INDIA – Hukupa Thuluo. Okay, he’s a major improvement from last year’s utter dud. But he still doesn’t project like a Bollywood star like we tend to expect from representatives from this country in other male pageants in previous years–unless he’s the lead in a gritty, independent feature film set either in the urban underworld or a Himalayan village. Who the hell is the franchise holder, and why can’t he attract more charismatic contenders?
INDONESIA – Albern Sultan. I think his slot in the Top 16 is almost assured since he’s the host contestant. If this was held in a different venue, he would probably be facing a more uphill battle, even if he does have obvious merits worthy of belonging in that hallowed group.
ITALY – Marco della Croce. He has one of the handsomer faces in this year’s batch, and he does have an undeniable buffed bod. He seems to have the looks to be a Top 16 shoo-in, but there is this gnawing feeling in me that he could be one of the possible upset shut-outs. Hope my gut is wrong…
KOREA – Jae Hyuk Kim. Just like the representative two years ago who made it all the way to the Top 10, this guy has unconventional looks but also has some kind of appeal that could be his ticket to sustain a streak for his country. He may not project like a K-Pop star, but his rippled physique is sexy and to-die-for.
LEBANON – Firass Abbass. Though he is undeniably good-looking and buffed, he is a major step-down from last year’s winner, Ali Hammoud. I’m not sure his streak of grey hair is making the right kind of impression, though he does stand out with it. It’s still possible for him to make the Top 16
MACAU – Nuno Wong. Well, it’s nice to have a representative from this tiny Chinese-administered territory. But clearly he is not in contention to make the final cut.
MADAGASCAR – Tojo Antsa Ratsimbazafy, He does have a dark complexion, and he’s from the African continent (albeit an island off the main continent), but he’s not the darkest complexioned contestant this year (he’s in second place though–the darkest skinned contestant is oddly enough from Asia). He is clearly raw in terms of projection and charisma, but he has good looks and a buffed physique. In some ways, you can consider him a worthwhile contender.
MALAYSIA – James Ng. Well, he’s cuter (and definitely much better looking) than his predecessor, who made it as far as 7th place last year. He may not have the beefy physique of his predecessor, but he is in great shape, too. Still, him exceeding the placement of his predecessor is far from assured, especially with the higher standard this year.
MEXICO – Hans Briseño. There are pageant fans and pundits who are now hyping him as the front-runner for this contest. I have to agree though I find his face a bit too boy-ish for my taste. Still, he’s undeniably handsome, has a buffed physique, and does have charisma, so I understand the high regard they accorded him.
NEW ZEALAND – Petrus Fourie. Pre-arrival photos may make him seem like a possible front-runner, and he does make a distinctive presence with his long-ish hair. But as he made it to Indonesia, his buzz diminished somewhat. He is still in contention to make the semifinals.
PANAMA – Sergio Isaac Lópes. This guy exudes a swarthy sexiness, especially with his beefy, rippled physique. And he’s clearly better looking than, say, last year’s Malaysian representative. If the same type of judges who favored that Malaysian guy were on hand to judge this year, this guy should be able to make the final cut. But then again, with a bevy of strong contenders this year, it’s going to be a challenge.
PERU – Rodrigo Fernandini. He may not be conventionally handsome, but no one can deny his beefy, rippled physique and his charming, outgoing personality–remember he made the Top 10 in last year’s Mister World. I just hope he doesn’t offend the Indonesian judges or organizers with his tendency to confidently walk around in Speedos.
PHILIPPINES – Gil Wagas. Filipino pageant fans and pundits are a bit polarized by this guy–there are those who argue that he’s not good looking. But then, there are others who noted his buffed physique and his 6’3″ stature, and that he exudes strong sex appeal even if he may not be conventionally handsome. I’m in the latter camp, and to my eyes, he has a passing resemblance to Filipino actor Diether Ocampo. His current styling with longer hair reminds me of a K-Pop/J-Pop star, and I think it’s a good strategy to use to stand out in this kind of group. I’m reasonably confident that he can make the final cut on his merits, though sympathy over the recent onslaught of super-typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda helps.
Images courtesy of L-Men/Mister International and Julio Rodriguez for Belleza Venezolana unless otherwise indicated.
COMING UP: PUERTO RICO to VENEZUELA and the “Fearful” Forecast.