PANAMA – Virginia Hernandez. She’s a strong Latina, but overshadowed by fiercer Latinas out there. But if one is in the mood for someone refreshing, she can be a sleeper surprise. At least she garnered a silver in long gown.
PARAGUAY – Vanessa Alexandra Ramírez. She’s another strong, fierce Latina, but again attention has been placed towards the likes of Ecuador and Venezuela, and to a lesser extent, Bolivia, Colombia, and Mexico.
PHILIPPINES – Imelda Schweighart. When she competed in the Golden Batch of Binibining Pilipinas (2013), I liked her and found her good looking and she gave a good answer in the final Q&A and thought she’ll be a worthwhile choice for international pageants in the future. I’m fine with her when she joined Miss World Philippines last year, but when she dropped out and I learned about her incomprehensible Facebook post explaining her withdrawal (some esoteric musing that mentioned God), I started losing my regard for her and now consider her as a “flaky” girl. When she won Miss Philippines-Earth, I was hoping she had finally gotten her act together, but then came her pronouncements post-pageant that she was bullied by other contestants and it divided observers whether they should give her their sympathy or was she whining too much.
But we still hope she will pull it together, but then came three incidents that may not only derail any prospects of a Philippine three-peat, but may even shut her out of the Top 16. First was that viral video where she was conversing with Miss Austria and inappropriately mentioned Duterte’s controversial self-comparisons to Hitler, which of course made Miss Austria cringe. In her inimitable style, Imee took to social media to apologize, but her apology included her describing herself as an “extremist”, which doesn’t make any sense. Then, there was this talk about how she persuaded a few other delegates to eat the seeds of the mangosteen–which is not meant to be eaten and toxic. The third incident involved post preliminary judging, when Imee posted on her Facebook account alluding to two former beauty queens seemingly acting disrespectful to her. It turns out of those queens was Miss Earth 2008 Karla Henry who wrote a scathing reaction to Imee’s post. Such antics have derailed many perceived favorites in this pageant over the years, so things are not looking good for Imee and our country in this pageant–we may just rely on a surrogate consolation with the presence of Sweden’s Cloie Skarne. It looks like Imee’s only path from hereon is a tacky reality TV career. Such a shame as you have the good looks and communication skills to makeit.
POLAND – Magdalena Kucharska. She resembles actress Laura Dern. Now Laura Dern looks aren’t the sort that is favored in pageants, so besides having seen better representatives from this country, I doubt this lady will make the final cut.
SERBIA – Teodora Janković. She seems to be a pretty girl who hasn’t been receiving buzz. Lacking an Eco-Beauty video does not help matters.
SIERRA LEONE – Josephine Kamara. Most people don’t respeond to her sort of beauty, but she exudes a vibrant charm about her with her bright, cheery smile.
SINGAPORE – Manuela Bruntraeger. Wonder why she lacks an eco-beauty video? She actually seems to be a worhwhile contender who garnered two medals, a silver in friendship and bronze in long gown. She can be another refreshing sleeper choice for the finals.
SLOVAK REPUBLIC – Kristina Sulova. She has a great figure as she earned a tie for bronze with Uruguay in teh swimsuit competition. I think the closed door preliminary judging primarily takes into account figure, so it might bode well for her prospects.
SOUTH AFRICA – Nozipho Magagula. There is a three-way battle for the “African-Most-LikelY” to make the final cut. This lady could be it, and wonder if there will be more who’ll join her, like Nigeria and Kenya.
THAILAND -Atcharee Buakhiao. She made the biggest splash in national costume with her fabulous peacock-inspired outfit. She’s not as conventionally pretty as her predecessors, but still it’s possible for her to make the final cut.
UGANDA – Priscilla Achieng. She garnered gold for national costume for her continent. She’s attractive, but then again, probably not something most Filipinos would appreciate.
URUGUAY – Valeria Barrios. Judging form her bronze medal in swimsuit, she could be a sleeper choice to make the final cut. She reminds me of singer Sara Bareilles.
