It’s time to discuss the competition proper.  After seeing the modeling pictures, I was a bit let down when I saw Sameule’s flight departure photo as it seems his frame is not as beefy as his modeling photos seem to indicate.  He also exudes a hint of androgyny, in my opinion–it’s not bad if he is competing in an Asian milieu, I thought, but he’s competing in an environment where machismo seems highly prized.  Most of his competitors fit the hyper-masculine, macho mode, that he was turning into this pageant’s counterpart to the inimitable Sy Lee.  Sure he’s undeniably masculine and buffed, but his co-competitors were beefier and many of them are swarthy and handsome so I was a bit apprehensive of his prospects and not as bullish as other Filipino pageant fans were.  Were my apprehensions justified?

At least I was confident Samuele could easily beat these guys:

NICARAGUA – Hannibal Espinosa.  There might be some people who would find his raw puppy dog persona appealing but for me he’s the weakest link of this bunch.

PANAMA – Edwin Aytom Solis.  This mocha-complexioned guy is attractive but compared to his competition, he registers as plain and lacking charisma.

SALAR DE UYUNI – Ignacio Eduardo.  He does have handsome angles and his buffed body is enviable, but more often than not his swarthy features register as too overpowering.  Then, there is the fact that he sported a headband in some of his shoots, which seems to be an inhibiting factor to a guy’s prospects of going far here.

But as the final results unfold, and reviewing the history of this pageant, I needn’t have worried about Samuele’s prospects.  Many of those beefy, swarthy types turned out to fall by the wayside, and it dawned on me that these swarthy looks are too common in Latin society that since they are over-saturated with them, they would only let a few advance and favor other types (especially the clean-cut ones) instead.  And yes, they prize buffed physiques, but they do favor leaner types instead of bulky types.  Like for instance, these group of guys might be deemed too bulky for the judges’ tastes:

BRAZIL – Antonyel Marquez.  He can flex to show his muscle definition but there are moments that the definition disappears, and his frame is undeniably a tad thicker than most.

MEXICO – Sergio Herrera.  There are pageant fans who would think he deserves to be in higher regard, but I have a feeling he also belongs in this bin as there were other guys I deemed handsomer, and also albeit he is buffed, he is also on the beefier, thicker side.

TURKEY –  Sezer Özdemir.  This guy has the thickest frame in this year’s batch, but he carries that thickness well.  Cue the Meghan Trainor song

It turns out this pageant also generally likes the slimmer, leaner types, though these lean guys somehow fell by the wayside.

BOLIVIA – Cristian Rojo.  This fair-complexioned guy has one of the handsomest faces in this group.  But albeit trim and fit, his physique didn’t really ripple as much as several others that may be why he fell short of making the cut.

ITALY – Riccardo Pagan.  Now, delivering on the ripples is no problem for this guy.  It is just that there are more charismatic contenders out there, and swarthiness doesn’t really work in his favor in this milieu.

PUERTO RICO – Jon Rive.  Now, I thought he would’ve been a shoo-in for the Top 12 as I thought he has one of the handsomest faces and his long and lean physique delivered on the ripples.  Why weren’t the Dominican panel feeling him, as I thought he’s a great follow-up to his countryman Kevin Montes, the reigning winner of this pageant?

SAONA ISLAND – Camilo Sanchez.  I think what made him fall short is his face is one of the plainer ones in this batch.

SPAIN – Antonio Pareja.  He has the handomeness and the lean-and-buffed physique, but he seems to be projecting at a low wattage compared to his fellow competitors.

This group of guys have great looks and physiques that are the perfect balance of beefy and lean.  But somehow they too are overlooked.

COSTA RICA – Fernando Martinez.  I like his swarthy looks and find his physique close to perfection, but he does have some angles where he registers a tad harsh, and the fact that his swarthy features may be too common in the Latin market that he is not regarded as a standout.

EL SALVADOR – Endy Morffi.  He is actually a solid contender with one big misstep–that bandana in his first official swimsuit shot.  I don’t know if it applies to other editions, but I have a feeling sporting a headband or bandana in any shoot is a kiss of death.

GUADELOUPE – Sony Roset.  Here is one of the three dark-complexioned contenders in thsi contest and he has strong merits.  But most eyes were on that one black guy that he couldn’t quite catch a break.

GUATEMALA – Evan Daniel Peix.  He has almost the exact same strong qualities with COSTA RICA, with even more polish and a better command of English (not that essential in this milieu, though).  For me he deserves better notice, but I have a feeling what hurt his prospects is that it’s just too easy to confuse him with COSTA RICA.

U S A – Brandon Cruz.  He’s great looking with a well-proportioned physique, but his spark was a tad inconsistent that that was why he fell short.

Now, a special note about one guy who stood out for one key aspect…

ECUADOR – Santiago Dillon Anda.  Yes, there are many pageant fans and pundits who would dismiss this pageant as a fleshfest, and this guy’s strategy seems to emphasize that, sporting swimwear that emphasized his crotch so much that he’s the hands-down winner of the Dino Nicolina award (there is a side of me that thinks of renaming the award under this guy’s name instead, but “Dino Nicolina” has a nicer ring to it).  But I have a feeling that strategy backfired badly and rubbed the judges and organizers the wrong way that is why he didn’t make as much impact as he could have as I do find his swarthy looks and buffed physique highly appelaing.  Still, we have to salute him for his derring-do.

Winner: Dino Nicolina Award