I’m so relieved my worst fears did not materialize and instead the opposite occured: The Philippines (Neil Perez) won the 9th Mister International title. I join with the rest of my countrymen and his fellow contestants in celebrating this victory. More on that later…
I’m pretty pleased that I got 12 of the Top 15 right–though it is with a couple of sad notes. There are two contenders for the Lucas Malvacini award–one my personal choice and the other based on the buzz I heard from the preliminaries. First, the one who insiders bet could go far judging from reports of high marks received from his interview, Bahamas (Kenneth Kerr). Again, it seems pageants are not into black complexions or African heritage just like what we have observed in Miss Earth and Miss Universe as they are shut out of the finals. I hope this trend would be reversed in the next edition.
My own personal choice for the Lucas Malvacini award is one from a country who fielded two consecutive duds previously and I had high hopes for this looker. I think he just didn’t quite projected as well as he potentially could have and failed to make the right impression–he didn’t also shine in the interviews, I heard. Well, I still regard India (Parmeet Wahi) as the closest thing to the Beefcake Behemoth in this pageant and hope that he would be the start of this country reviving its fortunes in this pageant.
I’m also very pleased that I got four of the Top Five right–the one I didn’t get is one that I’m glad I was wrong about, that he exceeded all my expectations and I’m glad his brand of native/exotic features won over the judges (two thirds of which, if I’m not mistaken, are Korean) and completely won them over. It seems he’s the one with the darkest complexion that made the final cut. It is also interesting to note that in the final Q&A, he actually answered in Filipino instead of English and of course used a translator–this is the first time that we see Filipino being spoken in an international pageant–most of the time, pageant organizers would assume that Filipino contestants would automatically understand and speak English, just like they would lately expect the same thing with Dutch and Nordic contestants. It’s actually refreshing that this is done–it actually lets his sincerity shine through better, as one could see in the final Q&A clip below:
My favorite to win it all, Poland (Rafał Maślak), a.k.a., “Fireman McDreamy”, fared well enough to place in the Top Five. I’m slightly disappointed that he didn’t win, but it can open doors–perhaps another opportunity in another pageant (arguably bigger and better than this one)–as I mentioned, he’s displayed the qualities that are of a better fit for Mister World, such as his knack for his “sharing” type of videos on his own Facebook page and the gracious, outgoing personality he displayed all throughout. If he’s willing to undergo grueling training for the athletic challenges that is the hallmark of Mister World, can anybody join me in a campaign to the Polish Mister World franchise holder to make him their representative in the next Mister World contest…
I’m glad despite all the chaos leading into the pageant finals, the final results are something that seems to be warmly welcomed by the contestants themselves. I hope after all this, there would be healing and restoration of frayed ties. I hope Julio Rodriguez could still keep the Venezuelan franchise of this pageant and if rumors are true, hope to see him in the Philippines later this year for the real 2015 edition of this pageant. Anyway, for now, congratulations to our own Mamang Pulis for his victory!
KOREA – Park Young-Ho. His face is one of the cutest in this year’s group, juxtaposed on a bodybuilder’s frame–a bodybuilder in the “bulking up” phase in his training, not the “shredding” stage that is why his physique is not as rippled as the other contenders out there. In my opinion, he’s arguably the best looking contestant fielded by this country ever in this pageant–and yes, I’m even counting the time it garnered a 2nd runner-up finish back in 2007. Though I feel his physique, albeit enviable, is not up to “modeling” standards, his placement in the finals seem to be assured.
LEBANON – Rabih El-Zein. He has a complete package of good charismatic looks, buffed frame, and outgoing personality that he can possibly bring forth the third victory for his country in this pageant.
MALAYSIA – CJ (Chen Jer) Lee. He’s attractive and buffed enough, but he doesn’t quite have the appeal or charisma as his other Asian counterparts, so I don’t really foresee him as one of the likeliest to make the final cut.
MEXICO – Jonathan Villanueva. This guy has the good looks to have an inside track into the semifInals. He may not equal the 2nd runner-up finish of his predecessor, Hans Briseño, but he’ll sustain his country’s semifinalist streak. Note: he constantly slicks back his hair, but his hair is actually a tad long-ish, as evidenced in the abs selfie photo below.
MYANMAR – Aung Chan Mya. He does have attractive Asian features going for him that may be catnip for this market, but otherwise he tends to blend in the background instead of making a splash.
