The ultimate result was an expected and satisfying one–the pre-arrival favorite India (Rohit Khandelwal) ultimately (and deservingly) won it all. The Top Five and in general the Top Ten can also be considered satisfying but there were some surprises. I got five of the Top Ten correct, but add the “Bubbling Under”, and my record improves to eight, and two that I missed out were in my “Striking Distance” list. Admittedly of the Top Five, I only got one correct, and fortunately that one correct choice was the winner.
Let me first discuss the guys who I thought would make the cut but didn’t. I know Philippines (Sam Ajdani) had some disadvantages for the fact he arrived late as the challenge events were already underway, and though he has a proven to be a likeable simpatico guy with solid communication skills, I knew that there are more outgoing personalities out there that might edge him out. I was hoping his gorgeous looks and imposing stature (1.93m or 6’3″) would not be overlooked. But despite the outcome, I have to salute him for doing the best he could. I will discuss more about the lessons we can gather from this outcome in my next blog post.
Speaking of bright, outgoing personalities, I was impressed with the charisma, social media output and gifts of gab of South Africa (Armand du Plessis), Austria (Fabian Kitzweger) and Malta (Timmy Puschkin) that I presumed their slots in the Top Ten are secured. But apparently with the mix of panel of judges, they fell short–did the presence of Spanish-speaking Misters World 2007 (Juan Garcia Postigo of Spain) and 2012 (Francisco Escobar of Colombia) in the judging panel gave this Top Ten mix a more Latin bent?
Many Filipino pageant fans will most likely hand the Lucas Malvacini to Sam. But I have a very different choice for that award: Denmark (Rasmus Pedersen). I thought his inspirational tale of cancer survival and his performance in the challenge events are so compelling that a Top Five slot should have been guaranteed. What made him fall short with the judging panel, I wonder?
I’ll now talk about the guys who indeed made it that I missed out on…
For most pageant fans and pundits, the most headscratching choice was China (Chang Zhou Sheng). Yes, he’s not conventionally handsome, but he has other strong qualities to make up for his lack of good looks like good English-speaking skills, his quirky personality (check out his over-the-top ode to ice cream on my homestretch review), and yes, his prim-and-proper dressing style. He got a fast-track by winning the Style challenge. I know there are other dapper dressers out there, but I do think there is justification in awarding this guy that fast-track (and perhaps otherwise without it he wouldn’t make the cut). Some pageant fans also speculate that his placement may be a reward for a future Sanya* hosting for this pageant–we’ll see if that materializes in a couple of years.
* A piquant note: Sanya is on Hainan Island, which is this guy’s home province.
Another guy I put in my “Striking Distance” list was Brazil (Lucas Montadon). I was probably too spoiled by the likes of Gustavo Gianetti (winner, 2003), Lucas Gil (1st runner-up, 2007), and Jonas Sulzbach (semifinalist, 2010) that I underrated his inherent strong merits. He’s not really a bad choice, after all…
One who could be considered a “refreshing” choice is El Salvador (David Arias). He has the good looks and the strong outgoing personality and communication skills to make a major impression, and the presence of Misters World 2007 and 2012 in the judging panel is cherry on top of this sundae. It’s nice to see this less-heralded country experience a moment of glory.
Two of the guys I relegated to my “Bubbling Under” list that eventually went as far as the Top Five, I was reluctant to place them there as I know they were formidable–but I was drinking the Kool-Aids from Denmark, Austria, and Malta and thought they would crowd out these two utterly strong favorites. But I’m pleased these two guys eventually shone and prevailed. First, it’s nice that Kenya (Kevin Owiti) delivered on the “black-man-most-likely” (and “African-most-likely”) tag and made all the way to the Top Five. Go Akon!
Then, there’s Puerto Rico (Fernando Alvarez). I was blinded by the fact he didn’t figure prominently in the challenge events that I thought he may not realize that much-needed vindication after missing the final five at last year’s Mister International. But I’m pleased that not only he made the Top Five, he ended up as 1st runner-up. This ties this country’s best finish 18 years ago, when German Cardoso finished second behind Venezuela’s Sandro Finoglio.
Vindication is similarly realized for Poland (Rafal Jonkisz), partly thanks to winning the Talent challenge–he was a well-regarded non-finalist at last year’s Mister International and just as I predicted, he made the final cut here.
Despite the lack of a livestream of the proceedings and the admittedly threadbare staging, I hope Rohit’s victory can help raise the profile of this pageant (and male pageants in general). This great pageant deserves a lot of love and support than what it’s currently getting that it’s such a waste if this will be the last of its kind, as some pageant pundits are declaring. Anyway for now, let’s celebrate and congratulate the winners for jobs well done!