RESULTS REACTION: MISS INTERNATIONAL 2017

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.

Ruth Ocumarez Award, Filipino Fans’ Choice: Philippines (Maria Angelica de Leon)

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.

Ruth Ocumarez runners-up: Canada (Marta Magdalena Stepien), Colombia (Vanessa Pulgarin) and Mexico (Citlaly Higuera)

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.

Ruth Ocumarez Award winner (Official): Lithuania (Patricija Belousova)

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.

Elegant Southeast Asians: Laos (Phounesup Phonnyotha) and Thailand (Ratiyaporn Chookaew)

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.

Celebrated runners-up: 1st runner-up Curacao (Chanelle de Lau) and 2nd runner-up Venezuela (Diana Croce)

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.

KF trained them: 4th runner-up Japan (Natsuki Tsutsui) and Miss International 2017 Indonesia (Kevin Liliana)

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.

JUST ME!

JOSEPH

Winners’ Circle: 3rd runner-up Australia (Amber Dew), 1st runner-up Curacao (Chanelle de Lau), Miss International 2017 Indonesia (Kevin Liliana). 2nd runner-up Venezuela (Diana Croce) and 4th runner-up Japan (Natsuki Tsutsui)

All images courtesy of Stephen Diaz for Missosology

MISS INTERNATIONAL 2017: STANDOUTS AND “FEARFUL” FORECAST (CONCLUSION)

Now, it’s time to discuss the ladies generating the most buzz and likeliest to make the cut and take the crown.

This country is normally a powerhouse in this pageant but it is currently experiencing a three-year drought.  However, Spain (Elizabeth Ledesma) fielded a striking, gorgeous looker and it is poised to return to prominence this time.

Many fans are clamoring for a back-to-back win for our country in this pageant, and arguably Philippines (Maria Angelica de Leon) is indeed the strongest Asian in this batch.  She has the looks, the style, and the communication skills to deliver.  Showcasing her opera skills at an event may help bolster her chances as this organization tend to like such classical repertoire.  However, though it seems she has been whipped to as close as Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach‘s shape as much as possible, there is still a cloud that the Japanese are not into fuller shapes like hers and well there are detractors among pageant netizens who had been fat-shaming her.  Will her other strong qualities help overcome any resistance to her curvy frame?  I’m hopeful she can do it, and though I’m not expecting her to win, as long as she makes the cut it will be  a major victory for me.

Belarus (Polina Pimakhina) has a Top 10 finish at last year’s Miss Supranational in her belt, and she’s actually making a stronger impression here than in that pageant, so she could be the third Belarussian to make the cut–I’m not expecting her to equal the showing of Yuliya Sindzeyeva (2nd runner-up 2007) but she’ll be a big credit for her country.

Russia (Elena Kviatkevich)’s Hayden Panettiere-ish looks makes lots of heads turn and she is poised to be among the likeliest to make the cut.

Hayden Panettiere (image sourced from Wikipedia)

Brazil (Bruna Zanardo) may not be considered a conventional beauty but with a Miss Earth-Fire title*2 under her belt last year, she is known to be a stage dynamo and it is known the bulk of the game in this pageant is stage presence.  I don’t expect her to make it as far as the winner’s circle but those stage chops would serve her very well.

*2 Which she was then forced to relinquish when she opted to join another national pageant while her reign was ongoing

Canada (Marta Magdalena Stepien) is a redhead with a stunningly beautiful face.  If she has her predecessor’s stage and communication skills (and Canadians tend to be strong communicators), she can make major inroads into the winner’s circle.

Two Africans made the biggest splash at the Women’s Entrepreneurial Forum, and they make a strikingly contrasting pair.  Ghana (Abigail Martey) turns heads with her towering height and strikingly appealing face, but with her strong speaking skills she can probably duplicate a Eunice Onyango-style feat.  South Africa (Tayla Skye Robinson) has never made the cut in this pageant, but this relatively petite blonde with an undeniably gorgeous face may deliver that long overdue breakthrough.

Generating heaviest buzz are two Latinas, Colombia (Vanessa Pulgarin) and Mexico (Citlaly Higuera), both possessing charisma and flair in spades.  Now, it would depend if they have strong commands of English as this might be a factor that could spell the difference if they can make it within the winner’s circle or not, as there are two Africans poised to take their perceived rightful slots away.

