MISS WORLD 2018: CONTESTANTS REVIEW (PART 1)

 

Now that my schedule eased up (a bit), i would like to make up by doing a full review of the contestants of this year’s Miss World.  Though individual photos of contestants are challenging to come by, I have to salute them for continuing the Head-to-Head challenge.  Now the added twist that they added an extra round so only 10 could advance?  I actually am all for it in principle, but little did I know it bit back and in this occasion it didn’t work in our favor.  More on that later.

GROUP 1:  You would presume a comely Caucasian or Latina will win the round here, but the dusky French-accented multi-ethnic MAURITIUS (Murielle Ravina) was the winner of this group instead, and ultimately won her showdown wit the Group 2 winner to advance.

AUSTRALIA – Taylor Cannon.  Many pageant fans and pundits thought she has the looks and charm to ensure her country’s long, strong history and win for this group.  Unfortunately, it turns out she gets very nervous easily and it showed in the head-to-head challenge, and it probably spilled over in the interview round, so a Top 32 placement in Top Model is her sole consolation for this journey.

CZECH REPUBLIC – Kateřina Kasanová.  Though she looked great in Top Model, she seemed to create an impression she’s vapid in her head-to-head challenge that I put her among the bottom performers for this entire batch.

ETHIOPIA – Soliyana Abayneh.  She’s a good looking lady, but admittedly didn’t make as much of an impact even if she’s well-spoken.

GHANA – Nana Ama Benso.  She’s well-spoken and intelligent, but her features are probably too exotic, even for the insiders’ tastes.   She reminds me of one of the backup singers in the music clip to Murray Head‘s “Superstar” (yes, that one from the musical Jesus Christ Superstar)–it’s quite interesting to see how the camera pans to one of the older, homelier Trinadadian backup singers to that song, and that lady reminds me of this one.  Whoever were behind the camera on that music clip, he would’ve probably scored this lady higher.

PERU – Clarisse Uribe.  She’s one of the prime candidats for the Holly Carpenter award as I feel she has great looks and seemed to be a good communicator (in her native language, of course), but she failed to figure in any of the fast-track events and of course did not win head-to-head or impressed the insiders enough in interview.

GROUP 2:  FRANCE (Maeva Coucke) won for this group, but actually lost in her head-to-head showdown with the Group 1 winner.  Still, she she secured her placement by winning the Top Model fast-track.  Meanwhile, BARBADOS (Ashley Lashley) impressed the insiders with her upbeat attitude and lofty ambition.

CAYMAN ISLANDS – Kelsie Woodman Bodden.  Yes, she’s subdued, but she’s intelligent, thoughtful, and to my eyes, better looking than BARBADOS.  At least, she has the consolation of being shortlisted in the Sports fast-track.

GEORGIA – Nia Tsivtsivadze.  This blogger is actually more articulate than your typical contestant from this country.  She also has good looks but not enough to stand out from the pack.

GERMANY – Christine Keller.  She’s arguably the strongest representative sent by her country this decade, as she has striking good looks (resembling Aussia actress Nicole Kidman).  She’s also an outgoing personality with strong communication skills.  It’s not surprising she’s shortlisted in Top Model, but well, she is a major step in the right direction for her country, which was a powerhouse until the coming of the controversial Gabriela Brum in 1980.

Nicole Kidman in Little Big Lies (courtesy of HBO)

PARAGUAY – Maquenna Gaiarín.  She’s an intelligent lady with pride in her country’s indigenous Guarani language.  Unfortunately she’s another one who just fell under the insiders’ radar, only making an impact as a Top 18 Talent finalist with her belly dance with light show.

GROUP 3:  This was a showdown of a couple of big powerhouse countries, and in the end both of them advanced to the Top 30, with VENEZUELA (Veruska Ljubisavljevic) winning the head-to-head challenge (and knocking out the Group 4 winner) and SOUTH AFRICA (Thulisa Keyi) winning over the insiders in interview.

