MISS UNIVERSE 2015: NON-FINALISTS REVIEW (PART 1)

Due to an illness I was unable to complete my Homestretch review for the Miss Universe pageant.  But there was so much to talk about the contestants in this year’s pageant, as in so many ways this was such an extremely competitive group (in all senses of the word, in terms of quality and as it turns out, in their outlook and attitude) that I had to pay tribute to each and every one of them, hence before I proceed to review the finals night proper (and the entire journey the Miss Universe pageant as a whole went through), I will do a review of the non-finalists.

I’ll first start with one contestant who arrived in Vegas, suffered an accident and had to withdraw (but not necessarily leave the city):

SLOVENIA – Ana Haložan.  As she arrived in Las Vegas and checked into her hotel room, she fell unconscious in the bathroom and injured her face.  It was first assumed she was dehydrated or exhausted or jet-lagged, but it turned out it was a little more serious than that.  It’s a good thing the Miss Universe Organization shouldered her medical expenses and paid special tribute to her during the final telecast (more on that in my telecast review).

Now, let us proceed with the review of the 65 non-finalists, starting with…

ALBANIA – Megi Luka.  She has a very pretty face and a bit of the “Lolita” vibe.  A worthwhile contender.

ALB

ALB U

Megi Luka, Miss Albania 2015 debuts her National Costume on stage at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino Wednesday, December 16, 2015. The 2015 Miss Universe contestants are touring, filming, rehearsing and preparing to compete for the DIC Crown in Las Vegas. Tune in to the FOX telecast at 7:00 PM ET live/PT tape-delayed on Sunday, Dec. 20, from Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas to see who will become Miss Universe 2015. HO/The Miss Universe Organization

ANGOLA – Whitney Houston Shikongo.  It’s interesting to know of a contestant whose name fullly references an actual celebrity, like this lady.  She’s generally polished, but well, this group was particularly strong that was why she couldn’t get an edge in.  Though it wasn’t awarded during the broadcast, it turns out that she also won the Miss Congeniality award.  For Filipino fans, this seems ironic as in some video footage it seems that she was telling the real Miss Universe while she was attempting to reach out to the distraught “wrong” Miss Universe not to come near her, but from some accounts she was actually very kind and polite about this as she can read it is not the right time for such an emotionally charged situation.

ANG

ANG U

Whitney Houston A. Shikongo, Miss Angola 2015 debuts her National Costume on stage at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino Wednesday, December 16, 2015. The 2015 Miss Universe contestants are touring, filming, rehearsing and preparing to compete for the DIC Crown in Las Vegas. Tune in to the FOX telecast at 7:00 PM ET live/PT tape-delayed on Sunday, Dec. 20, from Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas to see who will become Miss Universe 2015. HO/The Miss Universe Organization

Leaving Las Vegas with her Congeniality prize.

ARGENTINA – Claudia Alexis Barrionuevo.  There were pageant fans and pundits during the early proceedings who felt she can repeat the semifinal finish of her predecessor last January.  But her Presentation Show performance, albeit solid, was not as indelible as these fans believed she could deliver.

ARG

ARG U

Claudia Barrionuevo, Miss Argentina 2015 debuts her National Costume on stage at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino Wednesday, December 16, 2015. The 2015 Miss Universe contestants are touring, filming, rehearsing and preparing to compete for the DIC Crown in Las Vegas. Tune in to the FOX telecast at 7:00 PM ET live/PT tape-delayed on Sunday, Dec. 20, from Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas to see who will become Miss Universe 2015. HO/The Miss Universe Organization

ARUBA – Alysha Boekhoudt.  She’s good-looking, but her figure clearly was not up to par with the more extremely competitive colleagues out there.

ARU

ARU U

Alysha Boekhoudt, Miss Aruba 2015 debuts her National Costume on stage at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino Wednesday, December 16, 2015. The 2015 Miss Universe contestants are touring, filming, rehearsing and preparing to compete for the DIC Crown in Las Vegas. Tune in to the FOX telecast at 7:00 PM ET live/PT tape-delayed on Sunday, Dec. 20, from Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas to see who will become Miss Universe 2015. HO/The Miss Universe Organization

AUSTRIA – Amina Dagi.  She has experience competing in Miss World 2012.  She’s a worthwhile contender who may not made as big a splash in the Presentation Show, but generated buzz for other things.  First, there is a lips-to-lips kiss she made with Miss Russia.  One might wonder if she is trying to say something about her sexuality in that notorious photo, that perhaps like Miss Universe 2013 1st runner-up Patricia Yurena Rodriguez of Spain she’s coming out as lesbian or at least be “sexually fluid”.  Compounding the speculation was her choice of national costume–she impersonated Eurovision 2014 champion Conchita Wurst.  Anyway, a note about the kissing photo–one must also consider that Amina is actually Russian by birth who emigrated to Austria (born Amina Mirzakhanova), so perhaps the kiss was simply acknowledgment of her roots with the mother country.