Two highly regarded Miss Universe veterans are making a huge splash and vindication are in the cards for both of them.  Interestingly they both competed in editions that are held after their designated years had passed.  Curacao (Chanelle de Lau), veteran of the 65th edition, so far has made no false move as she is clean and polished.  In fact, I would recommend for the finals she channels a Miss Universe legend–1997 4th placer Verna Vasquez as Chanelle resembles much closer to that legend than Puerto RIco’s Valerie Hernandez three years ago, and Valerie played the Verna card to victory.  Lithuania (Patricija Belousova) was a revelation during the 63rd edition with her stunning beauty and stage presence.  It is expected that will be at play in the finals but bolstering her buzz is that she’s also a standout at the Women’s Entrepreneurial Forum.

Verna Vasquez (image courtesy of Miss Universe Organization)

But the one who is making the best  impression so far is a veteran of last year’s Miss World.  Venezuela (Diana Croce) may have been a non-starter there, but she’s the most celebrated girl in this group this year.  Somehow her features have softened and she registers as warm and approachable (unlike the admittedly aloof and forbidding vibe “Marmegantina” a.k.a. Jessica Duarte delivered last year).  It’s not a lock for an unprecedented 8th Miss International title for her country, but at the rate she’s going this is likely.  If that happens, she joins the ranks of France’s Sophie Perrin, Norway’s Anne Lena Hansen, and Lebanon’s Christina Sawaya as Miss World also-rans who eventually got to snag this crown.

With the standouts accounted for, here’s my “fearful” forecast:

TOP FIVE:  CURACAO, GHANA, LITHUANIA, SOUTH AFRICA, VENEZUELA

TOP 15:  BELARUS, BRAZIL, CANADA, COLOMBIA, FINLAND, JAPAN, MEXICO, PHILIPPINES, RUSSIA, SPAIN

BUBBLING UNDER:  BELGIUM, BOLIVIA, CHINA, COSTA RICA, CZECH REPUBLIC, ECUADOR, EL SALVADOR, INDIA, INDONESIA, KOREA, LAOS, MYANMAR, NEPAL, NETHERLANDS, NICARAGUA, SWEDEN, THAILAND, TUNISIA, UKRAINE, UNITED KINGDOM, U S A, VIETNAM

STRIKING DISTANCE:  AUSTRALIA, ETHIOPIA, HAWAII, HONDURAS, HONG KONG, MACAU, MONGOLIA, NEW ZEALAND, NORWAY, PANAMA, PERU, POLAND, SIERRA LEONE, SLOVAKIA

Based on what I’m seeing in this year’s batch, it’s more of a Latina season than an Asian season this time with two stellar Africans out to upset the existing order, and the biggest buzz are going to veterans of major pageants seeking vindication for their frustrating non-placements.  It’s turning out to be more interesting than I initially thought–can’t wait to see how this all unfolds tomorrow.

JUST ME!

JOSEPH

All images courtesy of Stephen Diaz for Missosology unless otherwise indicated.

MISS INTERNATIONAL 2017: STANDOUTS AND “FEARFUL” FORECAST (PART 1)

As is customary since 2015, I will not do a proper homestretch review of all delegates of this year’s  Miss International.  This is because the real competition comes in during the pageant finals on November 14.  Instead, I’ll devote this piece to those who are making strong impressions and other stories of note.

First, the roster would’ve increased a bit back to 70.  Unfortunately, Denmark (Natasja Voldstedlund) reportedly fell ill and opted to fly back home after two days in Japan.  Because of this, the roster is down to 69, equaling last year’s tally.

Dropout: Denmark (Natasja Voldstedlund)

There was another contestant who fell ill after arriving in Japan and missed the bulk of activities, but she opted to hang on and after convalescing for a week and got clearance from her doctor, she’s back in the fray:  Thailand (Ratiyaporn Chookaew) was downed with chicken pox a couple of days after arrival, so she was bedridden for a week.  She’s deemed one of the favorites, though I have my eyes on other stunners out there.

Back in the running: Thailand (Ratiyaporn Chookaew) (Image courtesy of Roger Berioso for OPMB Worldwide)

Despite other pageant fans and pundits hyping the beauty of several contestants in this batch, I found last year’s batch far more exciting.  Not that there aren’t strong contenders here, as there are a host of them, with some who are poised to vindicate some unjust shut-outs from last year, just that I found last year’s group so special and astounding.

First, let’s begin with the three countries debuting this year:  Cambodia (Nheat Sophea), Cook Islands (Silas Tuaputa) and Laos (Phounesup Phonnyotha).  Of the three, Laos is the one who is making most serious inroads as she has prettiness and relative polish.

Now, let’s talk about the host country and the usual “goodwill” neighbors.  Japan (Natsuki Tsutsui) may not be as kawaii as her predecessor, but she seems solid enough to secure her placement in the Top 15.  Nothing is certain about Korea (Seung Woo Nam) and China (Jia Shi) securing those traditional “goodwill” slots, but they prove to be worthwhile contenders and a Top 15 slot can be within reach for these two.

