Let’s now discuss the guys who at least got noticed even if they didn’t make the final cut, starting with the guys who got shortlisted in the Best Body competition.  :

COCOS ISLAND – Chris Murillo.  Facewise, I prefer the guy carrying the main COSTA RICA banner, but I have to concede this guy possessed a tighter, more defined bod that gave him an edge over his “standard” counterpart.

GALAPAGOS ISLAND – Jose Miguel Mancero.  His height and lean, defined, and rippled physique, his shortlist in this competition was justified and this made him outperform his “standard” counterpart from ECUADOR.  I prefer him with facial scruff but well he probably took a hint that this pageant doesn’t quite favor that look so in later photos he shaved it off.  But then he made a blunder by wearing a headband–and he ended up with unflattering comparisons to Ben Stiller‘s Derek Zoolander character.  Memo to future contestants:  headbands and bandanas are a no-no.

Ben Stiller as Derek Zoolander

GIBRALTAR – Antonius Magnnus.  Born Antonin Irodia, I thought he was another one with an inside track to the semifinals.  But the judges’ and organizers’ bias against facial hair may have put him at a disadvantage.

SWITZERLAND – Mike de Groote.  He was very handsome and another one I thought would be a major contender for the finals, but apparently the judges and organizers has only very few slots for bearded contenders.

One guy came close to winning the Best Body competiton, making the Top 3:

ARGENTINA – Leo Tejada.  He has the bronzed complexion and beefily buffed physique to be worthy of being in the Top Three in the best Body competition.  So why he fell short of making the Top 12 overall?  As much as his face reminds me a lot of American actor/host Mario Lopez, those type of features are not deemed handsome or distinctive enough for the Dominican judges.

Mario Lopez

Two non-finalists got special awards during the finals night, and they are:

PERU – Jean Claude de Silva.  In most photographs, he registers as sloppy and unkempt, but his deep-set eyes and rippled physique could not be denied.  He probably registers better onstage as he won the Best Catwalk special award.

FRANCE – Lalou Silayeb.  Based from his name, he probably is of North African origin. He does have a swarthy handsomeness about him that he’s worthy of winning Mister Photogenic.  I think he only missed making the Top 12 by a very small margin.

Mr. Photogenic posing at the beach with parrots

This batch is such loaded with meaty powerhouses that several combinations that would generate a satisfying mix.  What mix the Dominican judges decided to go for are relatively clean-cut men with something relatively distinctive about them that they are not generally that familiar with, and based on the choice of winner, they were also in the mood to break the mold.

CHILE – Daniel Basualto.  He also made the Top Three in the Best Body competition and though he has the same dusky brown vibe like Argentina, his slightly handsomer face helped him secure a Top 12 finish.

CZECH REPUBLIC – Petr Koukal.  His scruffy features and Caucasian handsomeness does have its appeal, but there is a side of me that wants to favor the likes of GIBRALTAR or SWITZERLAND over him, but I’m not mad at his inclusion.

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC – Edisson Manuel Tineo.  Since this country runs the show, it’s obvious there is always going to be a slot reserved for the home entry, and well, his placement is fully justified as he has the charisma and the perfectly built physique to justify belonging here.

INDIA – Amit Mehra.  There are only two Asians in this year’s batch (though more were expected but ended up as no-shows) and both turned out to be major standouts.  This guy combined Bollywood charisma and beefy buffness to make a major splash, like making the Best Body shortlist.  I even thought he’ll perhaps outdo our own representative.  It’s a crowded field even at the Top 12 level so I have a feeling he missed the Final Six by a small sliver.

MARGARITA ISLAND – Jesus Abraham Urdaneta.  Looking at his lanky frame and less-defined musculature, I wondered why he edged out the likes of similarly lean guys like PUERTO RICO, who I would’ve placed in his place.  But then I also notice he stands out in aspects of the competion where more clothing is needed, like in national costume and formal wear.  I have to note that his national costume is a more conventional Venezuelan outfit, and with him brandishing the flag, you would initially presume he’s the “official” Venezuelan rep instead of the one carrying the alternative banner.  With that kind of presence, he won the Mister E,legance special award.

UKRAINE – Rony Vaca Smolyaev.  The “Vaca” part of his name hints he has Latin lineage, and you get hints of that in his features.  Those striking features and his lean, rippled physique made him a major standout.  With a crowded quality field, he probably only fell short of the Top Six by very little.

The Top Six are a diverse bunch, and that is probably what the judges were going for, and we are all the richer for it.