AUT

AUT U

Amina Dagi, Miss Austria 2015 debuts her National Costume on stage at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino Wednesday, December 16, 2015. The 2015 Miss Universe contestants are touring, filming, rehearsing and preparing to compete for the DIC Crown in Las Vegas. Tune in to the FOX telecast at 7:00 PM ET live/PT tape-delayed on Sunday, Dec. 20, from Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas to see who will become Miss Universe 2015. HO/The Miss Universe Organization

Kissing Miss Russia (R)

BAHAMAS – Toria Nichole Penn.  She’s one of the tallest delegates in this year’s pageant at 6’1″, and she makes her presence felt with her pretty face and frizzy curls.  Yes, she’s hefty compared to normal pageant standards, but like last year’s Miss Venezuela Migbelis Castellanos, she wore her thick curves well.

BAH

BAH U

Toria Nichole, Miss Bahamas 2015 debuts her National Costume on stage at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino Wednesday, December 16, 2015. The 2015 Miss Universe contestants are touring, filming, rehearsing and preparing to compete for the DIC Crown in Las Vegas. Tune in to the FOX telecast at 7:00 PM ET live/PT tape-delayed on Sunday, Dec. 20, from Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas to see who will become Miss Universe 2015. HO/The Miss Universe Organization

BOLIVIA – Romina Rocamonje.  Like most South American delegates she’s polished onstage.  Her key disadvantage is her rather angular face.

BOL

BOL U

Romina Rocamonje, Miss Bolivia 2015 debuts her National Costume on stage at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino Wednesday, December 16, 2015. The 2015 Miss Universe contestants are touring, filming, rehearsing and preparing to compete for the DIC Crown in Las Vegas. Tune in to the FOX telecast at 7:00 PM ET live/PT tape-delayed on Sunday, Dec. 20, from Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas to see who will become Miss Universe 2015. HO/The Miss Universe Organization

BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS – Adorya Rocio Baly.  Yes, it’s not really expected that this lady would be making serious inroads into the finals, but she’s actually attractive in real-world terms.  There seems to be some backstage drama as some news reports from Puerto Rico reported she almost withdrew from the pageant due to bullying from the Latin contingent–and ironically the Puerto Rican press reported the key culprit was Dominican Republic, who herself is pegged in her profile as a “bullying” victim.  Anyway, we Filipino fans embrace her as she is pictured as among the ladies who first came forward to congratulate the real Miss Universe winner.

IVB

IVB U

Adorya Rocio Baly, Miss British Virgin Islands 2015 debuts her National Costume on stage at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino Wednesday, December 16, 2015. The 2015 Miss Universe contestants are touring, filming, rehearsing and preparing to compete for the DIC Crown in Las Vegas. Tune in to the FOX telecast at 7:00 PM ET live/PT tape-delayed on Sunday, Dec. 20, from Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas to see who will become Miss Universe 2015. HO/The Miss Universe Organization

BULGARIA – Radostina Todorova.  She’s actually one of the better-looking delegates fielded by this country to this pageant, though she was clearly outclassed by the fierce contenders out there.   It would’ve been a typically unmemorable Miss Universe stint until that infamous coronation event occurred.  While the host was correcting the mess, she made a gesture to the real winner to walk forward onstage to claim her rightful crown and sash, which was captured on camera and she became legendary, garnering thousands of fans and generating dozens of internet memes overnight.  As a result, she became the most popular representative from her country to this pageant, ever.  Years down the line, when pageant fans would think of a “Miss Bulgaria”, this lady will be the first to come in most of their minds.

