After being called out for the swimsuit round, the Top Eight then switched into evening gowns and the first question and answer round, which is now dubbed “Hashtag EarthTalk” commenced.  Like what began last year, each finalist selected a hashtag topic which they would then expound upon.  Once that was done, they then have an evening gown catwalk segment, this time with musical accompaniment from Indonesian violinist Iskandar Widjaja.

CZECH REPUBLIC –  Iva Uchytilová.  She’s a pleasant surprise making the Top Eight–I thought she’ll be an underrated gem, but she was better favored than I thought.  Interestingly she made the cut even if she only figured in the Top 16 in one category–interview.  I thought it would’ve been the other way around–she’ll make the Top 16 in Face & Poice and Figure & Form and probably bubbled under in interview but somehow she didn’t score that high to figure in the Top 16 in those rounds, but still high enough to make the Top 16 overall.  Now the big upset is that after the Top 16 announcement-cum-evening gown round, she then advanced ahead of SWITZERLAND, who had made the Top 16 in all three prejudging categories previously.  I think it boils down to this lady delivering a bit more spark onstage over SWITZERLAND and thus advancing in her stead.  It’s quite ironic that she was then the weakest in the Hashtag Earthtalk segment, when she expounded on #Feminism.  Her answer went like this:  “I believe that all women of the earth are the nicest persons in the world because every one of us has the nice part, and of course the wrong part, that I think that the nicest part is the best one [sic].  Thank you.”  Undoubtedly that answer is very incomprehensible, though you have to note that English is not her first language.

NETHERLANDS – Faith Landman.  As expected this lady delivered a breakthrough and delivered her country’s best showing in this pageant.  First, of course it’s noted she made the Top 16 in all three prejudging categories, and it’s no surprise she advanced to the Top Eight.  However, her chances for garnering an element fell apart when given the topic #Harassment.  Her answer:  “It is important to save Mother Earth.  My message will be: create awareness, educate the children, and keep the faith.”  It’s so off-tangent from the topic at hand–it seemed she just went for a canned speech regardless of what the topic is about, and it ended up being extremely disappointing as a result.  I know it is preferable to answer any topic by shoehorning this pageant’s main cause–here’s how I’ll approach that hashtag–“Harassment is a form of abusing another human being and we should take action to stop it.  Us abusing and neglecting Mother Earth is a form of harassment also, and as such we should also take action so we can preserve Mother Earth.”

THAILAND – Paweensuda Drouin.  Many fans (including myself) are rooting for this lady to win, as potentially she has the beauty, presence, and intellect to win it all.  She was on-track as she was one of five ladies who made the Top 16 in all three prejudging categories, and she continued to cast a spell onstage in her elegant black evening gown and her trim swimsuit figure.  But then, she had to expound on the topic #Millennials and this is what she said: “So I believe that millennials, and everybody on earth, should treat mother earth they way it should be treated. My advocacy is to think of Mother Earth as an extension of your house, and I believe that climate change is like what Al Gore said, ‘It’s an inconvenient truth’ because when you have the truth about climate change and when it becomes such a big issue that we need to make a difference, and little actions everyday we can do it, and we will make a difference.”  It was a rambling answer that went slightly over the 30-second time limit, but the key problem with her answer is that she only uttered the word “millennials” without expressing what she thinks of the word, and it was obvious she was tapping on her stock knowledge to string together an answer which was not connected to the topic.  This was an answer so disappointing that it cost her what was presumed to be at least a stranglehold for an element and a path to the crown.  I’m aware the Thai national director was upset by this outcome that he declared he will let go of the franchise.  I wish I could agree with him and say an injustice was made but in this case, it’s unfortunate that this lady is also partly responsible for her “disappointing” standing.

How I would’ve approached this topic?  This way:  “Many people would think millennials are jaded and self-absorbed individuals, but I believe differently–by promoting my advocacy to treat Mother Earth as an extension of their house via our favorite medium, social media, and making millennials–and everyone else–realize this, we can dispel those misconceptions and millennials can play a crucial role in saving Mother Earth.”

