MISS UNIVERSE 2018: AT THE HOMESTRETCH (CONCLUSION)

SWITZERLAND – Jastina Doreen Riederer.  It’s nice to see the official Miss Switzerland winner back to this pageant, and she is delivering a worthwhile, creditable performance.

THAILAND – Sophida Kanchanarin.  She’s not conventionally pretty, but she has stage polish and she has strong English-speaking skills–and many times an English-speaking Thai would make the cut.  In the previous two occasions this country hosted this pageant, the host delegate misses the cut.  Many are buzzing an exception will be made here.

TURKEY – Tara De Vries.  Her surname is Dutch–she got to represent this country thanks to her Turkish mother.  As such her communication skills are leaps and bounds superior to a typical representative from tis country.  She has a bubbly charm and a human interest story about a brother with a rare disease, but it is far from certain that she will make the cut.

UKRAINE – Karyna Zhosan.  This blonde has a good charitable advocacy and strong, matter-of-fact English speaking skills.  She delivered a polished performance in the preliminary competition so she could be a possible Top 20 contender.

URUGUAY – Sofia Marrero.  She is an otherwise solid, polished contender with facial features that are a tad angular.

U S A – Sarah Rose Summers.  She’s a perky, bubbly blonde who seems a shoo-in for the Top 10 until that controversy arose around a filmed covnersation between her, AUSTRALIA and COLOMBIA.  It’s still uncertain if there will be a fallout from that incident but at least she and the other ladies from that video are making amends to the offended parties.

U S VIRGIN ISLANDS – Aniska Tonge.  See BELIZE, but at least she saw action at Miss World 2014 and Miss America 2013.*1

*1 Yes, Miss America now made territories like this one and Puerto Rico eligible for that pageant.

VENEZUELA – Sthefany Gutierrez.  Despite the current crisis this country is enduring, you can never discount this pageant powerhouse, and this brunette with the waist-length tresses seems a shoo-in for the Top Ten.

VIETNAM – H’Hen Niê.  She was one of the subjects of that controversial conversation because of her lack of facility with English.  But it takes no translator to appreciate the charisma she possiesses especially with her hip, distinctive haircut.  She epitomizes How Do I Look host Jeannie Mai’s now (in)famous comment, “Yellow is the color of joy,” as she’s a vision in canary yellow in both the swimsuit and evening gown rounds.

ZAMBIA – Melba Shakabozha.  Lumping up Asia and Africa together is just brutal, as this year both continents have astounding contenders.  This lady makes a distinctive presence with her up-do, generating a dignified presence.  Her communication skills is also strong, but a tad short of qualifying for SDE.

With all 94 accounted for, let me trot out my Leaderboard:

TOP CONTENDERS:  PHILIPPINES, PUERTO RICO, SOUTH AFRICA

POSSIBLE USURPERS:  CANADA, COLOMBIA, SPAIN

SHOO-INS:  ECUADOR, EL SALVADOR, IRELAND, MEXICO, U S A, VENEZUELA, VIETNAM

LIKELIEST: ALBANIA, ANGOLA, AUSTRALIA, BARBADOS, BELGIUM, BOLIVIA, BRAZIL, CAMBODIA, CAYMAN ISLANDS, CHILE, CHINA, CURACAO, DENMARK, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, FRANCE, GHANA, GREAT BRITAIN, GREECE, HONDURAS, ICELAND, INDIA, INDONESIA, JAMAICA,  KAZAKHSTAN, KENYA, KOREA, LEBANON, MALTA, NAMIBIA, NEPAL, NETHERLANDS, NICARAGUA, NIGERIA, PANAMA, PARAGUAY, PERU, POLAND, SLOVAK REPUBLIC, SRI LANKA, SWITZERLAND, THAILAND, TURKEY, UKRAINE, ZAMBIA