BUL

BUL U

Radostina Todorova, Miss Bulgaria 2015 debuts her National Costume on stage at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino Wednesday, December 16, 2015. The 2015 Miss Universe contestants are touring, filming, rehearsing and preparing to compete for the DIC Crown in Las Vegas. Tune in to the FOX telecast at 7:00 PM ET live/PT tape-delayed on Sunday, Dec. 20, from Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas to see who will become Miss Universe 2015. HO/The Miss Universe Organization

CANADA – Paola Núnez.  There was some resentment in the Latin quarters about the way she chooses to pronounce her surname, as she doesn’t pronounce it as “Nu-nyez” as would’ve been expected for someone of Latin descent like her.  She’s generally a worthwhile contender who was clearly overshadowed by much stellar competitors.  She’s part of the P.A.T.I.S. Crew.

CAN

CAN U

Paola Nunez, Miss Canada 2015 debuts her National Costume on stage at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino Wednesday, December 16, 2015. The 2015 Miss Universe contestants are touring, filming, rehearsing and preparing to compete for the DIC Crown in Las Vegas. Tune in to the FOX telecast at 7:00 PM ET live/PT tape-delayed on Sunday, Dec. 20, from Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas to see who will become Miss Universe 2015. HO/The Miss Universe Organization

CAYMAN ISLANDS – Tonie Chisholm.  Like Bolivia, her key disadvantage is her very angular features–she is generally polished, but with such a bevy of great lookers she wouldn’t be able to make serious inroads.

CAY

CAY U

Tonie Maria Chisholm, Miss Cayman Islands 2015 debuts her National Costume on stage at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino Wednesday, December 16, 2015. The 2015 Miss Universe contestants are touring, filming, rehearsing and preparing to compete for the DIC Crown in Las Vegas. Tune in to the FOX telecast at 7:00 PM ET live/PT tape-delayed on Sunday, Dec. 20, from Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas to see who will become Miss Universe 2015. HO/The Miss Universe Organization

CHILE – María Belén Jerez Spuler.  During the Presentation Show, I noticed that in some angles she resembles actress Salma Hayek, and she delivered a pretty stellar performance–but, well, the Presentation Show was truly crowded with stellar performances that night.

CHI

CHI U

Maria-Belen Jerez Spuler, Miss Chile 2015 debuts her National Costume on stage at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino Wednesday, December 16, 2015. The 2015 Miss Universe contestants are touring, filming, rehearsing and preparing to compete for the DIC Crown in Las Vegas. Tune in to the FOX telecast at 7:00 PM ET live/PT tape-delayed on Sunday, Dec. 20, from Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas to see who will become Miss Universe 2015. HO/The Miss Universe Organization

Salma Hayek (image courtesy of Pascal Le Sergetain/Getty Images)

CHINA – Yunfang Xue.  She has a cute Asian appeal and in another year could’ve made serious inroads into the semifinals.  But in this group, she had to deal with a whole slew of stellar Asian contenders, and we all know there is just limited room for four, at the most.

CHN

CHN U

Yun Fang Xue, Miss China 2015 debuts her National Costume on stage at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino Wednesday, December 16, 2015. The 2015 Miss Universe contestants are touring, filming, rehearsing and preparing to compete for the DIC Crown in Las Vegas. Tune in to the FOX telecast at 7:00 PM ET live/PT tape-delayed on Sunday, Dec. 20, from Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas to see who will become Miss Universe 2015. HO/The Miss Universe Organization

COSTA RICA – Brenda Castro.  Here is another member of the P.A.T.I.S. Crew.

CRC

CRC U

Miss Universe 2015

CROATIA – Mirta Kustan.  In my opinion, she sported the “riskiest” gown choice during the Presentation Show.  Her purple gown featured loose draping over her bust, but the effect made me think of “droopy boobs” which one tends to associate with much older women.  I can imagine the late Joan Rivers poking fun at herself and her advanced age when she sees that gown.

CRO

CRO U

Miss Universe 2015

CZECH REPUBLIC – Nikol Švantnerová.  We’ve seen much better looking representatives from this country in so many previous editions–she’s one of the weaker ones, albeit she is good looking.  I wonder if this country is encountering a bit of a fallow season considering the debacle of her Miss World counterpart?

CZE

CZE U

Cecilie Feline Wellemberg, Miss Denmark 2015 debuts her National Costume on stage at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino Wednesday, December 16, 2015. The 2015 Miss Universe contestants are touring, filming, rehearsing and preparing to compete for the DIC Crown in Las Vegas. Tune in to the FOX telecast at 7:00 PM ET live/PT tape-delayed on Sunday, Dec. 20, from Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas to see who will become Miss Universe 2015. HO/The Miss Universe Organization

COMING UP:  DENMARK to INDIA

All images courtesy of the Miss Universe Organization unless otherwise indicated.

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