Typically the Chinese Special Administrative Regions (SARs) of Hong Kong (Wing Wong) and Macau (Sofia Paiva) would at most aspire for the congeniality award, but the ladies fielded this year seems to be polished worthwhile contenders.

Africa is well represented with these strong dusky possibilities for the Top 15:  Ethiopia (Bamlak Dereje), Sierra Leone (Leone Abie Mansaray) and Tunisia (Khaoula Gueye).  But there is one African who seems to stand head and shoulders (almost literally) above these three, and could pull off another Eunice Onyango-type breakthrough–more on her later.  Interestingly, Tunisia fielded a dark-skinned contestant this year instead of their typical fairer-skinned Arabs.

There are also dark-complexioned ladies representing other regions.  USA (Shanel James) is undeniably polished, but it’s a risk for this country to be fielding someone of color as rarely the Japanese judges appreciate her brand of beauty.  The story is a bit different for Belgium (Virginie Philippot) as her looks are the sort that the Japanese appreciate.

Sure, Denmark is sorely missed, but the remaining Nordic trio are turning heads and garnering compliments.  Finland (Pihla Koivuniemi) is likely to capitalize on the typical favoritism the Japanese have for this country and she seems a shoo-in and possibly a Top Five finisher.  Norway (Vilde Andresen Bø) and Sweden (Lina Ljungberg) are comely lookers–the former might be hindered by her height issue but her prettiness is undeniable, while the latter is a strong semifinals possibility.

Like last year, the two big countries of Oceania, Australia (Amber Dew) and New Zealand (Michelle Isemonger) are represented by blondes.  Unlike last year, these blondes are not garnering much buzz, so unless either of them pull up a big surprise, we don’t expect these to make serious inroads in the finals.  Again behind these blondes in the region is Hawaii (Courtney Coleman), who is a solid follow-up to her much-buzzed about predecessor.

Southeast Asia is generally filled with ladies generating heavy buzz online due to their strong fanbase, but they are indeed deserving of the hype, even if none of them are approaching the charismas of Indonesia’s Felicia Huang and the reigning Miss International Kylie Versoza thus far.  Still, Indonesia (Kevin Liliana), Myanmar (Sao Yoon Wadi Oo) and Vietnam (Huynh Thi Thuy Dung) could still possibly do damage in the Top 15.

But also competing for those limited slots are striking ladies from Southern Asia:  India (Ankita Kumari) possesses Bollywood glamour and charisma, while Nepal (Niti Shah) is garnering compliments from the pageant fandom for her intriguing Eurasian features.

Now, let’s discuss the ladies from Central Europe.  It’s surprising that Czech Republic (Alice Činčurová) was absent for six years before returning, and it’s a near-auspicious return as this lady is a strong bet for the Top 15.  Slovakia (Petra Varaliová) and Poland (Paulina Maziarz) are not as strong, with the latter a relative major stepdown from last year’s stunner, as her beauty is of a less conventional sort.

Speaking of “Central”, now, let’s deal with Central America.  Honduras (Vanessa Villars) and Nicaragua (Helen Martinez) are pretty lookers while Panama (Darelys Santos) may not be a conventional beauty but she does have presence and polish.

South America again fielded a few big guns who could be crown contenders, but before I would discuss them in the next section, let’s also salute these lookers:  Bolivia (Carla Maldonando), Ecuador (Jocelyn Mieles), and in a less-conventional sense, Peru (Tiffany Lopez Borjas).

Two European countries whose names begin with the letter “U” are cited by pageant observers as among the best speakers during the Women’s Entrepreneurship Forum:  United Kingdom (Ashley Powell) and Ukraine (Kseniya Chifa)‘s stock rose and their Top 15 prospects are now deemed much stronger than originally perceived.

Two ladies are known for extensive pageant experience, with reportedly six previous international pageants between them:  Costa Rica (Paola Chacon) and Mongolia (Saikhantamir Amarsanaa) are clearly polished presences who know very well how to make a strong positive impression.

There are also two veterans from the erstwhile “Grand Slam” pageant*1 Miss Tourism Queen International who are seeing action and making strong impressions in this pageant.  El Salvador (Fatima Mangandi) took part in the 2011 edition, when it’s on its last gasp as a giant pageant, while Netherlands (Nathalie Mogbelzada) won in the 2015 edition.

-1 As dubbed by a big international pageant website.

All images courtesy of Stephen Diaz for Missosology unless otherwise indicated.

COMING UP:  THE TOP CONTENDERS