VENEZUELA – Ninoska Vasquez.  I actually love her confident delivery in Spanish during the interview prejudging competition, but it seems the judges were not that into her as she didn’t figure the Top 16 in this category even if she did expectedly well in the Face & Poise and Figure & Form categories.  She seemed on-track to an element with her undeniably polished presence onstage in the Top 16 gown and Top Eight swimsuit segments, but the judges were not into her answer in the Hashtag Earthtalk segment.  She was made to expound on the topic #EcoWarrior, and I actually liked her confidently delivered succinct answer in Spanish:  “All of us here at Miss Earth 2017 are here to struggle and fight for our planet. Of course, working hand-in-hand with the Miss Earth organization. Remember that we are remembered for what we create, and what we destroy.”  I think her answer is sufficient enough but it seems the final night judges wanted a bit more, and perhaps elaborate on her point.  Perhaps a concrete action on how she and her fellow contestants acted as eco-warriors, perhaps?  Otherwise I actually found her answer arguably stronger than a couple who advanced ahead of her, so I felt an injustice was committed on her.  But I still respect that the judges didn’t feel the same way I did.

The Final Four were then asked the same question,  The final question was “Who or what do you think is the biggest enemy of Mother Earth, and why?”  After giving their answers and doing a final walk, the announcement of the elemental winners were then made.  Carousel Productions has been stressing that the other elemental crowns (Air, Water, and Fire) are of equal weight and they decided to enforce this by making James Deakin randomly select the order of the elemental titles instead of the traditional order of Fire, then Water, then Air. For this year, what happened was simply Water and Air switched places, with Water called last before declaring the winner.  Although I’m convinced the actual ranking are still in that traditional order, it did result in a deja vu situation with the last two countries standing turning out to mirror Miss Universe 2015, but with James’ strong presence of mind, he no doubt made it clear who he would announce first and he announced correctly.

MISS EARTH – FIRE:  RUSSIA – Lada Akimova.  Her status as a favorite was justified with her justifyingly figuring in the Top 16 for  Face & Poise and Figure & Form.  If catwalk/runway coach Lu Sierra was present here, she would be livid, popped a few veins in her botoxed forehead, and be screaming at this lady for her first evening gown catwalk–in an otherwise lovely blue evening gown she delivered an overbaked catwalk with hand gestures.  It’s as if she studied from the notorious Dunavka Trifunovska.  Still she  got a lot of goodwill to advance to the Top Eight, where she was given the topic:  #HowMissEarthChangedMe. She gave this nice answer:  “The Earth is our mother and we are her children. And as a parent influences his child, the Earth influences me and I want to help Mother Earth together with all of you. And I want people of Earth to take care of our planet just like we take care of our parents. Thank you.”  She didn’t really talk about the pageant but the planet in general and why she and all of us should be committed to the cause, which is a strong enough answer for her to be in contention for an element.  She got caught in the case of nerves and was obviously trying to say something more, but well the translator helped make her answer a complete thought:  “Mother Earth has a lot of enemies, indeed, but she also has a lot of friends. but I think the most serious enemies of Mother Earth are us. So we must rethink our conduct and unite to help our planet. Only together we can do this.”  As solid the ideas here are, her fourth place finish is justified.

MISS EARTH – WATER:  COLOMBIA – Juliana Franco.  Interestingly, I thought she’ll probably do well in figure and form, but was surprised to learn she fell short of the Top 16 there.  Instead, she made the cut in Face & Poise and Interview.  I was surprised to see her among the Face & Poise front-runners, as I found her face a tad too angular.  But that angularity had a patrician vibe, which I realize many Filipinos are into, and hence that can explain why she did very well there.  She obviously chose to speak in English all throughout the interview rounds, which is why she is among the Group 2 ladies who we didn’t see in the live feed of the preliminary Interview round.  Still obviously you have to commend her for expressing herself in a second language and as proven by her performance in finals night, she can express herself well, albeit imperfectly but she gets her ideas clearly across.  Given the hashtag topic #Overpopulation, her answer went like this: “Well I really think (it) is a very big problem because that overpopulation our resources are getting over very quickly. So we have to rethink, actually, if we must, um, maybe decide not to have children or maybe a job that children doesn’t have home. We have to really rethink about that so we can care about our Mother Earth.”  Though I prefer VENEZUELA’s answer over her, I guess the final night judges like the ideas this lady imparted and credit her for her efforts speaking a second language.  Her final answer went like this:  “I truly believe that today, the bigger enemy that te earth has is the consumption. We all have to rethink about the consumption because so many industires are really polluting all our Mother Earth. So we have to rethink about what we buy, what we eat so we can help the Mother Earth.”  It’s a strong answer, but her third place showing is justified as the other two simply gave better answers.  Still, with the switch in the order of announcements, she ended up as one of the last two standing with the eventual winner.