INTELLIGENCE FACTOR:  NEW ZEALAND,

EXCELLENT:  ARGENTINA, ARMENIA, ARUBA, BULGARIA, COSTA RICA, CZECH REPUBLIC, EGYPT, GERMANY, HUNGARY, ISRAEL, ITALY, JAPAN, KYRGYZSTAN, MALAYSIA, MAURITIUS, MYANMAR, PORTUGAL, SAINT LUCIA, SINGAPORE, SWEDEN, URUGUAY,

VERY STRONG:  CROATIA, FINLAND, GEORGIA, GUAM, GUATEMALA, KOSOVO, MONGOLIA,

STRONG:  BAHAMAS, BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS, HAITI, LAOS, NORWAY, U S VIRGIN ISLANDS,

VERY GOOD:  BELIZE

Now, my “Fearful” Forecast:

TOP THREE:  PHILIPPINES, PUERTO RICO, SOUTH AFRICA

FINAL FIVE:  CANADA, COLOMBIA

TOP 10:  ECUADOR, MEXICO, SPAIN, VENEZUELA, VIETNAM

TOP 20:  BELGIUM, CURACAO, EL SALVADOR, GREAT BRITAIN, IRELAND, LEBANON, NEPAL, NIGERIA, UKRAINE, U S A

BUBBLING UNDER:  ALBANIA, ANGOLA, AUSTRALIA, BARBADOS, BOLIVIA, BRAZIL, CAMBODIA, CAYMAN ISLANDS, CHILE, CHINA, DENMARK, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, FRANCE, GHANA, GREECE, HONDURAS, ICELAND, INDIA, INDONESIA, JAMAICA,  KAZAKHSTAN, KENYA, KOREA, MALTA, NAMIBIA, NETHERLANDS, NICARAGUA, PANAMA, PARAGUAY, PERU, POLAND, SLOVAK REPUBLIC, SRI LANKA, SWITZERLAND, THAILAND, TURKEY, ZAMBIA

STRIKING DISTANCE:  ARGENTINA, ARMENIA, ARUBA, BULGARIA, COSTA RICA, CZECH REPUBLIC, EGYPT, GERMANY, HUNGARY, ISRAEL, ITALY, JAPAN, KYRGYZSTAN, MALAYSIA, MAURITIUS, MYANMAR, NEW ZEALAND, PORTUGAL, SAINT LUCIA, SINGAPORE, SWEDEN, URUGUAY

This is looking like a pageant will never soon forget, with the promise of an epic showdown amongst three powerhouses.  Will the PHILIPPINES‘ dream of a fourth Miss Universe be realized with the nearly unstoppable Catriona Gray, or will we again face heartbreak under the hands of PUERTO RICO’s stunning and charming Kiara Ortega, or can SOUTH AFRICA pull-off the rare back-to-back win with the overachieving Tamaryn Green?  I’m extremely excited at the scenarios that may unfold.  Best of luck to all the ladies!

JUST ME!

JOSEPH

The strongest from beginning to end: PUERTO RICO (Kiara Ortega), SOUTH AFRICA (Tamaryn Green), and PHILIPPINES (Catriona Gray).

MISS UNIVERSE 2018: AT THE HOMESTRETCH (PART 7)

PHILIPPINES – Catriona Gray.  Since she set foot in Thailand she had been making major splashes so relentlessly that it’s almost exhausting.  Yet she is worthy of the hype as she never seemed to flag or dim everytime she appears in public.  She also delivered THE performance of the preliminary competition with her stellar catwalk, dubbed the “lava” walk.  People from all walks of life began buzzing (and memefying) that utterly superlative swimsuit twirl, how it went momentarily slow motion with her hair flying at half-speed then speeding up as the twirl completed.  It’s a rare phenomenon that the general public rave about a pageant performance and she never disappoints.

