MISS UNIVERSE 2017: AT THE HOMESTRETCH (CONCLUSION)

SOUTH AFRICA – Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters.   Many pageant fans and pundits, including myself, feel she’s the one who ig going to win it all.  But I’m fretful as highly touted favorites from her country like Odette Scrooby (1982), Cindy Nel (2003) and Melinda Bam (2012) had the misfortune of being subject to circumstances that prevented them from delivering on their status as the ones to beat.  There had been criticism about her coloring her hair a lighter shade, and that green velvet gown she wore during the Preliminary Competition, which many observers deemed too “hoochie” with that heaving exposed cleavage.  But her beauty is still too undeniable and she oozes mesmerizing charm in her introduction video, so I’m rooting for a victory for her.

SPAIN – Sofia del Prado.  Though facially she resembles comedienne Sarah Silverman, she has serious pageant pedigree as she was the 2015 winner of the well-regarded Reina Hispanoamericana*3.  She made a great impression her, making her a strong Top 16 possibility.

*3  Which we FIlipino fans became aware of recently thanks to Wynwin Marquez’s victory.

Sarah Silverman (image sourced from Popsugar.com)

SRI LANKA – Christina Peiris.  I actually like her a lot, and she looks like an underdog worth rooting for.  I find her facial features exotically striking and stunning, she has a polished stage presence, and she has an advocacy with a personal story as several family members passed away from cancer.  She could be one of those possible upset sleeper surprises in the Top 16.

SWEDEN – Frida Fornander.  Just like ICELAND, this Miss Earth 2014 alumna is playing the Siera Bearchell card as her introduction video relayed the story how she’s rejected by modeling agencies for being heftier than their standards.  Unlike ICELAND, we do see a bit of the heft, and in many ways her heft went to all the right places.  Can she pull it off, or will the judges and public accord the European slots for other contenders?

TANZANIA – Lilian Ericaah Maraule.  She is the prime candidate for becoming this year’s equivalent of Mary Esther Were (from neighboring Kenya), as she possesses SDE in spades, on top of a human interest story of her struggle to get the support so she can take the trip to this pageant (and that she only has USD 80 pocket money to get by for her entire stay).  She excites me so much that I have a feeling that not only she can equal Flaviana Matata‘s 6th place showing 10 years ago, but may even advance further.

THAILAND – Maria Poonlertlarp.  This half-Swede (her father’s surname is Ehren) is highly touted by many pageant fans and pundits as one of the front-runners, including myself.  But there has been buzz that her catwalk was disappointing, but I have a feeling any objects about her catwalk would be overcome by her strong interview skills, so it’s still likely she’ll make the cut, even if some detractors are proclaiming she’s the prime candidate for the Ruth Ocumarez Award (I will never, ever change that name to the El Tocuyo award as many pageant netizens are clamoring).

TRINIDAD & TOBAGO – Yvonne Clarke.  Making it here is an achievement in itself, considering that friction she had with her national director, who wanted to dethrone her.  Wonder if having Miss Universe 1998 Wendy Fitzwilliam in both the Preliminary and Final judging panel would help sway votes her way?

TURKEY – Pinar Tartan.  I may not find this six-footer as pretty as other favorites out there, but I like her a lot, as her introduction video reveals a reflective, thoughtful lady.  She’s an underdog worth rooting for.

UKRAINE – Yana Krasnikova.  Buzz is heavier on RUSSIA and to a lesser extent POLAND, but her multilingual background may be an ace she can play to upset the perceived favorites out there.

URUGUAY – Marisol Acosta.  If CHILE is like Pia Wurtzbach with excess Botox, this lady is like an unpolished, less-trained version of Pia.

U S A – Kara McCullough.   No one should discount this powerhouse host country, of course.  She is a highly regarded favorite who drew some flak over her evening gown selection and styling, but it seems that is going to be discounted as she is a strong communicator and has strong stage presence.   There are also criticisms raised over her atomic-themed national costume, but it should be noted she is working for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, so we should give her the benefit of the doubt and read her choice as a tribute for the govenrment agency she works for instead of an ill-timed reference in light of current political events.

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – Esonica Veira.  A veteran of Miss World 2011 (Top 15), Miss Supranational 2013 (4th runner-up) and Miss Earth 2014 (unplaced), her final foray into international pageantry is filled with challenges as she doesn’t seem to be regarded as a standout in this batch.  Still she has the qualities to win over te judges and pull off a possible upset.

VENEZUELA – Keysi Sayago.  Many pageant fans and pundits are touting that this established pageant powerhouse would make a big comeback and make the Top 16 after that upset elimination last year.  She does tick most of the boxes, and the question is now if she can go as far as Top Five.

