As previously mentioned, the Final Five is based on Continental allocation, basically who the judges deemed as the top performer for each continent advances to the Final FIve, instead of selecting the actual Top Five performers amongst the Top 12.  For a year with standouts heavily stacked on certain regions, like Asia & Oceania in this case,   Anyway, I like the touch that prior to the announcement they interviewed roommates or friends from within that continent.

After the five Continental Queens were selected, just like since 2016 they are subjected to a Q&A with a question posed by an outgoing or former Miss World.  I’ll discuss their answers in detail when I discuss the Final Five in depth.

MISS WORLD – CARIBBEAN: JAMAICA – Kadijah Robinson.  This country has always been a pet country for this pageant.  Well, yes, this lady is polished, articulate, and educated like most of the fellow representatives from her country before her, but to be honest, I found her a tad low-key during her head-to-head challenge.  She also didn’t make the shortlist in any fast-track event, So one might wonder, why her instead of, say, TRINIDAD & TOBAGO?  Some speculated that TRINIDAD & TOBAGO makes an intimidating rival against the “favored” one, so the insiders decided to mark down the big rival enough to miss the cut and put this less intimidating lady as the top Caribbean performer instead.  Miss World 2008 Ksenia Sukhinova asked her, “In my year as Miss World, I saw the extreme difficulties that so many people have to overcome. What is the greatest obstacle you’ve had to overcome?”  This is Kadijah’s reply:  “The greatest obstacle that I’ve had to overcome is one of self-confidence, and I’m so glad I did because I’m here tonight standing in front of you in pure joy and humility. When I was younger, I always doubted myself and I always doubted my capabilities. It took me a very long time to overcome this, and I know it takes a lot of communication with the self and a lot of thoughts. It’s a long process, but I was able to do it. To whoever is listening tonight that is not confident with themselves, I implore you to communicate with yourself. Find your niche. Find yourself, and it will be the most awesome feeling ever.”  It’s actually a relatable obstacle (as I also have to deal with the same thing), but it doesn’t make for a compelling answer and worse, she didn’t really illustrate any specific example about the lack of self-confidence she faced.

MISS WORLD – EUROPE: BELARUS – Maria Valisevich.  She was a bit under my radar but I did believe she had what it takes to make it all the way to the Top 30 as she proved a strong communicator during the head-to-head challenge with an intriguing background being a licensed pilot alongside being a globe-trotting model.  She made the shortlist in Top Model and Sports.  She also was a more spontaneous, confident communicator during the Top 12 round that she pulled off the upset and beat the more favored FRANCE to be the Continental Queen of Europe.  For her final question, she was asked by Miss World 2014 Rolene Strauss this:  “Every Miss World winner builds upon a legacy of the previous Miss World. How do you plan on building on the legacy of Manushi Chhillar?”  Maria was obviously nervous but she delivered this answer:  “I think that Manushi had done a big job during this year. I’m so proud that I will have an opportunity – maybe, an opportunity – to continue this job. I think I will continue my own Beauty with a Purpose project which is connected with unable and disabled people, and talented children.

MISS WORLD – AFRICA:  UGANDA – Quiin Abenakyo.  Her late arrival helped her shine bright against the other latecomers in her group (even if they are no slouches, to their credit).  She indeed has one of the prettiest faces amongst this year’s contenders from her continent, and her bob weave does give her a stylish, cosmopolitan look.  Another lady who could’ve deserved a Top Model slot over, say, BARBADOS (yeah, I’m piling hard on her, am I?).  Winning the head-to-head challenge is already a big milestone for her country, and the final night judges were in the mood to add gravy to an already impressive achievement, as she emerged as a great underdog story, even if MAURITIUS arguably gave a better chit-chat.   For her final question, she was asked by Miss World 2016 Stephanie del Valle this:  “What unique quality would you bring to Beauty with a Purpose?” Quiin’s response went like this:  “I am very passionate about cooking. I believe one can show the love they have for everyone through food. My Beauty with a Purpose project is fighting teenage pregnancies. We can all come together and help, but we can also do this through food. When we all come together, we share ideas, we generate ideas, just like the Miss World family who are able to come up with different ideas to solve problems in our countries.”  It’s not quite cohesive but it’s solid.

