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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
COMING UP: NORWAY to SLOVENIA