63RD MISS UNIVERSE: AT THE HOMESTRETCH (PART 1)

It’s quite sad and strange that the year 2014 had passed and there wasn’t a Miss Universe pageant being held.  Officially Trump & Co. would claim there were “several cities” bidding for the rights to host, but somehow they can only secure one that Trump has business interests in, and schedule the pageant in early 2015.  Though most people (and, yes, the Miss Universe Organization) would allow us to call this edition “Miss Universe 2014”, everyone knows that’s kind of awkward and so it is indeed proper to just name the edition of this pageant, the 63rd Miss Universe Pageant.

Anyway, even if it’s wintry in most of the Northern Hemisphere, the weather in Doral, Miami is balmy enough to allow various worthwhile outdoor activities, like parades and the like.  I also find it refreshing that instead of structured questions or activities for the video interviews, it is now more of a contestant profile where the contestant gives us a better picture of who they are (with home videos and photos edited in as necessary).

This year’s turnout of 88 delegates is not a record (that was held jointly by the 2011 and 2012 editions), but it’s still a commendably high turnout.  What about the quality?  I know there are a few pageant fans and pundits slightly grumbling but actually, I realize there are no obvious duds in this group (yes, there are weak links, but no out-and-out duds), and there are highly competitive and polished contenders from countries where you least expect.  Let’s pay tribute to these delegates, starting with…

ALBANIA – Xhaneta Byberi.  She’s good looking, can carry her fuchsia gown pretty well, and is a good speaker.  My only quibble is she is not as well-toned as her peers.

ANGOLA – Zuleica Wilson.  She made the strongest impression with her white evening gown during the Presentation Show, and although she is overshadowed by other standouts, she’s no slouch in all other aspects.

ARGENTINA – Valentina Ferrer.  This country last made the final cut nine years ago.  Sure, that’s not really a long time, but one needs to note that one then needs to go back to 1979 to find their next previous semifinalist.  Most of the time this country fielded mediocre to middling contenders.  This time is one of those rare exceptions.  This lady generated rising buzz as several photos were circulating of her in various activities.  Arguably, I can say she’s probably the best looking representative ever fielded by this country–yes, more gorgeous than 1962 winner Norma Nolan, and only arguably a rival to highly regarded 1970 4th runner-up Beatriz Marta Gros.  She also deliver the goods onstage, working a risky fuchsia long-sleeved velvet gown with aplomb and possessing a buffed figure.  I have a feeling she can go all the way to the Top Five, and possibly even win it all.

Miss Universe 1962 Norma Nolan
Miss Universe 1970 4th runner-up Beatriz Marta Gros

ARUBA – Digene Zimmerman.  It’s quite interesting that her costume photo shows her in a very static pose as during the Presentation Show, she was far from such.  Her catwalk was so overdone she made me guffaw–makes me wonder if she was trained by a drag queen, or was with drag queens (or maybe both…).  Her stage moves work better for RuPaul’s Drag Race instead of this pageant.

AUSTRALIA – Tegan Martin.  She has that refreshing gorgeousness that we tend to expect from representatives of this country.  As such, she is considered one of the favorites of this competition.  Now, people are polarized over the catwalk she had during the Presentation Show–some felt she moved as if she’s a bimbo, while others thought that she’s just being her “refreshing” self.  I’m giving her the benefit of the doubt and I think she’ll make the final cut.

AUSTRIA – Julia Furdea.  Lookswise, she’s one of the better looking delegates fielded by this country to this pageant (even though of course 1977 1st runner-up Eva-Maria Duringer–later wife to fashion designer Roberto Cavalli–remains the gold standard).  She looks like a refreshing ingenue, and is such onstage, as her lack of catwalk polish is obviously apparent.  You may not expect her to make serious inroads into the finals, but she’s worth your while.

BAHAMAS – Tomii Culmer.  Here is the first member of the P.A.T.I.S. crew.

BELGIUM – Anissa Blondin.  One thing for sure–she’s in trimmer shape than her predecessor.  In general she makes a great account for herself, though not enough to make serious impact.  A second member of the P.A.T.I.S. crew.

BOLIVIA – Claudia Tavel.  This lady is the third member of the P.A.T.I.S. crew.  It’s so eerie that it’s like three ladies consecutively alphabetically belong to this crew.

BRAZIL – Melissa Gurgel.  Bless her little (pun slightly partly meant considering her relatively petite 5’5″ height) heart that she is exerting the best effort she could to sustain the three-years-and-counting Top Five streak.  She does have strong stage chops that she showcased during the Presentation Show, but would that be enough to allow her to make deliver and sustain the streak?  I have a gnawing feeling the streak will be broken…

BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS – Jaynene Jno Lewis.  She’s actually attractive, but she has two very obvious disadvantages–her figure is the least toned and buffed of the 88 delegates, and her yellow satin evening gown is obviously off-the-rack.

BULGARIA – Kristina Georgieva.  She’s attractive, but her catwalk is not so polished and her figure is not as competitive as the other delegates out there.

CANADA – Chanel Beckenlehner.  She garnered polarizing reactions regarding her hockey-themed national costume, generating press along the interwebs.  She has previous experience competing in Miss International, where she made the Top 15.  Here, it’s far from assured that she’ll make the cut, but being nominated among the five national costume finalists (now to be subjected to popular vote) is something to crow about.  She’s a worthwhile contender in my book.

CHILE – Hellen Marlene Toncio.  I could put her as a member of the P.A.T.I.S. crew, but I have quibbles about her facial features for her to qualify.

COMING UP:  CHINA to GEORGIA

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