VIETNAM – Loan Nguyen.  Yes, she made the Top 25 in Miss World 2014 and the Top 20 in Miss Grand International 2016, but I’m not bullish on her duplicating those feats, as I don’t think she has what it takes to unseat the ladies from the SEAT.  We have to hand it to her that she’s a worthwhile contender, though.

ZAMBIA – Isabel Chikoti.  She is one of the shortest contenders of this year’s batch at 5’5″, and it shows with her body proportions as her neck is relatively short.  Still we have to compliment her for her pretty face and radiant smile.

With all 92 delegates accounted for, let me now trot out my Leaderboard:

TOP CONTENDERS:  JAMAICA, PHILIPPINES, SOUTH AFRICA, TANZANIA, THAILAND, U S A

SHOO-INS:  COLOMBIA,FRANCE, INDONESIA, MEXICO

LIKELIEST:  ANGOLA, ARGENTINA, AUSTRALIA, AUSTRIA, CANADA, CAYMAN ISLANDS, CHILE, CHINA, CROATIA, ECUADOR, FINLAND, GERMANY, GHANA, GREAT BRITAIN, GUYANA, HONDURAS, INDIA, ISRAEL, ITALY, JAPAN, KOREA, LEBANON, MALAYSIA, MAURITIUS, NEPAL, NICARAGUA, NIGERIA, PANAMA, PARAGUAY, PERU, POLAND, RUSSIA, SLOVAK REPUBLIC, SPAIN, SRI LANKA, UKRAINE, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS, VENEZUELA

SASH FACTOR:  BRAZIL, PUERTO RICO

EXCELLENT:  CAMBODIA, CURACAO, CZECH REPUBLIC, EGYPT, ETHIOPIA, GUAM, GUATEMALA, ICELAND, IRAQ, IRELAND, KAZAKHSTAN, LAOS, MALTA, MYANMAR, NAMIBIA, NETHERLANDS, PORTUGAL, ROMANIA, SAINT LUCIA, SLOVENIA, SWEDEN, TURKEY

VERY STRONG:  ARUBA, BAHAMAS, BELGIUM, COSTA RICA, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, EL SALVADOR, HAITI, NEW ZEALAND, TRINIDAD & TOBAGO, URUGUAY, ZAMBIA

STRONG:  ALBANIA, BARBADOS, BOLIVIA, BULGARIA, GEORGIA, NORWAY,

VERY GOOD:  BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS, SINGAPORE

Here now is my “Fearful” Forecast:

TOP THREE:  PHILIPPINES, SOUTH AFRICA, U S A

TOP FIVE:  JAMAICA, TANZANIA

TOP TEN:  COLOMBIA, FRANCE, INDONESIA, MEXICO, THAILAND

TOP 16:  ANGOLA, CANADA, GERMANY, GREAT BRITAIN, RUSSIA, VENEZUELA

BUBBLING UNDER:  ARGENTINA, AUSTRALIA, AUSTRIA, CAYMAN ISLANDS, CHILE, CHINA, CROATIA, ECUADOR, FINLAND, GHANA, GUYANA, HONDURAS, INDIA, ISRAEL, ITALY, JAPAN, KOREA, LEBANON, MALAYSIA, MAURITIUS, NEPAL, NICARAGUA, NIGERIA, PANAMA, PARAGUAY, PERU, POLAND, SLOVAK REPUBLIC, SPAIN, SRI LANKA, UKRAINE, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS

STRIKING DISTANCE:  BRAZIL, CAMBODIA, CURACAO, CZECH REPUBLIC, EGYPT, ETHIOPIA, GUAM, GUATEMALA, ICELAND, IRAQ, IRELAND, KAZAKHSTAN, LAOS, MALTA, MYANMAR, NAMIBIA, NETHERLANDS, PORTUGAL, PUERTO RICO, ROMANIA, SAINT LUCIA, SLOVENIA, SWEDEN, TURKEY

The key questions for the Miss Universe finals for me are:

  1. Will the final show redeem the lackluster array of activities thus far?
  2. Will the Philippines (Rachel Peters) finally give us that long elusive 2nd runner-up finish?
  3. Can South Africa (Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters) break the curse that had befallen Odette Scrooby, Cindy Nel and Melinda Bam and finally generate that second win for her country?
  4. Is the SEAT as invulnerable as perceived, or is there a chink to allow for upset possibilities to enter?

Can’t wait to see how everything will unfold.  And please, no 2015-style fiascos, okay?  Best of luck to all 92 delegates!

JUST ME!

JOSEPH

 

MISS UNIVERSE 2017: AT THE HOMESTRETCH (PART 5)

NIGERIA – Stephanie Agbasi.  Africa is a tough continent to pick this year, with so many stellar contenders and it had to share allocated slots with the already fierce Asian contingent.  Though I think slots are more secured for Tanzania, Angola, and most especially South Africa, she could still be a possible upset pick for the Top 16.