Normally Julia Morley would announce two runners-up and the winner, but this year she only announced one runner-up.  There was speculation that there was a tie for third place for two of the Continental Queens, but because the Continental Queens will be on-hand to tour alongside the winner throughout the year, perhaps they decided ad hoc not to bother announcing the 2nd runner-up.  Anyway it turns out t

RUNNER-UP AND MISS WORLD – ASIA:  THAILAND – Nicolene Pichapa Limsnukan.  This country deserved some vindication after missing the cut last year with a stellar contender.  This lady is a huge upgrade as she has an excellent command of English since she actually grew up in the US.  We all know in Miss Universe American-raised Thais would shine brightly and it now extends to this one with this gem.  She made a splash by being in the Top Five in designer dress and making the Top 32 in Top Model, then also getting shortlisted for Talent with her flag routine, which was tapped as the opener for the final night Dances of the World sequence.  But she earned her slot by winning the head-to-ead challenge as she eloquently presented her advocacy stemmed from taking care of her autistic brother.  Her project may have fallen short of making the Top 25 in BWAP, but it’s still a strong project.  She also gave a strong answer to the question posed to her by the outgoing Miss World, Manushi Chhillar, thusly:  “Being a Miss World is glamorous and exciting, but it’s also hard work. What strengths would you bring to the role?”  Her answer:  “The strength I would bring to being Miss World is passion and love for the project I started, which is Love For All, which works with kids with autism. It’s based around my little brother. I feel that as long as you have passion, you’re able to work, you’re able to love, and do what you want to do. That’s going to be able to move the world, move society, and change who you are as a person, as well as change the world to make it a better place.”

I’ve noticed she has a resemblance to our representative from 13 years ago, Carlene Aguilar.  If Carlene was not too slickly packaged and have a dash of spontaneity like this lady, she could’ve easily justified her fan status as the favorite to win it and we would’ve had a much stronger outcome (probably even securing our first ever win).

Carlene Aguilar at Miss World 2005

MISS WORLD 2018:  MEXICO – Vanessa Ponce de Leon.  As the finals close in, many are buzzing that this lady is the anointed one, the favorite to win.  Her modeling background with her string of volunteer work makes her an ideal fit to this organization’s agenda.  She also justifies her status with a shortlist in Top Model, reserve slot in Sports, 2nd place in Multimedia, and a fourth-place tie for her BWAP project helping alleviate the poverty of indigenous people.  Though making Top Five in BWAP already would secure a place in the Top 30, she earlier earned her slot thanks to an epic head-to-head challenge win against the formidable TRINIDAD & TOBAGO.  She nailed her win in the Final Five by answering the question posed to her by Miss World 2013 Megan Young, thus:  “When I became a Miss World, I was able to use my position to help people. How would you use your influence as Miss World to help others?”  Vanessa answered, “I would use my position just the way I’ve been doing it for the past 3 years – being an example. We all can be an example of good in the world, we all have to care, we all have to love, we all have to be kind. It don’t cost a thing. Helping is not that hard. We just really need the world to make a change. You just need to go there. There’s always someone that’ll need what you have to offer.”

Mexico’s win was deemed long overdue after three 1st runner-up finishes (2005, 2009, and 2017) and a 2nd runner-up finish (2007).  But I observed a similar trajectory like what took place with another major powerouse pageant country that recently changed franchises, and coincidentally, who also shared very similar cultural ties.  I’m talking about the Philippines, of course.  Megan Young was the third winner under the new franchise, and so is Vanessa.  And both countries had a 1st runner-up within that three-year period.  For some detractors who are arguing that this win is “pre-ordained” and a reward for the new franchisee, could the same argument also affect us (as I presume some of the main detractors are from our own turf) and are you willing to diminish Megan Young’s win in the process?   There is the possibility that there is some truth to that arguments raised by detractors, but I think Vanessa earned her win fair and square.

Though I do have misgivings with the mercurial way the Miss World officers changes the rules almost ad hoc, and how it is increasingly operating like a home-grown cottage industry than a professional, accountable organization, I still feel there is a bit of fairness in the way things are decided, and unless hard evidence can be presented by those detractors, its projects for charities around the world has been enviable and had made a great impact over the decades.  Here’s hoping for a successful, fruitful reign for Vanessa Ponce de Leon!