FINLAND – Jenny Lappalainen.  This bridal consultant is a refreshing presence, albeit no one expects her to impress enough to be in serious contention for the Top 30.  At least, she can be proud of making the reserve slot in the Sports fast-track.

LATVIA – Daniela Gods-Romanovska.  I like the fact she exudes a quirky, Intellectual vibe.   But perhaps as impressive as her intellect seems, she somehow didn’t impress the insiders enough in interview, and had to just consider a Sports shortlist as the highlight of her stint.

SIERRA LEONE – Sarah Laura Tucker.  She seemed to have the qualities worthy of advancing in the Top 30, as she has an inspirational story as an abuse survivor.  But the quirks of the system made it tough for her to secure a slot, so, like FINLAND, she has to content herself with a reserve shortlist showing in Sports as her highlight.

WALES – Bethany Harris.  She’s a pretty girl, but she doesn’t quite have the polish or the dirve of her British Isle peers so she is considered the weakest link of this contingent this year.

GROUP 4:  With the new two-tier system for the Head-to-Head challenge, winning the group round doesn’t guarantee a slot.  So indeed we would end up with a few groups that ultimately have members who failed to advance to the Top 30, and this is one of those rare groups that was completely shut out.  So, you might wonder–are they really that weak?

EQUATORIAL GUINEA – Silvia Adjomo Ndong.  Her passion for music was clearly apparent as she spoke in SPanish during the Head-to-Head challenge, but she also ended up being long-winded and verbose.

GUYANA – Ambika Ramraj.  I have to hand it to her–she’s the one who posed the most serious challenge to Katarina’s victory in this group, as she has the looks, the articulateness, and the advocacy to pull off an upset.  She did get shortlisted in Beauty with a Purpose, with her project involving children’s trauma and in Talent for her golden trident dance.  She’s probably deemed one of the above-average contestants who could’ve gone far.

ICELAND – Erla Ólafsdóttir.  She’s solid with a decent ambition to become a lawyer.  But solid is not enough to make an impact and she’s ending up as being just another pretty face.

NORWAY – Madelen Michelsen.  She does have a human interest tale about being paralyzed on the right side, and she has a gorgeous face.  But like ICELAND, she just ended up as a solid contender who is just another pretty face.

PHILIPPINES – Katarina Rodriguez.  With the expected votes from the pageant fans, Katarina won for this group.  But she lost her head-to-head match with VENEZUELA, a shocker as many fans and pundits were somehow less-than-enamored with the latter at the time.  But since the second round was decided by three Miss World winners (Megan Young, Stephanie del Valle, and Manushi Chhillar), it boiled down to how well one presented her advocacy within 90 seconds.  Admittedly by speaking Katarina was a bit all over the place explaining her advocacy and went over the time limit, while VENEZUELA had a more focused speech.  Megan voted in favor of Katarina, but she was overruled by Manushi and Stephanie.  So now the question is–so why didn’t Katarina pass muster with the insiders?  And why for the first time since Cory Quirino took over the franchise did we fail to be shortlisted in Beauty with a Purpose?

I love Katarina, but I did notice something in the head-to-head video that she has this “affected” vibe.  What I mean is, it’s quite obvious she’s trying to win someone over instead of speaking from her heart or her core being.  It’s the same vibe I got when I watched Catriona Gray‘s Miss World introduction video two years ago.  I suppose that vibe went all the way to the interview and hence she didn’t win over the insiders to secure a Top 30 slot.  Now, what about her “peace education” advocacy involving victims of the siege in Marawi?  I’ve heard it seemed to be initiated by Katarina seemingly on a whim and did not get the full blessing of her local organization and hence it was not presented in the best light.  I’ve heard a lot of other issues between her and the local organization, but ultimately that affected her prospects (alongside explains the recent non-finalist showing of Alyssa Muhlach-Alvarez at Reina Hispanoamericana and the postponement of Mister World).  For now, we should console ourselves with a Top 32 Top Model shortlist and winning the first round of the Head-to-Head challenge.