NORWAY – Kaja Kojan.  She has an elegant white gown, but she’s a tad too plain to make an impression.

PANAMA – Laura de Sanctis.  The “P” group is always known as a powerhouse group, especially in this pageant, and this year it’s no exception.  Though I find her introduction video a bit jarring with a shift from upbeat pride for her country and downbeat vulnerability as she relayed her struggles with attaining confidence, perhaps things are fine-tuned better for the judges’ interview and she can pull off a sleeper surprise.

PARAGUAY – Ariela Machado.  Se reminds me of actress Camila Mendes, star of the CW series Riverdale, an edgy dramatic take on those beloved characters from Archie  comics.  She can be an upset possibility for the Top 16.

Camila Mendes (image sourced from IMdB).

PERU – Prissila Howard.  She was one of the front-runners in last year’s Miss Grand International, but it seems she isn’t Nawat’s type that much that she was shut out of the Top Five.  I was rooting for her to gain vindication from that injustice, but then there are these murmurings about her conduct, to the point that there were rumors of suspension or as far as disqualification.  But none of that seems to materialize.  Many pageant fans and pundits are still bullish on her prospects, and it’s still a possibility on my book, but I think making the Top 16 would already be achievement enough for her.

PHILIPPINES – Rachel Peters.  She is channeling a sleeker version of 2011 3rd runner-up Shamcey Supsup and it’s working very well in her favor so far.  I think she made an indelible stamp in the swimsuit round, showcasing a lean, sleek figure, and her communication skills should bode well for her showing in interview.  While I know most rabid Filipino fans are aiming for a 4th Miss Universe win, I’m rooting for her to achieve one elusive goal–a 2nd runner-up finish, to complete our roster of finishes.

Miss Universe 2011 3rd runner-up Shamcey Supsup

POLAND – Katarzyna Włodarek.  This blonde has surprisingly good communication skills judging from her introduction video.  She also seems to perform consistently well in the Preliminary Competition so she could be one of those possibilities for a Top 16 slot for Europe.

PORTUGAL – Matilde Lima.  She’s good looking and generally performed solidly during the Preliminary Competition.  She could be viewed as a worthwhile contender.

PUERTO RICO – Danna Hernandez.  Yes, she has a compelling tale to tell as her island was ravaged by Hurricane Maria, and she is expectedly polished in all aspects.  But I still can’t quite get over her plain face, even as much as I sympathize with her plight, I’m not rooting for her to make the final cut.

ROMANIA – Ioana Mihalache.  She’s one of the best looking contenders fielded by this country in any pageant.  The fact that she’s a model is expected.  But I find her swimsuit-with-Dracula-cape tacky and I have a feeling she’s not strong in the interview department.

RUSSIA – Ksenia Alexandrova.  Many are regarding her as one of the shoo-ins for the Top 16.  I can agree as this brunette babe seems to tick almost all the boxes.

SAINT LUCIA – Louise Victor.  She is not a conventional beauty but she has a strong, dignified carriage about her that I appreciate.

SINGAPORE – Manuela Bruntraeger.  Okay, this Miss Earth 2016 veteran is a good speaker, but other than that she seems to be holding up the rear in this batch of delegates.

SLOVAK REPUBLIC – Vanessa Bottánová.  She resembles Hollywood actress Michelle Pfeiffer, and almost has that glamorous charisma.  If Donald Trump is still running this enterprise, he would probably be begging to hand her his famous Trump Ticket.  But with the system now in place, her interview skills may be a hindrance for her advancing.

Michelle Pfeiffer (image courtesy of Instyle.com)

SLOVENIA – Emina Ekić.  This redhead (or is it strawberry blonde) has a human interest angle as she is the daughter of Bosnian parents who had to take refuge in this country because of all those wars going on in the 1990s, and how she is bullied and not that welcomed in her adopted land when she was younger.  She seems to be a solid contender–not a classical beauty but attractive enough.

COMING UP:  SPAIN to ZAMBIA plus the “FEARFUL” FORECAST

MISS UNIVERSE 2017: AT THE HOMESTRETCH (PART 4)

JAMAICA – Davina Bennett.  Besides making a standout impression with her Afro hairdo, she has an appealingly pretty face and that special quality we saw with Haiti’s Raquel Pelisier and Kenya’s Mary Esther Were last year–Spontaneous Dignified Eloquence or SDE.  If you ask me she’s a shoo-in for the Top 16, and she might achieve the heights of Kimberly Mais (1991 5th placer) or even Yendi Phillips (2010 1st runner-up).*2  Yes, the last two Vegas editions didn’t yield good results for this country, but this time lady luck seems to be pointing in their favor again.

