Even with the elimination of Spain there were seven early favorites very much in the mix going into the Evening Wear round–so jockeying for the final five positions remained fiercely fought, and it emerged two lesser regarded candidates eventually garnered favor to create another set of major upsets for some of the big favorites. But there is one who I deem is unworthy of belonging in this hallowed group at Spain’s expense, and he is…
INDONESIA – Kenny Austin. Yes, he’s cute, plus has a significant fanbase, and I did predict he will make the Top 15. But to make the Top Ten at the expense of Spain? His physique just isn’t up to snuff compared to all the rest of the Top 15–in fact I would rate him last as the likes of Sweden, Mexico, and Lebanon have formidable buffness, plus China had definition, and Spain, albeit relatively imperfect, also has buffness. If the judges were in the mood for a palate-cleansing boyish cutie, Spain could easily have fit the bill–even as he has scruffy facial hair and all… Yes, the swimwear round was a beefy rich buffet, and I have a feeling in the judges’ perspective to cut through the richness they let this guy through as a palate-cleanser. But this is as far as he would go as he didn’t really make an impact in evening wear unlike the rest–though one of the early favorites then fell by the wayside…
AUSTRALIA – Chris Nayna. Going into the evening wear round, he was on-track to clinching one of the Top Five slots. Sure, it was turning out to be a nine-way race but he looked like he had a great chance–until he had a lapse of judgment in the choice of suit for the evening wear round. I think it was strategic to choose a light-colored suit to buck the rest of the competition, which tended to play safe with dark-colored choices. Unfortunately, his choice of suit turned out to be bulky, ill-fitting, and too stiff to walk in–it was a few sizes away from looking like ex-Talking Heads frontman David Byrne’s now-iconic oversized suit that he wore more than 30 years ago (as immortalized in Jonathan Demme’s concert film Stop Making Sense).
Chris himself admitted that the bulky suit, along with dehydration, caused the incident onstage when he collapsed while the hosts ran down their lengthy litany of sponsors / persons to thank. You would assume he also had a lapse in judgment here as he could’ve had the foresight to bring in a few bottles of water to keep himself hydrated from final rehearsal to showtime. There is a convenience store about a few hundred metres away from the venue, after all. But then again, a gripe momentarily posted (since taken down) by singer Ima Castro (she was a guest performer for the evening, singing two songs prior to the announcement of the winners) indicated that not only were the candidates deprived of water but performers like herself, as well, and she mentioned that water is important for singers like her and when she asked the organizers to supply her with water, they brought her a plastic cup filled with lukewarm tap water. So perhaps it’s not a lapse on Chris’s part in this case, but the organizers–I would think that knowing the sweltering humid conditions backstage, the organizers could’ve had the foresight to take care of everyone involved and supply them with something as basic as potable water. [Technically, our tap water is supposed to be potable, but no one quite trust the quality of our tap water anymore that is why there is a market for distilled, mineral, and other forms of drinking water.]
PHILIPPINES – Reniel Villareal. He did everything right, but I did fear that with such a high caliber of competition, he may be one who might miss the cut. It’s a nice strategy to wear a dark undershirt for the evening wear round, but it’s just too cutthroat a competition and there are people who had to be sacrificed. It’s unfortunate he was one who missed out of the Final Five, but at the very least he was a deserving winner of the Best National Costume award, with his Ibong Adarna costume.
VENEZUELA – Rafael Angelucci. I had quibbles about his physique during the press preview, but he was able to showcase flattering angles when it counted so he deserve to advance further. I found his presentation during the evening wear round to be impeccable, and I thought he would advance to the Top Five solely on the basis of evening wear. But I speculate they actually factor in swimwear scores, and despite his impeccable evening wear performance, he was dragged down by swimwear (Top Ten-worthy, but not Top Five) and hence did not make the Final Five.
PUERTO RICO – Fernando Alvarez. This is another big upset, probably even more major than Spain failing to make the Top Ten. In my opinion he had the most perfect physique so he should have topped the swimwear competition by miles. He was also near-impeccable in evening wear, so I thought even if he fell a tad short in Top Five in evening wear, he would be shored up by swimwear, right? Unfortunately, i have a feeling the judges didn’t have the same opinion and didn’t really score him as high as many perceived he deserved. With that the Puerto RIcan male pageant winning streak was nipped here. He was undoubtedly a focused, ferocious competitor with expectations weighing heavily on him that it was expected he was extremely disappointed at the result (with Venezuela joining in the disappointment). Though I don’t condone the reported huffy attitude post-pageant, I understand the sentiment, and I sense he and Rafael didn’t hold it against the winner and respected the ultimate choice (but perhaps their ire was targeted at one member of the Top Five–more on him later).
There were two surprises in the Top Five–one a sleeper hit who probably was deemed a “refreshing” choice over the perceived powerhouses, and one who in a way, clawed his way through each round to earn his place–even if many pageant fans and pundits object to his inclusion.
4TH RUNNER-UP: CZECH REPUBLIC – Jakub Kraus. He has a radiant stage presence that combined with his enviably buffed physique and dashing evening wear performance (with signature cufflink pose) he was expected to make the Final Five. For the Q&A, he was asked by Mister International 2013 Jose Anmer Paredes how he would best possible way to promote a healthy lifestyle. I thought he’ll nail this answer, since he is a personal trainer back home. He actually did answer right, talking about setting a good example, and about knowing food, motivation, and mind. The only problem was he took a little while to get to the point that he was not able to organize what he needed to say in that 30-second time limit.
