RESULTS REACTION: 63RD MISS UNIVERSE

The finals of this edition of Miss Universe reminds me of the buzz about the shape of one of the delegates, an early favorite from a pageant powerhouse–it has expanded from the usual two-hour program to a three-hour program, but despite the obviously added heft, the program in my opinion went better than one might expect.  I’ll provide more details in my full-fledged review of this pageant.

I got nine out of 15 correct–most of the ones I didn’t get were in my “Bubbling Under” list, with the exception of one in my “Striking Distance” list.  There is really no headscratcher in the actual Top 15, and there are great justifications why the final roster made the cut.

The one I pegged in my “Striking Distance” list was Indonesia (Elvira Devinamira), as I thought lookswise she wasn’t quite up to snuff albeit she is polished.  Yet I don’t object at all to her placement because I love her web interview–she’s a great communicator with a spitfire personality, and she has a lot of interesting things to share and say.

Miss Indonesia (Elvira Devinamira)

As much as I’m generally satisfied with the Top 15, there is a tinge of sadness that two of my sentimental favorites failed to make the cut:  Czech Republic (Gabriela Frankova) and Singapore (Rathi Menon).  Both were to my eyes revelations during the Presentation Show, but it seems the powers-that-be were not as impressed as I was with them.

Sentimental Favorites:  Czech Republic (Gabriela Frankova) and Singapore (Rathi Menon)
Sentimental Favorites: Czech Republic (Gabriela Frankova) and Singapore (Rathi Menon)

Following Miss Earth 2014, I also feel sad that this year there was no dark-complexioned delegate who made the final cut–sure there is a lady with African roots who made it, but her complexion is very light, which is also similar to what happened at Miss Earth–the difference is the light-complexioned girl with African descent here went much further.  Ironically, it’s the two ladies with Indian heritage that have darker complexions than the girl with African descent…  Anyway I’ll pay tribute to the efforts exerted by Guyana (Niketa Barker) and South Africa (Ziphozakhe Zokufa) as they probably did their very best but just fell a bit short in the eyes of the preliminary judges and the powers-that-be.

Fell short:  Black standouts Guyana (Niketa Barker) and South Africa (Ziphozakhe Zokufa)
Fell short: Black standouts Guyana (Niketa Barker) and South Africa (Ziphozakhe Zokufa)

Now, who’s the winner of the Ruth Ocumarez award?  Though I’m tempted to select either Czech Republic or Guyana, there wasn’t as much hype about them being shoo-ins even if they were commended for their performances.  I’ll probably hand this to two Latinas who almost every pageant fan and pundit felt delivered stellar performances at the Presentation Shows that they were hyped as shoo-ins:  Dominican Republic (Kimberly Castillo) and Mexico (Josselyn Garciglia).  I think in both cases, just like in the case of my sentimental favorites and the sterling black performers, it’s just simply close, but not cigar.

Ruth Ocumarez Awardees:  Dominican Republic (Kimberly Castillo) and Mexico (Josselyn Garciglia)
Ruth Ocumarez Awardees: Dominican Republic (Kimberly Castillo) and Mexico (Josselyn Garciglia)

Now, about the final outcome–well, at least I got three of the five finalists right, though I’m still slightly upset that my favorite to win it all, Spain (Desiree Cordero), didn’t make the Final Five.  I’ll probably give her the Melinda Bam award, as the big favorite who missed out of Top FIve despite a stellar performance.  I also thought that the booing after the name of the fourth runner-up was announced was justified, because this classy lady, in my reckoning, deserved to be among the final two standing, or even win it all.  More on that in my full-fledged review.

Melinda Bam awardee: Spain (Desiree Cordero)

But what about the winner?  Actually, despite my misgivings about what she answered in the question and answer rounds, if we base it in terms of looks, her win is justifiable, even if I disagree with it.  Anyway I respect the choice of the judges and congratulate Miss Colombia (Paulina Vega) for her victory.  It’s been a long time coming for Colombia to finally notch that second victory.

JUST ME!

JOSEPH

The new Miss Universe, Paulina Vega of Colombia.

All images courtesy of Miss Universe LP, LLLP unless otherwise indicated.

