, not only in helping others but to show other people how they can understand others, to help others. So that as one, together, we shall help society.” It may not be as brilliant as Janine Tugonon’s famous onstage pageant answers, and there was a feeling she was trying to piece her words together as she spoke and tried to condense her thoughts, but in the end it was successful and she managed to provide a fresh approach and a cohesive idea, plus displaying a selfless, willing-to-work approach that the Miss World powers-that-be prefer from their contestants.
Megan’s own journey to the crown somewhat paralleled the path of the pageant itself: if this year’s pageant had those pesky conservative radical Islamists, Megan had some selfish Filipino detractors who reportedly bombarded Miss World Ltd with e-mails in an attempt to discredit and disqualify her. But like the way the pageant was conducted smoothly in the end, those potential saboteurs proved to be a fizzle and were greatly overshadowed by the overwhelming legion of supporters, several of whom were present cheering for her whenever her country’s name was announced during the finals.
Besides the loud cheers by her supporters whenever she appears, the entire pageant finals seemed to be laden with foreshadowing pointing to her ultimate triumph. The broadcast was laden with significant soundbites from her, she was given a very special solo spotlight (with everything around her darkened) in the “Dances of the World” sequence as she performed her singkil, and before the announcement of winners her mother was interviewed by host Kamal Ibrahim. I fretted momentarily when Ghana was called as 2nd runner-up, but with all these signs, I needn’t have worried as everything worked in her favor. Unlike the sense of manipulation one felt in watching last year’s pageant, here it’s more of a fulfillment of one chosen person’s destiny, and the results were fair and utterly satisfying.
In a country with its institutions beset with an over 40-year-old cancer that is proving to be almost impossible to eradicate, along with news of disasters and conflicts over the past month, Megan’s triumph was a welcome development that indeed restored our nation’s self-esteem. She may not be able to provide the cure for our ills, but it’s a welcome salve to relieve some of the most painful symptoms, even however fleeting.
Knowing how prior to her pageant victories, Megan’s showbiz career was a bit minor league compared to, say, endorsement queen Anne Curtis, I think this victory could be an opportunity for Megan to finally amp up her career to the next level, and probably even make waves in Hollywood. Some have talked about her taking a role in a James Bond film like some Miss World winners and finalists did–I initially thought she was a bit too girly for such a part until I remembered she’s an online gamer and it clicked that it would make perfect sense to cast her as a sexy cyberhacker–think a more glamorous and less angsty and edgy version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (remember the current James Bond, Daniel Craig, played the leading man in the Hollywood adaptation of that novel). I also thought how she can perform a production number in next year’s Miss World, just like how Wenxia Yu sang the Magic Flute this year–right now I’m thinking Nicole Kidman’s “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” number from Moulin Rouge but it might come off a bit tacky so if someone have better ideas out there, feel free to share.
In previous articles I have written about Megan, I mentioned how she seems to possess many of the qualities of the previous Miss World winners, featuring most of the greatest ones, and a little dash of the controversial ones. After her victory, many pageant fans and pundits are now speaking about her in the same level of someone who was deemed otherwise untouchable before: Miss World 1994 and queen of Bollywood, Aishwarya Rai. Considering Megan had made a pledge to become “the best Miss World ever,” thus far she seems to be on that path towards delivering on that promise. Can’t wait to see how her reign would unfold! It’s such a joy and relief amidst all the negativity, both the pageant and the winner triumphed over them.
On a final note, congratulations for finally fulfilling our collective dreams, Megan. May you continue to be deluged with blessings!
The ladies selected by the judges into the finals would go down in history as one of the most beautiful sets of finalists in any major pageant. But then Miss World decided to add a wildcard with a People’s Choice winner (done by revenue-generating votes) who would join these finalists (if she wasn’t among them already). Some pageant fans and pundits might think this sullies what was already utter perfection, but let’s look into the merits of the girl who won this honor, shall we?
6TH RUNNER-UP (PEOPLE’S CHOICE WINNER): GIBRALTAR – Maroua Kharbouch. Considering this is a small British-controlled territory of less than 30,000 total population, she was not regarded as a top favorite among pageant fans and pundits, and she was not highly favored by the judges (she didn’t figure in the Top 20 at all, and did not make the cut in any challenge event), how did she win the People’s Choice award? I first presumed that she might have a few patrons (most likely wealthy British-Arabs of some sort) who was so willing to purchase the number of votes (remember this is a revenue-generating exercise) needed to put her to the top. One person from the viewing party spoke to me theorizing that probably they made special weightings to account for this country’s small population but I doubt the people is Miss World has the capability to handle such a complex mathematical exercise if that was the case. It turns out it was the Gibraltar government that was responsible, setting aside part of their public funds to ensure this girl makes the finals.
