MISS INTERNATIONAL 2019: TRIUMPH OF THE CONGENIAL UNDERDOG (PART 1)

Despite attracting a record 82 delegates, there is an obvious effort to streamline this year’s Miss International final.  Eliminating musical guest stars (except for a traditional Japanese cultural performance) helped, but what helped reduce the time was not making the swimsuit parade as a competition category as there is now a preliminary swimsuit (and casual wear) judging round conducted a few days before.  Despite the reduction from five-and-a-half hours last year to four hours, for most pageant fans and pundits, watching this pageanit is still considered a long slog.

For those hardy enough to endure the lengthy program, well, it’s generally a straightforward affair.  After the parade of nations, they awarded the winner of Best National Costume.  Since she eventually made the semifinals, I;ll discuss about her later…  This was followed by a recap and a farwell address by the outgoing queen, Meriam Velazco.  It’s a relatively long four-minute speech but it has good messages and is sincere and gracious.

In other pageants, the speech would’ve been the best way to fill time while the delegates changed from costume to evening gowns, but even with the length of the speech (which is then translated into Japanese) there was still 20-minute intermission before the next competition round.  As mentioned above, they proceeded with all candidates in evening gown.  I agree with most observers’ criticisms about the inconsistent camera work, as the delegates were presented in pairs and there was inconsistent angles and close-ups that made it slightly more difficult to follow than in years past.

There technically was no swimsuit compettiion proper, but all delegates marched individually to the stage in quick succession, which they would then announce who made the Top 15.  The official swimsuit competition for this occasion is now restricted to the Top 15–I’ll be discussing more about that in the next part of my essay.

Since 2015, this pageant awarded Continental Queens representing five continents.  But unlike how it’s done in Miss World and Miss Supranational, this actually serves as a congeniality prize, voted by the delegates themseves within their continents.  At most one of them would eventually advance to the Top 15 (in 2015, 2017 and 2018) but this year, two of the winners made the cut, and one of them eventually way beyond that.  So I’ll only discuss three continental winners in this section.

MISS INTERNATIONAL – OCEANIA: HAWAII – Eunice Raquel Basco..  Oceania is admittedly a weak group this year, and in my opinion the best performer is indeed also the congeniality champ.  She had prior experience representing the US at Miss Intercontinental, and hence she’s the most polished of the six ladies from this continent.  At least I’m glad she got her time at the spotlight.

MISS INTERNATIONAL – AFRICA: LIBERIA – Naomi Nucia Glay.  Like GUADELOUPE, she let her natural curls fly and it worked really well for her.  She proved to be competitive, maybe even outperforming the highly touted COTE D’IVOIRE as the second-best African performer in this batch.  It’s a welcome consolation that she got her time in the spotlight with this award.

MISS INTERNATIONAL – AMERICAS: PERU – María José Barbis.  She has a similar Ana Ortiz look like NICARAGUA, but with a more-favored alabaster complexion.  I think like PARAGUAY and ARGENTINA, she probably missed the Top 15 by very little.  Like LIBERIA, it’s nice that she got er time on the spotlight with this award.

MISS PHOTOGENIC: GUADELOUPE – Noémie Kribo Milne.  I do gravitate my eyes towards this lady–not only did she make a standout impression with her curls, she also has a pretty face, even sometimes generating a passing resemblance to Oscar-winning actress (and Miss World 1986 finalist) Halle Berry.  So indeed this award is very suitable for her.

Halle Berry at the 2017 Oscars (image courtesy of Jeff Kravits from FilmMagic)

Before I review the Top 15, I’ll hand out my own special awards–the Ruth Ocumarez Awards.  Since I got 12 of the Top 15 correct, it’s easy to pin-point the Top Three:

RUTH OCUMAREZ AWARD 2ND RUNNER-UP: SLOVAKIA – Alica Ondrášová.  I loved the way she looked and thought she exuded a lot of charisma during her pre-finals stay that I thought she could be the likeliest to land in the Top 15.  As I previously mentioned, I was stuck choosing between her and her pre-1993 countrywoman from CZECH REPUBLIC for te 15th slot, and I chose her.  But then, she looked washed up in her white lacy evening gown and that probably made her lose her slot.

