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.

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