3RD RUNNER-UP: PANAMA – Julian Torres. He was well regarded by many with his boyish Latino handsomeness that he was generating rising buzz going into the finals. I suppose the judges found him extremely refreshing that they took a liking to him over the highly favored likes of Venezuela and Puerto Rico, hence he edged those two ferocious competitors out of a Top Five slot. He was asked by TV/movie personality Vice Ganda his opinion on same-sex marriage. Because of the absence of a translator, the one doing the translating was fellow judge Mister International 2013 Jose Anmer Paredes. From my limited understanding of Spanish, he seemed to have a well-organized answer saying that many people have opinions about it, positive or negative, but for him, he would respect how other people chose to live their lives. Some might feel Jose Anmer Paredes botched the translation with his messy English–he relayed all the ideas correctly, albeit in a jumbled fashion. It could be debated he deserve to rank higher, like, say, 2nd runner-up? For me that would be a debate that would rage for ages.
2ND RUNNER-UP: KOREA – Sang Jin Lee. This guy’s placement polarized several pageant fans and pundits. Many wouldn’t want him to place, as perhaps in their view he answers the unnecessary question “what if Psy’s head is plopped on top of the body of a fitness model?” [this is for those who tend to think people of a certain race look alike–it does happen, like I recall my high school classmate when he met three of my female Chinese college classmates he told me they all look like clones, but for me they were as different as night and day]. I personally don’t think his face looks like Psy–it might be plain for some tastes but I actually find it manly and attractive enough. I find his Top 15 placement acceptable, and even advancing further to the Top 10 is justifiable because he has a great physique. Now, for the evening wear round, he decided to differ from the rest by wearing an all white tuxedo with sequined lapels. His suit polarized observers–on the pro side, it was properly fitted, and the glittery lapels do dazzle in the right way. But others would argue it’s too gimmicky and it reminds them of a carnival barker. It seems, though, that the judges liked it enough to allow him to make the final Five–though I maintain that Rein is the best Asian in this year’s batch, this guy’s strategy paid off and pipped Rein (or Rafael or Fernando) out of his rightful place.
For the final Q&A, he was asked by Miss Southeast Asia 2014 Thu Vu, “What is the essence of winning [Mister Intenrational]?” Because of Thu Vu’s very thick accent she came off as incomprehensible that they had to make Vice Ganda re-read her question. Anyway, he gave the “correct” answer: “The essence of winning this pageant, we have to be good example to the people. To be an inspiration for them, to guide them, to be role models for the world.” Of course some conspiracy theorists may think that the Korean national director, who served as translator, enhanced his answer to be better than what he actually said, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and accept that was what he actually said. During the break, some members in the audience speculate the scenario of what if he was declared the winner… usually in the tone of “worst-case scenario” or dread. So to many people’s relief this was as far as he had gone. Still, conspiracy theorists wonder–did the national director exercise undue influence in the decision? We don’t really have incontrovertible proof, so I will give this guy the benefit of the doubt and think that the judges liked him enough to make it this far.
1ST RUNNER-UP: BRAZIL – Anderson Tomazini. He was firing on all cylinders all throughout from the press preview, through the various pageant activities, all the way to the finals. I have to note that my choice for Top Three costumes would’ve included him instead of Venezuela, but they gave him short shrift there. There is nothing to fault about his performance at all during the finals as he consistently ticks all the boxes. For the final Q&A he was asked by Anna Chua, director for sponsorships in Resorts World Manila, regarding what was one thing he would change if he could turn back time. He gave a sincere answer about spending more time with his family. In my reckoning, since he gave the best answer and was top-notch in other rounds, he should’ve been the winner. But I have to admit that he had one crucial element missing that the eventual winner had in spades, though we have to celebrate that this guy is fantastic.
MISTER INTERNATIONAL 2015: SWITZERLAND – Pedro Mendes. I now totally get why he cast a spell with so many people who look at him–he seems to project this serene and placid demeanor that when you gaze at him you get transported to either a lush oasis or (as fitting with his country) a posh ski resort, and your troubles momentarily go away. Despite his Portuguese heritage, that peaceful demeanor is so undeniably Swiss (remember how this country had remained neutral all throughout major World Wars). It also dawned on me that he resembles a movie star–imagine Luke Wilson (Legally Blonde) if his more angular features like nose and jawline were smoothed out, and you get this wondrous specimen. He was asked by judge Francis Libiran if he were a world leader what would he do to make a difference. To be blunt, he did an Antonin Baranek and choked–he seemed to be in a quandary if he would answer the question in English or French, though the audience encouraged him to stick to his native tongue, and with less than 10 seconds left he answered you may not be the best but you can try to be the best. It’s the weakest answer of the Top Five, but unlike that major Czech front-runner two years ago, he got away with it and still manage to win it all. Being the strict stickler as I am I would’ve penalized him and not make him win, but the judges were in a more forgiving mood. Why? Just read the first sentence of this paragraph earlier.
So did PEPPS deliver a pageant worthy of this auspicious milestone and the magnificent candidates? I’ll give it a conditional “Yes”–there were clear rough patches that they obviously would need to iron out, and it is up to them if they are willing to learn the lessons from this and do better (with perhaps the possible eventuality of hosting Manhunt International down the line), but there were good things in the final, too, and I do credit them for at least fostering the atmosphere of brotherhood among the candidates in this pageant.
The announcement of Switzerland’s win was almost universally welcomed by everyone. This can be evidenced by the enthusiastic response of his fellow candidates, who rushed towards him immediately after the announcement to hug and congratulate him. Heck, even Chris Nayna, who was whisked backstage due to his fainting spell, emerged from the wings to join in the jubilant celebration. I can forgive Pedro’s weak response as he has so many superb qualities worthy of winning this title anyway. More power to him, and may this title open up modeling opportunities not only in Europe, but in Asia and beyond. Congratulations again to the new Mister International!