65TH MISS UNIVERSE: AT THE HOMESTRETCH (PART 5)

NORWAY – Christina Waage.  She looks prettier from afar, which is probably why many pageant fans and pundits rated her in the bottom of their lists.  But I wouldn’t put her in the bottom of my list as she has strong stage chops and I like her polished impeccable styling in the evening gown round of the Preliminary Competition, particularly that updo.  Extra credits for her national costume, as it’s a nod to the fact that the fictional kingdom of Arendale in the film Frozen is based on her country, so it’s obvious she was playing the character of Elsa from that film.

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PANAMA – Keity Drennan.  The “P” group is now considered the most dangerously fierce group in this pageant, with delegates from countries beginning with with letter delivering consistently fierce performances that it’s a crime that not all of them would advance.  Many pageant fans and pundits laud this lady’s performance and added her in their Top 12 lists.  I agree she delivered a semifinalist-worthy performance indeed, especially with that dramatic gold gown with orange cape.  Though battling for those limited slots would be fierce as there a whole slew of them who delivered performance at that level.

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PARAGUAY – Andrea Melgarejo.  She has a resemblance to Top Chef host/judge Padma Lakshmi.  She also is one of those long-necked Latinas, and I initially presumed she’s taller than her 5’7″ height.  Anyway, her chances may depend on how the judges would appreciate her skinny frame–would they view it as unhealthy bordering on anorexic, or would they consider it as fitting the modern model frame?  But she delivers on the catwalk and looked great in her white gown.  I personally think it’s semifinalist worthy.

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Padma Lakshmi (image courtesy of People.com)

PERU – Valeria Piazza.  Following another long-necked Latina is a thicker-but-buffed one.  She ticks all the boxes, and there is little to find fault with her performance.

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PHILIPPINES – Maxine Medina.  Well, we have to salute her for her playful catwalk in the swimsuit round of the Preliminary Competition–it is a unique, worthwhile catwalk.  Her green evening gown was a gamble that paid off–though it’s not much to look at in photos, in motion the fringes brought drama.  I believe she will be a shoo-in for the semifinals but I have a feeling that she is also going to be the Popular Vote winner, and will free up a slot for another lady to go through–which I think is much needed with so many awesome ladies this year.  Now, people’s eyes will be peeled on how she’ll deliver in the interview rounds–interview has never been her strongest point, and there is talk that this will be the first time our country will employ an interpreter (normally it’s a given the Philippines will speak in English).  We’ll see if an interpreter will help unlock any hidden eloquence that was missing.

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POLAND – Izabella Krzan.  There are unflattering angles on her but there are other angles where she looks good.  But undoubtedly she has a trim, lean figure and strong stage projection skills bringing drama to her rose-pink gown with train.

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PORTUGAL – Flávia Brito.  Traditionally this country would be the weakest link in the “P” Group, and with the exception of 2015 this adage holds true.  But it should be noted she’s far from mediocre and held her own in this formidable group–in a less competitive year she’ll make serious inroads.

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PUERTO RICO – Brenda Jimenez.  See PANAMA.  Her silver fringed gown also makes maximum impact.  But for me her most memorable presentation was in costume with her Christopher Columbus-themed robed costume.

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ROMANIA – Teodora Dan.  She’s the winner of the BB Sweepstakes award, though she covers up her cleavage during the Preliminary Competition with her sash.  Nevertheless, her projection skills are raw and her face is one of the plainer ones around, so she is in no position to be in the running for a semifinalist slot.

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RUSSIA – Yuliana Korolkova.  Her slim frame and pretty face turned a lot of heads.  But I think she’s a long-shot for a semifinals slot, as during the evening gown round of the Preliminary Competition, she wore a gown that is my pet peeve–a sequined black cocktail dress with a satin train tacked on behind it.

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SIERRA LEONE – Hawa Kamara.  She’s the African who garnered the most buzz, with her cropped head and bright, cheerful demeanor.  Not only she’s the inaugural representative to this pageant from her country, she can even bring forth a breakthrough–though Kenya and Tanzania are nipping on her heels to garner that “Africa” slot.

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SINGAPORE – Cheryl Chou.  This country rarely figures as a contender for the semifinals, with the exception of the 63rd edition as of late.  Still, she should be credited as one of the stronger contenders fielded by this country in recent years.

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SLOVAK REPUBLIC – Zuzana Kollárová.  She has a smoldering appeal with her supermodel-worthy looks.  She delivered a polished above-average performance in the Preliminary Competition.

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SLOVENIA – Lucija Potočnik.  This blonde is good looking, but is obviously outclassed by the stunners out there.