5TH RUNNER-UP:  PHILIPPINES  – Samuele Carenzi.  The initial cynic in me first assumed he made it this far as a reward for the social media surge he brought in to this enterprise.  But it turns out he also earned his placement as his lean and rippled frame is indeed what the judges tend to prefer, and there is the handsomeness.  Interview may also be a big clincher as if you observe his and his fellow contestants’ social media posts, he has an impish playfulness that probably made him endearing with organizers and judges.  Now, a fan filmed an almost complete coverage of the pageant final–the one with the most extant footage somehow cut off the final Q&A when it was his turn to speak.  I don’t know how well he spoke on final night–anyone with alternate footagew with the complete Q&A?

4TH RUNNER-UP:  NETHERLANDS – Brad Zee.  His most distinctive feature is the elaborate tattoos on his body’s right side.  He also has a buffness and a handsomeness to make a standout impression.

3RD RUNNER-UP:  TUNISIA – Jason Brj.  He tends to hang out with FRANCE and if you don’t know which countries those two represent, you would assume this guy represented France and the other guy Tunisia.  He possesses these classic clean-cut European features and a clean-shaven superbly buffed physique.  In some ways, he evokes the vibe of Mister Universe Model 2010 Tarik Kaljanac of Bosnia & Herzegovina.

Mister Universe Model 2010 Tarik Kaljanac from Bosnia & Herzegovina

2ND RUNNER-UP:  VENEZUELA – Jaime Antonio Betancourt.  He has that classic Latino clean-cut appeal that made him make a major impression and hence he went this far.

Before I proceed further, a special note about the Final Two:  these two are runners-up for the Dino Nicolina award.  It’s obvious what they’re packing in their swimsuit photos, but unlike ECUADOR, they made people pay more attention to their other intrinsic qualities, and that is what the judges and organizers probably appreciated.

Dino Nicolina Award runners-up: Uruguay (Santiago Gasanol) and Curacaco (Anthony Clarinda)

1ST RUNNER-UP:  URUGUAY – Sebastian Gasañol.  Watching the final Q&A, I was impresseed with this guy’s very confident delivery (even if I don’t really understand Spanish) that I realize he might be considered a “complete package”, and that even if he’s bearded, his buffed physique (winner of Best Body) and his strong communication skills helped made judges overcome their resistance towards scruffy, bearded faces like his.  He can take daring photos, but it has to be noted he knows how to keep it tasteful.  For instance, for the fantasy costume shoot, he sported an outfit with a provocative loincloth that seems to be held together only by a skimpy, barely visibile string.  It is reminiscent of the carnival costume worn Mister Ocean Argentina 2017, Javier Palermo and it made me fantasize maybe these two guys should go for a carnival dance-off.

What’s holding up that loincloth?

MEN UNIVERSE MODEL 2018:  CURACAO – Anthony Clarinda.  He made history as the first black winner of this contest.  He also won Best National Costume with his lizerd-themed carnival outfit–the clincher was those elaborate wings on his complete ensemble.  I’m not sure if based on the Q&A he made a better speech than URUGUAY, but I did hear a louder, roaring response from the crowd after he answered.  Plus, clinching the deal was he delivered flash with his glittery brocade suit while still maintaining the elegance.

In a highly competitive contest filled with such heady, highly appealing and desirable contenders, it’s nice that for this year the judges chose a winner that doesn’t fit the mold of their previous choices, yet also celebrating diversity with their Top Six choices.  Now, let’s see if more swarthy types will make inroads in subsequent editions–they need better appreciate than they had gotten, you know.  Congratulations to all the winners!




It’s time to discuss the competition proper.  After seeing the modeling pictures, I was a bit let down when I saw Sameule’s flight departure photo as it seems his frame is not as beefy as his modeling photos seem to indicate.  He also exudes a hint of androgyny, in my opinion–it’s not bad if he is competing in an Asian milieu, I thought, but he’s competing in an environment where machismo seems highly prized.  Most of his competitors fit the hyper-masculine, macho mode, that he was turning into this pageant’s counterpart to the inimitable Sy Lee.  Sure he’s undeniably masculine and buffed, but his co-competitors were beefier and many of them are swarthy and handsome so I was a bit apprehensive of his prospects and not as bullish as other Filipino pageant fans were.  Were my apprehensions justified?

At least I was confident Samuele could easily beat these guys:

NICARAGUA – Hannibal Espinosa.  There might be some people who would find his raw puppy dog persona appealing but for me he’s the weakest link of this bunch.

PANAMA – Edwin Aytom Solis.  This mocha-complexioned guy is attractive but compared to his competition, he registers as plain and lacking charisma.

SALAR DE UYUNI – Ignacio Eduardo.  He does have handsome angles and his buffed body is enviable, but more often than not his swarthy features register as too overpowering.  Then, there is the fact that he sported a headband in some of his shoots, which seems to be an inhibiting factor to a guy’s prospects of going far here.