SENEGAL – Aïssatou Filly.  She made an early splash by placing 2nd in Top Model.  However, she faded a bit and I think we can sense the cause in the head-to-head challenge.  She’s like a nervous, halting communicator, even if she has a good human interest story about being born to a teenage mother and that serving as her advocacy as there was a stigma placed in her society for such moms.  Still, it makes me wonder–the insiders are in the mood for almost anything French, and if MARTINIQUE made it through, why didn’t this lady get a fair shake?

COMING UP:  GROUPS 5 TO 8.

RESULTS REACTION: MISS UNIVERSE 2018

As with a major win for our nation, it’s time tor me to trot this video:

 

Needless to say, I was one of the 104 million Filipinos screaming with joy when “PHILIPPINES” was announced as the winner.  I’ll discuss more about my feelings and my analysis of Catriona Gray‘s performance in my full-fledged review.

We have to salute the rest of the delegates competing in ths pageant as they proved to be highly competitive.  Hence, I know that getting 12 out of 20 correct seems lowly but with so many worthy ladies, I know there might be some switches afoot.  Most of those I didn’t are in my “Bubbling Under” list anyway, so their inclusing was not that surprising.  There are two who I pegged in my “Striking Distance” list, though, but it turns out I underestimated them or I didn’t know they have such a strong, winning quality that won over the all-female selection committee, especially in the case of…

COSTA RICA (Natalia Carvajal).  I should’ve taken note of her background as a television presenter as this was the key that helped her win over the selection committee and ultimately made her a sensation in the final broadcast, as she generated a moment with host Steve Harvey as she referenced his infamous 2015 snafu.  She did it with humor and charm and her strong communication skills are in full effect here.  So not only did she make the Top 20, that moment (and her strong 15-second speech) likewise went further and made Top 10.

Meanwhile, I shouldn’t have second-guessed myself when a fellow pageant pundit criticized HUNGARY (Enikő Kecskès)‘s slender frame as “unhealthy”, as prior to that I would’ve also put her in my “Bubbling Under” list instead of lower.  She also reminds me of celebrity chef Giada de Laurentiis, so it shouldn’t be that surprising how she made the cut.

I got six of the Top 10 correct.  The four ladies I thought would make it this far missed the Top 20 entirely so they are obviously big candidates for the Ruth Ocumarez award*1.

*1 I refuse to call it by its new, more popular moniker, “El Tocuyo” because I find that such an award deserves to be named after a person instead of something as impersonal as a place.

Many presumed that the newsworthy fact that SPAIN (Angela Ponce) was transgender and the host country Thailand is home to a thriving transgender (and transvestite) culture would give her a heads-up and secure a place in teh Top 20 and even make it far into the Top 10.  But I can understand why the selection committee would think she fell short of being worthy of a Top 20 slot, so a dedicated television tribute to her participation is great consolation.

Many pageant fans and pundits (including myself) felt ECUADOR (Virginia Limongi) and MEXICO (Andrea Toscano) have got what it takes to go far.  But I have a feeling the selection committee felt that as good as they were, the likes of COSTA RICA proved to be more impressive in interview.

But for me (and for several others), the winner of the Ruth Ocumarez award is COLOMBIA (Valeria Morales).  Many (including myself) believed she got what it takes to sustain not only this country’s Top 20 streak, but even a Top Five or even a Final Three streak from its win in 2014.  Alas, both streaks are broken.  Some might speculate that she was given the most severe penalty over the “racist non-English” incident with AUSTRALIA (Francesca Hung) and U S A (Sarah Rose Summers) because the incriminating video was posted on her Instagram.  The latter two still managed to make the Top 20 but prospects for advancing further than that were obviously clipped.