VENEZUELA – Stephanie de Zorzi. She was supposed to be the representative for 2014, but Osmel punished her for gaining weight (she and her colleagues from her batch seemed to be notorious for that) and sent her successor instead. Now that Osmel lost the franchise (rather acrimoniously), she got the right to compete in this pageant finally, and she’s in great fighting form. She seems bound to garner an element, garnering sliver as Darling of the Press and bronzes for photogenic and resorts wear.
WALES – Charlotte Hitchman. here is another quality delegate, who is the surprisse gold medal winner in swimsuit. It makes her a probable choice for the Top 16.
Now that every one’s accounted for let me trot out my leaderboard:
TOP CONTENDERS: AUSTRALIA, ECUADOR, U S A, VENEZUELA
SHOO-IN: BOLIVIA, COLOMBIA, ENGLAND, MEXICO, RUSSIA, SWEDEN
LIKELIEST: AUSTRIA, BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA, BRAZIL, CANADA, CZECH REPUBLIC, DENMARK, INDIA, INDONESIA, ITALY, JAPAN, KENYA, LEBANON, MOLDOVA, MONGOLIA, NIGERIA, PARAGUAY, PERU, PHILIPPINES, SINGAPORE, SOUTH AFRICA, THAILAND, UKRAINE, URUGUAY, VIETNAM, WALES
EXCELLENT: BELGIUM, BELIZE, CROATIA, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, GHANA, GUAM, GUATEMALA, KOREA, KYRGYZSTAN, MACAU S A R, MALAYSIA, NEPAL, NETHERLANDS, NORTHERN IRELAND, PAKISTAN, PANAMA, SERBIA, SLOVAK REPUBLIC, SURINAME, ZIMBABWE
VERY STRONG: CHILE, CHINA, CHINESE TAIPEI, CYPRUS, HUNGARY, ISRAEL, MALTA, MAURITIUS, MYANMAR, NAMIBIA, POLAND, PORTUGAL, REUNION ISLAND, SLOVENIA, SRI LANKA, UGANDA, ZAMBIA
STRONG: ARGENTINA, BAHAMAS, COOK ISLANDS, HAITI, IRAQ, NEW ZEALAND, SWITZERLAND
VERY GOOD: GUADELOUPE, SIERRA LEONE
GOOD: PALESTINE, ROMANIA
Now, here is my “Fearful” Forecast:
TOP FOUR: AUSTRALIA, ECUADOR, SWEDEN, U S A
TOP EIGHT: BOLIVIA, MEXICO, RUSSIA, VENEZUELA
TOP 16: COLOMBIA, DENMARK, ENGLAND, ITALY, MONGOLIA, SINGAPORE, SOUTH AFRICA, VIETNAM
BUBBLING UNDER: AUSTRIA, BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA, BRAZIL, CANADA, CZECH REPUBLIC, INDIA, INDONESIA, JAPAN, KENYA, LEBANON, MOLDOVA, MONGOLIA, PARAGUAY, PERU, PHILIPPINES, THAILAND, UKRAINE, URUGUAY, WALES
STRIKING DISTANCE: BELGIUM, BELIZE, CROATIA, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, GHANA, GUAM, GUATEMALA, KOREA, KYRGYZSTAN, MACAU S A R, MALAYSIA, NEPAL, NETHERLANDS, NORTHERN IRELAND, PAKISTAN, PANAMA, SERBIA, SLOVAK REPUBLIC, SURINAME, ZIMBABWE
I have this gnawing feeling that once the Philippines miss the cut the crowd sentiments that traditionally would be directed towards her would shift towards Sweden, and this would help her garner an element–now the question is, will this then result in a crown for Sweden to implicitly achieve the Philippine Three-Peat? Or will long-time front-runner Ecuador prevail? Australia, USA, and yes, Venezuela are also formidable forces to reckon with. Let’s see if Imee can still get away with making the cut despite all the pre-pageant antics. Best of luck to all the ladies!