At the Miss International Forum.

HAITI – Christie Desir.  She’s reasonably attractive, but the slot for the “colored-girl-most-likely” is currently being fiercely fought between Colombia, Gabon, and Guyana.

HONDURAS – Monica Brocato.  See BOLIVIA.

HONG KONG – Katherine Ho.  She’s actually cute enough to make a positive impression and she’s polished.  She’s a worthwhile contender in a powerhouse Asian contingent.

 HUNGARY – Karman Dalma.  Last year, this country was a pleasant Top FIve surprise.  This lady may not be as cute as her predecessor, but she is undeniably good looking.  Equaling last year’s placement would be a major challenge as the standards have ratcheted up this year, and the slots are limited.

INDIA – Jhataleka Malhotra.  She is receiving heavy positive buzz, even favored by pageant fans and pundits to go as far as the Top Five.  She is indeed a high caliber delegate, but I’m fretful if there is room for her, as there are a whole slew of other Asians who are angling for such a limited amount of slots.

INDONESIA – Elfin Pertiwi Rappa.  If this was last year, this cute ingenue could have been a shoo-in.  However, this year, she has to contend with a slew of really outstanding Asians, aggravated by the fact that perhaps tradition might be revived to reserve a slot again for the host nation…

 ISRAEL – Shani Hazan.   This former Miss World 2012 Top 30 semifinalist is one of the “Three Towering Glamazons” in this year’s pageant, along with Dominican Republic and Turkey.  Her angular features and thick eyebrows do make a great impression especially in the modeling world, but I’m not sure how well would the Japanese judges respond to it.  Moreover, some pageant fans and pundits are sounding an alarm over an unflattering photo of her in a pink halter satin gown.  I’m not totally counting her out, but I see a reversal in placement between her and her Miss World 2012 colleague, Argentina, with Argentina having the upper hand this time.

ITALY – Giulia Brazzanola.  She seems very, very raw and unpolished, that as she currently is she is likely going to be regarded as one of the weakest links.  But I see great things about her features that with the right nurturing and polishing, she could blossom into a stunner.  She is actually good looking, but she doesn’t know how to realize her potential at this point.

 JAPAN – Lira Hongo.  She is cute.  But if you ask me if she would deserve to make the Top Ten strictly on merit, I would say no.  Sure, last year Japan was shut out on its home turf but I think there were some extraneous factors in play that caused that (especially the controversy involving the then reigning Miss International, who was her countrywoman).  But I have a feeling they will revive “tradition” again and a Top Ten slot will be reserved for her.

KOREA – Seobin Lee.  She is great looking and seems to have some spark and charisma.  But here lies the rub–with only ten semifinalist slots up for grabs, I doubt if “goodwill” slots would be available, and there are at least three stronger and fiercer Asians in this year’s batch.  I fear this country will experience its fifth consecutive shut-out in this pageant.

LEBANON – Lia Saad.  Lookswise she may not be much, but a pageant website who had access to the Miss International forum reported that she gave one of the more memorable speeches.  We’ll see how much weight does the speech play in her overall prospects come finals night.

MACAU – Hio Man Chan.  She garnered positive notices amongst some pageant fans and pundits, but in my opinion she’s drowned out by other stellar Asians out there.

MALAYSIA – Jayarubini Sambanthan Muthaliyar.  Amongst a fierce group of Asians, she could be regarded as one of the weaker links, but she is actually a worthwhile contender–judging from her selfies during the swimsuit shoot, she actually has a nice, trim figure.

MAURITIUS – Shiksha Matabadul.  Well, she is polished, though her features are not the sort favored by most pageant fans and pundits, much less the Japanese.  Let’s just give credit for her making the best of what she has.

MEXICO – Vianey del Rosario Vazquez Ramirez.  She and Thailand are the closest thing to shoo-ins for the Top Ten, and she does have the stellar great looks to bring forth the third Miss International win for her nation, joining Australia, Colombia, Poland, Spain, USA, and the UK (if you count England’s win in 1986 as part of that country’s tally) in that hallowed club.  The reporter at the Miss International forum did not cite her for her speech, so I’m slightly concerned that this might mean that she is like the other Latinas lately who falter in this aspect, and that might be the obstacle to her path for the crown.  Which is why I can’t unequivocally declare at this point that for me she’s the front-runner.

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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