But as the final results unfold, and reviewing the history of this pageant, I needn’t have worried about Samuele’s prospects.  Many of those beefy, swarthy types turned out to fall by the wayside, and it dawned on me that these swarthy looks are too common in Latin society that since they are over-saturated with them, they would only let a few advance and favor other types (especially the clean-cut ones) instead.  And yes, they prize buffed physiques, but they do favor leaner types instead of bulky types.  Like for instance, these group of guys might be deemed too bulky for the judges’ tastes:

BRAZIL – Antonyel Marquez.  He can flex to show his muscle definition but there are moments that the definition disappears, and his frame is undeniably a tad thicker than most.

MEXICO – Sergio Herrera.  There are pageant fans who would think he deserves to be in higher regard, but I have a feeling he also belongs in this bin as there were other guys I deemed handsomer, and also albeit he is buffed, he is also on the beefier, thicker side.

TURKEY –  Sezer Özdemir.  This guy has the thickest frame in this year’s batch, but he carries that thickness well.  Cue the Meghan Trainor song

It turns out this pageant also generally likes the slimmer, leaner types, though these lean guys somehow fell by the wayside.

BOLIVIA – Cristian Rojo.  This fair-complexioned guy has one of the handsomest faces in this group.  But albeit trim and fit, his physique didn’t really ripple as much as several others that may be why he fell short of making the cut.

ITALY – Riccardo Pagan.  Now, delivering on the ripples is no problem for this guy.  It is just that there are more charismatic contenders out there, and swarthiness doesn’t really work in his favor in this milieu.

PUERTO RICO – Jon Rive.  Now, I thought he would’ve been a shoo-in for the Top 12 as I thought he has one of the handsomest faces and his long and lean physique delivered on the ripples.  Why weren’t the Dominican panel feeling him, as I thought he’s a great follow-up to his countryman Kevin Montes, the reigning winner of this pageant?

SAONA ISLAND – Camilo Sanchez.  I think what made him fall short is his face is one of the plainer ones in this batch.

SPAIN – Antonio Pareja.  He has the handomeness and the lean-and-buffed physique, but he seems to be projecting at a low wattage compared to his fellow competitors.

This group of guys have great looks and physiques that are the perfect balance of beefy and lean.  But somehow they too are overlooked.

COSTA RICA – Fernando Martinez.  I like his swarthy looks and find his physique close to perfection, but he does have some angles where he registers a tad harsh, and the fact that his swarthy features may be too common in the Latin market that he is not regarded as a standout.

EL SALVADOR – Endy Morffi.  He is actually a solid contender with one big misstep–that bandana in his first official swimsuit shot.  I don’t know if it applies to other editions, but I have a feeling sporting a headband or bandana in any shoot is a kiss of death.

GUADELOUPE – Sony Roset.  Here is one of the three dark-complexioned contenders in thsi contest and he has strong merits.  But most eyes were on that one black guy that he couldn’t quite catch a break.

GUATEMALA – Evan Daniel Peix.  He has almost the exact same strong qualities with COSTA RICA, with even more polish and a better command of English (not that essential in this milieu, though).  For me he deserves better notice, but I have a feeling what hurt his prospects is that it’s just too easy to confuse him with COSTA RICA.

U S A – Brandon Cruz.  He’s great looking with a well-proportioned physique, but his spark was a tad inconsistent that that was why he fell short.

Now, a special note about one guy who stood out for one key aspect…

ECUADOR – Santiago Dillon Anda.  Yes, there are many pageant fans and pundits who would dismiss this pageant as a fleshfest, and this guy’s strategy seems to emphasize that, sporting swimwear that emphasized his crotch so much that he’s the hands-down winner of the Dino Nicolina award (there is a side of me that thinks of renaming the award under this guy’s name instead, but “Dino Nicolina” has a nicer ring to it).  But I have a feeling that strategy backfired badly and rubbed the judges and organizers the wrong way that is why he didn’t make as much impact as he could have as I do find his swarthy looks and buffed physique highly appelaing.  Still, we have to salute him for his derring-do.

Winner: Dino Nicolina Award



Samuele Carenzi, Mister Universe Philippines 2018

Filipino fans were a-tizzy at this year’s Men Universe Model pageant that is held annually in the Dominican Republic.  The key reason is the choice of representative, Samuele Carenzi, a Fil-Italian model based in Milan.  Many fans raved about his looks judging from his modeling photos, and many noticed he looks like a cross between our two most recent Mister World contestants, John Spainhour (2014) and Sam Ajdani (2016).  Does this pageant really deserve such significant attention?