MISS EARTH – AIR:  AUSTRALIA – Nina Robertson.  Didn’t really regard her as one of the big front-runners even if I have a high regard for her and know her Filipina heritage will work in her favor.  She figured in the Top 16 in all three prejudging categories, and knowing she has a strong gift of gab,   For the hashtag topic #TerroristAttack, her answer went like this: “The #TerroristAttack is really a moral issue that we have within and how we treat other people and how we don’t show love, and that same kind of muntality, I mean, mentality, sorry, can be seen in the way we have been treating our environment recently with all of our climate change that has caused problems to our society. I think the same principles can be shown there if we have respect and love, then we can do good.”  For the final question, she gave this answer:  “I believe that the biggest enemies of Mother Earth are the people who do not believe climate change is real because for them, they do not see the long term effects that this climate change and global warming would have. So for me, I would like to keep educating more people and raising more awareness because sometimes they’re just not aware of it. So as an Eco-Warrior, and all the girls here on stage, this is what we’re here to do.”  I know some fans might argue that perhaps it might have been better that she wins the overall title instead of the evenutal winner, as she’s deemed a prettier face.  But let’s also face it that the eventual winner gave far superior answers and this lady’s stage presence is not as strong so even if she’s prettier, she has to take second fiddle to…

MISS EARTH 2017:  PHILIPPINES – Karen Ibasco.  It’s obvious the only prejudging category she didn’t nail is Face & Poise.  But with the final night format set up that the judges are free to put less weight on facial beauty, this lady’s path to an element is all but unhindered, as she knows how to work the stage well, and of course since this is held in her milieu, there is an inherent advantage.  With THAILAND flubbing on the Final Eight Hashtag Earthtalk round, everything was set up for a fourth victory for our country in this pageant.   For the topic #Biodiversity, she spoke thusly: “Biodiversity is very important. We are very known in the Philippines for having a lot of biodiversity and they are very important because they also balance the eco-system. It’s very important for us to protect them because as we protect them, we protect our environment to save our home, our planet, our Earth, to be a better place to live in.”  Her proven and touted eloquence was also perfectly in play in her final answer:  “I believe the real problem in this world is not climate==the real problem is us because of our ignorance and apathy. What we have to do is to start changing our ways, recalibrating our minds and redirecting our steps because to gather at a global community, our micro-efforts will have a macro-effect to save our home, our planet.

There are some pageant observers who would look at the ultimate result and summarily dismiss this pageant.  Though admittedly I was rooting for a different lady to be the winner, the fourth Philippine victory was fully justified and no doubt Karen would make a great Earth ambassador.  I actually love the new innovations launched by this pageant, though hopefully in future they would iron out the kinks and have a system that will diminish the inherent hometown advantage a bit.  As imperfect this pageant is, there is still enough for me to coninue to keep the faith.



All individual photos courtesy of Bong Tan for Missosology.  All other photos courtesy of Carousel Productions  unless otherwise indicated.



To make up for the breakdown announcement of the Top 16 for each of the three prejudging criteria, this year’s Miss Earth integrate the announcement of the initial two cuts with the respective competition.  So, the Top 16 announcement also serves as an evening gown competition–it seems in this portion, the ladies wear their “secondary” evening gowns as there is another evening gown portion that will follow for the Top Eight.  They were called out in two installments, the first one set to an instrumental versions of Camila Cabello‘s “Havana” and the second to the bass-thumping instrumental groove of Charlie Puth‘s “Attention

It dawned on me that even if it wasn’t publicly announced (though there were some murmurings), there was a regional allocation system employed in selecting the Top 16.  They chose the top two overall performers for the following regions:  Africa, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Asia/Oceania, North America (including Central America and the Caribbean), and South America, and then the four best overall performers regardless of region.  It does result in a satisfyingly diverse mix like this group.

CAMEROON – Angele Kossinda.  Though there is fierce competition for the second-place African slot, in the end this lady earned that slot.  Her inclusion is refreshingly welcomed.

ANGOLA – Ermelinda De Matos.  She has consistently garnered buzz among pageant fans, so her placement in the Top 16 is somewhat expected.  The thing that is unexpected is that the judges’ biases seemed to still be firmly in place as she didn’t figure in the Top 16 in any of the prejudging categories, making it solely because she’s the top performing African.  There’s still a long way to go for the Filipinos to open their eyes and appreciate black beauty.

