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?


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