I’ve noticed that in a “less competitive” year for this pageant like this year, this would be the time when some unexpected headscratching choices would make the cut.  Yes, my prediction score of seven out of 16 is better than my dismal six out of 15 record back in 2011, but it’s still doesn’t reflect well on me, even if I got three of the Top Five right.  Sure I can find solace that three in my “Bubbling Under” list and three in my “Striking Distance” list made he cut, and that can shore my forecast stats a bit, but I found it shocking that some that I rated in the bottom of my list made the cut.

I found the inclusion of Chinese Taipei (Shen Ying-Bin) and Dominican Republic (Mike Jacobi) headscratching.  Okay, perhaps Chinese Taipei can be deemed as cute and his beefy frame is toned enough even if sometimes he’s like this pageant’s equivalent of Siera Bearchell.  Dominican Republic’s boyish long-haired Latino look was never going to be my thing, but it seems to have enough adherents for him to make the cut.

Headscratchers: Chinese Taipei (Shen Ying-Bin) and Dominican Republic (Mike Jacobi)

Malaysia (Gan Kai Han) was also outside of my radar, but I did concede he could pull off an Evan Siau and parlay his rippled beefy physique (and a charming smile) into a Top 16 finish.

Physique and a smile does the trick: Malaysia (Gan Kai Han)

I loved the way Nepal (Samim Khan) looked, but I’m surprised buzz is muted for him.  Was he a bit too subdued for Thai tastes.  Or did his tacky costume did him in?

I was expecting Puerto Rico (José Rafael Valdéz) to go far as he stands out by being the only black guy in this batch, and he has polish and charisma.  But perhaps the Asian resistance to dark complexions have set in, and the most they can tolerate is a dark brown Asian from the Indian subcontinent.

Two Latinos have the handsomeness that many thought would make them shoo-ins, but somehow they fell short.  I think in the case for Costa Rica (Richard Coronado), his kinda awkward poses did him in, while for Fernando de Noronha (Diego Michel Jácome Batista), his frame is deemed too bulky for comfort, and hence these handsome guys turned from handsome pre-arrival favorites to runners-up for the Lucas Malvacini Award.

Lucas Malvacini runners-up: Costa Rica (Richard Coronado) and Fernando de Noronha (Diego Jacome)

But the winner of the Lucas Malvacini Award is Greece (Spyros Spinoulas).  He seems to have the classic features of the 1990s Manhunt winners, but it seems the organization is now working to become more current, and in effect, deemed his look as dated.  Too bad this happened…

Lucas Malvacini Award winner: Greece (Spyros Spinoulas)

Lebanon (Gaetan Osman) did not win as I have expected, but his 2nd runner-up finish is still the best showing this country had in this pageant and I bet pretty soon this male pageant powerhouse will finally roar in this pageant.  Thailand (Kongnat Choeisuwan) was always expected to rank high, and 1st runner-up is worthy.  Now, I know there are a lot of people who love Vietnam (Trương Ngọc Tình), but I never get his appeal at all–not even with his 2nd place stint at last year’s Mister Universal Ambassador (I only rated him as a bubbling under choice then).  Well, I guess I should never expect my taste to always be in sync with the rest, so I’ll respect this result, even if I have different notions of who is worthy of belonging there.  Congratulations to all the winners!



All-Asian Winners’ circle: 4th runner-up Indonesia (Andry Permadi), 2nd runner-up Lebanon (Gaetan Osman), Manhunt International 2017 Vietnam (Truong Ngoc Tinh), 1sst runner-up Thailand (Kongnat Choeisuwan), and 3rd runner-up Sri Lanka (Mohammed Wazeem Cammar)

All images courtesy of Gentle People Thailand unless otherwise indicated.


There were some major upsets in the offing at this year’s Miss Universe, as some perceived “sure things” failed to make it, but the news is, those who actually did turned out to be refreshingly welcome choices.  I got nine out of 16 quarterfinalists correct, six out of ten semifinalists, and three out of five finalists, most especially the winner.  Of the seven I didn’t get out of the Top 16, five were in my “Bubbling Under” list and two were “Striking Distance”.

Admittedly I put Brazil (Monalysa Alcanartara) in my “Striking Disatance” list because I just found her a bit too exotic to my tastes and a tad overrated.  But yes, she’s a stage dynamo with a great figure, and her sash proved to still be very potent.  I probably totally underrated Ireland (Cailín Aíne Ní Toíbin) but she seems to be the apple of the eye of the Miss Universe insiders as she’s highlighted in many pre-taped segments in the final telecast.

