NORWAY – Caroline Sparboe. She is attractive, but with the exception of a bronze medal in National Costume for her continent, she is not making a major impression so far. But she is well spoken and committed to the environmental cause.
PARAGUAY – Leticia Caceres. Just like most South American representatives to this pageant, she came in polished and prepared, though most attention is focused on Bolivia, Brazil, and Venezuela. She was shortlisted in talent with her native dance featuring balancing a bottle on her head. Don’t count her out yet as she could be in sleeper contention.
PORTUGAL- Solange Duarte. Though she is a model in her native country, her facial features are just too angular for my taste and her figure is not really what I tend to associate in a supermodel. Still, she’s not really a total dud unlike some of the predecessors sent to this pageant over the years.
ROMANIA – Ioana Mihalache. There is something about her looks that I think has a potential to shine in the modeling world, but it seems at this point she needs some polishing. I do consider her as a worthwhile contender, though.
RUSSIA – Olesya Boslovyak. Though I find her predecessor much prettier, this blonde may make more serious inroads into the finals. So far she won gold in National Costume for her continent, and silver for Talent.
SIERRA LEONE – Mahalu Dukuray. In a group of formidable Africans this year, she could be regarded as one of the weaker links, but by not much–though her evening gown was dubbed a misfire by Nick Verreos, she is highly attractive and generally polished.
SLOVENIA – Nina Kos. She is one of the stronger bets fielded by this country in this pageant, and she has lovely straight brunette tresses. I consider her a worthwhile contender.
SOUTH SUDAN – Giona Karsis. She is well regarded by pageant fans and pundits, but between her and Tanzania, I feel Tanzania had the upper hand this time. At least she got shortlisted in Talent.
SRI LANKA – Solange Kristina Gunawijeya. From the Indian subcontinent, attention has so far been focused on India and Nepal, but this lady deserves some more attention than she’s getting. She is good looking and well spoken. She could be regarded as an underrated gem.
TAHITI – Maeva Simonin. She is highly attractive, though we’ve seen more stunning contenders from this country in previous editions. She can be regarded as a worthwhile contender. She got shortlisted in Talent.
THAILAND – Punika Kulsoontornrut. She has been making major waves, winning gold in Resorts Wear and being the most child-friendly in her group during the school tour, plus a silver medal in Naitonal Costume, on top of being shortlisted in Talent. I wonder if she’ll vindicate the non-placement of her highly favored predecessor, who was faring sensationally in the pre-pageant activities but was shockingly shut out of the finals (mainly because her figure was too skinny for comfort–acceptable for K-Pop but unhealthy for pageant standards). She has a healthier frame so that vindication may indeed be in order. She may be even in line for an element (even win it all…), but she has to get through…
UKRAINE – Anastasia Sukh. In the looks-oriented Swimsuit and Resorts Wear competitions, she garnered gold and silver respectively. She also got a bronze as most child friendly in her group during the school tour. With the high regard accorded to her, she looks to be on track to garner an element.
U S A – Nicolle Velez. I wonder if she’s Latina or Asian (Filipino perhaps?). She’s polished, but I don’t think she is making as big an impact as her predecessor. She got a gold as best teacher in her group during the school tour, though.
WALES – Angharad James. Unlike her previous two predecessors, this country fielded a tall blonde girl this time. She may be facially plain, but at least she is well spoken and committed to the cause.
ZAMBIA – Winnie-Fredah Kabwe. Here is another lady from the formidable African contingent who could be a semifinals possibility. She garnered a bronze medal for best teacher in her group during the school tour.
With all 88 candidates accounted for, let me trot out my leaderboard:
TOP CONTENDERS: PHILIPPINES, THAILAND, UKRAINE, VENEZUELA
SHOO-IN: BRAZIL, INDIA, POLAND, RUSSIA
LIKELIEST: AUSTRIA, BOLIVIA, BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA, COSTA RICA, COTE D’IVOIRE, FRANCE, GABON, GERMANY, GHANA, INDONESIA, ITALY, KAZAKHSTAN, KOREA, MARTINIQUE, MAURITIUS, MEXICO, NEPAL, NETHERLANDS, PANAMA, PARAGUAY, SCOTLAND, SERBIA, SLOVAK REPUBLIC, SOUTH AFRICA, SPAIN, SRI LANKA, SWEDEN, TANZANIA, TURKEY, ZAMBIA
COMMUNICATION/CAUSE FACTOR: CANADA, DENMARK, NORTHERN IRELAND
EXCELLENT: ALBANIA, AUSTRALIA, BONAIRE, CHILE, CHINA P.R., CRIMEA, CURACAO, CZECH REPUBLIC, ECUADOR, GUAM, GUATEMALA, HUNGARY, JAPAN, KOSOVO, NORWAY, ROMANIA, SLOVENIA, SOUTH SUDAN, TAHITI, U S A, ZIMBABWE
VERY STRONG: BAHAMAS, BELIZE, ENGLAND, GUADELOUPE, HAITI, LITHUANIA, NIGERIA, SIERRA LEONE, TRINIDAD & TOBAGO
STRONG: COLOMBIA, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, LEBANON, MACAU, MONGOLIA, REUNION ISLAND, SWITZERLAND, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS
VERY GOOD: BELGIUM, MADAGASCAR, WALES
GOOD: BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS, ISRAEL, MALAYSIA, PORTUGAL, SINGAPORE
FAIR: CHINESE TAIPEI
So, here is my “Fearful” Forecast:
TOP FOUR: PHILIPPINES, THAILAND, UKRAINE, VENEZUELA
TOP EIGHT: BRAZIL, INDIA, POLAND, RUSSIA
TOP 16: BOLIVIA, BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA, FRANCE, INDONESIA, KOREA, MARTINIQUE, SERBIA, SOUTH AFRICA
BUBBLING UNDER: AUSTRIA, COSTA RICA, COTE D’IVOIRE, GABON, GERMANY, GHANA, ITALY, KAZAKHSTAN, MAURITIUS, MEXICO, NEPAL, NETHERLANDS, PANAMA, PARAGUAY, SCOTLAND, SLOVAK REPUBLIC, SPAIN, SRI LANKA, SWEDEN, TANZANIA, TURKEY, ZAMBIA
STRIKING DISTANCE: ALBANIA, AUSTRALIA, BONAIRE, CANADA, CHILE, CHINA P.R., CRIMEA, CURACAO, CZECH REPUBLIC, DENMARK, ECUADOR, GUAM, GUATEMALA, HUNGARY, JAPAN, KOSOVO, NORTHERN IRELAND, NORWAY, ROMANIA, SLOVENIA, SOUTH SUDAN, TAHITI, U S A, ZIMBABWE
For three of the past four editions of this pageant, the elemental crowns were the stronghold of three countries: Brazil, Philippines, and Venezuela. Can this cycle be broken to make way for fresh blood? Whatever the case, all I’m asking for is for a satisfying outcome and a satisfying pageant overall. Best of luck to all the candidates!