I was admittedly in a deadline crunch when I trooped to Cubao after lunchtime last Friday, and I have yet to post the meat of my Homestretch review. Little did I know that when I arrived in Cubao, I was greeted by a horrendous downpour. Though drenched while I searched for the nearest internet cafe to complete my piece, I was at peace with my decision to come to the area early, as I’m aware of the horrendous traffic jams ahead if I ended up leaving later, especially with the intermittent downpours happening all over the Metro.
I completed my Homestretch review at 7 PM and that left me ample time to walk to the Araneta Coliseum to take my seat. Supposedly a livestream was to begin at that time, with the programme supposed to start at 8 PM, but at 730 PM the venue was practically empty. Stephen Douglas, perennial announcer and gamekeeper of the competition since 2007 (for both Mister World and Miss World) advised that the show would be slightly delayed by 15 minutes and noted that the downpour may have caused the delay of audience members coming in. Indeed, that turn out to be true as the patron and the stage-left side of the lower box sections started filling in within the 45-minute timeframe. The stage-right side and the upper box and bleachers sections were mostly empty though.
I learned of talk of an initial cut to a Top 24, but little did I realize this would be on top of the Fast Track winners already announced, so it was actually a Top 29. So let me revise my original “Fearful” Forecast to add five guys I would’ve put in if I knew this was the format: CAMEROON, ECUADOR, ITALY, NIGERIA, and NORTHERN IRELAND. With that in mind, I got 22 out of 29 correct. Not bad, and I had two in my “Bubbling Under” list that made it. But there is still some shockers that came in.
The two in my “Bubbling Under” list were POLAND (Robert Kapica) and PUERTO RICO (Jose Cotto). For the former, I thought he may not pass muster in interview but it seems MWO insiders are more forgiving with Europeans in terms of interview skills, as he has a pleasant, engaging-enough prsonality. For the latter, I should’ve stuck with my instincts and not be dependent on inputs from my esteemed peers as I thought he has what it takes to make the cut. I think Miss World 2016 Stephanie del Valle (who has now been perennially a part of the MWO entourage as BWAP ambassador) might have also had a hand to keep him around but this guy has obvious merits worthy of belonging in this group anyway. I’m just so glad that he didn’t win that “special prize” I hinted on in my Homestretch review.
I had four guys in my “Striking Distance” list who made the cut. Two of them, I underestimated their merits. GHANA (Bright Ofori) was such a sunny, enthusiastic presence that I underestimated how MWO put a premium on this type of personality. LATVIA (Edvīns Ločmelis) I forgot to realize, was very present and active in many of the activities and I have a feeling MWO took note of that and looked upon him with favor. I have no objections with their inclusion.
I know many pageant fans and pundits would object over the inclusion of RUSSIA (Denis Khadyko) and UNITED STATES (Andresito Germosen de la Cruz but both have parlayed their unique qualities to win favor with the judges. RUSSIA helped offset his intimidating appearance by behaving like a gentle teddy bear throughout his stay, while UNITED STATES is almost as bright and lively as GHANA.
Now the biggest headscratcher was the inclusion of CHINA (Zhang Zhiyu) in the Top 29. It’s not my recent antithetical stance against my government’s policy that I object over his inclusion, it’s simply a matter of his looks as he’s just plain and scrawny to me. Sure there is a video on the Mister World Instagram account that shows him in a very sympathetic light, but still, there are so many worthier ones out there instead of him. The conspiracy theorist in me speculates it’s probably an investment for the future, as maybe MWO wants to talk to China to host the next edition of this pageant as it will be a shame to scale this pageant back after such a resoundingly successful edition this year, as China has the resources to pull off a grand show. Main Philippine sponsor Bench can have a major play here, since they have outlets and a supply chain in that country too. Is Ben Chan emerging as MWO’s version of the Miss Universe Organization’s Chavit Singson? Unlike the latter, I highly welcome this prospect.
