Admittedly I’m rather off in my “fearful” forecast vis-a-vis the actual Top 15, as I only got 6/15 correct, which ties my record-low prediction back in 2013. However, all that I didn’t get were in my radar anyway, either in the “Bubbling Under” list or the “Striking Distance” list, so no out-of-the-blue headscratchers this time. Still big surprises abound.
Though I included them in my striking distance list, I’m still scratching my head a bit on the inclusion of Slovakia (Petra Varaliová) and Australia (Amber Dew), and how the latter went even farther and garnered a Perfect Body special award and a 3rd runner-up finish. Sure I should give Amber credit for delivering a strong speech and for wearing a clean and elegant white gown, but I just found them way too overrated to belong here with some stunners being left out.
In hindsight I have way underrated Honduras (Vanessa Villars) and Panama (Darelys Santos) as I should’ve placed them in my “Bubbling Under” list instead of “Striking Distance” as they have been receiving buzz prior to the finals. Still, in the case of the latter, I felt a bit uncomfortable looking at her exceedingly slender frame as to my eyes it borders towards unhealthily anorexic. To her credit, she does make a striking model’s impression with her statuesque height, and the elegant long-sleeved evening she wore, and well, she punctuated the point regarding the type of body frames the Japanese judges preferred.
For many Filipino pageant fans, they will probably give the Ruth Ocumarez award to their countrywoman the Philippines (Maria Angelica de Leon). But as Panama’s placement in the Top 15 prove, Japanese judges’ preference in body types is more on the thin and slender side, and Mariel’s thicker body frame compared to the majority of the contenders proved to be a major sticking point. It also doesn’t help matters that Dewi Sukarno* was in this year’s judging panel.
* There was an incident 25 years ago when a spat at a party in Aspen, Colorado led Dewi Sukarno to slash Filipina socialite Minnie Osmeña‘s face. Dewi had to serve 60 days in jail for the incident. Incidentally she was also in the judging panel when Bianca Guidotti competed three years ago.
There are three ladies whose figures impressed me a lot that I thought they were in contention for the Miss Perfect Body award. But not only did they not get that prize, they were also shut out of the Top 15 despite heavy buzz on them prior to the finals. It’s a major headscratcher why Canada (Marta Magdalena Stepien), Colombia (Vanessa Pulgarin) and Mexico (Citlaly Higuera) missed the cut as I could find no fault at all in their performances in any stage of the finals. This will probably be one of the biggest mysteries of this year’s pageant, and these three earn the distinction as runners-up for the Ruth Ocumarez award.
But my choice (and probably several other pageant fans too) for the Ruth Ocumarez award would be Lithuania (Patricija Belousova). There were conflicting buzz about her communication skills, it turns out–though some reported she impressed during the Women’s Entrepreneurial Forum, there were others who said she’s weak in the speech department. Still her awesome presence onstage during the final could not be denied and it’s unfortunate that vindication was not realized for her part.
I have to hand it to our Southeast Asian neighbors who stepped it up in the finals as they prove to be deserving of making the Top 15, even if I only placed them in my “Bubbling Under” list. Laos (Phounesup Phonnyotha) prettiness is just so utterly refreshing that it’s a welcome treat to see her go as far as she did (she made Top Eight). Thailand (Ratiyaporn Chookaew), meanwhile, was a stunning revelation in her white long-sleeved evening gown round that I thought she deserves to win the Best Dresser award. Instead that prize went to another Southeast Asian who I will discuss further in a bit.
I whooped with glee when I saw Curacao (Chanelle de Lau) in evening gown–just as I suggested in my preview, she should channel Verna Vasquez in the finals, and channel her she did. I have a feeling if it weren’t for the fact that her speech was a bit disorganized and she exhibited obvious nerves, she could’ve been the winner. But 1st runner-up is a feat worth celebrating. Similarly, though I pegged Venezuela (Diana Croce) as the favorite to win it all, finishing as 2nd runner-up is also a great vindication for her, not only for her non-placement at last year’s Miss World, but also for “Marmegantina” being shut out last year.
It was much discussed that the host contestant Japan (Natsuki Tsutsui) and the eventual winner Indonesia (Kevin Liliana) had training in the Philippines under the Kagandahang Flores camp. It did lead to great results, I have to hand it to them, and the latter was indeed very polished all throughout (which justifies her Best Dresser finish) and ultimately clinched the deal by delivering the best speech among the Top Eight. Anyway, I’ll discuss more about their performances this December as I post my full delegates review by then.
As sad as I feel about Mariel’s shut out, I have to salute and congratulate the winner, Indonesia (Kevin Liliana) and her court. Let’s see if her reign would be as fruitful as Kylie’s turned out to be.
All images courtesy of Stephen Diaz for Missosology