65TH MISS UNIVERSE: AT THE HOMESTRETCH (PART 2)

CANADA – Siera Bearchell.  Pageant netizens were shocked at her form when she toured Boracay, as it was a far cry from the form that garnered her 1st runner-up at Miss Supranational in 2015.  This led to a lot of body-shaming messages, and she garnered headlines on the graceful way she countered all that.  I salute her stance, and of course being of a large size, I understand that we also need to appreciate those who may have “girth”.  It remains questionable if she could win over the judges in her state–the only one who was able to get away with it thus far was Venezuela’s Migbelis Castellanos back in the 63rd edition in Doral, Florida.  I don’t think Canada has as powerful a sash as Venezuela, though, so it’s doubtful she’ll pull off a Migbelis.  At least let us enjoy her for being here.

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Migbelis Castellanos at the 63rd Miss Universe

CAYMAN ISLANDS – Monyque Brooks.  She rocks the short hair, looking like a prettier, more youthful version of Good Morning America anchorwoman Robin Roberts.  She’s a worthwhile contender.

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Robin Roberts (image courtesy of Us Magazine)

CHILE – Catalina Caceres.  Sure most fans’ attention is directed towards other great looking Latinas, but she seems to keep up with the best of them, and when people meet her she wins them over with her outgoing personality.  I’m actually pretty impressed with many Latinas’ interviews, and they can be sleeper choices to make the final cut.

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CHINA – Li Zhenying.  There are pageant fans and pundits buzzing about her, and she does have charisma and stage polish.  But I have a feeling this year it’s the Southeast Asians who are the strongest, but she’s a worthwhile formidable choice.

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COLOMBIA – Andrea Tovar.  Prior to her arrival, many pageant fans and pundits consider her the front-runner for the crown, and she’s set to vindicate the traumatic 1st runner-up finish of her predecessor, Ariadna Gutierrez.  But concerns were raised first when a TV interview surfaced that showed her being brusque when asked about allegations of plastic surgery.  There was a momentary uproar, but that died down when she arrived in Manila as fans hoped she would be better behaved by then.  But then, some candid footage of her making fun of some gifts she received from a sponsor which offended not only Filipino fans but Mexican fans (because she said her misgivings in that accent).  Buzz on her dimmed significantly since then, and her performance in the Preliminary Competition, albeit strong, is not decisive enough to reinstate her front-runner status.  Still, if like Miss Universe 2003 from Dominican Republic, Ameila Vega, the judges were willing to overlook her reported attitude issues, she might still pull it off.

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COSTA RICA – Carolina Rodriguez.  See CHILE, albeit her looks and Preliminary show performance was just a tad below semifinalist-worthy levels.

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CROATIA – Barbara Filipović.  See ANGOLA and BAHAMAS, another addition to the P.A.T.I.S. crew.

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CURACAO – Chanelle de Lau.  She seems poised to equal the semifinalist finish of her predecessor.  She has the looks, charisma, personality, and stage presence to do that, and she’s one of the buzzed about favorites.  With Miss Universe 2007 Riyo Mori in the preliminary panel of judges, I wonder if her moves in the evening gown brought her fond memories–she performed the “Riyo Mori Gucci Flash” in her purple halter-top satin number.

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CZECH REPUBLIC – Andrea Bezděková.  She’s great looking, but her slender figure might make some uncomfortable, and her red evening gown during the Preliminary Competition was a fashion misfire.  Still, her pretty face and strong stage chops made her a worthwhile contender.

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DENMARK – Christina Mikkelsen.  I still have nightmares about the 2012 representative so I am so relieved that this lady has good looks and solid stage polish to be a worthwhile contender.

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DOMINICAN REPUBLIC – Sal Garcia.  I’ve noticed that there are a host of Latinas with extraordinary long necks.  This is the first of those.  I don’t consider her conventionally pretty, but she does have charisma and her lean figure and statuesque frame are enviable (and she has superb stage chops to showcase them).  I love her evening gown with the collar accessory–it makes one forget about that extraordinary long neck of hers (and perhaps that jewelry was indeed suitable for extraordinary long necks like hers).  She can indeed be a semifinals possibility.

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ECUADOR – Connie Jimenez.  Also interesting is that following a long-necked Latina would be a shorter, thicker-but-buffed Latina, which is the case with this lady.  She has all boxes ticked but she has a great human interest story as she’s one of the very few female agricultural engineers in her country.  She’s also one of the strongest communicators, too.

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FINLAND – Shirly Karvinen.  It’s interesting that FInland fielded a half-Chinese lady this time.  Though not much is expected about her semifinalist prospects, she still needs to be saluted for doing the best she could.

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FRANCE – Iris Mittenaere.  She’s got looks and charisma, and possesses an extremely sexy va-va-voom figure.  I could argue she has the best figure of all the 86 delegates this year, and was second only to Venezuela in terms of performance in swimsuit.  She also delivered in her yellow gown, though well, there are several impressive gowns out there, but I have a feeling with that performance she secured her ticket to the Top 12.

