HONDURAS – Valeria Cardona. Her features register as Asian. I don’t recall the Japanese rewarding a semifinals slot to a Latina with Asian features but it would be nice if it does happen.
HONG KONG – Carmaney Wong. She’s polished and elegant, but I feel not enough to have an inside track to the Top 15.
HUNGARY – Frida Maczkó. I don’t find her that conventionally pretty but I still think she has charisma that could give her an inside track to the Top 15.
INDIA -Tanishqa Bhosale. She delivers a presence that is worthy of a Top 15 placement, but for the past six years this country failed to make the cut. Can she break the cycle? Admittedly it’s a very competitive bunch, so the likely answer is the shut-out will continue.
INDONESIA – Vania Herlambang. Since 2012, the country where the previous winner was from would miss the cut. Since her countrywoman Kevin Liliana won last year, the challenge would be if she could break the streak. Many pundits believe she can do it as she delivers an impeccably polished presence alongside having the prerequisite attractive face and trim figure.
JAPAN – Hinano Sugimoto. This lady could be considered worthy of making the cut on her own merit, though many pageant fans and pundits have stronger preference for other contenders in her place.
KENYA – Ivy Nyangasi Mido. She has cute features, but not the sort that the Japanese appreciate, plus there are two or three Africans making stronger impact.
KOREA – Yejin Seo. She’s generally polished, and if this was a decade ago, she can benefit from the “Goodwill” slot that was traditionally handed out to her country but that hasn’t been observed since it last made the cut in 2010. I have a feeling with the more impactful Southeast Asians, the “Goodwill” card will not be at play again.
LAOS – Piyamarth Phounpaseut. There are pageant fans and pundits who felt she’s the front-runner to win it all. Many raved about her impeccably regal presence. I may find her predecessor Phounsap Phonnyotha (who gave her country an auspicious debut by finishing the Top Eight last year) prettier, but I understand the hype about this lady and how she can win it all. Still, as refreshing that prospect might be, there is a more historic outcome that I’m rooting for…
LEBANON – Rachel Younan. She seems a solid, attractive contender at best but not making the necessary impact.
MACAU – Cherry Chin. She’s slender and a tad less polished than other contenders.
MADAGASCAR – Esmeralda Malleka. This country last competed in this pageant in 1961, so it’s a welcome, long-overdue return for this country. She’s unlikely in contention for the Top 15 but you won’t miss her with her big mass of curls.
MALAYSIA – Mandy Loo. She seems to be another member of the Mariel Contingent.
MAURITIUS – Ashna Nookooloo. I find her attractive albeit I know her features are too angular for Japanese tastes that despite having a trim figure she’s unlikely to be in serious contention for the Top 15.
MEXICO – Nebai Torres. Of a traditionally strong Latina contingent, this year this lady is the one turning the most heads and looks poised to be a possible winner. She has the looks and charisma to make the winners’ circle, I suppose it all depends if she gets to deliver a cultural speech.
COMING UP: MOLDOVA to ROMANIA