MISS UNIVERSE 2013: AT THE HOMESTRETCH (PART 1)

This edition of Miss Universe has finally been held in Europe again after over 40 years.  This is thanks to the investment of an Azeri-Russian billionaire who wanted to promote his development in the Moscow suburbs (and perhaps the persuasion of his entertainer-son, who is vice president of his dad’s conglomerate).  Just like when it was held in Athens, Greece 40 years ago, the pageant would not be aired live for US audiences–instead, it will conform to primetime, Moscow time and US audiences will see it on a delayed basis on NBC and Telemundo.

Around this time it is very chilly in Moscow, so outdoor activities (along with photo shoots) would be limited.  So, it isn’t surprising why they had to do the swimsuit shoots indoors, sometimes at the hotel lobby.  Some pageant fans and pundits may find it degrading, but it is a bit above selling lemonades in bikinis that the batch of 2010 were subjected to.  A sense of ennui seemed to set in among pageant fans and pundits, some even decrying that this group of delegates is lackluster (though of course, Presentation Show host Nick Teplitz would beg to differ, declaring they are one of the best, but then again he works for the Miss Universe Organization).  Where do I stand?  Well, sure none of this year’s delegates have the star charisma of the Top Five in this year’s Miss World, but there are fewer out-and-out duds also.   Do they deserve the dismissive comments by some pageant fans and pundits?  Let me share my own views by presenting all 86 delegates starting with…

ANGOLA  – Vaumara Rebelo.  After Leila Lopes’s win two years ago, this country seemed to have lost its footing by fielding less than stellar contenders (especially in Miss World).  But there are signs it might be roaring back to life as this lady made a good showing for herself during the Presentation Show.  It’s still perhaps not enough to put her in serious contention for the finals, but she proved to be worthwhile.

ARGENTINA – Brenda Gonzalez.  She generated good notices with her grand costume, and in general she is an attractive, polished contender.  She’s better than a typical contestant from this nation, but she’s still to be regarded as a member of the P.A.T.I.S. crew.

ARUBA – Stefanie Evangelista.  It’s intriguing she’s dark-skinned with a Latino surname.  She has an attractive face, but her figure is less-than-buffed, and she was styled disastrously in the evening gown round of the Presentation Show.  Definitely her best strategy is to enjoy her stay in Moscow instead.

AUSTRALIA – Olivia Wells.  Facewise, she reminds me of Norwegian pop singer Marion Raven (formerly of 1990s teenage pop girl duo M2M).  Though I and other pageant fans and pundits believe she’s weaker than the series of stunning contenders this country fielded in the past five years, she initially seemed to be in contention to sustaining her country’s streak, as she does exude a lot of charm in her video interview.  But she was a dud in the Presentation Show: her figure proved to be less-than-buffed in the swimsuit round, and her white lacy gown did not do her justice.  I suppose winning streaks do need to end somehow…

Norwegian singer Marion Raven (image sourced from cefapa.com)

AUSTRIA – Doris Hoffman.  It’s nice to see this country back competing in this pageant after a long absence.  And she’s stronger than the series of duds this country fielded in the 1980s, early 1990s, 1999 and 2004.  But, still she’s rather raw that she is not likely to make the final cut.

AZERBAIJAN – Aysel Manafova.  It’s nice to see this country debut in this pageant (wonder if it has anything to do with its host sponsors).  But I’ve been spoiled by the babes that competed in the Eurovision Song Contest that seeing this lady made me extremely disappointed.  Sure, she has a very flattering Fadil photo, but other than that, only a Trump Ticket would make her land in the semifinals.

Very photogenic Fadil glamshot.

BAHAMAS – Lexie Wilson.  She’s a polished, underrated contender who deserves more notice than she has been receiving.  I especially love how she channeled pop superstar Rihanna in her flowy bubblegum pink number.  Though she seemed overshadowed by the likes of Israel, perhaps she can lay the groundwork for a long-awaited breakthrough for this country.

Rihanna (image sourced from mystar.sapo.pt)

BELGIUM – Noemie Happart.  She does have a charming personality, but I was surprised how she fared so well as she did back in Miss World earlier this year, ending up in a tie for 11th place there.  In this pageant, to be blunt, I think she deserves to belong among the cellar dwellers, especially judging her Presentation Show performance.  Her figure seems among the flabbiest of the bunch, and her gown is such a horrible disaster.

She earned 15 points in Miss World 2013 Beach Fashion with this?!

BOLIVIA – Alexia Viruez.  When she won her national pageant last year, I and several pageant fans and pundits regarded her as a front-runner for this year’s crown.  Her status as front-runner dimmed as months went by, and buzz was initially muted during her early stay in Moscow.  But she came roaring back in the Presentation Show, as she was sensational and almost impeccable, working whatever she was wearing with aplomb.  A Top 10 standing is very conceivable, even possibly going as far as Top Five if circumstances would favor her.

BOTSWANA – Tsaone Macheng.  It’s interesting that she wore a Western-style printed doily dress for her national costume as we typically expect a tribal costume for this country.  She had an interesting response to the video “Truth” question asked of her, (what she would bring to a desert island) as she mentioned canvas as she noted she’s an artist and painting keeps her sane.  Other than that, she isn’t much of note.

BRAZIL – Jakelyne Oliveira.  After being presented with a series of ladies many pageant fans and pundits dislike (as they look like villainesses), we have a welcome choice representing this country, and though she is well regarded since winning her national pageant, she became a possible crown contender after the Presentation Show as she delivered a sensational performance.  With her country practically confirmed to hosting this pageant next year, her prospects of making far are very optimistic indeed.

BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS – Sharie de Castro.  Facewise, she has the harshest features, and she has a very low-key demeanor in her “Truth and Dare” video.  But she redeemed herself as she seems well spoken and she is generally polished during the Presentation show.

BULGARIA – Veneta Krasteva.  One thing admirable about her is that she is reportedly a breast cancer survivor.  But still, that doesn’t justify her projecting like a sleazy bimbo.  Definitely one of the weakest links in this year’s pageant, in my reckoning.

Yes, she’s a breast cancer survivor

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=dytCw4mYAgc

CANADA – Riza Santos.  Just like in her previous stints at Miss Earth and Miss World, she is definitely attractive and polished and generated good notices.  But just like her stints in those pageants, will it be a close-but-no-cigar placement again?  I fear that could indeed be the outcome, though you have to hand it to her as she did gave her best efforts to make a great impression and she should be proud of her efforts representing her country.  It’s interesting she chose to wear a Francis Libiran gown for the Presentation Show–it seems to be part of the same collection that included that classic winning gown that brought Megan Young the breakthrough Miss World victory earlier this year.  Is she trying to capture a bit of Megan’s thunder?  Well, Megan does deserve to be emulated, but still Megan did it indeed the best.  

Miss World 2013 Megan Young

CHILE – María Jesús Matthei.  There was something about her angular features that I found familiar.  It dawned on me she resembles The Biggest Loser trainer Jillian Michaels.  I found the “dare” part of her “Truth and Dare” video very funny, as she was told to act like a dinosaur and she comically channeled a velociraptor from Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park movie.  The makeup she sported and the gown she wore in the Presentation Show gave me uncomfortable memories–she reminded me of 1990 finalist Urania Haltenhoff–okay, yes she became a 4th place finalist, but pageant fans and pundits continue to rue her square jaw and deem her unworthy of placing that high.

Biggest Loser coach Jillian Michaels (image courtesy of Glamour.com)
Urania Haltenhoff (image courtesy of Chilean Charm)

COMING UP:  CHINA to FRANCE

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