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COMING UP:  SOUTH AFRICA to VIETNAM plus the “FEARFUL” FORECAST

65TH MISS UNIVERSE: AT THE HOMESTRETCH (PART 4)

JAPAN – Sari Nakazawa.  I like her especially with her kawaii (cute) face.  In my eyes, she turned into a semifinalist contender during the Preliminary Competition as she struck a very polished presence in both rounds.  Just like her white gown with flowy shoulder drapes, she’s elegant and sleek.

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KAZAKHSTAN – Darina Kulsitova.  Her headshot is the most striking of them all, as her Eurasian features made for a tantalizing, stunning portrait.  If the Miss Photogenic award is based on the headshot, I would give the award to this lady.   But that stunning headshot aside, she most of the time registers as a typical East Asian, especially with the heavy dark eye makeup she sported in the Preliminary Competition.  Having a thick figure (almost as thick as Siera Bearchell’s) doesn’t reallly help matters, even if she kinda makes up for it with her voluminous ballgown.

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KENYA – Mary Esther Were.  She causes a sensation with her regal, dignified presence.  She covers all the bases and kept her game up during the Presentation Show.  There are at least three African stunners this year–would there be room for at least two of them in the Top 12?

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KOREA – Jenny Kim.  Lookswise, she isn’t much.  However, with her strong English skills, she has a heads up in interview.  Her prospects would depend on how much weight interview holds, and there has been murmurs that it weighs heavily in the selection of the semifinalists.

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KOSOVO – Camila Barraza.  It’s fascinating that she’s a Latina representing a Slavic country–she was born in Argentina to an Argentinean father and a Kosovar mother.  That Latin flair works well for her here, and her modeling experience helps her keep up with the best in the Preliminary Competition.

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MALAYSIA – Kiran Jassal.  Obviously for the Southeast Asian contingent the focus was on the current pageant power triumvirate of Indonesia, Philippines and Thailand, but this lady held herself well with them, and is of the same level as the countrywomen fielded from 2011-2013 (oh, I’m still ruing over Deborah Henry‘s exclusion in 2011).  At least she got attention for her Petronas Towers-inspired national costume.

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MALTA – Martha Fenech.  I’m glad to see this country back to this pageant.  That said, this lady is clearly overshadowed by the stunners out there.  Still, it’s a worthy return and hope for a continued presence from hereon.

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MAURITIUS – Kushboo Ramnawaj.  Based on the pictures I saw of her prior to the Preliminary Competition, I found her to be the plainest and was ready to tag her as the cellar dweller in the pack.  But lo and behold in the Preliminary Competition, she seemed transfigured and she actually looked good.  She also delivered polished stage chops.  If someone like her could be transformed (without having to undergo surgery), any everyday girl can blossom.  This is precisely what Miss Universe is focusing post-Trump.  The story continues during the National Costume show, as it turned out there was a backstage accident that caused her to fall face-first, and even if she was advised to refrain from going onstage as she was encountering dizziness afterwards, she was a trouper and insisted on carrying on, and carry on she did.  For me, she’s the inspirational story that girls all around should pay attention and emulate.

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MEXICO – Kristal Silva.  Of course she wants to downplay her Top Eight finish at Miss Earth in 2013, but her experience does serve her well in this pageant, as she delivered a convincing presentation that she looks poised to be a shoo-in for the semifinals.

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MYANMAR – Htet Htet Htun.  She holds her own well against the Southeast Asian power triumvirate of Indonesia, Philippines and Thailand, but though she couldn’t quite get much edgewise against them, she still makes a great impression.  But the highlight would be her National Costume presentation–imagine carrying a curtain on top of you, then unveiling a painting behind it, and then performing a native/avant garde mime afterwards.  She should win Best National Costume, if you ask me.

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NAMIBIA – Lizelle Esterhuizen.  She’s consistently above average in all aspects, with her statuesque height, slender model’s figure, great communication skills and strong stage presence.  In a less competitive year she’ll have more serious inroads into the semifinals.

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NETHERLANDS – Zoey Ivory.  There are pageant fans and pundits who rave about her and rated her one of the likeliest to make the semifinals.  Though I think she’s an above-average contender and delivered a semifinalist-worthy performance, I don’t quite get the hype–I think I’m just too distracted with her curly hairdo, even if it makes her stand out from the typical blow-dried pack.

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NEW ZEALAND – Tania Dawson.  Okay, she garnered attention for being half-Filipina, but other than that, she doesn’t quite make much impact and is clearly outclassed by the stunning competitors out there.

