The ultimate outcome was very much expected, with Peru (Maria Jose Lora) winning the pageant. Same goes with the pick of quarterfinalists, semifinalists and finalists. I got 15 out of the 20 quarterfinalists correct, but the ones I didn’t get were in my Bubbling Under list anyway, and one who was in my Striking Distance list I underrated just a tad in hindsight–that lady in question was Australia (Kassandra Kashian).
Considering they placed previously in other major pageants, it was expected that Argentina (Yoana Don), who made Top 15 at last year’s Miss International, and Belgium (Rachel Nimegeers), who was 11th at Miss Supranational 2015, would make the cut here. But as strong as these ladies performed here, luck didn’t fall in their favor this time and they are runners-up for the Ruth Ocumarez Award.
Fans reckon that the Ruth Ocumarez award belongs to either the buzzworthy Lithuania ( Irmina Preišegalavičiūtė) or Malaysia (Sanjeda John). There are merits to those arguments
I was under the impression that Ecuador (Analía Vernaza Daulón) was so on point that she seemed in contention for the winners’ circle, but it turns out insiders beg to differ and she was shut out. She’s my personal choice for the Ruth Ocumarez Award.
I’m very pleased that Philippines (Elizabeth Durado Clenci) became the best-performing Southeast Asian, as I originally thought it seemed her almost-equally pageant ga-ga neighbors (including the host country) had the edge. In many ways she exceeded my expectations and her 2nd runner-up finish is well-deserved. Though my circle of pageant friends and pundits have quibbles about the coronation photos of the winner, I would defend hat Peru (Maria Jose Lora) won the title fair and square. I will post my full-fledged review around mid-December after all he flurry of upcoming pageants are done, as a year-in-review retrospective. For now, I should say, congratulations to all the winners!
SOUTH AFRICA – Yajna Debideen. Her angular face detracts what is otherwise a polished performance from her.
SOUTH SUDAN – Eyga Mojus. She’s the strongest candidate from this year’s black and African contingent, especially making a major splash in her sexily stylish embroidered white evening gown.
SPAIN – Mariana Rico. See SLOVAKIA.
SRI LANKA – Visna Fernando. She has an appealing exoticism about her, and she brought some drama in the evening gown round as she played around with the train of her red gown and delivered a mix of the Riyo Mori Gucci Flash mixed with Shania Twain‘s “From This Moment On” video.
SWEDEN – Maja Westlin. She has a refreshing prettiness about her. Her presence is a tad subdued but she has been receiving positive notices.
TANZANIA – Batuli Mohamed. She’s model slim and polished but her facial beauty is an acquired taste.
TATARSTAN – Aigul Zaripova. She’s pretty and is distinguishable with her waist-long tresses, but she’s a tad unpolished and a tad too skinny. Anyway for those not in the know, Tatarstan is a “Republic” within Russia which has the greatest amount of control over its own affairs, similar to a state within the United States. Sure I know some would have misgivings about giving separate representation for this entity but at least this has better justification than, say, Fernando de Noronha…
THAILAND – Premika Pamela. During the early goings of this competition, she seems on track to be in the Top FIve, delivering fierceness in her faraway official photo shot and delivering drama with her unconventional national costume. However during the preliminary competition, though she looked va-va-voom sexy in her form-fitting evening gown, she looked a bit lost onstage and seemed to missed her cues, and even ended her evening gown performance with a trip as she exited. We’ll see if that would be factored in for tonight’s final, or if she’ll overcome that misstep and deliver on her potential.
UGANDA – Priscilla Achieng. She’s not conventionally pretty but she exudes a strong presence. If enough people appreciate her exotic native African features, she could make the final cut.
UKRAINE – Snizhana Tanchuk. Just like TATARSTAN, she is notable for her waist-length brunette hair and she has made a strong impression with her pretty face and polished presence.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA – Taylor Kessler. Her name seems all-American, but her features evokes something intriguingly ethnic. But which kind of ethnic? Latino? Middle Eastern? Asian? Native American? She is very polished, and made an impact wearing the current Wonder Woman costume popularized by Gal Gadot, but admittedly her ethnic features are not to anyone’s taste. Anyway, she is representative of America being a melting pot, despite what this country’s current administration would like to have everyone believe. Intriguingly, looking more all-American is…
U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – Brianna Key. You rarely see a Caucasian representing this U.S. territory, which like Puerto RIco has been battered by both Hurricanes Irma and Maria. This blonde is polished enough but not at the level of her counterparts.