Now pageant fans and pundits may object to the fact that this special award winner got a free ticket all the way to the finals. Most believe perhaps it’s tolerable to include her in the Top 20 or Top 10, but not the Top 5. But then again, back at viewing party, blogger Joyce Burton-Titular recalled that winners of some beauty pageants of yore were determined by one who raised the most amount of money or votes, and this system seemed to be a nod to that old tradition.
Anyway, whatever your stand is towards having this kind of express pass into the finals, it cannot be denied that this lady is good looking and does communicate well enough–arguably she’s the best bet fielded by this country since Miss World 2009 Kaiane Aldorino. Her presence may have diluted an exquisite combo of finalists, but not that much. Her 30-second speech has substance, but let’s face it, beauty and glamour are still important aspects in choosing Miss World: ” I believe I should be the next Miss World because I want to be Miss World of all the right reasons. The reasons being that I want genuinely to help people in need. I don’t want to beMiss World so that I could get my hand to something glamorous because those things won’t help the disadvantaged, those things aren’t the things that can help aren’t the things that change people’s lives. Stuff like beauty from within and kindness are the things that change people’s lives. And I truly believe that kindness is something that the deaf can hear and the blind can see.“
4TH RUNNER-UP: BRAZIL – Sancler Frantz. She ranked 5th in the judges’ interview with 178 points (5 points behind the leaders). In terms of biggest gainer, she is in a tie for 2nd place with Australia with 145 points. Her win in Beach Fashion was definitely well deserved after seeing the video shoot on the beach revealed she projected a very shapely hourglass va-va-voom figure even in a black one-piece and sarong. In Beauty with a Purpose and Top Model she ranked 5th, and earned the basic 10 point credit for Sports and Multimedia. She could’ve been the outright biggest gainer if she scored in Talent, but either she didn’t audition or failed to pass the first round to earn credits in this challenge event. Entering into the Top 10 she was 2nd overall with a 5-point gap behind the leader.
She has been a top favorite by oddsmakers and was regarded as one of the closest to garnering the crown. She seemed on track to a Top Three finish until the final interview came. She actually started well and the substance of her answer was solid, but she insisted on elaborating on her thoughts further and that was what led her to fall from an almost guaranteed position in the court to this finish. “Miss World is a reflection of the values that the world should have. It does not only focus on exterior beauty, but shows the sensitive person that is willing to work to help people in need.” It was a complete thought as it is, but she insisted on elaborating further: . “I feel that with Miss World and Beauty with a Purpose, I can help many people and I think I have the strength to help many people through Miss World, and I believe that if everyone does their part we can make this a better world. [In English] Beauty opens doors but Beauty with a Purpose opens minds and hearts.” I think she was dying to tack those last English phrases in as she feels it could make a big impact–and it’s a great catchphrase, but I think the judges may have found it contrived, hence they marked her down for it. Anyway, she will always be fondly remembered as belonging in one of the best group of finalists in any major beauty pageant ever.
3RD RUNNER-UP: SPAIN – Elena Ibarbia. She was in a tie with Australia for 8th place after the judges’ interview, and was buoyed by her 2nd place finish in Sports and Top 11 finish in Beach Fashion. Though most pageant fans and pundits were disappointed by her appearance in Top Model (they felt she lost her initial sparkle), it is apparent she actually bubbled under the Top 10 for a 15-point credit, plus another 15-point credit for her Beauty with a Purpose project. Including participating in Multimedia and Talent, going into the Top 10 she ranked 8th with 281 points.
There were early photos of her gown fitting and some pageant fans and pundit wonder if the gown would look bridal. Fortunately, it turned out that it’s a dreamy white confection, and the impression it made onstage helped ensure her entry into the finals over earlier favorites like Jamaica, England, Indonesia, and Australia. For her 30-second speech, she said in English, ” I would like to say that to those people who really need help, with effort all in this life can be achieved. They must fight for their dreams because I have done it and it is possible. I will give to all those who really need help all my energies, all passion to make their lives a little bit more easier and more happier.” It’s a nice, noble and sincere speech that probably helped her edge out Miss Brazil for a ranking slightly below the Top Three. Her face expressed disappointment after the final announcement, as she was obviously aiming for Spain’s first win, but her placement is something to be proud as it’s the second best finish this country ever had in this pageant, just behind the 2nd runner-up finish back in 1961 by Maria del Carmen Cervera Fernandez.