CHINA – Yanliang Hu.  Albeit not as pretty as she seemed in her modeling portfolio photos, she’s undeniably a polished contender.  Will there be enough room for her to make the final cut?

COLOMBIA – Paulina Vega.  The Latin pageant press tend to attack her as being not simpatica.  But then again, that didn’t hurt another lady who shared the same surname as her over 11 years ago–in fact, she won.  At the Presentation Show, she seems to have the loudest applause, and to her credit, she earned it by performing at the top level.   Sure, one of my office colleagues watching the Presentation Show with me noted her face makeup seem too pale compared to the rest of her body–but then, I thought, well, she’s made up for the stage, not for television, that could probably account for the apparent unevenness.

COSTA RICA – Karina Ramos.  She is doesn’t cast a scintillating spell like a Fabiana Granados (2013 Top 16-shoulda-been-Top-10 semifinalist) or a Johana Solano (2011 Top 10 semifinalist), but she’s a high-level contender, and it’s still conceivable she can sustain Fabiana’s feat.

CROATIA – Ivana Mišura.  She’s attractive, but she’s rather raw, and as Tyra Banks would quibble, her neck is too short.

CURACAO – Laurien Angelista.  She’s a great looking, polished, and well-spoken contender.  But I fear there are extremely limited slots for black delegates in the Top 15–if they allow at least four, she would be one of the likeliest to go through.

CZECH REPUBLIC – Gabriela Frankova.  She is not being buzzed about by most pageant fans and pundits, but when I saw her at the Presentation Show, the first thing that came to my mind was supermodel-turned-actress Rebecca Romijn.  She has the breezy personality and the sexpot bombshell vibe of that celebrity.  Her gold long-sleeved gown may not register that well in static photographs, but she was shining, shimmering, and splendid walking across the stage in it–reminds me of my initial impression of Oxana Fedorova’s now-legendary white Gucci gown, how I was underwhelmed at first, and how it won me over in the end.  She could be a major upset possibility for the Top Five.

Rebecca Romijn (image courtesy of Sports Illustrated)

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC – Kimberly Castillo.  I wouldn’t classify her as a pretty face, but you couldn’t deny her lean-and-trim frame, her superbly polished catwalk skills, and strong intelligence and communication skills.  It is conceivable she can pull it off even with comelier contenders out there as, well, a few of such ladies tend to make the cut in this pageant–case in point, Miss Universe 2000 1st runner-up from Venezuela, Claudia Moreno.

Miss Universe 2000 1st runner-up, Claudia Moreno

ECUADOR – Alejandra Argudo.   Prior to the Presentation Show, I would tag her as a member of the P.A.T.I.S. crew.  But when I saw her web interview and watched her Presentation Show performance, I do see a spark that she is performing above P.A.T.I.S. level and is actually a possible contender.  I find her web interview a major standout–especially since she speaks impeccable English and exudes charm and intelligence as she talks.   If she exudes the same vibe in the closed-door interviews with the preliminary judges, she can make the final cut.

EGYPT – Lara Debbane.  She is stronger than your average delegate sent by this country, but still her performance only merits her a P.A.T.I.S. crew designation.

EL SALVADOR – Patricia Murillo.  Yes, she’s styled impeccably with her hair in a neat bun during the Presentation Show, but her performance is just P.A.T.I.S. crew level.

ETHIOPIA – Hiwot Mamo.  She previously garnered 1st runner-up at Miss Grand International last year.  But as she set foot in Doral, Miami to compete in this pageant, the organizers of that pageant declared they are stripping her of that post, mainly because they want to assert their status that they are also a “Grand Slam” pageant (as designated by a well-established and popular international pageant news website).  She’s more polished and exudes more passion and conviction (though still with a subdued demeanor) than her previous counterparts in most recent editions, but I doubt if she will fare as high here as she did in that pageant.  Anyway, her web interview piqued me as she noted she’s a fashion designer–I suddenly had visions of Trinidad & Tobago’s Anya Ayoung-Chee, who competed in this pageant back in 2008, and then later won Season 9 of Project Runway.  What if a few years down the line, we see this girl also on that Heidi Klum/Tim Gunn reality competition show?  And it would be fun if two other aspiring fashion designers from this pageant (more on them later) were competing with her…

Project Runway Season 9 winner Anya Ayoung-Chee when she competed at Miss Universe 2008

FINLAND – Bea Toivonen.  She likes to note the fact that her mother competed in this same pageant in around the same part of the United States 30 years ago.  But just like her mom (Marja Kristiina Kinnunen. she is unlikely to make the final cut.  She’s actually undeniably good-looking, but her catwalk skills are clearly unpolished, her figure not as toned as several of her peers, and she was saddled with an amateurish baby blue gown for the Presentation Show.

FRANCE – Camille Cerf.  This blonde is highly regarded by pageant fans and pundits, as she has one of the most gorgeous faces in this pageant.  She seemed to deliver enough to justify a Top 15 placement, but the issue is there were others who seem to have more fire and hunger in them, and they may edge her out.

GABON – Maggaly Nguema.  Her experiences competing in Miss International and Miss Supranational (where she ended up 2nd runner-up) served her well here, though based on her web interview, she shares the same traits as Miss France–she is competitive, but there are just other ladies who seem hungrier.

GEORGIA – Ana Zubashvili.  This alabaster-complexioned brunette has the good looks and slim model’s frame, though her catwalk skills need a bit of work.


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