When the Mister Universal Ambassador pageant was launched last year most pageant fans and pundits did not pay much attention to it, dismissing it as a minor pageant with a moniker that obviously attempts to evoke the brand prestige of distaff counterpart Miss Universe–without violating copyrights (remember that no male pageant can use “Mister Universe” as it’s a long-established bodybuilding contest). There is another pageant (based in Dominican Republic) that has been attempting to do that but that one has been riddled with controversies and is notorious for ramping up the flesh factor with the frequency of having the contestants sport skimpy swimwear over the years, which makes it impossible to treat that pageant with any form of respectability.
Attracting 19 contestants last year (with one with the dubious country designation of “Oceania Federation”) this pageant may seemed inauspicious at first, but the organizers featured a well-rounded programme that not only featured the typical swimwear-fashion-formal-wear patterns of most pageants but added a humanitarian angle that helps give this pageant an edge. It also helped that they crowned the handsome Christian Daniel Ortiz of Puerto Rico as the inaugural winer, and his travels and humanitarian efforts during his reign has raised this pageant’s profile and attracted the attention of national directors around the world.
It’s incredible that this pageant grew almost three-fold from its initial edition, as this year it attracted 48 diverse and dashing gentlemen from almost all corners of the world. The fact that in its second edition it’s able to closely (approach (or even exceed) the caliber of the three most-established international male pageants (Manhunt International, Mister International and Mister World) makes this pageant worthy of attention.
ALBANIA – Xhemal Xhyra. Albanian language lesson–his name is pronounced “Jemal Jüra”–Xh in Albanian is like the “J” sound in English, and Y is like the German “Ü” (sounds like the “ee” sound in “free”, but with rounded lips). He is attractive, but with an extremely competitive bunch, he’s facing an uphill battle making a major impression.
ALGERIA – Hazi Mohammed. Physically he evokes the hunky appeal of the reigning Mister World, India’s Rohit Khandelwal. Netizens of course took notice and it’s not surprising that he was leading the popularity polls being conducted, and it also helps that he has an enviable physique and athletic skills that made him make the short list in swimwear and sports. Communication skills may be a bit suspect, but a Top Five finish is very possible.
AUSTRALIA – Rede Carney. With his GQ-model looks, he looks like one who has an inside track into the finals. But besides his good looks, he also made the shortlist in speech and ranked 4th in sports. He probably missed making the swimwear shortlist by very little but he is one to watch.
AZERBAIJAN – Joseph Jafarti. See ALBANIA, though he’s one of the three who are short-listed in talent, with his traditional folk dance performance.
BANGLADESH – Naseef Rahman. His boyish looks may appeal to many (though not really my cup of tea) but judging from his swimwear (he has a superbly buffed bod) and speech shortlists, he looks like he has an inside track into the finals.
BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA – Sinan Subara. He has an irresistible boyish cuteness that registers very well on camera. It’s no surprise he’s one of the four contenders for Mister Photogenic. In the last popularity poll update, he was the front-runner. If the official poll serves as a fast-track to the semifinals, it might be a cinch for him to make it.
BRAZIL – Marcello Pilotti. We all know Brazil is a major powerhouse in international male pageants and this guy holds up to that tradition, and he made an impact being short-listed in speech and swimwear. I don’t foresee him winning, but he’s a lock for the Top 15 with a strong shot for the Final Five.
BULGARIA – Tomas Atahacnoc. He’s good-looking, but he seems not that polished and that may hinder him from making major impact in this pageant.
CHINA – Li Jinghao. He has a boyish appeal, but has been facing an uphill battle making an impact as there are more formidable Asians out there.
COLOMBIA – Jose Oswaldo Ramos. He made the shortlist in both sports and swimwear. In his formal wear photo, he displays angular cheekbones that gave him a passing resemblance to Benicio del Toro. He is one of several possibilities to make the final cut.
CROATIA – Denis Klaic. In a lesser male pageant, his features would make serious inroads, but here he seems crowded out.
DENMARK – Danni Pederson. He has a passing resemblance to the Philippine representative, and interestingly looks more like a regular Asian/Latin American native than European. He’s a tad raw that he is not making any serious impact. Still, he’s good looking in real-world terms.
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC – Alejandro Martinez. He gave one of the strongest speeches in the speech challenge, and with his lean and rippled physique makes major impact that it’s obvious he is worthy of making the cut in swimwear. I have a feeling he’s one of the main front-runners for the title as his appeal is off the charts.
ECUADOR – Sergio Morales. As Tina Turner would put it as she introduces her cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Proud Mary”, if you like it “nice and rough”, he’s your guy. I know many (including myself) could be in the mood for that from time to time.
EGYPT – Mustafa Medhat. He has a swarthy, handsome appeal about him, and he at least has made an impact by making the sports shortlist. It’s still a possibility for him make the Top 15, but it’s a strong, crowded field out there.
ENGLAND – Pavel Diaz. During his speech, he reported he was the original UK representative for Mister United Continents but due to some machinations he was ousted from his title. Though I have to admit the one who eventually competed in that pageant last July (Mark Redfearn)* is way more appealing and ended up as 1st runner-up, it’s still a blessing in disguise as this is the “better” pageant. I think he only missed the speech shortlist because he cited another pageant (a lesser-regarded one, at that) in that speech. It’s interesting to note that he’s only one of two black contestants in this pageant, and both of them are representing European countries. His best prospects would be if the judges are in the mood to embrace diversity to allot a slot for a dark-skinned contestant, and he is the “black-man-most-likely”. But I have a feeling if we base it strictly on merit, we have seen more charismatic and appealing black males around, and admittedly he is an acquired taste.
*He went on to gain notoriety by revealing his entire body on the controversial reality dating show, Naked Attraction–let’s just say he was impressive and expectedly won a date.
All images courtesy of IPM International unless otherwise indicated
COMING UP: GREECE to NORWAY