I have to pay tribute to one country that made a big breakthrough–NEPAL (Manita Devkota).  I know many fans and pundits were fixated over INDIA (Nehal Chudasama) but I had a feeling this lady had a more fluid communication style and presence that the selection committee connected with better than INDIA, hence this lady was given preference and it’s a refreshing treat to see her go as far as Top 10.

The six I pegged in my Top 10 that actually made seemed to turn out to be competing very closely, with a very small margin separating first to sixth place.  Since there is only room for a Top Five, one fierce competitor had to be left out.  It’s unfortunate it had to be CANADA (Marta Magdalena Stepien) but I have a theory why ultimately she was ousted from a near-sure Final Five slot–more on that on my full-fledged review.  Anyway, it’s vindication for her unjust non-placement at Miss International 2017.

Many pageant fans and pundits are raving that this year’s Miss Universe is one of the best editions in recent years.  I agree with that assessment, as the competition turned out to be exciting.  We have the Top Six to thank for this (yes, I’m including CANADA in this) as these ladies competed at the top of their game.  Though CANADA was ultimately sacrificed, the Final Five likewise provided compelling arguments why they deserve to be there and then deserve to advance to the Final Three.

It turns out as predicted by so many pageant fans and pundits as early as several months prior to the competition, it ultimately was a head-to head showdown between two formidable contenders, and it’s almost like a brutal, metaphorically bloody, nail-biting 12-round boxing match watching these proceedings.  SOUTH AFRICA (Tamaryn Green) and PHILIPPINES (Catriona Gray) delivered great moments and had a few fumbles and recoveries throughout the three-hour telecast.  As much as I’m for Catriona all the way, I had moments where I second-guessed her strategies and other moments during the finals.

But in hindsight, all those strategies paid off and whatever fumbles observed are forgotten, and ultimately Catriona Gray fulfilled many a Filipino pageant fan’s dream and clinched the win.  No doubt her reign would be loaded with heavy publicity and will be remarkable.  Looking forward to watch her reign as Miss Universe unfold.  Congratulations, Catriona, for the win, and to all the other Miss Universe delegates, we salute you for a job well done!

JUST ME!

JOSEPH

RESULTS REACTION: MISTER SUPRANATIONAL 2018

I was expecting this year’s Mister Supranational to be a battle of the “giants”–meaning the winner is a hunk who is taller than the reigning champion Gabriel Correa.  Indeed a “giant” won, but not the one I was expecting.

I can pat myself on the back that I got 17 of the Top 20 correct.  However, there was one who for me qualifies as a “headscratcher”:  RUSSIA (Mikhail Baranov).  Sure he has an outgoing personality and a buffed bod, but his look is just so off-putting to my taste that I placed him in my bottom four.  As I mentioned in my Miss Supranational reaction article, there might be several factors at play on why he managed to make the cut.

I didn’t know that there is a popular vote fast-track and I should’ve taken that when assessing MYANMAR (Ellis Lwin)‘s prospects.  I have a feeling like the way we won a popular vote last year to secure a slot in the Top 20, this guy would probably officially ranked 20th in the Top 20.

I should’ve been more bullish towards THAILAND (Kevin Dasom) as I only pegged him in my Bubbling Under list.  Turns out with his personality and facility with English won over the Polish judges that he got to go very far in the competition, to the point of ending up 3rd runner-up.

Now, let’s discuss the guys I thought would make it but didn’t.  I thought COLOMBIA (Andres Mejia) would be the “little cutie that could”.  But well, with MYANMAR getting a fast-track slot and that surprise favoritism towards RUSSIA, he was yanked out of the roster.

I thought EQUATORIAL GUINEA (Jesus Dikuasa) with his supremely beefy buffed bod would be the African most likely to secure a slot in the Top 20.  But I suppose the judges felt he lacked spark (on top of the fact he was a late arrival) and not only did he miss the cut, the continental title for Africa went to TOGO (Kwassy Adjamah) instead.