*2 Why didn’t I include 2014 4th runner-up Kaci Fennell?  Because I’m strictly referencing editions when this pageant was held in Las Vegas.

JAPAN – Momoko Abe.  If you ask me, this lady deserves to win Best National Costume this year.  Sure there are others who have more elaborate costumes, including one who literally carried a whole stage, but this lady delivered the drama by initially appearing in a black samurai warrior mini-dress which then transforms into a checkerboard Pop-art one-shoulder kimono.  She can also be in contention for one of the Top 16 slots but I have a feeling she’ll be crowded out by the SEAT ladies.

Hard to believe it’s the same costume: From black samurai warrior to checkerboard Pop-art kimono.

KAZAKHSTAN – Kamilla Asylova.  See GUAM.  The second member of the P.A.T.I.S. crew.

KOREA – Sewhee Cho.  She could be one of the upset sleeper possibilities for the Top 16 who could shake off the iron grip of the SEAT ladies.  She is receiving buzz for her strong performance in the preliminary competition and her introduction video showcases a plucky entrepreneur, which could pique the preliminary judging panel’s interest.

LAOS – Souphaphone Somvichith.  This country has made an auspicious debut in the pageant scene this year.  It has already made a splash with a Top 20 showing in Miss Grand International and a Top Eight finish at Miss International.  However in the bigger pageants of World and this one, it’s unlikely they’ll shake off the stranglehold of the SEAT, though we have to give compliments to this lady as she’s a worthwhile contender.

LEBANON – Jana Sader.  Like ISRAEL, she’s a pretty brunette who looked great in a one-piece swimsuit.  She’s a more-than-worthwhile contender.  I hope her government wouldn’t give her flak for a photo featuring her standing beside ISRAEL (who was also flanked by EGYPT).

MALAYSIA – Samantha James.  Here is another frustrating year for this country–fielding a Top 16-worthy contender, but most likely to be blocked out by the powerhouse SEAT.

MALTA – Tiffany Pisani.  She is first known for winning Britain’s Next Top Model seven years ago, and that pedigree seems to promise that she’ll bring forth her country’s breakthrough in this pageant.  However, buzz about her died somewhat with her blah blue off-the-rack evening gown.  I realized she also possesses this deep, almost masculine voice.  Only Hollywood legend Lauren Bacall and primo diva Cher could cast an allure with that type of voice, and unfortunately this lady doesn’t have the element of intrigue that these two ladies possessed.

MAURITIUS – Angie Callychurn.  She made a splash at last year’s Miss Supranational as she made the Top 25, and she could conceivably deliver a breakthrough for her country in this pageant as physically she has the statuesque 5’11” height and lean-and-trim figure.  She seems to have an interesting human interest angle where it took a break-up for her to emerge out of her shell and that pageants helped her become empowered.  See, feminist pageant detractors, pageants can empower women!

MEXICO – Denisse Franco.  This country always placed whenever this pageant was held in Las Vegas, and this lady has strong qualities to continue in that tradition.  I’m not expecting her to do as well as winners Lupita Jones and Ximena Navarette, but the Top Five is within reach.

MYANMAR – Zun Thansin.  She’s attractive but not conventionally pretty.  To her credit she’s polished and stood out with her humongous costume (it literally has its own stage!).  Also kudos for her black velvet gown with porcelain-style golden embroidery.

NAMIBIA – Suné January.  She has a very interesting name and a clear-cut advocacy–it’s emblazoned on her national costume, you know.  Other than that, meet the third member of the P.A.T.I.S. crew.

NEPAL – Nagma Shrestha.  This country made its debut in this pageant with this seasoned veteran, who made the Top EIght at Miss Earth five years ago.  Experience served her well as she is in contention for those wildcard slots with her strong overall performance.

NETHERLANDS – Nicky Opheij.  To make Tiffani Pisani’s win in a Top Model competition less special, here is the winner of the seventh cycle (2014) of Holland’s Next Top Model.  I’m not into her features but I can respect that there might be others who might dig them and put her to the Top 16.  She mentioned in her introduction video that she loves to make people laugh and would one day want to become a comedian–though she has a nice goofy side, I don’t quite see a funny side yet.

NEW ZEALAND – Harlem-Cruz Atarangi Ihaia.  I have a feeling the “Cruz” portion of her name indicates that not only is she a proud Maori, but she might have Filipino blood in her too.  She has a nice hourglass shape, but I don’t think she made significant impact.

NICARAGUA – Berenice Quesada.  She is a veteran of three lesser pageants, and she placed high in all of them, placing in the Top Seven or Top Five at the very least.  Of course this pageant is a whole new arena and her previous successes are no guarantee she’ll make the cut.  But she seems to be performing well enough and could be one of those possible upset sleeper surprises.

COMING UP:  NIGERIA to SLOVENIA