Let’s now talk about the guys who missed the cut. I have to pay a special tribute to INDIA (Vishnu Raj Menon), even if he didn’t figure at all in most pageant pundit’s forecasts (including myself). It probably boils down to him losing his facial hair as it made him look ordinary that despite his enviably buffed frame and his advocacy he didn’t make much impact at all and could not even have a chance of getting close to potentially succeeding his countryman, Rohit Khandelwal. But we should still salute him as he tried his very best.
It seems in every edition of this pageant in this decade, there is an utterly gorgeous hunk who many believed would be a shoo-in, but whose personality/demeanor seems either too low-key or otherwise incompatible to what MWO is looking for that they are shut out. I would henceforth officially call this the SPAINHOUR-AJDANI*1 CHILLOUT AWARD and very aptly, this year’s award goes to SPAIN (Daniel Torres, a.k.a. Cavill en Español or perhaps, Enrique Cavill). Interestingly when I reviewed the 2010 and 2012 editions, this “honor” would’ve retroactively gone to this country, too. So in three occasions, “Spain got Spainhour’d”. I hope for the next edition, Spain would find a hunk with a bright spark to avoid this frustrating honor.
*1 Named after our hunky Philippine reps in 2014 and 2016, John Spainhour and Sam Ajdani.
Continuing on the Latin topic, I thought COLOMBIA (Daniel Castrillon) was a lock for the Top 24 considering his strong showing in Sports and placements in Extreme Sports and Top Model. Is he too chill for MWO, too? I also feel bad that EL SALVADOR (David Pivaral) missed the cut as despite his relatively short stature, he has a spark about him and I still maintain he’s better than his predecessor who made the Top 10 in 2016. Maybe he just looks a tad too rough for the MWO’s tastes
For most pageant fans and pundits, the LUCAS MALVACINI award would’ve gone to SPAIN, but knowing the format of this pageant, I would reserve this honor to one with a bright spark of personality or human interest story that many presumed would’ve catnip for the MWO, but somehow did not garner favor. Many pageant fans and pundits presumed THAILAND (Anakin Nontiprasit) would’ve been a lock for the Top 24 and beyond, but somehow, his qualities are not enough to win the favor of Morley and Co. He’s the runner-up for this dubious honor…
…as the LUCAS MALVICINI Award goes to CANADA (Alessandro Coward). I thought his autism human interest story would be catnip for MWO, alongside his strong showings in Sports, Extreme Sports, and Top Model. Wonder what made him fall short with the powers-that-be?
I have to say, I’m so happy I got 11 out of the Top 12 correct, as I thought CANADA was a lock but he fell way short. I kinda sense MWO would like to rate their British reps high, so it’s not that much of a shock that NORTHERN IRELAND (Adam Steenson) made this lofty cut. Anyway, he has a cute boyish appeal that no one would seriously object to his inclusion.
With a European winning the whole thing, Mister World – Europe honors went to AUSTRIA (Alberto Nodale). It’s well-deserved as he competed at a high level throughout, making the cut in Extreme Sports, Sports, and Top Model. After the coronation, I went closer to the stage and I happened to see his family–his mom is a proud, happy woman but interestingly I saw his brother–he’s like an almost exact clone of this guy, except younger and skinnier. Some fans complimented on the brother and the mom proudly declared that her son can compete in a future Mister World. We’ll see if that materializes.
Many Filipino fans are mightily pleased that PHILIPPINES (JB Saliba) made the Top 12, only the second time we had made the cut in this pageant. Of course many (including myself) were expecting a Top Five finish, but the Top Five proved to be too formidable, but Mister World – Asia & Pacific is a great achievement enough.
BRAZIL (Carlos Franco) has always been Top Five worthy, but I thought that besides a possible “Continental” format that would provide a slot for the PHILIPPINES in the Final Five, that MWO would reward us with that slot, but this guy proved to bee too formidable to be deprived. More on that on my full-fledged review of the final.
I’ve always expected DOMINICAN REPUBLIC (Alejandro Martinez) to figure in the Top Five, but I have to say, based on the onstage Q&A, he was actually out-answered by BRAZIL. Still a Mister World – Caribbean is a great honor to have.