But the biggest shock is that VENEZUELA (Jeudiel Condado) missed the cut even if the reigning champion was from his country.  Yeah, he tends to look a tad too rough, but still I thought the Venezuelan banner has luster to make people over look that quality, as he’s still a good looking guy.  So he’s the winner of the Lucas Malvacini award.

Now let’s talk guys who somehow fell short of their expected showing.  First, I was expecting MALTA (Benoit Bartolo) and MEXICO (Alejandro Garcia Torres) to figure in the Top 10 but they didn’t pass beyond the Top 20.  Admittedly this is a highly competitive year so these kinds of mini-upsets are expected.

I only got one out of the Final Five correct as it turned out the ones I was betting to be in that court somehow fell below expectations.  I thought PHILIPPINES (Marco Poli) should’ve been a Top 10 shoo-in but he didn’t garner enough favor with the judges and insiders that he missed the Top 10. I think when the organization releases the rankings of the Top 20, I would have toconsole myself that Marco should rank above 17th place (our best showing from the inaugural edition).  In retrospect after watching the chit-chat videos, I can understand why one of my big favorites to win, SPAIN (Fabian Perez Fernandez) fell short of the Top 10–though he exuded more charisma here than in his unremarkable stint at Mister Global earlier this year, he just lacked spark and simply making the cut is achievement enough for him.

The other two big giant favorites to win, SLOVAK REPUBLIC (Jan Palko) and UNITED STATES (Nicholas Kostelas), perhaps they fell short of the Final Five by very little.  I wonder if those artistic nudes that SLOVAK REPUBLIC did hurt his ultimate prospects and the judges deemed him a tad too sexy to win, I wonder? I think he can’t help it that everything about him oozes sex appeal.  And the classic Superman features possessed by UNITED STATES may have its adherents, but perhaps may be considered a tad too bland for today’s tastes?

I think there was a battle of the clean-cut Latinos between MEXICO and DOMINICAN REPUBLIC (Daniel Sicheneder) with the latter deemed to have more spark.  Hence it was DOMINICAN REPUBLIC who made the Top 10 instead of the one more favored by most pageant fans and pundits.

No doubt SRI LANKA (Tymeron Carvalho) has oodles of charm and personality that this is key for him to go as far as he did, all the way to the Top 10.  His showing is deemed a refreshing treat and makes a point that long-haired guys like him can look great and exude charisma.

I may have penalized NETHERLANDS (Ennio Fafieanie) severely for that brief “dumb” moment in his chit-chat video as the judges and insiders still favored him very highly that he ultimately ended up as 4th runner-up.  I can’t begrudge him that as he has charisma and handsomeness for miles.

It’s always a possibility that POLAND (Jakub Kucner) and BRAZIL (Samuel Costa) would make a play for the Final Five if any of my Final Five choices fell by the wayside, and indeed that happened, and these guys ended up as 1st and 2nd runner-up respectively.  Jakub is expected to see action at the upcoming Mister World pageant, but it looks like with muted news or publicity the pageant is further postponed from the scheduled 27 January 2019 final–hopefully the postponement wouldn’t be that long as I’d like to see if he can pull off the hat-trick delivered by England’s Christopher Brammell, who finished in the Final Five in Mister World 2016, Manhunt International 2016 (2nd runner-up) and Mister Global 2017 (also 2nd runner-up).

At first glance, I presumed INDIA (Prathamesh Maulingkar) is in the same “rough” category as VENEZUELA with his hirsute appearance and tattoos.  But he wins people over with his superbly chiseled bod and his engaging, outgoing personality, and ultimately that helped him become the “last giant standing” and ultimately win.

I’m a tad surprised at the reversal of fortune for several of the hunky giants in this year’s contest, but still there are strong merits for the guys that ultimately garnered the Final Five honors and that still, a charismatically hunky and sexy giant is still declared the winner.  Looking forward for future editions of this pageant as this is now serving as a beacon on how to conduct a great male pageant.

JUST ME!

JOSEPH