I’ve noticed a contrast between her speaking style during her 2016 Miss World stint and her later documentary videos where she curates the inspiration for her national costume.  For instance, her Miss World contestant introduction video came off a bit too organized that it did leave room for some doubters to wonder–“Is she too good to be true?”  That impression is for me te biggest reason why she ultimately lost the Miss World crown.  Then, watch the three-part This is the Philippines videos–there is more gravitas in her delivery and you get the impression she is speaking from her heart and her passion is palpable.  I’ve always known there is something genuine underneath that perkiness, and those videos (and her up-close video) shows she indeed possesses SDE, and I’m confident that will serve her very well with the selection committee.  Needless to say, she is by far the big favorite to win it all, but this time I’m not counting my chickens until they are hatch as there are still imminent possible impediments to her path, including one from the country that for many Filipino fans, wrested her Miss World crown away from her.

POLAND – Magdalena Swat. This blonde’s great looks and stage chops are undeniable and in a less competitive European group, she has an inside track into the Top 20.  My only concern is if the selection committee would find her story compelling enough.

PORTUGAL – Filippa Barroso.  In another year, she would’ve had more inroads into the Top 20 but with a batch like this she has to be contented to be considered a worthwhile contender.

PUERTO RICO – Kiara Ortega.  She has a passing resemblance to Miss World 2013 Megan Young, especially with a no-makeup shot I saw of her.  She’s like Megan’s taller tanner cousin.  She also exudes a very likeable bubbly persona that it’s easy to think she can easily charm the selection committee.  There are some pundits who nitpick her preliminary competition performance claiming she was a disappointment but I thought she still delivered a high-level performance.  It’s conceivable she is reserving her energy for the finals, and that if that is true, Catriona better watch out as a similar scenario to what happened at Miss World might occur here.  I wouldn’t mind her winning, but come on, it’s about time for Catriona to win, right?

RUSSIA – Yulia Polyachkhina.  You can never underestimate this country’s track record, and this lady is of that high standard.  Sure her blue ballgown might be polarizing but I think she carried it well.   She seems to be in contention for the Top 20.

SAINT LUCIA – Angelia Dalsou.  Yeah, her figure is on the thick side and there are pageant fans and pundits who find er plain, but someow I kinda like her.  And I found it brave that she admitted she had a mental health iissue.  She may be far from likely to make the cut but I like her.

SINGAPORE – Zara Khanum.  She’s solid in every respect but definitely not in contention for the Top 20.

SLOVAK REPUBLIC – Barbora Hanová.  She surprisingly has a strong command of English, and she does have the looks to be in serious contention for the Top 20.  Another sleeper possibility to make the cut.

SOUTH AFRICA – Tamaryn Green.  Yes, she is a great follow-up to the reigning Miss Universe Demi-Leigh Nel Peters.  This medical student is bringing her overachievements and her polished presence to make a play for a possible South African back-to-back.  Just like PUERTO RICO, there are pageant fans and pundits nitpicking her preliminary competition performance but I will not count her out of crown contention.  That back-to-back remains very conceivable indeed.

SPAIN – Angela Ponce.  Her participation is a breakthrough as she’s the first ever transgender delegate to this pageant.  Some media outlets were even hyping she can even wrest the crown away from her naturally-born-female rivals.  She did make a big splash at the Thai Silk fashion show but after that those crown prospects are dimming.  As much as I try my best to be open-minded, her undeniably male speaking voice is jarring, and I have a feeling the selection committee would feel the same way, even if they support her presence.

SRI LANKA – Ornelia Gunesekere.  She had previously seen action in three international pageants, with a non-finalist stint at Miss International eight years ago, a Top 10 finish at Miss Grand International in 2015, and a 3rd runner-up finish at Miss Supranational two years ago.  Her predecessor, Christina Peiris, made history by breaking a 61-year drought for this country in the semifinals, snd this lady is aiming to keep the streak going.  It’s far from certain she’ll deliver the streak especially with a bevy of highly competitive contenders from this region, but we cannot fault her performance as she is competing at a high level and obviously giving her all.

SWEDEN – Emma Strandberg.  This is another one of Catriona’s batchmates at Miss World 2016.  Unlike DENMARK, she is competing mostly at a P.A.T.I.S. level so is likely to be overlooked.

COMING UP:  SWITZERLAND to ZAMBIA plus “FEARFUL” FORECAST