Performing better than expected: Brazil (Monalysa Alcantara) and Ireland (Cailin Aine Ni Toibin)

Of the “Bubbling Under” choices that made it, I rejoiced at the inclusion of Sri Lanka (Christina Peiris)–it has been 62 years since this country advanced to the next cut, and it was during the time it went by a different name, Ceylon.  She was a bright vibrant vision and her placement is well-deserved–even if it came at the expense of one supposedly surefire Southeast Asian.

The most welcome Top 16 inclusion: Sri Lanka (Christina Peiris)

Speaking of that Southeast Asian, it’s a shocker that Indonesia (Bunga Jelitha) broke her country’s four-year quarterfinal streak.  I think what happened is that the preliminary judges prioritized depth of character, and perhaps Bunga’s background and story is not compelling enough for them.  Another shocker was the exclusion of France (Alicia Ayles).  Though there were warning signs that she seems to lack the hunger to win that the reigning Miss Universe Iris Mittenaere had especially with her underwhelming introduction video, no one expected that she will miss the cut entirely.  Such a shame as fans (including myself) expected a lot more from these two ladies.  Instead, they ended up as runners up for the Ruth Ocumarez Award.

Ruth Ocumarez Runners-Up: Indonesia (Bunga Jelitha) and France (Alicia Aylies)

I have two winners for the Ruth Ocumarez Award.  The first one is my sentimental choice–Tanzania (Lilian Ericaah Maraule) has a distinctive look and a similar radiance to Sri Lanka that I thought she could be a big sensation in the finals.  But the interview montage showing her weeping seems to indicate she choked in interview and hence she was tragically shut out.  She could’ve been this year’s equivalent to Mary Esther Were if she kept her composure, but well, sometimes those are the breaks.

Ruth Ocumarez Award (Sentimental Choice): Tanzania (Lilian Ericaah Maraule)

The “Merit” winner of the Ruth Ocumarez award is Mexico (Denisse Franco).  We didn’t see anything wrong at all with her performance but perhaps she’s a victim of the new regional allocation rule.  If you noticed, besides the four guaranteed slots for the Americas granted to Brazil, Canada (Lauren Howe), Colombia (Laura Gonzalez), and USA (Kara McCullough), there were two wildcards from this region given to Jamaica (Davina Bennett) and Venezuela (Kaysi Sayago), all of whom are worthy and formidable (yes, even if I didn’t have that high a regard for Brazil).  The judges seemed to love China (Roxette Qiu)’s hip cosmopolitan vibe that they preferred to hand one wildcard slot to her instead of poor Denisse, who was just crowded out and thus earned the dubious distinction of the first Mexican shut out in a Miss Universe Vegas edition.

Ruth Ocumarez Award (Mert/Performance) winner: Mexico (Denisse Franco)

Since Venus Raj began the Philippine power streak in 2010, Rachel Peters became only the second delegate not to make it to the Final Five.  Many Filipino fans were outraged by this, either parsing every minute detail to examine any compelling reason why she fell short while wailing and weeping, or railing at the Miss Universe judges (even channeling their ire towards our own Pia Wurtzbach in an unsubstantiated speculation that she marked her countrywoman Rachel down) and the Miss Universe Organization over this perceived slight or injustice.  All right, yes I was disappointed as she failed to fulfill my dream goal that we’ll have a second runner-up, but I’m already satisfied with anyone from my country who made the Top 16 and by that measure, I’m already satisfied with Rachel’s standing.  Also, I didn’t find any serious flaws in Rachel’s performance, just that she was simply outpipped by worthier, stronger contenders.  I know we Filipino fans have been spoiled by the high placements we have received in this pageant for the past eight editions, but we should learn to appreciate that it takes a lot of hard work to make our ladies very competitive in the international arena, and the fact that any time we make the Top 16 amidst an always highly competitive environment is something to celebrate, and making beyond that is just wonderful gravy.

Despite a lower-than-expected showing, congratulations on a job well-done, Rachel!

I’m so glad my choice of winner, South Africa (Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters) cleaned up her act and decisively won it all.  Finally, those frustrating finishes from Odette Scrooby (1982), Cindy Nel (2003) and Melinda Bam (2012) are a thing of history.  I’ve also observed she channeled a highly beloved winner from another major pageant–more on that when I post my full-fledged review this December.  For now, I and most of the international pageant fans and pundits rejoice at this well-deserved victory.



Congratulations and may you have a fruitful reign: Miss Universe 2017 Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters from South Africa