MISS INTERNATIONAL 2014: AT THE HOMESTRETCH (PART 1)

At the orientation.

This year’s Miss International has finally broken a ceiling–it has attracted beyond 70 delegates, as it attracted 74.  Well, unfortunately one withdrew due to “health reasons” but still a record was broken.  The activities thus far are what we have expected from this pageant whenever it’s held in this country since 1968–some cultural immersion like a tea ceremony, learning traditional dances and wearing kimonos; sponsors’ visits and parties; the Miss International forum; and the Press Conference.

However, there were some subtle changes afoot.  For instance, the Press Conference would be typically held very early in the pageant proceedings, and traditionally the delegates were presented in both national costume and swimsuit.  This year, the event was held several days after the delegates arrived (instead of around three to five days in previous editions), a week before the pageant finals, and there was no swimsuit presentation (though two days later there was a swimsuit photo shoot).  Also, traditionally Miss Photogenic would be awarded in that event, but they have dropped that special award this year.  In the orientation days before, the delegates were briefed that there is a change in the format of the finals–only 10 semifinals would be called out to do their “cultural speeches”, and on top of the usual Miss Friendship and Best National Costume awards, there will be special awards for “Miss Perfect Body” (i.e., Best in Swimsuit), “Miss Best Dresser” (i.e., Best in Evening Gown) and “Miss Internet Beauty” (one who gets the most internet votes in the ongoing online poll.  Finally, the Top Five (instead of the Top Three as it was since 1980) would be required to extend their stay in Japan for some activities.

This year’s batch of delegates is generally a quantum leap from last year’s lackluster group–there may not be super stunners in the level of the Miss World 2013 Top Five, but there are a whole bunch of pretty faces, and the less classically pretty faces (please don’t be offended, Viola Davis!) have strong merits that may give them an edge in this pageant.   The new, more cutthroat format makes things more exciting and unpredictable for this high quality group of ladies–many ladies represent trends and traditions that normally would be rewarded with a semifinalist placement, but with fewer slots to compete for, it’s inevitable some of those traditions and trends would be broken.

Before I proceed to review the 73 delegates, let’s talk about the 74th delegate who withdrew…

DENMARK – Josefine Emelie Egebjerg.  She seems to be a likable, pretty girl, even if she doesn’t assert herself and seemingly content to blend in the background.  Until we learned of news of her withdrawal, I was wondering about her no-show at the Press Conference, and what came to my mind was a famous blonde, former Ace of Base member Linn Berggren, who starting 1998 until it was officially announced she departed the band in 2007, had suddenly decided to shift from being one of the band’s front women to slinking sullenly in the background, even being a no-show in several promotional appearances for the band.  Considering she already had previous experience competing (and winning) in Face of Beauty International two years before, perhaps it was indeed health reasons that may have caused her to back out.  I wish her all the best in her future endeavors.

Closest thing to a solo pic: Miss Denmark with two hosts of the tea ceremony

Ace of Base’s Flowers [1998] album cover Notice Linn Berggren blurred and in the background left.
Without further ado, let’s discuss the 73 Miss International 2014 delegates starting with:

ARGENTINA – Josefina Herrero.  This country only made sporadic splashes in the international pageant arena since 1979.  This lady could be one of those rare ladies who would make a splash–she already made a strong impression when she competed at Miss World 2012, as she got short-listed in the much-followed challenge events of Beach Fashion and Top Model, though in the end she fell short of the overall Top 30.  Her luck may change in this pageant as she seems to be blossoming and standing out with her pretty features in most photographs taken of her.  She has what it takes to make the brutal final cut, and even possibly going all the way to the Top Five–if she isn’t hampered by her cultural speech (as I observed Latinas lately tend to falter when they make their speeches in this pageant).

ARMENIA – Shushanik Yeritsyan.  She can project like a delicate doll at her best, but most of the time she just blends in the background, so I don’t foresee her making the final cut.

ARUBA – Francis Massiel Sosa.  She is generally a solid performer, but her features are typically not the sort appreciated by the expectedly predominantly Japanese panel.

AUSTRALIA – Bridgette Rose Taylor.  If this was last year, she would probably be considered a solid, though middling contender.  But unfortunately, with a more competitive group of delegates, she is one of the weakest links.  It’s been almost two decades since this usual pageant powerhouse made the cut in this pageant.

BELARUS – Natalia Bryshten.  This brunette is an underrated gem who is garnering some positive notices.  If this were last year she could possibly be a semifinals shoo-in, but the situation is very different this year, and practically no one is guaranteed a semifinalist slot.

BELGIUM – Gonul Meral.  There are flattering angles, like in the National Costume photo below, where she radiates and looks gorgeous.  Most of the time, though, she’s more middle-of-the-pack.

BOLIVIA – Joselyn Toro.    Her slightly exotic features are actually attractive, but if tradition is to be followed, they are not necessarily the sort appreciated by the Japanese.  Still, she is making a positive impression.

BRAZIL – Deise Benicio.  She is performing and projecting strongly, but there are about three Latinas who were making bigger splashes that she might end up being shut out.  If this were last year, she would probably have been a shoo-in.

CANADA – Kesiah Papasin.  Yes, she has Filipina heritage, but I have to be fair and unfortunately I can’t really quite rally behind her looks-wise.  If this were last year, she would’ve been in the middle of the pack.

CHILE – Tania Dahuabe.  I find her facial features angular and awkward.  I don’t foresee her making serious inroads into the finals.  Her risque national costume do not help matters.

CHINA – Wei Lisi.  Though she has a host of selfies, in general I find her rather blah.  I doubt if a “goodwill” slot would be accorded to her.

CHINESE TAIPEI – Yang Yuyao.  She is attractive and has some spunk, but there are a slew of Asians making much bigger splashes than her.

COLOMBIA – Zuleyka Klara Suarez Torrenegra.  When she was “Virreina” (1st runner-up) in her national pageant last year, pageant fans and pundits were all agog salivating at her prospects for this year’s Miss International, as she was deemed an early front-runner for the crown.  She still makes a very strong positive impression when she arrived in Japan, but not as stratospherically charismatic as most had expected–though I suppose it’s a strategy as in key public appearances, such as in the Press Conference, she displayed a sexy sparkle.  She still holds the spot as the “colored-girl-most-likely” to make the Top Ten, and she is the rare Latina to get positive notices for her speech based on a report on the Miss International Forum.   It’s still conceivable that she could become the third woman of color (after two other Latinas, one being her countrywoman in 2004 and the other one a mulatta from Venezuela in 2010) to win this pageant, but with the relatively level playing field nothing is set in stone.

Miss International 2004 Jeymmy Paola Vargas from Colombia
Miss International 2010 Elizabeth Mosquera from Venezuela

CUBA – Adisleydi Alonso Rodriguez.  Her figure seems more voluptuous sexpot than sleek gamine that tend to be favored in pageants these days.  Also she doesn’t quite stand out in the pack so far, but I find her worthwhile.

COMING UP:  CURACAO to GUYANA

Images courtesy of Toru Yamanaka/AFP/Getty Images, Stephen Diaz for Missosology, Miss International Organization, plus personal photos from the contestants themselves unless otherwise indicated.

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