63RD MISS UNIVERSE: AT THE HOMESTRETCH (CONCLUSION)

SPAIN – Desiree Cordero.  For me, she’s the one who delivered the performance of the night during the Presentation Show.  During the evening gown round, she sported a strapless silver/ivory gown with a bustier cut very low.  This is the equivalent of witnessing a tightrope act across the Grand Canyon–you’re transfixed, torn, and breathless waiting if an accident is about to take place or if the stunt would be a resounding success.  The same effect goes with how she walked in that gown and it’s exhilarating how she successfully navigated the stage in that outfit with flair and style.  In the swimsuit round, she channeled Miss Universe 2008 Dayana Mendoza as she performed a dervish to the audience’s delight.  She’s so far my favorite to win it all (note: Dayana performed the dervish during the evening gown finals, but Desiree did it for swimsuit).

SRI LANKA – Marian Avanti Page.  She’s a tad unpolished so I don’t expect her to make serious inroads into the finals.

ST. LUCIA – Roxanne Didier-Nicholas.  When I saw her very slender frame during the swimsuit competition, I was concerned as I thought it seemed gaunt and unhealthy.  But then I learned from the web interview that she’s a ballerina, and I realized that well, most ballerinas are supposed to have that kind of frame.  Still, as polished as she is I don’t think she will make serious inroads into the finals.

SWEDEN – Camilla Hansson.  She’s better than her two other Nordic colleagues, but even with that taken into account, I think her performance is only up to P.A.T.I.S. crew level.

SWITZERLAND – Zoe Metthez.  If this were 2009, she might have made more serious inroads.  But as she is in this edition, she doesn’t quite make an impact.

TANZANIA – Nale Boniface.  Although she delivered a polished presentation all throughout, she is not in serious contention of making the final cut.  We should commend her for her efforts, though.

THAILAND – Pimbongkod Changkaew.  She’s tied with Miss Peru as the tallest delegate in this year’s pageant.  She’s also bright and could speak flawless American English as she was actually born in the US.  US-bred Thais tend to do well in this pageant, as we can see with 1984 6th placer Savinee Prakaranung and Miss Universe 1988 Porntip Nakhirunkanok.  If there is a third slot allotted for an Asian this year, she and Singapore are in a tight battle to occupy that slot.

TRINIDAD & TOBAGO – Jevon King.  Prior to the Presentation Show, several pageant fans and pundits (including myself) have tagged her as the “black-girl-most-likely.”  But then the Presentation Show came and though she was actually solid, her placement in the Top 15 is far from assured.  For starters, her white caftan-sleeved gown is a love-it-or-hate-it proposition–I actually liked she took a risk by wearing a retro-unique style, but I am not sure she carried it with that much needed aplomb.  Her swimsuit catwalk is also fine, but I felt it seems she’s edged out by Guyana and South Africa in this aspect.  I feel a bit sad she fizzled when it counted, but I still regard her as a high level contender.

TURKEY – Dilan Çiçek Deniz.  I find her utterly refreshing and more intelligent (and articulate) than a typical delegate from this country to this pageant.  But I think for her to make the final cut she would need a Trump Ticket.

TURKS & CAICOS – Shanice Williams.  Amongst the black contestants, most of the attention is directed at Guyana, South Africa, and Trinidad & Tobago, with Curacao and Ghana bubbling behind.  This lady arguably is performing above P.A.T.I.S. crew level, but she’s also not garnering much buzz.  I’ll rate her an underrated gem.

UKRAINE – Diana Harkusha.  Several pageant fans and pundits were amazed at her performance at the Presentation Show, that she is rated as a possible front-runner.  I at first didn’t really think she’s all that, but I realized that, yes, she was superb, and she could make serious inroads into the Top 15.  It should be noted this lady was wearing haute couture during the Presentation Show–her strapless red gown was from the Zuhair Murad fall 2014 collection.

URUGUAY – Johana Riva Garabetian.  She’s generally polished, but she has a thicker midriff than most contenders out there so that could hamper her chances of making the final cut.