GUATEMALA – Maria José Castañeda.  She figured in the Top 16 solely based on interview, but she has an attractiveness and a trim-enough figure that even if she didn’t figure in the Top 16 in the other two looks-oriented categories, her scores offset Costa Rica’s weak form and figure score to be the second best performing North American to make the cut.

UNITED STATES – Andreia Gibau.  Many pageant fans and pundits thought she would’ve fared better than she actually did.  Interestingly, se only figured in the Top 16 in one category, interview.  But no doubt even if she bubbled under in the form & figure and face & poise categories, she performed well enough to be the top performing North American and secure her slot here.

BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA – Lela Karagić.  Miss Earth traditionally loves this country, and it showed with her Top 16 showings in Face & Poise and Form & Figure.  Yes, her interview was one of the weakest, but apparently it’s not so low that she would be shut out of the Top 16, unlike what happened to Costa Rica with her voluptuous figure.  The debate would rage whether you can tolerate Costa Rica’s voluptuousness, or this lady’s weak communication skills.  Which would you prefer?

TONGA – Diamond Langi.  She shone in Interview and Face & Poise, and she makes a refreshing inclusion to this group.  As such she made a big breakthrough for her country in a major international pageant.

VIETNAM – Le Thi Ha Thu.  Like USA, many expect her to do better than she actually did, figuring in the Top 16 in only one category, Figure & Form.  Good thing even if she fell short in the other two, her overall scores are high enough for her to make the Top 16.  She did make a striking persence in her blue ballgown when she was called out to the Top 16, but the judges didn’t seem to be that into her, she she didn’t advance further.

SWITZERLAND – Sarah Laura Peyrel.  Interesting she was one of the five ladies who made the cut in all three prejudging categories.  Theoretically this should have made her a shoo-in to the Top Eight, equalling the showings of her 2007-2008 predecessors.  But the finals night judges didn’t feel a spark from her, apparently, hence she was shut out from advancing and some more “sparkly” Europeans made it over her.  She probably fell short by very little.

All of the Top 16 were present in the swimsuit round clad in one-piece two-colored Ricky Abad swimsuits, set to J. Balvin & Willy William (featuring Beyonce)’s international smash “Mi Gente“.  But the judges didn’t evaluate all 16 in this round, as after the initial parade, they then called out the Top Eight and it was only these eight that were scored in this round–just like in the Top 16 callout, their abbreviated catwalk when called out served as their full catwalk performance.



This year Miss Earth had made some changes that looked very promising and potentially help recover its cachet with the international pageant fandom.  First was the “new transparency” as the former closed-door prejudging round are now staged as three separate grand events covering the three primary criteria for selecting the 16 semifinalists.  Then there is the promoted opening number, where the 86 Miss Earth delegates were dressed in superhero costumes of their choosing, obviously inspired by the resounding success of the Wonder Woman film.  But did these changes and gimmicks deliver the intended results?

The opening number began with a bang feautring those spotlights on three male dancers with the motifs of air, water, and fire behind them and the reigning winner, Ecuador’s Katherine Espin, sashaying to a remix of Dua Lipa‘s “New Rules“.  This then segued to the contestants’ live introduction in their superhero costumes, set to a remix of “Instruction” by Jax Jones featuring Demi Lovato & Stefflon Don.  The introduction was conceptualized with the 85 contestants introducing themselves in their superhero personas, not their real life identities (though a few like Belarus’ Poli Cannabis, introduced with their real names).  Now, I actually love the concept and I love the live energy of the introductions, though the candidates were probably rehearsing their spiels ad nauseam that in the live final their voices generally sounded worn out, rendering their announcement of their superhero personas almost incoherent.  The captions on the telecast were no help as it showed only their real names, not their supposed superhero personas–I wish the production also added those superhero names in the captions, too.

For most viewers, the best thing about this year’s pageant was the host, James Deakin*1, a famous transportation blogger and TV/radio personality.  I agree with that assessment, as James proved to be a smooth, confident, and energetic host who was very clear in setting the rules and guidelines on how the programme would proceed, and bonus points for being very easy on the eyes.  Arguably, we haven’t seen this high caliber of hosting since Bob Barker‘s 20-year Miss Universe stint.  But I do have a quibble with the style he announces the countries’ names–early in the proceedings his announcements came with a growl that made the feminist in me uncomfortable–it’s a tone that you tend to associate with either a monster truck show or a seedy bar contest.  But I’ll give James the benefit of the doubt here, as I know his intention was simply to channel the audience’s enthusiasm and energy with that announcing style.  Also, on a positive note, it also reinforced and reminded me of his passing resemblance to 300 actor Gerard Butler, and that now-immortal line “THIS…IS…SPARTAAAAA!!!!!”  I’m glad later in the evening the growl disappeared and it made him a better host that way.

