RUSSIA – Alina Rekko. We’ve seen prettier and more charismatic representatives from this country in previous editions, but this lady is still competing at a high level and can make a splash if the right opportunity comes.
SERBIA – Lidija Kocic. She is attractive, but her facial features have angles that can make her look a bit too strong. I’ll rate her as a worthwhile contender.
SINGAPORE – Vanessa Sim. She is cute, especially in the national costume picture below, but most of the time she is projecting as one of the weaker Asians–but she tugged hearts at the Miss International forum when she talked about being caught in an abusive relationship.
SLOVAK REPUBLIC – Lucia Semankova. She’s a pretty girl who reportedly generated laughter during the Miss International forum with her refreshingly candid speech (she talked about having a family, but she mentioned she needs to have a husband first to do that). Could that refreshing and charming candidness be her ticket to go all the way to the finals?
SPAIN – Rocio Tormo Esquinas. She has those classic Castillian features that could make a major splash in other years. But this year, nothing is guaranteed as there are very limited spots available for the taking.
SRI LANKA – Tamara Makalanda. There are pageant fans and pundits who have a very high regard for her, especially with the reported eloquent speech she gave about her education advocacy during the Miss International forum. I’m not quite on her bandwagon, as I’m not that into her looks and I feel looks still weigh more heavily in this pageant. Still, anything is possible with an even playing field like this one.
SWEDEN – Moa Sofie Sandberg. Her features remind me of country superstar Shania Twain. She is making a positive impression, but she is being overshadowed by other standouts at this point.
THAILAND – Punika Kulsoontornrut. She decided to relinquish her current title as Miss Earth-Water in order to compete in this pageant. It’s indeed clear she is competing at a stratified level and I consider her one of the closest things to a shoo-in along with Mexico. But to win it all? That I’m not certain, though she has what it takes–but so do several other contenders like, say, India and the Philippines.
TURKEY – Hilal Yabuz. This member of the Three Towering Glamazons is the one who stands the tallest as she’s 6’3″ (1.90 m). Her features are catnip for the modeling world, though they are not the “classically beautiful” sort (Viola Davis, again, I do not mean to offend!). She could be in contention to make the Top Ten–it’s such a crowded challenge this year.
UKRAINE – Iana Ravlikovska. If this were last year, she would make more serious inroads. This year, though, she’s overshadowed by other standouts.
UNITED KINGDOM – Victoria Charlotte Tooby. A Finnish pageant pundit friend of mine observed that she resembles Miss International 2012 1st runner-up Vivi Suominen, and as such she might fare high. But then I thought–well, her sash doesn’t say, “Finland” so it doesn’t follow. But she has been receiving positive buzz amongst other pageant fans and pundits, so it might be possible she could be a “refreshing” choice for the Top Ten. Well, Chloe-Beth Morgan became 2nd runner-up five years ago, didn’t she? But then again, that pageant was held in China, and the criteria at that time might be different, so that may not follow again… Oh well, we’ll see what happens on Tuesday, November 11.
U S A – Samantha Brooks. In most candid photos, she doesn’t quite sparkle, but then again so did the representative last year and she made the final cut. But when she sparkles like in the photo below, you could consider her as a true contender. She could be someone you have to reckon with.
VENEZUELA – Michelle Bertolini. I know there are pageant fans and pundits who rate her highly and that she has an inside track for the Top Ten. But for some odd reason, I’m not that into her features–they seem rather too angular for my taste. Plus her national costume presentation seems underwhelming especially with the loosely held hairstyle. I’m leaning more towards betting that she’ll miss the final cut, but then again, her features are the sort that seems similar to the 2000 winner, Vivian Urdaneta, so it is also possible she could win it all. I’m not sure if Venezuela has now shifted to a four-year victory cycle after 2006, and if so, could that mean she’s bound for victory? There is a side of me that thinks that perhaps that cycle is different–that the years would now increase by one year after every victory so the next Venezuelan victory is expected next year… It’s intriguing what kind of cycle this pageant super-powerhouse would observe…
VIETNAM – Dang Thu Thao. She’s a polished representative but her looks just pale compared to the extremely ferocious Asian contingent this year. Still, she should not be dismissed as an also-ran.