VENEZUELA – Tulia Aleman Ferrer. She is also poised to vindicate the relatively weak showing of her predecessor, Debora Paola Medina, who made the Top 20 but deserved to go beyond that. She delivers the goods onstage, and at some angles she resembles Miss Universe 2007 2nd runner-up Ly Jonaitis. There are people hyping her to make it all the way to the Top Five, but her main disadvantage is that she couldn’t speak English at all–I doubt Nawat has a strong Spanish translator at hand if she makes it this far…
VIETNAM – Nguyen Tran Huyen My. She is distinguished by her rounder-than-typical eyes plus that nude-colored sequined hot pants number she sported for her official photos (we Filipinos have a vulgar term for her high-cut shorts which I’ll not repeat here). But what is remarkable about this host candidate is her stage presence, and she was impeccable during the preliminary competition. She looks like a lock for the Top FIve at this point.
WALES – Nadia Suliman. She exudes a sultry, swarthy sex appeal as her name belies an Arab heritage. She is a polished worthwhile contender.
Now that all 77 are accounted for, let me trot out my leaderboard:
TOP CONTENDERS: ECUADOR, PERU, VIETNAM, VENEZUELA
SHOO-INS: INDIA, INDONESIA, PARAGUAY, PHILIPPINES, SOUTH SUDAN, THAILAND,
LIKELIEST: ARGENTINA, BELGIUM, BRAZIL, CHINA, COSTA RICA, CZECH REPUBLIC, HUNGARY, JAMAICA, JAPAN, LAOS, LITHUANIA, MALAYSIA, MEXICO, NETHERLANDS, PUERTO RICO, RUSSIA, SPAIN, SRI LANKA, SWEDEN, UKRAINE, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
EXCELLENT: AUSTRALIA, BOLIVIA, BULGARIA, CANADA, COLOMBIA, ENGLAND, ETHIOPIA, FIJI, FINLAND, KOREA, NORTHERN IRELAND, SCOTLAND, SIERRA LEONE, SLOVAKIA, TANZANIA, UGANDA, WALES
VERY STRONG: CHILE, CUBA, DENMARK, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, ESTONIA, FRANCE, LEBANON, MONGOLIA, MYANMAR, NICARAGUA, NIGERIA, PORTUGAL, SOUTH AFRICA, TATARSTAN, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS
STRONG: BELARUS, CAMBODIA, EGYPT, GUADELOUPE, GUATEMALA, MACAU, NEPAL, NEW ZEALAND
VERY GOOD: GERMANY, PANAMA, SERBIA
FAIR: BAHAMAS, HONG KONG
And here is my “Fearful” Forecast:
TOP FIVE: ECUADOR, INDONESIA, PERU, VIETNAM, VENEZUELA
TOP TEN: INDIA, PARAGUAY, PHILIPPINES, SOUTH SUDAN, THAILAND
TOP 20: ARGENTINA, BELGIUM, BRAZIL, COSTA RICA, CZECH REPUBLIC, LAOS, LITHUANIA, MALAYSIA, NETHERLANDS, PUERTO RICO
BUBBLING UNDER: CHINA, HUNGARY, JAMAICA, JAPAN, MEXICO, RUSSIA, SPAIN, SRI LANKA, SWEDEN, UKRAINE, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
NETHERLANDS – Kelly van den Dungen. She’s a gorgeous lady who seems to tick all the boxes. She looks like she has an inside track for the Top 20 with possible traction to advance further to the Top 10 and even Top Five.
NEW ZEALAND – Meghan Kenney. Anyone who watched the stand-alone swimsuit competition would notice this lady’s vital statistics include a 29-inch waistline. Yes, it is reflected that she does look thicker than many beauty queens, but I have to hand it to her–she actually looks fit and healthy, and all that heft seems to be evenly distributed and she actually looks good. But even though she won’t be receiving Nawat’s blessings, we need to salute her for showcasing that fitness can come in a larger size (much better than Canada’s Siera Bearchell was able to demonstrate back at Miss Universe). She embodies the empowering message delivered by another Meghan, Meghan Trainor, in her mega-smash “All About That Bass”.