I think many pageant fans and pundits would’ve wanted MEXICO (Brian Faugier) or SOUTH AFRICA (Fezile Mkhize) to win and these two left no stone unturned and covered all the bases. My Top Two prediction of a England – Mexico pair was broken thanks to the Q&A rounds, as SOUTH AFRICA gave brilliant (albeit verbose) answers.
An amusing behind-the-scenes moment was hearing Stephen Douglas constantly paging Frankie Cena to come towards the judging table seconds before they resume from commercial break. Wonder where Frankie wandered to during those breaks?
It’s not surprising for pageant fans and pundits who keep a close eye throughout the pageant that ENGLAND (Jack Heslewood) won. He is worthy and he does look better in person than in photos. Still, there are some pageant fans and pundits who do not seem to welcome his victory and they decided to spin some conspiracy theories that somehow involve his parents. Let me debunk at least a couple of those theories…
I was seated at the upper box (yes I bought my own ticket as I had no time to cover as a pageant blogger due to my work commitments), and to my right were supporters of JAPAN (Kenta Nagai) and to my left happened to be… Mr. and Mrs. Heslewood, Jack’s parents! Mrs. Heslewood in particular was seated beside me, and I engaged in a little chit-chat with her. I mentioned to her that all roads pointed to her son winning the whole thing, and she’s very pleased to hear that. While watching Alyssa Muhlach*2 perform the song “Never Enough” from The Greatest Showman, I mentioned to her that I know the movie and soundtrack are phenomenally popular in her shores, and she totally agreed as the movie and the music has appeal to all ages. And, while Stephen was paging for Frankie Cena, she asked me, “Who is Frankie Cena?”. I explained to her that he’s a co-host and a former Mister World finalist.
*2 She competed at Miss World Philippines last year and was given the right to compete at Reina Hispanoamericana (unfortunately she didn’t place). She used to be professionally known as Issa Alvarez, so it took me a while to realize she changed her professional name and made me wonder–was there some family drama involved for the name switch? I’m not that attuned to local showbiz unlike my late brother.
For those who are asserting a cosy relationship between the Heslewoods and Morleys, a couple of points to consider: why are they at the upper box seats when they could’ve been given VIP, patron, or even lower box seats? Also, if they are close to Julia Morley, they might have at least been aware or heard of Frankie Cena since he’s kinda a constant presence in MWO circles for the past few years.
Though pageant fans and pundits didn’t seem to welcome Jack’s victory, at least the guys that mattered–his 71 peers– begged to differ, as soon after his victory was announced, he was warmly congratulated and even carried aloft.
Another part of the conspiracy theory involved the original Mister England, Jack Eyers, that he was “forced out” of taking part in this pageant. But based on Eyer’s social media, he was supportive of Heslewood, and after the win, here is his congratulatory message on Instagram and explanation why he didn’t see action in Manila:
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Congratulations to the new Mr World 2019 @jackheslewood 🥳💂♂️ Jack was 1st runner up at the Mr England 2017. Due to my commitments training with @british.canoeing and my vision for Tokyo I had to make the very tough decision to not attend the Mr World competition. Jack has held the title of Mr England in my absence, whilst I'm absolutely gutted not to have attended myself, it was one of the most difficult decisions I've ever made, but Jack has done us proud!! A massive congratulations to the new @mrworld.official a very exciting 2 years ahead for you! ⭐🚀🇬🇧 @missenglandnews #mrengland #mrworld #lifeisfullofdifficultchoices #1man1leg1mission
I know for most part of this decade, this contest doesn’t really crown the most breathtaking-looking guy and opted for attractive-enough guy-next-door types–only Rohit Khandelwal delivered on the glamour and charisma most fans expect in a male pageant winner. Still, I’m at peace with the results, and kudos to a very successful edition of this pageant.
All images courtesy of Peter Pe for Critical Beauty unless otherwise indicated.