PHILIPPINES – Neil Perez. He won his national finals thanks to a human interest story over the fact that he’s an actual policeman. He also does have sex appeal that I respond well to, but I am concerned that his type of native/exotic features may not work well in Korea. I’m still hopeful he’ll make the final cut, but just in case he doesn’t, Filipino netizens shouldn’t lay blame on the “popular-but-controversial” pageant website this time, unlike in the cases of a couple of (female) pageants as from my knowledge his sort of features normally do not translate well in the Korean market. It is very noble of him to dedicate his participation to the “Fallen 44” Special Action Force (SAF) colleagues who were massacred in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, but I don’t know if this news garnered international traction or awareness to even garner the “sympathy” card unlike the Typhoon Haiyan tragedy last year.
It dawned on me as I reflected on the non-placement of our own supermodel John Spainhour at last year’s Mister World, and the prospects of the other gorgeous supermodel Sam Ajdani in the updcoming pageant (if it will take place this year), that Neil might actually be a better fit to compete at Mister World than those two highlly regarded hunks–though he is a tad shy and reticent, he does loosen up easily enough and seems more sociable, plus his “human interest” angle works better in the milieu of Mister World than in this pageant. All he would need to do is to train harder for the expectedly grueling sports and extreme sports challenges. Speaking of excellent fit for Mister World…
POLAND – Rafał Maślak. In case this firefighter doesn’t win in this pageant–because with his complete package of looks (he resembles Grey’s Anatomy‘s Patrick Dempsey, a.k.a. “McDreamy”), charisma, physique, and personality he’s seems poised to be the favorite to win it all–whoever is the franchise holder for his country in Mister World should seriously consider fielding him in that pageant, because his combo of looks and personality are the sort that shines brightest in that pageant. He already has a headstart in the Multimedia challenge judging from the photos and videos he has been sharing on his Facebook account. All he would need to work on is to prepare for those grueling athletic challenges ahead (which I know would be tough even for a policeman, soldier, or firefighter). One fun fact about this fellow is if you see many of the photos in this homestretch review, this guy is the main instigator of the “Abs selfie” (taking shirtless photos with faces looking down the camera to better focus on the defined abdominals). Is this going to be a trend?
PUERTO RICO – Christian Ortiz. This dude with the wavy long tresses is one of the two late-comers to the competition. He has a swarthy appeal that can work in this pageant and can appeal to Koreans. He can be indeed a semifinals possibility.
RUSSIA – Arseniy Potorchin. He’s cute (but not really that handsome) and his blonde locks might be the standout factor that could allow him to make inroads into the semifinals.
SINGAPORE – Andy Wong. He may have a beefily buffed body underneath, but would that be enough to overcome resistance towards his plain looks and short stature? With the exception of a no-show in 2011 and a non-placement in 2010, this country has always made the final cut. If justice is to prevail, this should be one of those rare years that this country should not make it–if he did, it will be a great injustice over worthier counterparts..
SLOVENIA – Mitla Nadizar. This guy is the last to arrive in Korea. Prior to his arrival he was considered one of the big favorites, but then I saw his first set of photos in Korea, and I was underwhelmed–he didn’t look as charismatic as his modeling photos suggest. But then, as subsequent photos came in, he is starting to exude more charisma and appeal, and his status as one of the favorites is assured.
SRI LANKA – Tharshan Thiyagarajah. His hairstyle combined with his facial features initially made me question his masculinity as I thought he looked androgynous, but as his gym photos indicate there is a beefy he-man underneath that metrosexual facade. He looks like one of the likeliest to make the final cut.
THAILAND – Vittawat Srikes. Only Indonesia and Korea edges this guy out in terms of cutie appeal. He seems poised to make the final cut.
TURKEY – Eray Aydos. He may not be as outgoing and charismatic as say, Poland, but his stature and handsome features could not be denied. He is one of hose with an inside track for the finals. I just have to say something about his “national costume”–gold brocade on a red velvet jacket does not look authentically Turkish; it looks like a hotel bellhop’s uniform otherwise.
UKRAINE – Bohdan Yusypchuk. He has a track record as he made the Top Ten in last year’s Mister World. Could he duplicate that feat in this pageant? Well, key factors to his Top Ten placement were his performance in athletic challenges and his talent performing a Charlie Chaplin routine, none of which are at play in this contest. He still looks poised to make the final cut, but it is also possible that he’ll endure the fate of Belgium’s Gianni Sennesael and Peru’s Rodrigo Fernandini in the previous edition, both Mister World 2012/2013 Top Ten finalists who failed tomake the cut in this pageant.