Mister World Philippines 2016 Sam Ajdani and Mister World Philippines 2014 John Spainhour at the 2016 Cosmo Bash.

Based on its name and the fact it was established since 2008 (though under a slightly different name), this is the first male pageant that boldly claimed the “Universe” branding in an attempt to gain the prestige enjoyed by that much revered and highly established female pageant.  However, it hit a branding snafu as there is an existing “Mr. Universe” competition devoted towards bodybuilders, it originally branded itself as Mister Universe Model to distinguish itself from that bodybuilding contest.  After a controversial decision in 2012 (more on that later), from 2013 to the present it is officially known by its present moniker, though since last year they have been making backdoor attempts to stake the claim as “Mister Universe” (as many of its releases show this as an alternate moniker), hoping spelling out the “Mister” part plus the fact that that the aforementioned bodybuilding contest is now identified as Universe Championships (though individual winners of the multiple categories are still granted the original title as their designation) finally make their claim to that desired brand legitimate.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mr. Universe (Amateur) 1967 and Mr. Universe (Professional) 1968, 1969, and 1970

Male pageants (and corollary to that, the profession of male modeling) tend to struggle earning respectability in the eyes of the general public.  This pageant is not immune to that struggle, but it also has other factors that made pageant pundits (including myself) hesitant to regard this at the same level as Mister World, Mister International, Mister Supranational, Mister Global, and Manhunt International.  First, when you think Manhunt International is the pinnacle of male objectification in pageants, this pageant ramps it up as most of the activities consist of photoshoots of the contestants in skimpy swimwear or in body-baring tribal and fantasy costumes.  Sure they redeem themselves somewhat as the finals are staged like a conventional pageant with the winner proclaimed in formal wear, but still, the constant barrage of exposed flesh makes people believe pageants like this are never going to be worthy of respect.  Anyway it could’ve been worse as they went a bit far in the 2010 edition as six of the contestants were actually photographed nude with only face towels strategically covering them.  Subsequent editions ceased going this far.

Then, there is the issue that to bolster their roster, they allowed several countries to field extra contestants under “tourism attractions”*1.  Since inception, Venezuela and host country Dominican Republic field extra contestants under the banners of Margarita Island and Saona Island respectively.  In previous years, extra contestants from Colombia and Mexico go under the respective banners of San Andres Island and Mayan Riviera*2 (in Spanish, Riviera Maya), the latter of which actually won this pageant five years ago.  This year, the extra candidate from Bolivia is represented under the banner Salar de Uyuni (Uyuni salt flats in English), the extra contestant from Ecuador goes under the banner of Galapagos Island, and for two years running the extra Costa Rican contestant goes under the name Cocos Island (not to be confused with the Australian dependency of the same name).  Other pageants (like Manhunt) also observe this practice, but not at this level that some fans find galling.

*1 Interestingly, though Brazil has fielded extra reps under the banner of Fernando de Noronha, this entity never saw action in this pageant.

*2 The English name I used brings me snickers as it closely resembles the name of one of my country’s popular actresses, Marian Rivera.

Men Universe Model 2013 winner, Rafael Chavez representing Mayan Riviera

Finally, there was the controversial 2012 victory of the hometown bet, Erick Sabater.  Yes, he’s undeniably good looking but many of his peers felt his conduct in the activities leading  to the finals was abysmal so no one came forward to congratulate him when he was proclaimed winner.  Contrast this with other editions where all the contestants tend to run towards the winner, instead of away from him, in a display of solidarity and brotherhood.  The acrimony generated from this led the organizers to rebrand to its current name to distance itself from that result.

Mister Universe Model 2012 Erick Sabater from Dominican Republic

The Philippines first saw action in ths pageant in the aforementioned 2012 edition with Jhon Mark Marcia and his stint was rocked with a near-disqualification as apparently our country’s franchise holder initially failed to pay the franchise fee.  Probably because of the controversy that year generated, we missed participating the following year but from 2014 onwards we were represented, even making the final cut in two occasions with Mike Gerard Mendoza (2015) and Fil-Italian Denver Hernandez (2017).

Philippine semifinalsts:, from L-R: Mike Gerard Mendoza (2015) and Denver Hernandez (2017)

Though there will always be reservations and polarizing opinions about this pageant, I have to hand it that it seems from 2014 onwards the proceedings were conducted smoothly and there was camaraderie and brotherhood.  The contestants don’t seem to have serious objections about flaunting their bodies and they seem to have fun in the proccess, and with that in mind, perhaps enjoying the sight of their bodies is not as objectionable as one might otherwise perceive.  Especially with this edition, it can be enjoyed as a guilty pleasure or appreciated as a bright relief to salve anyone’s stressful situation.

COMING UP:  The competition proper…