JAPAN – Yasuyo Saito.  She has one of the cutest faces and I like her interview.   She earned a gold for friendship and a silver in national costume.  I’m rooting for her to advance in the Top 16.

KYRGYZSTAN –  Begimai Nazarova.  She’s attractive, but obviously less-than-polished.  She is one of the few who didn’t register well in the acid-test “Beauty of Face” round.

LEBANON –  Elsa Antoun.  She is actually a pretty, worthwhile contender who garnered a silver for talent.  But she is overshadowed by an embarrassment of riches in terms of standouts.

MAURITIUS – Yanishta Gopaul.  She has a slender trim figure and is good looking–and in recent years they became pleasant sleeper surprises by making the cut in 2013 and 2015.  I’m not that confident that she can pull off that sleeper feat this time with the abundance of stellar standouts out there.

MOLDOVA – Veronica Buzovoi.  For me she is one of the standouts in the “Beauty of Face” round–in my opinion one of the most gorgeous no-makeup faces in the entire batch.  I have not seen her interview but it is conceivable she can become one of the sleeper surprises in the Top 16.

MYANMAR – Tin Sandar Myo.  She’s a polished, solid contender, but her key disadvantage is that she doesn’t register that well without makeup.

NEPAL – Rojina Shrestha.  She’s one of the fuller-figured ladies in this year’s batch, and knowing this pageant that is considered a big disadvantage.  Though we don’t see interviews from her group, perhaps her ace is in that category.

NIGERIA – Eucharia Akani.  Her beauty is of a less conventional sort, but at least she made a splash in evening gown as she garnered bronze there (it was also noted in Nick Verreos‘ blog, and for him this is his favorite gown).

PAKISTAN – Ramina Ashfaque.  She’s a polished enough contender though again, as I repeat my mantra: “She’s overshadowed by other standouts out there.”

PERU – Karen Isabel Rojas Chávez.  For this group she along with Philippines and Russia, have been hogging most of the medals, garnering gold in evening gown, silver in swimsuit, and bronze in resorts wear and friendship.  She was one of the stronger interviews among the Latina contingent, so it is likely she’s one of the shoo-ins for the Top 16.  Now, garnering an element will be a challenge as there are at least 10 ladies in contention for the four elements at stake.

PHILIPPINES – Karen Ibasco.  There are many detractors who feel her beauty is not of the conventional sort, but since this pageant is held in these shores and unlike her notorious predecessor Imelda Schweighart, she is one who is committed to the cause and to the responsibilities required for her title, so it is likely she will rank high despite reservations about her looks.  But to her credit, it can be argued she is better looking than some of our recent high-ranking predecessors, so her possibly garnering an element would be acceptable enough.  One can justify she garnered a lion’s share of medals, with gold as Darling of the Press, national costume, and swimsuit, and a couple of silvers for resorts wear and evening gown.  But making her win it all would be overkill, especially with those two big contenders in Group 1.

RUSSIA – Lada Akimova.  She has made a standout impression in the medal events, garnering three golds for resorts wear, talent, and national costume, and a silver in swimsuit.  She also did very well in the three rounds that truly count, possessing a trim figure, a pretty face that passes muster sans makeup, and held her own in interview.  She is one of the shoo-ins for the Top 16, with sights in the Top Eight and beyond.

SAMOA – Olivia Howman.  Like the other Pacific Islander representatives to this pageant, her figure ends to be on the voluptuous side and that tend not to be highly valued by the powers that be.  Still, she has an attractiveness about her that her presence is worthwhile.

SLOVENIA – Sara Gavranič.  Of the ladies from the Balkan region, she is probably deemed the weakest link in terms of looks.  But she is reportedly one of the nicer personalities around as Japan cited her as being the most helpful to her in her interview.  She at least got a highlight garnering a bronze in national costume for Eastern Europe.

SPAIN – Ainara de Santamaría.  There are angles where she registers as pretty and others where she looks angular.  I have to compliment her for the way she handled herself in her interview–she was asked the touchiest of questions about Catalonia’s recent unilateral declaration of independence, her allegiance between either Real Madrid or Barcelona, and her stand on bullfighting.  I salute her poise and her skillfully diplomatic yet spontaneous way of answering those questions, that even if I feel the judges probably didn’t score her that high, she has my undying respect and admiration.



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