ZAMBIA – Mercy Mukwiza. She’s actually a worthwhile contender, though it seems Gabon has the upper hand in terms of charisma.
Now that all 73 delegates are accounted for, let me trot out my leaderboard and share with you how I think they all stack up. This is going to be the first time I’ll not feature ladies rated as “TOP CONTENDERS”–not to denigrate the quality of this year’s batch, because this is of a high quality, but it’s simply because there is no one who seems to be pulling away from the pack–if this were a middle-to-long-distance track event, at the last lap the pack remains tightly packed and crowded.
SHOO-INs: MEXICO, THAILAND
LIKELIEST: ARGENTINA, BELARUS, BRAZIL, COLOMBIA, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, FINLAND, FRANCE, GABON, GIBRALTAR, GUATEMALA, GUYANA, HUNGARY, INDIA, ISRAEL, KOREA, MONGOLIA, NETHERLANDS, NORWAY, PERU, PHILIPPINES, POLAND, PORTUGAL, RUSSIA, SLOVAK REPUBLIC, SPAIN, TURKEY, UNITED KINGDOM, U S A, VENEZUELA
EXCELLENT: EGYPT, GERMANY, INDONESIA, MYANMAR, NEPAL, PARAGUAY, SERBIA, SWEDEN, UKRAINE, VIETNAM, ZAMBIA
SASH FACTOR: CHINA, JAPAN
SPEECH FACTOR: LEBANON, SRI LANKA
VERY STRONG: BELGIUM, BOLIVIA, CHINESE TAIPEI, ECUADOR, ESTONIA, GEORGIA, HAITI, HONDURAS, HONG KONG, MACAU, NEW ZEALAND, PANAMA, PUERTO RICO
STRONG: ARMENIA, ARUBA, CHILE, CUBA, EL SALVADOR, MALAYSIA, ROMANIA, SINGAPORE
VERY GOOD: AUSTRALIA, CANADA, ITALY, MAURITIUS
GOOD: CURACAO, NICARAGUA
My “Fearful” Forecast would go like this:
TOP FIVE: COLOMBIA, FINLAND, MEXICO, PHILIPPINES, THAILAND
TOP TEN: ARGENTINA, GUYANA, INDIA, JAPAN, NETHERLANDS
BUBBLING UNDER: BELARUS, BRAZIL, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, FRANCE, GABON, GIBRALTAR, GUATEMALA, HUNGARY, ISRAEL, KOREA, MONGOLIA, NORWAY, PERU, POLAND, PORTUGAL, RUSSIA, SLOVAK REPUBLIC, SPAIN, TURKEY, UNITED KINGDOM, U S A, VENEZUELA
STRIKING DISTANCE: CHINA, EGYPT, GERMANY, INDONESIA, LEBANON, MYANMAR, NEPAL, PARAGUAY, SERBIA, SRI LANKA, SWEDEN, UKRAINE, VIETNAM, ZAMBIA
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.
This is the sort of year where there is no clear front-runner, and there are so many crown possibilities. There are a whole slew of strong Asians this year, and this is followed by the Latinas. There are also Europeans to contend with. How will the slots be allocated for those regions? And how many “women of color” would make it? Would they revive the “host country” and “goodwill” slots? Can the Philippines make that unprecedented back-to-back win? Can Venezuela create a new four-year win cycle? Can Mexico win its third title in seven years? Can Colombia bring forth another “colored” victory? Can India or Thailand give their countries their first victories? I still feel I’m caught in a thick fog and I don’t know for sure–I suppose all will be finally revealed during the finals this Tuesday, November 11.