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COMING UP:  GEORGIA to JAMAICA

65TH MISS UNIVERSE: AT THE HOMESTRETCH (PART 1)

To the excitement of the Filipino fans, the Miss Universe pageant is back to being held in the Philippines for the 65th edition (almost 23 years after it was last held here).  It could’ve been called Miss Universe 2016 but well, due to scheduling concerns they had to hold it early the following year.  Anyway, as expected the 86 delegates were treated to a series of grand receptions and events, with tours throughout the Philippines going to Baguio, Vigan, Batangas, Boracay, Cebu, and Davao, along with a grand Governor’s Ball and a Charity Auction/ Filipino designers’ showcase in Manila.  This on top of various sponsors’ visits (since officially the government is not financing the proceedings–only private and corporate sponsorship), needless to say the schedule was hectic.  Just like reports of delegates grousing the non-stop schedule back in 1994, some of this edition’s delegates paid a bit of the price for all that, as some witnessed a few having fainting spells, or being absent due to flu of various forms.

Still, for most part the delegates remained a hardy lot, and this was demonstrated how the huge majority of them stepped up their “A” game during the preliminary competition.  With a more brutal format being introduced this year, it’s a major crime that only 12 out of these outstanding ladies will move forward during the final.  Without further ado, let’s start with…

ALBANIA – Lindita Idrizi.  You won’t miss her with her frizzy Afro locks.  It’s a look that reminds me of ABBA’s Frida (a.k.a. Anni-Frid Lyngstad) in 1974 when they were promoting their Eurovision-winning single “Waterloo”–I’m a big fan of Frida, but this look was the one I liked the least (my favorite look was mid-1978 though I know most fans would prefer the way she looked in the 1976-1977 era).  Still I suppose she’s caught between a rock and a hard place–either stand out and own the frizzy look, or blend in the background and be dubbed a Trump acolyte in her former look.  She did okay during the preliminary competition, but was in no contention to make serious inroads to the finals.

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Frida circa 1974 (image sourced from Raffem.com)

ANGOLA – Luisa Baptista.  She’s a member of the P.A.T.I.S. crew–a solid performer but attention is focused towards three to four stellar Africans this year.

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ARGENTINA – Estefania Bernal.  She has a beautiful sexy look that’s perfect to walk the Victoria’s Secret runway.  She showcased it with aplomb in the swimsuit round of the preliminary competition.  My concern is that during the gown round, her gown underwhelms.  In a cutthroat situation like this year, that choice may spell the difference between making the cut and missing it.  Whatever the case I still hold her in the highest regard.

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ARUBA – Charlene Leslie.  Lookswise, she may not stand out but she has an enviably slim figure (as a nutritionist/dietician) with strong communication skills and a polished stage presence–there are people raving about her simple but elegant white evening gown.  She can be a worthwhile sleeper surprise.

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AUSTRALIA – Caris Tivel.  She was one of the early favorites but as other ladies started generating buzz, she faded into the pack.  She still got what it takes to ultimately make the final cut, but from being regarded as a shoo-in, she would need to battle for her place with at least 40-50 others.

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AUSTRIA – Dajana Dzinic.  Besides her angular features, what is most notable about her is her Sound of Music-inspired national costume.

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BAHAMAS – Cherelle Williamson.  See ANGOLA.

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BARBADOS – Shannon Harris.  It’s nice to see the Caribbean country back to this pageant.  What’s interesting that this country fielded a Caucasian lady instead of the African type that is more common in that island.  Still this lady is a stunner and has all the bases covered, though it’s a tough, crowded field out there so her making a breakthrough is far from assured.

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BELGIUM – Stephanie Geldhof.  She has one of the prettiest faces in this competition, and she has strong stage chops to complement her stunning looks.  In fact her stage chops redeemed what I would deem the biggest fashion risk of the evening gown round–a satin red cocktail dress with a long red skirt that covered the dress asymmetrically.  I think she got away with it somewhat, but I fear with such limited slots would that risk pay off?

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BELIZE – Rebecca Rath.  She’s an above average representative from this country. and acquitted herself pretty well during the Preliminary Competition.  Though not expected to make serious inroads into the finals, she’s proven to be a worthwhile contender.

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BOLIVIA – Antonella Moscatelli.  In another year, she would’ve been a middle-of-the-pack contender, but with a strong set of delegates, she’s clearly outclassed and overshadowed.

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BRAZIL – Raissa Santana.  Glad she kept her hair wild and nappy and with her easy way with the fans, she was well beloved by the public.  Her exotic vibe reminds me of singer Jody Watley, as if she’s a younger, equally charismatic relative.  I’m rooting for her sympatica personality and utterly striking looks to make the cut.  I can’t envision a Top 12 without her.

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Jody Watley (image sourced from Theycallmedaymz.com)

BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS – Erika Creque.  Back in 1994, the last placed delegate was from this country.  Though lookswise she is clearly overshadowed by stunners out there, she has some polish and good communication skills to not occupy the cellar this time.

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BULGARIA – Violina Ancheva.  She exudes more glamour than her now-famous predecessor, and she is good looking.  But her figure and projection skills are no match to many astounding contenders out there so she ends up being middle-of-the-pack.

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All images courtesy of Miss Universe Organization unless otherwise indicated.

COMING UP:  CANADA to GEORGIA