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.
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.