The Blue Team in previous editions is treated as the “Powerhouse” team. Now that it’s organized in strict alphabetical order from PHILIPPINES to VENEZUELA, does this perception hold true?
PHILIPPINES – Jody “JB” Saliba. He is an awesome host contestant and to his credit he channeling charisma that we barely noticed during the Mister World Philippines contest. Many may presume the Supranational rep Marco Poli is our equivalent of Henry Golding (the embodiment of the cosmopolitan Asian man), but it is emerging this guy is more effective in channeling Henry’s persona. I think that vibe helped him clinch a Top Five finish in Top Model, and prospects are bright he’ll finish in the Top 12.
On a personal note, there are some angles in some photos that I suddenly become a bit emotional, as he reminded me of Someone Very Important (SVI). For those who read my non-pageant pieces on my blog, two words: Aretha Franklin. But I also have to note, SVI is two inches taller than JB.
POLAND – Robert Kapica. His handsomeness made it a cinch that he made the cut in Top Model but he also has a shortlist in Extreme Sports under his belt. Will this be enough for him to finish in Top 24?
PUERTO RICO – Jose Cotto. He got early buzz as a near Top 12 shoo-in but buzz has been fading as the days wore on, especially since he’s a surprise shut-out in Top Model. At least he has a shortlist in Extreme Sports in his belt. Still, I’m mystified at the fading buzz as I thought he deserves better. He looks like a prime candidate for the Spainhour-Ajdani Prize (so-named after our two gorgeous reps who missed the cut) as some are buzzing he might even miss Top 24.
RUSSIA – Denis Khadyko. He’s a behemoth at 6’6″, but too rough looking to be considered for one of my favorite designations, the Beefcake Behemoth. To his credit, he is projecting like a huge teddy bear as by most accounts he’s on his best behavior and is likeable once you see past his intimidating exterior. His size and bulk served him well in Extreme Sports.
ST. MAARTEN – Learie Hall. Most pageant fans and pundits may think little of him, but he seems a bundle of energy and personality, to the point of fabulousness (yes, he seems more “fabulous” than NETHERLANDS at times). He surprisingly earned a shortlist in Sports.
SAMOA – Makalio Junior Alai. He’s your quintessential Pacific Islander, and he proved to have extraordinary strength as he made the shortlist in Extreme Sports. Like ITALY, he has long hair, but while ITALY lets his locks hang loose, he mostly ties them up into braids.
SERBIA – Nikola Boćanin. There are some who would regard him as handsome, but in a milquetoast ordinary way. As such, he has not made a standout impression.
SIERRA LEONE – MohammedKamanoh. He’s one of the latecomers, but he made a splash as soon as he set foot, figuring in Extreme Sports and Top Model. A Top 24 slot for him is a possibility.
SINGAPORE – Hugo Ong. See MALAYSIA, but even plainer. It’s strange that this time this country did not field someone buffed, just tall.
SOUTH AFRICA – Fezile Mkhize. He made a big initial splash as he secured his Top 12 slot by winning the Sports challenge. He didn’t let up as he also figured in Extreme Sports and Top Model. Bolstering his cause is that he’s a doctor, and he has movie/rock star appeal–at first glance he reminds me a bit of Cuba Gooding, Jr., and there’s a side of me that wanted to see him bellow one of the immortal lines in Jerry Maguire, “Show me the money!!!” Then at another glance, that broad smile reminds me of one-half of the duo Outkast, the quirky artiste Andre 3000.
SOUTH SUDAN – Deng Aguer, When you talk about “ebony complexion”, people from this country embodied this, which make it a bit difficult to light them properly. He’s one of the late arrivals and unlike SIERRA LEONE, didn’t quite make that much of an impact even if he’s a worthwhile contender.
SPAIN – Daniel Torres. His swarthy looks and perfectly buffed physique never fails to give me tingles during his Mister International 2016/17 stint, so I was thrilled when I learned he’ll be representing his country in this contest. But I was also concerned that as much as he does have an outgoing personality, I don’t know if it’s outgoing enough for this pageant. Being hampered by his limited facility with English doesn’t help matters, but me, along with a multitude of pageant fans and pundits, will always have a soft spot for him. He is my prime choice for winning the inaugural Spainhour-Ajdani prize, but since there was talk of calling out a Top 24, I have a feeling he’ll at least have a moment in the sun by making that far, at least. I was hoping for vindication for his lower-than-deserved finish at Mister International, but even if it’s unlikely that will be realized, I’m just so glad he’s here and he made a splash in Sports and Top Model.
A piquant note–I discovered when he shaves, he looks like Superman star (and rumored James Bond successor) Henry Cavill.
SRI LANKA – Manoj De Silva. He actually most evokes the vibe of the reigning Mister World Rohit Khandelwal. But other than a reserve slot in Sports, he has not made much of a splash.
THAILAND – Anakin Nontiprasit. Our local pageant press took a major liking towards him, as indeed he’s a standout boyish Asian cutie. Most are impressed with his facility with English as it turns out he stayed and studied in Canada for six years. He looks like he can make a play for the Top 12.
TONGA – Mikaele Henry Ahomana. He is Top Eigh in Sports, but he secured his spot in the Top 12 by winning Talent–as usual Julia Morley & company rewards singers, and to his credit he has sweet soulful chops and he did a great R&B rendition of the Country/Christian music modern classic, “Bless the Broken Road“, originally by the Nitty Gritty Dirty Band in 1994 but made most famous by Rascal Flatts 10 years later. I wonder if he’s related to the Wolfgramms*1?
*1 I’m particularly referring to the 1980s group The Jets composed of family members surnamed Wolfgramm.
UNITED STATES – Andresito Germosen de la Cruz. It feels like a political statement that this guy is the one representing the United States as he’s of non-white ethnicity. Unlike the current white-supremacist-leaning government in power right now, this at least is a worthy statement as America also belongs to people of other colors too. He was around back in Miss World 2016 when eventual Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray competed and you can see a selfie with her on his Instagram account. At least he has a reserve showing in Sports as a highlight of his stint, along with his appearance in Eat Bulaga where he won a slippery climbing game.
There is something about his smile that makes me think of US Olympic track legend Carl Lewis, if he was Latino and lighter skinned.
There was an original designated rep for this country, Keaton Parker West, a cute white teenager whom many pageant fans and pundits would’ve preferred over this guy, but he chose to decline due to studies and other modeling opportunities.
VENEZUELA – Jorge Núñez. You can’t miss him as he’s the guy with the Jheri curls–yes that “Soul Glo” sequence in the Eddie Murphy 1989 film Coming to America comes to mind. He proved his mettle making the shortlist in Sports and Extreme Sports and making Top Five in Top Model. He looks like a Top 24 shoo-in who could make a play for the Top 12.
COMING UP: The “FEARFUL” FORECAST
Official swimsuit portraits courtesy of Alain Lababit; Press presentation photos courtesy of Joy Arguil for Fab Philippines; Barong and summer wear photos courtesy of Miss World Organization; and Top Model Bench underwear photos courtesy of Drew Francisco for Missosology