65TH MISS UNIVERSE: AT THE HOMESTRETCH (CONCLUSION)

SOUTH AFRICA – Ntandoyenkosi Kunene.  Traditionally this country would be the country most likely holding the torch for her continent.  But the thing is, this year, despite this lady’s sterling qualities she is clearly overshadowed by the likes of Kenya, Sierra Leone and Tanzania.  It’s highly unlikely that there will be room for all four of them in the semifinals, even if she possesses semifinalist-worthy qualities.

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SPAIN – Noelia Freire.  She does have great looks, great stature and strong stage moves.  Normally that would be enough for one to advance to the semifinals, but with such a bevy of outstanding polished performers out there it’s a big challenge to make serious inroads.

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SRI LANKA – Jayathi de Silva.  Her facial features are an acquired taste, but her presentation skills are solid.

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SWEDEN – Ida Ovmar.  This blonde is from the indigenous Sami people in her country.  Her beauty is of an unconventional sort.  But she did something that could be considered a Swedish trait (especially as of late)–she recycled her avant-garde evening gown for her national costume.  She added a pigtailed wig, a lacy sheer overshirt, mismatched socks, pink kiddie shoes, and cardboard horse prop and voila, she’s Pippi Longstocking.  She wins the Denisa Vysnovska* award for frugal wardrobe recycling.

*Denisa Vysnovska was the representative of Slovak Republic last year who also recycled her competition evening gown and turned it into her national costume–in her case she only added a headdress to make her dress pass for a costume.

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SWITZERLAND – Dijana Cvijetić.  This brunette’s a pretty face, but she obviously needed a bit more polishing to keep up with the high quality contenders out there.

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TANZANIA – Jihan Dimack.  I don’t like her official headshot as in most photos she’s way prettier than that.  She’s also stellar onstage during the Preliminary Competition.  If it weren’t for the presence of Kenya and Sierra Leone, she would easily make the final cut.  But will there be room for her and her two African peers?

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THAILAND – Chalita Suansane.  She has a great human interest story with her rags-to-riches story having to be a janitor with her mom.  Her beauty is not of a conventional sort but she has won over a lot of fans and is deemed a front-runner.  I do think after her Preliminary Competition performance her status as a semifinalist is secure.  She can go as far as Top Six or even beyond.

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TURKEY – Tansu Sila Çakir.  Her photos since her arrival here generated heavy buzz as she has one of the prettiest faces in this year’s pageant.  If the competition wasn’t at this stratified level, she could’ve been assured of a semifinalist slot, but even if she delivered a strong performance there are so many outstanding ladies battling for those extremely limited semifinals slots.

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UKRAINE – Alena Spodynyuk.  Here is another pretty face that generated heavy buzz.  One might wonder why the 63rd Miss Universe 2nd runner-up Diana Harkusha is here in the country.  I have a feeling it’s because she delivered the red long-sleeved haute couture red gown that she sported for the Preliminary Competition.  It is highly possible she can duplicate that trajectory.

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URUGUAY – Magdalena Cohendet.  Here is another long-necked Latina with strong polished stage chops.  Another worthwhile contender in a sea of astounding contenders.

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U S A – DeShauna Barber.  She has great stage chops and acquitted herself well in the Preliminary Competition.  But while based on looks alone, she will have to fight it out for the paltry semifinalist slots with other stunners, her interview skills may give her the big edge to secure her place in the semifinals.  Having the “U S A” sash would also help.

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U S VIRGIN ISLANDS – Carolyn Carter.  This atypical representative (she’s of Native American descent instead of the usual ladies of African descent) has extensive international pageant experinece in her belt, competing in Miss World 2010, Miss Supranational 2011 and Miss Earth 2012.  That experience serves her very well here, and we have to salute her for her superbly polished presentation in the Preliminary Competition.  It’s almost conceivable that she can make the cut, especially if there is heavier weight given to interview.  We’ll see how it all unfolds.