U S A – Nia Sanchez.  As Beyonce (and more obscurely, George Michael) would put it, she was “Flawless“.  You would not pinpoint any flaw in how she presented herself from the beginning of her arrival in Doral, Miami all the way to the Presentation Show.  We also all know she’s a strong communicator, so she seems poised to be the next American Miss Universe after 2012’s Olivia Culpo.  If that happens, I most likely would not object and not think that a conspiracy was afoot.

VENEZUELA – Migbelis Castellanos.  What is it with the queens Osmel Souza crowned in 2013?  While the reigning Miss Universe Gabriela Isler is a model of ultra-buffed discipline, the 2013 Miss Venezuela titleholders tend to let themselves go a bit, and as they set foot for their international pageants, they tend to look thicker than what most people expect from a representative of the pageant mega-powerhouse.  This was the case with Michelle Bertolini in last year’s Miss International, and the one designated for Miss Earth, Stephanie de Zorzi, was actually prevented from competing and her successor was sent instead.   There was even heavy buzz that this lady may follow Stephanie de Zorzi’s path and be replaced by her successor, too, and there were photos circulating of her looking portly.  But then, prior to departure to Doral, there were candid photos released that seem to show she’s in sleek fighting form, and many felt she could bring forth another back-to-back for her country.

But then as she arrived in Doral, Miami, the Latin pageant press has been abuzz discussing that it seems this lady is again on the “voluptuous” side.  But to my eyes, it seems she carried the extra poundage well–yes, she’s thicker than what we expect from a Venezuelan beauty queen, but she doesn’t really look out-of-shape.  Prior to her Doral stint most pageant fans and pundits dream she’s like the new Dayana Mendoza, but it seems that her role model is more of post-coronation Alicia Machado.  Just like at Miss International, whenever this lady appeared in the Presentation Show Meghan Trainor’s smash hit “All About The Bass” plays in my head.  Anyway, she can be making a statement that thicker ladies can look great, too, and she did, and I wonder if the MIss Universe organization would subscribe to it by allowing her to make the final cut.

Alicia Machado about to relinquish her crown at Miss Universe 1997

Now that all 88 delegates are accounted for, it’s time for me to trot out my leaderboard and here’s how I think they all stand:

TOP CONTENDERS:  ARGENTINA, COLOMBIA, JAMAICA, PHILIPPINES, SPAIN, U S A

SHOO-INS:  AUSTRALIA, UKRAINE

LIKELIEST:  BRAZIL, CANADA, CHINA, COSTA RICA, CURACAO, CZECH REPUBLIC, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, ECUADOR, FRANCE, GABON, GHANA, GREAT BRITAIN, GUYANA, INDIA, ITALY, LITHUANIA, MALAYSIA, MEXICO, NETHERLANDS, PERU, POLAND, PUERTO RICO, RUSSIA, SINGAPORE, SLOVAK REPUBLIC, SOUTH AFRICA, THAILAND, TRINIDAD & TOBAGO, TURKS & CAICOS, VENEZUELA

TRUMP TICKET FACTOR:  GERMANY, INDONESIA, KENYA, SERBIA, TURKEY

EXCELLENT:  ALBANIA, ANGOLA, AUSTRIA, BAHAMAS, BELGIUM, BOLIVIA, EL SALVADOR, ETHIOPIA, GREECE, GUAM, GUATEMALA, HAITI, HONDURAS, HUNGARY, IRELAND, ISRAEL, JAPAN, KAZAKHSTAN, KOREA, NICARAGUA, PANAMA, PORTUGAL, SWEDEN

VERY STRONG:  CHILE, KOSOVO, LEBANON, NORWAY, ST. LUCIA, TANZANIA, URUGUAY

STRONG:  EGYPT, MAURITIUS, NEW ZEALAND, PARAGUAY, SWITZERLAND

VERY GOOD:  ARUBA, CROATIA, FINLAND, GEORGIA, SRI LANKA

GOOD:  BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS, BULGARIA, MYANMAR, NIGERIA, SLOVENIA

And here is my “Fearful” Forecast:

TOP FIVE:  COLOMBIA, JAMAICA, PHILIPPINES, SPAIN, U S A

TOP TEN:  ARGENTINA, AUSTRALIA, CZECH REPUBLIC, INDIA, UKRAINE

TOP 15:  DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, GUYANA, LITHUANIA, MEXICO, SOUTH AFRICA

BUBBLING UNDER:  BRAZIL, CANADA, CHINA, COSTA RICA, CURACAO, ECUADOR, FRANCE, GABON, GHANA, GREAT BRITAIN, ITALY, MALAYSIA, NETHERLANDS, PERU, POLAND, PUERTO RICO, RUSSIA, SINGAPORE, SLOVAK REPUBLIC, THAILAND, TRINIDAD & TOBAGO, TURKS & CAICOS, VENEZUELA

STRIKING DISTANCE:  ALBANIA, ANGOLA, AUSTRIA, BAHAMAS, BELGIUM, BOLIVIA, EL SALVADOR, ETHIOPIA, GERMANY, GREECE, GUAM, GUATEMALA, HAITI, HONDURAS, HUNGARY, INDONESIA, IRELAND, ISRAEL, JAPAN, KAZAKHSTAN, KENYA, KOREA, NICARAGUA, PANAMA, PORTUGAL, SERBIA, SWEDEN, TURKEY

Most pageant fans and pundits are seeing this year’s pageant as a battle royale between two Spanish-speaking nations, Colombia and Spain.  Me, I think there is a possibility that Jamaica and U S A can break the Latin hegemony (though Miss U S A herself has a Latin surname).  Possible usurpers are Argentina, Czech Republic, and Ukraine.  We know Filipino fans are hungering for our 3rd crown, and MJ has a major fanbase–can she also usurp those front-runners, especially with boxer Manny Pacquiao among the celebrity panel of judges?  I also wonder how many Asians would be given slots?  And how many of those of Indian descent?  Or black girls?

It should be noted that this year’s pageant is scheduled to be a three-hour affair.  I wish they used the time to make room for a Top 20, but instead it looks like they will add more musical interludes, as on the roster are Prince Royce, Nick Jonas, and Gavin DeGraw.  Well, though I’m expecting a padded show ahead, I hope the producers wouldn’t forget on where the focus should be, which would be the delegates.  Anyway, it looks like a tightly wound battle ahead.

JUST ME!

JOSEPH

Most people say the battle for the crown is between these two:  Colombia (L) vs. Spain (R)
Most people say the battle for the crown is between these two: Colombia (L) vs. Spain (R)
...Not if these two could help it:  Jamaica (L) and USA (R)
…Not if these two could help it: Jamaica (L) and USA (R)

All images courtesy of Miss Universe LP, LLLP unless otherwise indicated.

63RD MISS UNIVERSE: AT THE HOMESTRETCH (PART 5)

NIGERIA – Queen Celestine.  Her name is fascinating as it is instantly regal.  But that’s the only thing regal about her.  Everything else about her points toward the pageant equivalent of serfdom instead of royalty.

NORWAY – Elise Dalby.  She has a model’s looks, with her comely facial features and long, slender frame.  But her catwalk skills are raw and unpolished, and she’s saddled with a frumpy white lace gown.  Well, remember Denmark’s Helena Christensen back in  Miss Universe 1986 didn’t also make any good impact back then but she has risen to become one of the biggest supermodels in the 1990s.

PANAMA – Yomatzy Hazlewood De La Rosa.  It’s interesting to note that in three of the four major pageants, this country was represented by a great looking woman of color.  But so far it’s the gawky awkward white girl at Miss International who made the final cut and the more comelier black girls at Miss Earth and Miss World failed to make it.  I fear the same fate will befall this otherwise gorgeous lady, as there are limited slots for black girls as it is and I know eyes are focused on the likes of Guyana, South Africa, and Trinidad & Tobago.

PARAGUAY – Sally Jara Davalos.  She could have been a more serious contender if her figure is a bit trimmer and she wasn’t saddled with a horrendously-styled-and-fit evening gown.

