Even if getting 11 out of 16 right in a batch full of stellar lookers and articulate overachievers seems good, this year’s Miss Earth pageant still has some shocks and surprises in store.  The supposedly “unimpeachable” front-runners were suddenly out of contention for the elements, some Latina element-worthy ladies were suddenly shut out, and there are some underdogs that have their time in the spotlight.

Let me start with the one who was neither in my “Bubbling Under” nor “Striking Distance” list:  Bosnia & Herzegovina (Lela Karagic) undeniably has the looks and the figure, and if it weren’t for her weak interview I would’ve included her in my “Likeliest” list.  It turns out her high showings for both “Beauty of Face” and “Form & Figure” were enough to help offset her weak interview and hence she still made the cut.

Interview didn’t harm her: Bosnia & Herzegovina (Lela Karagic)

Two ladies in my “Striking Distance” list clearly exceeded most people’s expectations.  Guatemala (Maria José Castañeda) may have only figured in the Top 16 in interview, but she probably bubbled under enough in the other two categories that she’s able to eke out a place in the Top 16 ahead of a few perceived Latina heavy-hitters.  Tonga (Diamond Langi) proved to be a refreshing surprise and a big breakthrough for her country, as this is the first time this country made the cut in any major international pageant.

Worthwhile underdogs: Guatemala (Maria Jose Castaneda) and Tonga (Diamond Langi)

Speaking of Latina heavy-hitters, the biggest upset shut-outs come from this contingent.  First let’s start with a couple of South American ladies who garnered buzz, and it seemed they gave the strongest interviews, but apparently the judges were not as impressed with them as many of us watchers thought:  Ecuador (Lessie Giler Sanchez) and Peru (Karen Rojas).  They are runners-up for the Ruth Ocumarez award.

Ruth Ocumarez Award runners-up: Ecuador (Lessie Giler Sanchez) and Peru (Karen Rojas)

The most head-scratching exclusion would go to Puerto Rico (Karla Victoria Aponte).  She seemed to have ticked all the boxes, and you know there should be a groundswell of support especially with the disasters that have struck her island, but it’s just sad that besides the medal and a Top 16 placement in “Form & Figure”, she ultimately ended up empty-handed.

Ruth Ocumarez Award winner: Puerto Rico (Karla Victoria Aponte)

When finals night came, we finally got confirmation that there was a delegate that dropped out:  Haiti (Anaika Gaspard).  There is no news why she dropped out though she was absent in her group’s evening gown competition, the interview round (since what was streamed featured Group 1 and Group 3 ladies and some Group 2 ladies whose first language wasn’t English), the press presentation and the national costume competition.  We’ll see if the days ahead we can discover the reason why she dropped out.

Dropout: Haiti (Anaika Gaspard)

Thinking about South Africa (Inni Moutzouris)‘s disqualification on grounds of height earlier made me think if there were recent changes in eligibility rules in relation to marital status for candidates for this pageant, because one delegate, if the information on the Pageantopolis website is verified, should probably also be disqualified:  Belgium (Robin Wright Lauralyn Vermeersch) is reflected on that site has having previously competed in a Mrs. Universe pageant last year.  That pageant, as the salutation implies, is meant for married women and should not be confused with the more prestigious Miss Universe pageant.  I know the webmaster/archivist of that site, and his information is normally very credible and reliable.  Or perhaps Lauralyn’s marriage immediately dissolved after competing in Mrs. Universe and she secured an annulment hence she’s able to circumvent the marital status rules for this pageant.

Is she truly qualified? Belgium (Lauralyn Vermeersch)

I’m slightly upset that the two big front-runners, Thailand (Paweensuda Drouin) and Venezuela (Ninoska Vasquez) failed to garner an element and as a result it seemed the way is paved to secure a fourth win for the Philippines (Karen Ibasco).  Is shutting these two stunners out justified?  I’ll explore this more in my full-fledged review in December.  To Karen’s credit, there is justification for her victory as she truly aced both Q&A rounds and there seems to be genuine happiness from her fellow delegates for her win, but to many pageant observers it left a bad taste in the mouth–it made me recall the feeling I then had over Wenxia Yu‘s victory at Miss World five years ago.  I actually like Karen Ibasco and she seems to be a sympathetic character–it’s just such a shame her victory is shrouded with a cloud of doubt and would provide fodder for the already virulent detractors for days to come.  I know a lot of pageant fans and pundits are getting increasingly dismissive of this pageant, which I feel is kinda unfair but well, my only consolation is that it seems to still have the support from international environmental agencies so there is still a cachet of credibility and respectability for this enterprise.



The Elemental Court: Miss Earth Air – Australia (Nina Robertson), Miss Earth Fire – Russia (Lada Akimova), Miss Earth 2017 – Philippines (Karen Ibasco), Miss Earth Water – Colombia (Juliana Franco)

All images courtesy of Noli Berioso for OPMB Worldwide unless otherwise indicated.