NICARAGUA – Martha Soledad Meza. This slender, fair-complexioned, raven-tressed Latina is part of the P.A.T.I.S. crew alongside DENMARK and LEBANON.
NIGERIA – Princess Omowunmi Agunbiade. She possesses a wide, bright smile that is often framed by a dark-red-shade of lipstick. She’s the last to arrive in the competition, missing out on the National Costume parade. She had a mishap in the evening gown round of the preliminary competition as her train got caught between the two microphone stands after introducing herself, requiring a stagehand to extricate her from her predicament.
NORTHERN IRELAND – Chloe Louise Davies. She’s a comely, slender blonde, arguably the prettiest from the British Isles contingent. Not sure if she delivered enough to make the Top 20 but she’s a worthwhile contender.
PANAMA – Andrea Torres. She’s a bit on the thick side, though in real-world standards she would be classified as very fit. She’s also a tad raw onstage, as she had obvious difficulty navigating through with her flouncy white evening gown. She’s arguably the weakest link of the normally formidable “P” group.
PARAGUAY – Lia Duarte Ashmore. I find her features a tad angular but she has been receiving heavy buzz and is touted as one of the favorites for the Top FIve. She has a lean model’s frame, and she does deliver the goods on stage. She’s not my personal choice for the Top Five, but I would not be that surprised if she made it.
PERU – Maria Jose Lora. SInce the early goings of this pageant, she is touted as the favorite to win it all. And everything seems to point to that inevitable victory as she seems to be running on all cylinders whenever she appears, and this is especially most evident in the preliminary competition, particularly as she showcased va-va-voom sexiness in her nude sheath gown and in swimsuit. She’s also a strong communicator, so it’s inconceivable to imagine any scenario without her in the Top FIve at the very least. She will vindicate her predecessor (another big favorite to win) Priscila Howard‘s shut out in the Top FIve round last year.
PHILIPPINES – Elizabeth Durado Clenci. What is clear is that she’s one of the most stylish candidates in the year’s pageant. Of course she also has superb stage chops and an excellent command of English (since she’s half-Australian). But equalling or exceeding Nicole Cordoves’s 1st runner-up finish last year? That’s a bit of a challenge as it looks like it’s Peru’s to lose. Not to mention, arguably garnering heavier buzz were her Southeast Asian counterparts from similarly pageant-ga-ga countries of Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam. A Top Five finish is still an achievable goal–let’s see if all things will fall in her favor.
PORTUGAL – Diana Sofia Santos. Traditionally this country would be the weakest link in the formidable “P-Group”, and albeit she’s a tad unpolished, she at least has redeemable good looks.
PUERTO RICO – Brenda Azaria Jiménez. I don’t really find her conventionally pretty, but this Miss Universe veteran (she competed in Manila earlier this year) has the drive and polish to create a strong impression. Sympathy for the havoc wrought by Hurricane Maria may also work in her favor and help her land in the Top FIve.
RUSSIA – Svetlana Khokhlova. This slender blonde seems to have made serious inroads into the Top 20 with her parlaying her enviable model’s frame with strong stage presence.
SCOTLAND – Amy Meisak. This blonde is attractive but didn’t quite make an impact. She’s similarly in the P.A.T.I.S. crew like DENMARK, LEBANON, and NICARAGUA.
SERBIA – Maja Smiljković. She has a pretty face, but it’s overwhelmed by her huge mass of wavy curls, not to mention styling issues and a heftier-than-current-pageant-standards figure.
SIERRA LEONE – Nyallay Sia. She looks best if she ties her hair (or weave) back instead off letting it messily go all over her. I find her good looking with a trim figure and good stage presence. However, creating a sheer red lace overlay over a white animal-print cocktail dress does not make an evening gown.
SLOVAKIA – Klaudia Kurucz. Heavier attention seems to be towards her Czech counterpart but this brunette held her own and made a strong impression with her pretty face and trim figure.
COMING UP: SOUTH AFRICA to WALES plus the “FEARFUL” FORECAST