I was so looking forward to following the revival of Manhunt International after four long years, and checking out the coverage after the multiple whammy of female pageants (Miss Grand International, Miss International, Miss Earth, and to a lesser extent, Miss Intercontinental). But I am so frustrated with the scanty coverage provided–no official solo contestant pictures, then the more individual photos available don’t always tag or identify who’s who, and not all contestants are well-covered. Sure there is fuller video footage of the preliminary judging and the competition portion of the pageant final, but the pictures still are too faraway to get a good view of them. One can blame the limited internet access in China or the short span of time for the activities prior to the final (a mere seven days from 23-29 October), but still most fans deserve better. Nevertheless, I need to get this pageant out of my system before I can do my full-fledged Miss Earth and Miss International reviews.
I suppose because of its long absence, it was hard to get national directors to secure representatives for this pageant, that is why for this edition, they allowed four countries to send two presentatives–originally host country China is divided into China (North) and China (South) but as the representative from Hong Kong dropped out, China (North) took the Hong Kong banner and China (South) is now just China. Brazil has the island of Fernando de Noronha, Korea has Jeju Island, and Russia has Siberia. Still the attrition is noticeable as it dropped from 53 countries to 43 entries (supposedly 44, but Puerto RIco was a no-show).
Manhunt International’s lofty status is of course because it is THE pioneer male pageant, the first to successfully apply the pageantry concept (most notably the Miss Universe format) for males. And early editions used to hew close to that format, but since 2001 Manhunt evolved into more of a male modeling competition, where the only thing that matters are buffed physiques, great looks and charisma. It also seems to have the same ideal archetype of a short-haired chiseled-jawed Greek god as the ideal–even if current trends allow for earthier, scruffier types. True, many men look handsomer clean-cut, like the radical makeover Christian Daniel Ortiz had from his stint at the 9th Mister International to his victory at the inaugurual edition of Mister Universal Ambassador last year, but there are some whose charisma got lost as they become clean-shaven, like in the case of Poland (Mateusz Petromichelis). True, you can remain defiant and keep your scruff, like what Bulgaria (Nikolai Cholakov) did, but making the cut while defying the directive is very risky and very few could get away with it.
Speaking of radical makeovers that fell flat, Peru (Alvaro Paz Lopez) decided to grow out his locks for Manhunt. For me it’s a big misfire as from being a possible front-running contender with a resemblance to Mister World 2016 1st runner-up (and shoulda-been-Top-Five at Mister International 2015) Fernando Alvarez from Puerto Rico to someone who resembles Professor Severus Snape as played by the late Alan Rickman*1 in the Harry Potter film series. Sure, Alvaro still has features that also resemble a cross between actors Christian Bale and Tom Cruise in his new incarnation, but that long hair distracts from all that. At least he got the consolation of garnering the Mister Friendship special award.
*1 Note that there are a significant group of female fans who do find that look sexy, but I doubt the powers-that-be at Manhunt (and myself, too) would agree with that.
Speaking of long-haired Latinos, Mexico (Rodrigo Goytortua) had two strikes against him not only by keeping his hair long, but by maintaining a stubble. When I saw pics of his hair pulled back, I saw some potential appeal–such a shame.
Also suffering a bit from the clean-shaven directive is Nepal (Anoop Bikram Shahi). There are some angles where he still maintains his swarthy appeal, especially if he has wayfarers on, but there are some photos where he ended up looking plain, which maybe why he missed the ifnal cut.
Now, I’ll pay tribute to a couple of boyish cuties who have a bit of appeal, but I’m not that surprised they are crowded out of the Top 16: Mister World 2016 contestant Costa Rica (Daniel Alfaro) and India (Gurmehat Grewal).
Another pair of cuties who garnered significant buzz amongst netizens are Cyprus (Charis Ioannou) and Siberia (Ruslan Shcherbinin). In fact, for me they are among the runners-up for the Lucas Malvacini Award.
Now let’s go to non-finalists who garnered special awards. Now, I don’t know what Best Vigore (sic) means, but it went to New Zealand (Michael Bureta). Is this a health drink brand, or some citation for stamina and/or athleticism?
I wonder what the Chinese organizers mean by Best Image Representative? And Best Stage/TV/Movie? These went to Mongolia (Namjildorj Gan-Orchir) and Korea (Han Sangheon). It might be some Chinese taste that I can’t quite respond–Mongolia’s look particularly baffles me–there are some very, very unflattering shots, and then there is a finessed shot if he’s wearing eyeglasses. In Korea’s case, I’ve seen more charismatic people from his country that him.
Garnering the honor of Best Masculine Charm is Czech Republic (Jan Caha). Yes, he’s appealingly masculine with a muscular bod so perhaps that’s why he earned those honors. Similarly cited for his body is Singapore (Fuad Al-Hakim)–yes, his physique is indeed enviable. If only he were leaner and taller, he could’ve made serious inroads in the finals.
Garnering the award for Best Sunshine is Fernando de Noronha (Andre Felipe Capalonga). Probably the Chinese sponsors and organizers wanted to pay tribute to the sunshine-y disposition he seems to exude, hence the award. He’s also my 2nd runner-up choice for the Lucas Malvacini Award.
Winning the Best Commercial Endorsement special award is Macau (Yu Xia-Yang). I can see the reason why as his looks are the sort that you could see in TV and print commercials. It’s a justified award, if you ask me, and I originally presumed he made the final cut but turns out he didn’t. To be honest, I would rather have him make the cut than the representative who ended up with the “China” banner (more on that when I discuss the semifinalists).
The winner of thte Lucas Malvacini award, in my opinion, is Romania (Cristian Paraschiv). He also won a special award for Best Charm. Now I don’t know exactly what that actually means, but he does possess an undefinable charisma as he’s not conventionally handsome and maybe a tad bulkier than a standard male model, but he has a lot of appeal. he was photographed a lot so he could have been one many expected to advance but didn’t.
Garnering runner-up costume honors are El Salvador (David Montel) and Indonesia (Iwan Bigwanto) garnering 2nd and 1st runner-up honors respectively. Manhunt probably judged it based on grandeur and drama, and they did bring it.
Additional note for Indonesia: he resembles Manhunt International 2012 4th runner-up from Singapore, Jason Chee, mixed with Mister International 2012 Top Ten semifinalist Evan Siau of Malaysia, albeit a tad less beefy than either of those two. He does have appeal, but you might wonder a bit as he frequently hangs out with…
…the recipient of the Best Sexy Model award, Denmark (Sy Lee). He is a very interesting character–you can make a lot of puns with his name, and even more, naughtier puns if you realize his full name is Quoc Sy Le (he’s of Vietnamese descent but reportedly born in Denmark). He has a buff body, indeed, though some pageant fans may be turned off by his flamboyant and effeminate vibe, and I suppose this is the first time we could see someone competing in a male pageant fully embracing his “fabulousness” without the context of it being a “gay” pageant. Some might snicker at the special award and can imagine a lot of scenarios why he might have earned this honor, but at least he has made an unforgettable splash.
Considering that one of the activities in this year’s Manhunt is celebrating / advocating LGBTQ awareness and acceptance (with chief sponsor streetwear brand New Urban Male), I suppose Sy Lee’s presence reminds us that we have to accept people like him and allow him the right to compete in this kind of competition. Admittedly I also have difficulty accepting this, but we do need to open our minds. It seems the fellow contestants have demonstrated that, so why can’t we pageant fans and followers?
COMING UP: THE TOP 16