Now that they are all accounted for, let me trot out my personal leaderboard:
TOP CONTENDERS: INDIA, LEBANON, POLAND
SHOO-INS: CZECH REPUBLIC, INDONESIA, JAPAN, KOREA, SLOVENIA
LIKELIEST: BAHAMAS, BRAZIL, MEXICO, PHILIPPINES, PUERTO RICO, RUSSIA, SRI LANKA, THAILAND, TURKEY, UKRAINE
PERSONALITY FACTOR: COLOMBIA
EXCELLENT: AUSTRALIA, GREECE, GUAM, MYANMAR
VERY STRONG: CANADA, ECUADOR
STRONG: AZERBAIJAN, CHINA, MALAYSIA
VERY GOOD: SINGAPORE
Assuming they will use the same format as last edition, here is my “Fearful” Forecast:
TOP SIX: CZECH REPUBLIC, INDIA, KOREA, LEBANON, POLAND, SLOVENIA
TOP TEN: BAHAMAS, INDONESIA, JAPAN, TURKEY
TOP 16: BRAZIL, COLOMBIA, MEXICO, PHILIPPINES, SRI LANKA, THAILAND
BUBBLING UNDER: AUSTRALIA, GREECE, GUAM, MYANMAR, PUERTO RICO, RUSSIA, UKRAINE
It is such a shame the Korean organizing committee squandered the opportunity to make this edition of Mister International to be its grandest and greatest ever. They generated such ill will with several national directors with allegations of favoritism in paying for airfare for selected contestants that it could affect the prestige of future editions of this pageant. Despite all the drama, I want to focus on the positive and hope the camaraderie that developed amongst the contestants would be something that would remain with each and every one of them for a lifetime. Best of luck to all of the contestants, and hope for healing of frayed relationships due to the debacle.
All images courtesy of Missosology and the contestants unless otherwise indicated.
Originally, the Mister International pageant was scheduled to be held in October 2014, but a traffic accident involving four members of the five-member hosting committee in South Korea forced a postponement–first it was rescheduled to the end of November, but a Korean government directive precluding the holding of any international event after a concert accident that led to the death of 16 people forced them to move the event further to February 2015. It was initially scheduled for Valentine’s Day (14 February) but in January they firmed up the finals date to two days earlier on 12 February, but then as the events were underway, it moved back to 14 February and the Wapop Hall is no longer the final venue. Compounding matters was that there was a major attrition in the number of contestants, partly because of the rescheduling, and chaos with coordinating with the organizers in terms of flight arrangements, which caused the absence of the likes of Bolivia, Chile, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, France, Haiti, Honduras, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Panama, Spain, United States, and Venezuela (which happens to be the country of the reigning Mister International). The expected 40-something contestants dwindled to 29 instead, with Puerto Rico and Slovenia becoming last-minute participants. There was also allegations of favoritism and broken promises by the organizers in terms of accommodating plane tickets because of the chaotic rescheduling that caused ill will between several national directors (including the webmaster who used to provide most of the coverage on this contest, Julio Rodriguez of Belleza Venezolana) on one side and the organizers and the head of the Mister International Organization, Alan Sim, on the other.
On a rare positive note, despite the mishaps, the contestants who actually made it seemed to be having a great time taking in the sights and soaking in the culture of chilly, wintry Seoul, and just like we witness in recent editions of Mister World, the brotherly camaraderie is a delight to behold. Despite the chilly weather forcing the contestants to generally wrap themselves up in layers of clothing, we still get treated to a whole bunch of shirtless pics, as the hotel seems well heated for the guys to do their workouts, and we get treated to a new trend, ab selfies, mostly instigated by a couple of the contestants. Because of above debacle, the usual guy providing the big coverage, Julio Rodriguez of Belleza Venezuela, is absent and in his place, we have the coverage from the popular (albeit occasionally controversial) pageant website Missosology. Anyway, we should be grateful for their coverage (and the individual postings of the contestants themselves) as otherwise we would be in the dark regarding this pageant.
There were supposed to be 30 contestants in this year’s pageant, but part of the fallout of the acrimony between the organizers and national directors is that one contestant elected to drop out of the pageant just less than five days before the pageant final. It was sad that he chose to withdraw as he was regarded as one of the big favorites to win. The concerned contestant is…
ARGENTINA – Daniel Dario Cajiao. He has a track record with a 2nd runner-up finish at Mr. Universe Model (now known as Men Universe Model) back in 2012. He may not be classified as conventionally handsome, but his superbly buffed physique and smoldering sex appeal are just too undeniable to resist. He was one of the front runners in this contest, and had the potential to continue a string of successes this country is having in the pageant realm. His presence is greatly missed.