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NICARAGUA – Marina Jacoby.  She’s great looking though I find a bunch of other faces prettier.  Still, she garnered heavy buzz amongst pageant fans and pundits and she’s one of those with an inside track to make the final cut.  She ticks all the boxes, and on top of that she is one of the Latinas with the strongest communication skills.  I may not be that into her, but I wouldn’t be that surprised if she makes the final cut.

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NIGERIA – Unoaku Anyadike.  She’s almost P.A.T.I.S.-crew level, but her figure is not as buffed as the majority of her peers.

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COMING UP:  NORWAY to SLOVENIA

65TH MISS UNIVERSE: AT THE HOMESTRETCH (PART 3)

GEORGIA – Nuka Karalashvili.  This jet-black brunette didn’t receive much buzz during the proceedings, but from her performance in the Preliminary Competition, one should take a closer look as she performed at the same level as the front-runners out there, showing strong catwalk, a lean, trim figure, and an impeccable silver white evening gown.  She also made a striking impact in her long-sleeved white national costume.

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GERMANY – Johanna Acs.  She’s one of the stronger representatives fielded by this country to this pageant in recent years.  She’s got everything covered–in a less competitive year she would have serious inroads into the semifinals.

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GREAT BRITAIN – Jaime-Lee Faulkner.  She is overall an above-average performer all throughout albeit a bit subdued.  She pales a bit behind her predecessor, Nena France.

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GUAM – Muñeka Taispic.  Her features may appeal to those with exotic tastes.  It was mentioned she was a tomboy, and based on her slightly raw Preliminary Competition performance, those tomboy roots are still there.

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GUATEMALA – Virginia Argueta.  She has an outgoing personality and is articulate and smart.  But her catwalk skills tend to border towards over-the-top like her predecessor, Fabiola Tahiz, although thankfully for this lady’s case, she managed to rein it in enough to avoid garnering the dubious Dunavka Trifunovska award.

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GUYANA – Soyini Fraser.  Another member of the P.A.T.I.S. crew like ANGOLA, BAHAMAS, and CROATIA.

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HAITI – Raquel Pélissier.  She is distinguished by her striking cheekbones and she is on-point in practically all aspects.  There are pageant fans and pundits who believe she has a shot of making the Top 12–I agree she did deliver a semifinalist-worthy performance.

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HONDURAS – Sirey Moran.  See GUATEMALA.

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HUNGARY – Veronika Bodizs.  She garnered buzz as one of the Europeans-most-likely in this pageant.  She generally remained consistently strong all throughout but with only 12 limited slots available, it is a longshot for her to advance.

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ICELAND – Hildur María Leifsdóttir.  She’s generally solid, and her sheer, sequined Preliminary Competition gown has interesting details.  I’m not sure what to say about her flag-themed national costume, though–it looks tacky.  Still it’s nice to see this country back in this pageant after an absence of six years.

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INDIA – Roshmitha Harimurthy.  She performed at a high-level standard, and I love her red sequined long-sleeved gown.  But it seems most of the attention is toward the Southeast Asians and there may not be room for her to have the opportunity to duplicate the feat of Sushmita Sen back in 1994.

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INDONESIA – Kezia Warouw.  You can’t miss her with her statuesque 6′ height, and she radiates with a cosmopolitan Asian vibe.  She, along with Philippines and Thailand, are the most buzzed about Asians in this group, and are considered near mortal locks to the Top 12.  However, in this lady’s case, she almost did a Miriam Quiambao in the Preliminary Competition as reportedly her shoes hit a barely visible nail on the stage causing her to noticeably trip.  No one else had that mishap so one might wonder if she could be penalized for that or get away with it the way Miriam did back in 1999.  I have a feeling it might be the latter in her case.

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ISRAEL – Yam Kaspera Anshel.  I find her features plain and projection skills raw–a rarity in this group of polished ladies.  I find her costume interesting as it seems to be evoking the tale of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, with a serpent prop.

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ITALY – Sophia Sergio.  You cannot miss her statuesque height and lean model frame, and she has great looks and stage catwalk skills to boot.  Though in her up-close interview she mentioned she wanted to be known as more than simply a model, so far it’s her modeling qualities that stand out and we remember her by.

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JAMAICA – Isabel Dalley.  With her statuesque 6’2″ height, gorgeous looks and trim figure, she is a major standout.  And she was flawless during the Preliminary Competition–now one would debate if she was better than Curacao, and would there be room in the Top 12 for both of them.  I’m starting to hate this extremely brutal format.

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COMING UP:  JAPAN to NIGERIA