PERU – Jimena Espinoza Vecco.  She’s one of the tallest contestants in this pageant, and in general she delivered the goods.  Just like Mz. Dominican Republic and Italy, my only issue is her face.  But then again, let’s chant that mantra:  “If Claudia Moreno could get away with it…”

PHILIPPINES – Mary Jean Lastimosa.  I have observed that as long as MJ channels Miss Universe 2011 3rd runner-up Shamcey Supsup, things will go very well for her.  If she tries other personas, like the time those Miss Universe stylists frizz up her hair, it’s a hot mess.  So I’m so pleased at what she did during the Presentation Show, as her face indeed channeled Shamcey.  She did of course add her own flair with the pose she made prior to descending the steps in her flouncy evening gown, and showcasing a buffed hourglass figure in the swimsuit round.  I know the evening gown divided some pageant fans and pundits, but in my opinion she got the job done and I think she secured her place in the finals.  Admittedly I have my eye on a few other ladies to win the crown, but I still have a very high regard for our very own delegate.

Miss Universe 2011 3rd runner-up Shamcey Supsup

POLAND – Marcela Chmielowska.  The brunette’s another contender worth reckoning, as she has a gorgeous face, and she looked particularly divine in her white evening gown.  When I watched her presentation show, I presumed her figure is lean, trim, and streamlined, but the photos show she’s actually a bit voluptuous in the bottom–but then again this is the “booty” era, and her kind of shape is now what is deemed desirable.

PORTUGAL – Patricia Da Silva.  She’s more attractive than your typical representative from this country, but at most she is performing at P.A.T.I.S. crew level.

PUERTO RICO – Gabriela Berrios.  She didn’t quite make an indelible splash the way her semifinalist predecessor, Monic Perez, but she performed at a high level that it’s conceivable she’ll be able to sustain a semifinalist finish.

RUSSIA – Yulia Alipova.  There are some angles where she looks gorgeous, and other angles where she looks a tad angular.  She wore a red satin Elie Saab 2013 haute couture gown during the Presentation Show, and she made maximum impact there.  But in swimsuit, albeit possessing a trim, slender, frame, I have a feeling the judges are in the mood for something a bit healthier and her harsh angles seemed to be emphasized in that round.  But then again, there is a possibility that she will be granted that much coveted Trump Ticket…

SERBIA – Andjelka Tomašević.  This Miss Earth 2013 Top Eight finalist still delivers the good looks that won her raves then.  But somehow her luster dimmed and she didn’t quite make a standout impression here–and her less-than-polished presence doesn’t quite help matters.  Still, it’s conceivable that she can be granted a Trump Ticket and make the cut.

SINGAPORE – Rathi Menon.  This Ines Legron protege was for me a refreshing revelation during the Presentation Show.  Sure, her flouncy red evening gown polarized some observers, but I felt she looked stunning and striking in it and presented it with aplomb.  She also proved top-notch in the swimsuit round too, so I thought she is probably the best representative from this country since 1983 semifinalist Kathie Lee Lee Beng.  Would there be room for her in the Top 15?  I’m sentimentally rooting for her…

SLOVAK REPUBLIC – Silvia Prochádzková.  It has been over 20 years since Silvia Lakatosova made the Final Six in this pageant for this country.  There is a possibility that this lady could break that drought as she has the gorgeous great looks and trim figure.  But I have serious quibbles about her catwalk, particularly during the evening gown segment of the Presentation Show–her green evening gown has the potential for awe-inspiring drama, but she marred it with her awkward catwalk.  Well, a Trump Ticket may be in order for this…

SLOVENIA – Urška Bračko.  I know people idealize long necks, but I find her neck too elongated for comfort–it’s almost akin to those Kayan/Karen tribeswomen in Myanmar.  On other fronts, I find this blonde’s facial features too plain and her stage presence too raw to make an impact.

SOUTH AFRICA – Ziphozakhe Zokufa.  If Rolene Strauss didn’t win Miss World, she would’ve seen action in this pageant and be rated as the one to beat.  But since Rolene won, this gave room for this lady to represent the Rainbow Nation in this pageant.  I think she’s great looking, well-spoken, and very polished, and she delivered the goods in the Presentation Show–I have a feeling she’s the black woman most likely to make the final cut.

COMING UP: SPAIN to VENEZUELA plus the “FEARFUL” FORECAST