*1 I only learned of him recently because of his posts on the state of Philippine transportation being shared by my Facebook friends.  I was initially under the impression he’s an American expatriate, but I found out after reading his biography that he’s actually Filipino-British born in Australia but moved to this country in his teenage years.

A selfie before his gig: James Deakin (source: James Deakin’s Instagram)

There are two international artists who provided the live musical entertainment:  Barbadian singer Shontelle and Indonesian violinist Iskandar Widjaja.  After the Top 16 semifinalists were announced and paraded in evening gowns, Shontelle performed her biggest hit, 2010’s “Impossible“.  Yes, she sang live, albeit with a vocal backing track.  She’s good, but well, about 90% of the vocal power she delivered in the recording.  Iskandar performed after the Top Eight hashtag round, providing background music for the Top Eight’s final look.

One major change in this year’s pageant compared to previous years is that they decided to announce the Top 16 for each criteria in the prejudging rounds, and those Top 16 would step forward briefly onstage to be acknowledged for their performances in each category.  There are pros and cons regarding featuring this step–I personally welcome it as we as an audience would have an inkling on who impressed the judges in teh preliminary rounds.  And I have to say, there were some surprises in those shortlists.

Because at least the ladies who did not make the overall Top 16 got their moment in the spotlight when they figured in the shortlists, let’s pay a little tribute to those non-finalists.

The non-finalists who figured in the Top 16 in Figure & Form were Brazil (Yasmin Engelke), Canada (Jacqueline Marsh), Panama (Erika Parker), Poland (Dominika Szymańska), Puerto Rico (Karla Aponte), and Wales (Sophia Bettridge).  I was a bit surprised by Canada’s inclusion, and it goes to show that there are divergent opinions regarding this ladies who medalled in their groups’ respective swimsuit competition like Ecuador (Lessie Giler) and Peru (Karen Rojas) didn’t make this cut.  Of course, sentimentally I wished Panama and Puerto Rico also figured in the other categories but the judges in those two categoreis would beg to differ.

Form & Figure Top 16 short-listers: Top (L-R): Brazil, Canada, Panama; Bottom (L-R_: Poland, Puerto Rico, Wales

At least Ecuador had the consolation of making the cut in the no-makeup Face & Poise round alongside  Bolivia (Giancarla Fernandez), Costa Rica (Fernanda Rodriguez), Honduras (Valeria Cardona), Israel (Elian Qupty), Serbia (Marija Nikić), and Ukraine (Diana Mironenko).  I agree that all the ladies in this list have comely faces but I wish there were room for the likes of Korea (Hannah Lee), England (Charlotte Brooke), Moldova (Veronika Bozovoi), Rwanda (Uwase Hirma Honorine) and the above-mentioned Panama and Puerto Rico.  I’m glad at least Israel got shortlisted here, as it served as consolation for her disastrous interview performance.

Six of the seven Beauty and Poise shortlist: Top (L-R): Bolivia, Ecuador, and Honduras; Bottom (L-R): Israel, Serbia, and Ukraine

Speaking of Interview (officially, Intelligence & Environmental Awareness), making the shortlist without advancing to the overall Top 16 were Belize (Iris Salguero), Costa Rica, Denmark (Sabrina Jovanovic), England, India (Shaan Sunas Kumar), and Indonesia (Michelle Alriani).  Most of the Group 2 ladies who spoke English were not recorded for the interview round, but it turns out the majority of the top interview performers come from this group, like Belize and England.  The other ladies noted here were truly worthy to be shortlisted based on what we have seen.  However, I was also impressed with Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands (Kaylee Carlberg), China (Mei Zhan), and Mongolia (Tugs-Amgalan Batjargal).

You can partly figure out who would ultimately make the overall Top 16 by basing it on who figured in at least two of the three prejudging categories.  However, one lady somehow failed to advance despite making the shortlist in two categories and she is:

COSTA RICA – Fernanda Rodriguez.  She made the shortlist in Face & Poise and Intelligence & Environmental Awareness.  It seems she was severely marked down for her figure–this pageant isn’t willing to give a Siera Bearchell card, it seems.  Most likely she was bubbling under the overall Top 14==as you’ll discover there is a continental allocation in play in selecting the overall Top 16, and one continent didn’t have any lady who made any these shortlists….