This year’s Miss Universe pageant has achieved another major milestone as it topped last year’s record turnout of 92 delegates, as this year it attracted 94.  It could’ve been 95 but because of lack of preparation on the end of her national directors, one lady had to go through hoops in order to secure her travel arrangements to Thailand, which eventually became all for naught as even if she managed to set foot on Thai soil, she can only be treated as a “special guest” and would not be allowed to compete:

SIERRA LEONE – Marie Esther Bangura.  Shame on her national organization for not taking care of her travel arrangements–all had to be done by the girl’s initiative.  When she left her native land, there was even a time that it was thought something untoward happened to her–as it turned out, she simply had to travel to Nigeria since there was no Thai embassy in her country, and that the best available transport was by boat.  Somhow, thanks to the speed of today’s shipping lines, she at least got to set foot in Thailand before the pageant final, but as I noted above, she is no longer allowed to compete in this year’s pageant.  They promised they’ll open a slot for her for next year’s pageant, but it’s likely she’ll have to go through so much hoops again if she continues with the same support she currently have–someone should sponsor her so she could get to finally compete next year!

Now, even with the final roster of 94, it turns out this year’s batch is of an extremely high standard and highly competitive.  There are also some new twists in the system–though many disliked it, the continental format stays, but this time there would be a Top 20 and this would mean five slots each for Asia/Pacific/Afirica, the Americas, and Europe and five wildcards.  Then, this year’s judges (which they now termed as “selection committee”) is an all-female panel.  Now, let us see who would fare best under this system, starting with…

ALBANIA – Trejsi Sejdini.  Albanian pronunciation lesson:  her name sounds exactly like “Tracy”.  Many pageant fans and pundits felt she may have an inside road to the Top 20 as she delivered fierceness onstage in the preliminary competition, especially in the evening gown round.  But I have a feeling the selection committee may deem her to be lacking depth and remember that interview is 60% of the preliminary score.

ANGOLA – Ana Liliana Avião.  Her up-close profile video reveals she has a strong facility with English, which is uncommon for a typical delegate from this coutnry.  She’s generally solid but she’s not garnering much buzz and is treated more like a member of the P.A.T.I.S. Crew.

ARGENTINA – Agustina Belén Pivowarchuk.  Despite her Ukrainian heritage and surname, she’s a Spanish speaker through-and-through.  Her major advocacy for health and physical fitness is reflected with her buffed and lean bod.  She’s also polished onstage, but admittedly her facial features may be deemed a tad angular for many pageant fans and pundits for comfort (including myself).  Still, she’s a worthwhile contender.

ARMENIA – Eliza Muradyan.  This is one of three countries making their debut in this pageant.  She has a pretty face and is unimpeachable in the looks department, but this pageant format doesn’t really favor girls like her.  Again, otherwise, another worthwhile contender.

ARUBA – Kimberly Julsing.  She didn’t have the polish in her early appearances like in the Thai Silk fashion show, but she vindicated herself during the preliminary competition as she looks very polished.  Still, it may not be enough for her to make a standout impression.

AUSTRALIA – Francesca Hung.  When she won her national title, many pageant fans and pundits were bearish on her prospects as she seemed to look plainer than the typical Aussie babes fielded in this pageant.  However, she made waves when she arrived in Bangkok, as it turns out she can radiate like all those Aussie babes before her.  But then she endured a backlash as she was involved in an incident where she, USA, and COLOMBIA had a conversation about non-English speaking Asian contestants like CAMBODIA and VIETNAM which rubbed devoted pageant netizens (most especially from those countries) the wrong way.  With that, from being a front-running contender, her prospects for advancing now seems uncertain.  Is the selection committee aware of that incident, perchance?

BAHAMAS – Danielle Grant.  She can generate a good score in interview as she’s a good communicator, but her plain features and muted charisma would make it a struggle for her to make the final cut.

BARBADOS – Meghan Theebalds.  Now, this lady has polish and an exotic charisma, and I love her Afro.  She could be a possible sleeper hit.

BELGIUM – Zoé Brunet.  She is a standout with her frizzy hair, and it is conceivable she can charm the selection committee to include her in the Top 20.

BELIZE – Jenelli Fraser.  In my opinion, she’s one of the weakest links looks-wise, but she does have a redeeming quality with her communication skills.

BOLIVIA – Joyce Prado.  In another year, she would be the sort who would be treated in serious contention for the Top 20.  But in a year like this, she seems to be considered more in the P.A.T.I.S. crew level.

BRAZIL – Mayra Dias.  See BOLIVIA, but the thing is this country has not missed the cut since 2011 so she can rely on the power of her sash to make the cut.  We’ll see if her sash indeed still has power in a highly competitive group like this one.  Still, her merits are undeniable.


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