Just like Miss Universe, I have to call this by the edition instead of the year as it’s expected that there will be a 2015 contest later this year. Now, let’s take a look at the 29 remaining contestants, and let’s see how they stack up:
AUSTRALIA – Marco Antonio Gallego Sepulveda. Apparently it took a guy with a Latin sounding name to bring this country back from the doldrums in this pageant. He’s clearly a major upgrade after it fielded an overaged-looking “daddy” and an untoned twink in two previous editions. However, he’s not really a front-runner, but it’s still conceivable that he can make the final cut.
AZERBAIJAN – Ali Zahirli. For those who like less-than-polished boyish types, this is your guy. He’s actually not bad looking, but I don’t foresee him making the final cut.
BAHAMAS – Kenneth Kerr. He stands out as the only black guy in this group, He has a buffed physique, and those clamoring for diversity will most likely grant him a slot. News that he also aced the judges’ interview seemed to also brighten up his semifinalist prospects.
BRAZIL – Matheus Martins. There are people who may regard this scruffy fellow as highly appealing but to my eyes, he’s weaker than last edition’s 2nd runner-up Jhonatan Marko. Still, he does have an inside track of making the semifinals.
CANADA – Dan Marana. I want to root for him because he’s Filipino and he has a scruffy-cute appeal. But he exudes a raw vibe and his physique is not as toned so it will be an uphill battle for him to make the final cut.
CHINA – Shi Yu Quan. There might be fans of his boyish, twinkish features. I don’t know how Koreans respond to his sort of looks, but his less-than-toned frame seems to be a big disadvantage for him.
COLOMBIA – David Angel. The jeans photos didn’t seem to reveal that he can have a rippled physique. But other photos reveal that he does have toned definition. But his ace in the hole is his outgoing personality–he made the effort to reach out to his fellow contestants and do video interviews. Sure, his questions are occasionally silly, but he does bring an insider’s view of how things are going, and we should be grateful to him for letting us glimpse into their personalities–and all seem to be likeable chaps.
CZECH REPUBLIC – Tomáš Dumbrovský. He’s not as jaw-droppingly hunky as 5th runner-up Antonin Beranek last year, but it is still conceivable he can pull an upset and vindicate Antonin’s weak finish (remember, that front-runner was hurt by a weak Q&A).
ECUADOR – Nicolas Lopez Zamora. You would wonder why he sported a ski cap for his jeans photoshoot and hats in other appearances? Well, turns out he sports a haircut that is very dated–sure there could be flattering angles where he evoke Brendan Fraser in the 1999 film The Mummy (and sequels) but that haircut is so much of a certain decade that it dates him and most of the time his features seem to look too plain. Another thing that might also work against him–his national director posted on his Facebook account denouncing the Korean organizers and the head of the Mister International Organization. It’s interesting why he didn’t withdraw like Argentina did after such a fracas…
GREECE – Konstantinos Giagmouris. He is actually good looking and buffed. But my issue is he just doesn’t seem to project much charisma and tends to simply blend in instead of stand out.
GUAM – Richard Johnson. He may have a very American name, but I have a feeling just like many Guamanians he also has Filipino blood running through his veins. In fact, his sort of looks are actually going to make girls rather ga-ga here in this country–it’s a mestizo look prized by many people in my country.
INDIA – Parmeet Wahi. Just like Australia, this guy is a quantum leap from the utterly bottom-feeding contestants fielded by this usual pageant powerhouse in the past two editions–in this case, a fey dwarf and an underworld thug. This guy is the tallest of this year’s contestants at 1.91 m (6’3″). He’s a model and aspiring Bollywood actor, and his Bollywood potential charisma shows. There may be some unflattering angles, but his swarthy, beefy masculinity grows on me that I feel he can make major waves in the finals–he’s the closest thing to my favorite male pageant archetype, the Beefcake Behemoth (as embodied by Mister World 2003 2nd runner-up Fabien Hauquier of Belgium and MIster World 2007 finalist Patricio Laguna of Chile).
INDONESIA – Kevin Hendrawan. With the exception of not participating at all in 2007, this country always makes the final cut. This guy is likely to be no exception as his main ace up his sleeve is his cutie-boy appeal–and there always is room for a cutie boy (or two, or three) in this pageant. He also reportedly has strong communication skills that if he makes all the way to the Top FIve or Top Six, he can edge out the front-runners.
JAPAN – Masakazu Hashimoto. It’s hard to believe this is the very first time this country competed in this pageant. But this country is debuting with a major splash–this buffed fellow possesses a J-Dorama / K-Drama appeal that can be catnip for the judges. I see him as a shoo-in.
All images courtesy of Missosology unless otherwise indicated.
COMING UP: KOREA to UKRAINE plus the “FEARFUL” FORECAST