RUTH OCUMAREZ AWARD 1ST RUNNER-UP:  ROMANIA – Andreea Coman.  With her Top 10 finish at Miss Supranational, many had pegged her as a near shoo-in and one to sustain the 3rd runner-up finish of her predecessor.  I don’t find fault with her performance at all, so I would chalk it off to the taste of the Japanese judges, who may not be into her looks.  Interestingly, the Romanian ambassador was in this year’s panel of judges–apparently the diplomat’s choice was overruled by the Japanese judges hence that advantage was lost.  Most pageant fans and pundits would probably list her as their choice for the Ruth Ocumarez (or El Tocuyo) award, but I think there is one more compelling choice for that dubious honor…

RUTH OCUMAREZ AWARD – WINNER:  JAPAN – Tomomi Okada Sevaldsen.  I thought she has the looks to be a shoo-in, and that since this pagenat is held on her soil, she would have a slot reserved for her.  But in a major upset, she was deprived of that slot and could not join her six other Asian compatriots to the next round.  I wonder, what gives?  Sure, some might not be that into her styling choices.  Or is there another factor that was taken against her–the fact that she’s Eurasian (based from her surname, Norwegian or Danish, perhaps)?  But then again, during this decade this host country did not make the cut half the time, so perhaps it’s simply the judges felt the other Asians are just simply more compelling than her.  Reportedly this outcome was too upsetting for her that she refused to show up from the Top 15 round onwards.  Sad, but I don’t blame her…

COMING UP:  THE TOP 15.

 

MISS INTERNATIONAL 2019: DELEGATES REVIEW (PART 4)

Based on number of participants, the Americas has the most delegates with 24.  As previously discussed, four of them made the Top 15, one won the congeniality prize and another one won a special award, so for this portion I’ll only discuss the remaining 18.  It’s a bit weird that Missosology has few solo photos for the ladies coming from this continent–I observed this from the swimsuit preliminary photos, and even those taken during the finals.  Wonder what happened here that the Missosology team’s coverage of this continent was less-than-comprehensive?

U S A – Ghazal Gill.  This woman of Indian descent is polished and solid–definitely a worthwhile contender.

PARAGUAY – Elida Lezcano.  Lookswise, she could’ve been in contention for the Top 15.  But I think what’s preventing her was the busy white gown she sported in the finals.

PANAMA – Betzaida Rodriguez.  Her features look intriguingly Asian.  She’s generally solid, but not in serious contention for the Top 15.

NICARAGUA – Maria Gabriela Saballos.  She reminds me of actress Ana Ortiz, who I remember most playing Hilda Suarez in the one-hour comedy series Ugly Betty.  There were occasions that the Japanese judges would appreciate her sort of features, but not this year.

 

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Ana Ortiz (image sourced from Yahoo News)

HONDURAS = Ariana Bustillo.  She exudes the vibe of a candidate from, say NORTHERN MARIANAs than a Latina contender.  As such, she was one fot he weakest links in this year’s batch.

HAITI – Lory-Anne Charles.  Her shaven head made for a striking presence.  I was rooting for her to succeed and make a surprise placement, but obviously the conservative Japanese judges are not yet ready for her type of beauty.

GUATEMALA – Stephanie Sical.  See TAHITI.

EL SALVADOR – Elena Batlle.  She is attractive but doesn’t have the sparkle and charisma to make a major impact.

ECUADOR – Alegría Tobar.  This blonde seems to like outfits of a certain color palette, tending towards pink and orange.  Nevertheless, definitely I never picture her equaling the Top Eight finish of her predecessor.

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC – Zaidy Bello.  She has features that remind me a bit of Miss International 2013 Bea Rose Santiago, albeit lacking a bit of Bea’s charisma.  She’s otherwise a worthwhile contender.

Miss International 2013 Bea Rose Santiago

COSTA RICA – Tamara Dal Maso.  There are many pageant fans hyping her as a possible Top 15 contender, though I don’t quite get it.  Still, she’s a worthwhile contender in my eyes.

CHILE – Ximena Huala Alcaino.  See PANAMA.

CANADA – Megha Sandhu.  Like USA, she’s of Indian descent and garnered positive buzz.  But USA clearly performed better but this one’s a worthwhile contender.