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VENEZUELA – Mariam Habach.  Her country’s reputation helps her generate heavy buzz despite misgivings that she is not as facially beautiful as several predecessors before her.  But her buffed figure and stellar stage skills helped make her a sensation in these shores, and she clearly dominated the Presentation Show in both swimsuit and gown.  She seems on-track to fare as well as two Venezuelans who also have “unconventional beauty”, Miss Universe 1997 1st runner-up Marena Bencomo and Miss Universe 2000 1st runner-up Claudia Moreno.  Most accounts in these shores portray her as a simpatica Latina, but one important Venezuelan pageant webmaster has come forward to denounce her as an entitled, arrogant phony.  We’ll see if his inputs would impact her ultimate placement…

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“Unconventional” beauties: Miss Universe 1997 1st runner-up Marena Bencomo and Miss Universe 2000 1st runner-up Claudia Moreno

VIETNAM – Đặng Thị Lệ Hằng.  If it weren’t for her relatively short torso, she would’ve kept up well with the formidable Southeast Asian triumvirate (Indonesia, Philippines and Thailand).  As it is, the most we can say is she’s a worthwhile contender.  Still, there is that possibility that she can benefit from the popular vote, but I have a strong feeling a member of said triumvirate would snag that.

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With all the delegates discussed, here is my leaderboard:

TOP CONTENDERS:  BRAZIL, FRANCE, THAILAND, VENEZUELA

SHOO-INS:  MEXICO, PHILIPPINES, U S A

LIKELIEST:  ARGENTINA, ARUBA, AUSTRALIA, BARBADOS, BELGIUM, CHILE, CHINA, COLOMBIA, CURACAO, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, ECUADOR, GEORGIA, GERMANY, HAITI, HUNGARY, INDIA, INDONESIA, ITALY, JAMAICA, JAPAN, KENYA, MALAYSIA, NAMIBIA, NETHERLANDS, NICARAGUA, PANAMA, PARAGUAY, PERU, POLAND, PUERTO RICO, RUSSIA, SIERRA LEONE, SLOVAK REPUBLIC, SOUTH AFRICA, SPAIN, TANZANIA, TURKEY, UKRAINE, U S VIRGIN ISLANDS

INTERVIEW FACTOR: CANADA, KOREA

POPULAR VOTE FACTOR: VIETNAM

EXCELLENT:  BELIZE, COSTA RICA, CZECH REPUBLIC, DENMARK, GREAT BRITAIN, KOSOVO, MYANMAR, NORWAY, PORTUGAL, SINGAPORE, SWEDEN, URUGUAY

VERY STRONG:  ANGOLA, BAHAMAS, CAYMAN ISLANDS, CROATIA, GUATEMALA, GUYANA, HONDURAS, MAURITIUS, SRI LANKA, SWITZERLAND

STRONG:  ALBANIA, AUSTRIA, BOLIVIA, BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS, BULGARIA, FINLAND, GUAM, ICELAND, KAZAKHSTAN, MALTA, NEW ZEALAND, NIGERIA, SLOVENIA

VERY GOOD:  ISRAEL, ROMANIA

Now, here is my “Fearful Forecast”:

TOP THREE:  BRAZIL, THAILAND, VENEZUELA

TOP SIX:  FRANCE, MEXICO, PHILIPPINES

TOP NINE:  CURACAO, INDONESIA, U S A

TOP 13:  JAMAICA, NICARAGUA, PUERTO RICO, SIERRA LEONE

BUBBLING UNDER:  ARGENTINA, ARUBA, AUSTRALIA, BARBADOS, BELGIUM, CHILE, CHINA, COLOMBIA, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, ECUADOR, GEORGIA, GERMANY, HAITI, HUNGARY, INDIA, ITALY, JAPAN, KENYA, MALAYSIA, NAMIBIA, NETHERLANDS, PANAMA, PARAGUAY, PERU, POLAND, RUSSIA,  SLOVAK REPUBLIC, SOUTH AFRICA, SPAIN, TANZANIA, TURKEY, UKRAINE, U S VIRGIN ISLANDS

STRIKING DISTANCE: BELIZE, CANADA, COSTA RICA, CZECH REPUBLIC, DENMARK, GREAT BRITAIN, KOREA, KOSOVO, MYANMAR, NORWAY, PORTUGAL, SINGAPORE, SWEDEN, URUGUAY, VIETNAM

From my vantage point, it looks like seven of the expected Top 13 (since they are adding the popular vote wildcard to the Top 12) have their semifinal spots assured, leaving 39 others to battle out for the six remaining slots.  It is highly conceivable that I could be off with my forecast as with so many awesome contenders battling for a scant few slots there is a wide range of tastes.  But one thing I hope would finally take place is that there will be at least three delegates of color in the semifinals–normally when this pageant is held in Asia, there would be at most one.  I definitely don’t envision a black shut-out like in 2002 as there are so many compelling delegates of color this year.  It’s exciting how everything will unfold today…  Best of luck to all the ladies!

JUST ME!

JOSEPH

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