GHANA – Abena Appiah. This Miss Universe 2014 alumni caused a major sensation with Filipino fans especially when she chose to introduce herself in Tagalog, with witty puns referencing her country (like always having a good appetite–“palaging may Ghana!” or uising a wash basin to keep clean–“gumamit ng palang-Ghana!” She also delivered a ferocious presence thorughout with her distinctive styling choices, so she’s turned into a big fan favorite. The only question now, is–can she be the first black African to win the Miss Earth crown outright?*2 It would depend if the Filipinos have finally appreciate her brand of African beauty, but then again, even if they don’t, remember Karen Ibasco? She can borrow a bit from Karen’s playbook to clinch the win, and she can do it because she’s fabulous and glamorous onstage–you just can’t miss her, and she definitely can ace the question and answer rounds.
*2 Yes, we already have a black African winner with Kenya’s Winnie Omwakwe, but remember that she wasn’t the original outright winner and was had to take over the dethroned original winner.
GUAM – Cydney Shey Folsom. This lady is another standout in the Intelligence round, and she has great looks and a trim figure to boot. But I have to note she’s not your typical Guamanian as she looks very Caucasian.
HAITI – Vitania Louissaint. She’s actually a worthwhile contender, though I don’t think there will be enough room for her in the semifinals.
INDONESIA – Cinthia Kusuma Rani. This country has made serious inroads in other major international pageants but this pageant remains a holdout, as this country never made the final cut. Sure, they fielded intelligent and articulate contenders, but the problem is, they always tend to fall short in the looks department, and this lady is no exception.
JAPAN – Yuka Itoku. She’s a bit plain, lacks charisma, and didn’t make any major impression in the Intelligence round, so she’s an also-ran.
MAURITIUS – Gyanisha Ramah. She’s a solid contender, but not enough to make serious inroads to the semifinals.
MEXICO – Hilary Islas. She has this pretty brunette ingenue looks like ENGLAND, and she has that Latina flair and polish, so she is a possibility in the semifinals.
MYANMAR – May Thadar Ko. Her interview dress with that gigantic rose attachement was a standout outfit but otherwise she barely makes an impression.
NORTHERN MARIANAS – Leisha Deleon Guerrero. Well, it’s nice to see this US territory debut in this pageant…
PERU – Alexandra Caceres. She’s a polished contender, but I’m not sure with the bevy of fierce Latinas if there would be room for her.
PHILIPPINES – Janelle Tee. She’s solid, and yes, she’ll be a shoo-in for the semifinals.*3 Yes, she has strong interview and communication skills, but I do hope the inherent bias to place our country in the Top Eight and beyond would not materialize this time as there are more compelling choices worthy to belong there instead of her. A Top 12 finish would be a just result for me.
*3 The only times we miss the cut was when our rep somehow rubbed the organization the wrong way with her behavior (Imelda Schweighart, 2016) or it’s held overseas and our representative isn’t really a looker (Kris Psyche Resus, 2010). I’m still mystified by what happened to our 2007 rep, but perhaps its the former that may have caused her to be shut out.
PORTUGAL – Bruna Silva. Here is another gorgeous lady who could garner an element and possibly win it all, just like her predecessor, who I thought would’ve garnered an element but somehow just finished in the Top Eight. There are so many worthy ladies scrambling for an element that it’s uncertain if she’ll clinch it or simply duplicate her predecessor’s finish.
U S A – Emanii Davis. She’s a lovely woman of color who not only has stage polish and charisma, but intelligence and a strong advocacy. She is also one heavily buzzed about to garner an element or maybe even win it all. Let’s see if the judges are more open-minded to women of color this time.
ZAMBIA – Venus Mary Vlahakis. She’s another strong African in a field of strong Africans in this pageant, but no doubt she’s clearly overshadowed by the flashy and splashy GHANA. In the African pecking order, she also falls slightly behind SOUTH AFRICA and NIGERIA.
Now that all 85 delegates are accounted for, let me trot out my leaderboard:
TOP CONTENDERS: GHANA, INDIA, PORTUGAL, PUERTO RICO, SPAIN, UKRAINE, U S A, VENEZUELA
SHOO-INS: BELARUS, COLOMBIA, CZECH REPUBLIC, ENGLAND, NEPAL, NEW ZEALAND, PHILIPPINES, THAILAND,
LIKELIEST: ARGENTINA, AUSTRALIA AUSTRIA, BRAZIL, CANADA, CHILE, COSTA RICA, CROATIA, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, GUAM, GUYANA, KOREA, MEXICO, MONGOLIA, NETHERLANDS, NIGERIA, PARAGUAY, POLAND, RUSSIA, SOUTH AFRICA,
INTELLIGENCE/ADVOCACY FACTOR: INDONESIA, TONGA, U S VIRGIN ISLANDS,
EXCELLENT: BELGIUM, BOLIVIA, DENMARK, ECUADOR, FIJI, FRANCE, GERMANY, GUADELOUPE, GUATEMALA, HAITI, ISRAEL, ITALY, KAZAKHSTAN, MAURITIUS, NORTHERN IRELAND, PANAMA, PERU, REUNION ISLAND, SERBIA, SIERRA LEONE, SLOVAK REPUBLIC, ZAMBIA, ZIMBABWE
VERY STRONG: ARMENIA, BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA, CRIMEA, HUNGARY, MALAYSIA, RWANDA, SLOVENIA, SOUTH SUDAN,
STRONG: BOTSWANA, HONDURAS, KENYA, MYANMAR, NORTHERN MARIANAS, SINGAPORE, VIETNAM
VERY GOOD: CHINA, JAPAN, MALTA, MONTENEGRO, PAPUA NEW GUINEA
GOOD: CAMBODIA, CAMEROON, LIBERIA
There is some speculation that they are calling out a Top 20 this year instead of a Top 18. Assuming a Top 20, here is my “Fearful” Forecast:
FINAL FOUR: GHANA, INDIA, PUERTO RICO, U S A
TOP EIGHT: PORTUGAL, SPAIN, UKRAINE, VENEZUELA
TOP 12: BELARUS, ENGLAND, NEW ZEALAND, THAILAND
TOP 20: CHILE, COLOMBIA, CZECH REPUBLIC, MEXICO, NEPAL, PHILIPPINES, POLAND, RUSSIA
BUBBLING UNDER: ARGENTINA, AUSTRALIA AUSTRIA, BRAZIL, CANADA, COSTA RICA, CROATIA, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, GUAM, GUYANA, KOREA, MONGOLIA, NETHERLANDS, NIGERIA, PARAGUAY, SOUTH AFRICA
STRIKING DISTANCE: BELGIUM, BOLIVIA, DENMARK, ECUADOR, FIJI, FRANCE, GERMANY, GUADELOUPE, GUATEMALA, HAITI, INDONESIA, ISRAEL, ITALY, KAZAKHSTAN, MAURITIUS, NORTHERN IRELAND, PANAMA, PERU, REUNION ISLAND, SERBIA, SLOVAK REPUBLIC, TONGA, U S VIRGIN ISLANDS, ZAMBIA, ZIMBABWE
This promises to be one of the more exciting Miss Earth editions, as we have at least eight element-worthy contenders, with a whole host of usurpers waiting in the wings. In other years, many of those who are in the Top 20 in my list would have been Top Eight-caliber shoo-ins. Let’s see if the Okada venue will deliver s show that is worthy of the caliber of this year’s delgates.