BRAZIL – Carolina Stankevicius Cruz.  She’s a good-looking, trim blonde, but I somehow don’t find her as charismatic as many representative from her country.  So it’s not surprising she missed the cut.  Interesting note–her middle surname is actually Lithuanian.

BOLIVIA – Valentina Pérez.  See GUATEMALA and TAHITI.

BELIZE – Selena Maria Urias.  Her features read “Indian” as in from the Asian subcontinent instead of the indigenous peoples from her continent.  She can be deemed attractive in real-world terms but not in stratified international pageant standards.

ARUBA – Daniella Piazzi.  See LAOS.

ARGENTINA – Milena Sofía Judt.  I like her and I have a feeling she only missed the cut by very little as there is nothing to fault about her performance.

 

 

MISS INTERNATIONAL 2019: DELEGATES REVIEW (PART 3)

This continent has been renowned for fielding pretty faces over the years, and there are worthwhile pretty faces in this batch.  I’ll be discussing 13 of them here, with the four semifinalists and two Ruth Ocumarez contenders to be discussed later.

UKRAINE – Marina Klose.  This country is renowned for its pretty ladies, but this is one of the weaker links and could barely qualify as such–one of the weaker contestants fielded by this usually reliable supplier of pretty contenders.

SWEDEN – Paulina Kielczewska.  Her surname suggests she’s actually of Polish origin.  She has the angular features typical of a more mature Slavic woman, and of course this is not the sort appreciated in this milieu (and with most pageant fans and pundits like myself).

SPAIN – Claudia Cruz.  From 1980 to 2010, this country is a usual mainstay in the seimifinals (or finals) in this pageant, only missing the cut four times in that period, but from 2011 onwards, it seems it’s luck has trickled out as it has only made the cut twice, in 2013 and last year (making the Top Eight at that time).  This is another gorgeous contender who somehow fell short with the Japanese panel.

RUSSIA – Marina Oreshkina.  She actually is a consistently strong performer onstage so it’s likely she missed the cut by very little.

PORTUGAL – Ana Rita Aguilar.  She has experience competing in a couple of lesser but well-regarded international pageants (Reina Hispanoamericana and World Miss University, both last year) but we have seen more impressive contenders than her, especially lately at Miss Earth.

POLAND – Karina Szczepanek.  She reminds me of the late actress Natasha Richardson. and many people would consider her beautiful.  But obviously it’s not pretty enough for the Japanese tastes, hence she missed the cut.

Natasha Richardson (from telegraph.co.uk)

NORWAY – Henriette Janssen Hauge.  During most of her stay in Japan, I found her features almost as plain as, say, LAOS.  But somehow, during the finals, I somehow started finding her attractive, and she’s actually also solid onstage.

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ITALY – Francesca Giordano.  She exudes this elegant patrician vibe with her long oval face, long hair and slender figure.  There are some unflattering angles, but most of the time she performed pretty well–I think in another pageant her features would be better appreciated.

FRANCE – Solene Barbot.  She’s pretty, but her stage chops are not that polished, and hence she gets easily drowned out and couldn’t be in serious contention for the finals.

DENMARK – Anna Diekelmann.  She’s a pretty blonde with solid stage chops, but she gives off a tad of a pageant patty vibe and that might have prevented her from making the cut even if she’s otherwise a strong performer.

CZECH REPUBLIC – Andrea Prchalová.  There is nothing to fault about her performance and she probably missed the cut by very little.  In figuring out my “fearful” forecast, I was a bit torn between this lady and her erstwhile countrywoman (pre-1993), but in the end I favored her Slovak counterpart as exuding more charisma over her.

BELGIUM – Rachel Nimgeers.  There are pageant fans and pundits who thought she has an inside track to the Top 15 based on her 11th place showing at Miss Supranational 2015, but as shown by her non-finalist finish at Miss Grand International two years later and here, not all are into her brand of beauty.  Still she’s a worthwhile contender.

ARMENIA – Sona Danielyan.  Even if she has a Miss Earth stint last year under her belt, she still registers as less-than-polised that undermined her obvious good looks.

COMING UP:  THE AMERICAS (from U S A to ARGENTINA)