RESULTS REACTION: MISS INTERNATIONAL 2018

I know many more casual observers will again decry that Miss International is an old-fashioned snoozefest.  Admittedly, for those watching live with intermissions the whole affair lasted 5 1/2 hours, about as long as the chaotic 2012 edition.  But well, the length was partly because of having a record 77 contestants parading individually in national costume, swimsuit, and evening gown, and there are a whole host of guest performers–like Japanese group Da Pump performing their local hit, “USA“, and guesting 20 members of the American children’s choir One Voice.  But there are elements to prove they are in the 21st century, like the bright, tinkly, upbeat electro-jazz muzak for the background music for the competition rounds, and that high-tech synchronized performance dance piece by Orientarhythm that opened the proceedings.  I know the International Cultural Association (ICA) still stubbornly holds on to tradition, and many are impatient about the very minor changes made to the program, but well, any baby steps towards modernity is welcome.

I’m generally okay with getting 10 out of 15 of my “Fearful” Forecast correct, though I know I’m slightly off as I only got four of the Top Eight and two of the eventual royal court.  Many of the ones I didn’t get were in my radar but there are some surprises in store.  For instance, the inclusions of MADAGASCAR (Esmeralda Maleka) and UKRAINE (Bohdana Tarasyk).  I pegged MADAGASCAR in my bottom five and UKRAINE was in my striking distance list.  I have to credit MADAGASCAR for a more polished presence onstage and that might be why the predominantly Japanese panel thought was very refreshing and that was why she was allowed through.  In the case of UKRAINE, I have issues with her facial features–my only speculation is that she reminds them of Lady Gaga and her breakthrough movie role as Ally in A Star is Born so perhaps that’s the key to her appeal.  Still, I wonder if they are worthy over the following list of ladies who failed to make the cut…

Admittedly I thought the power of the sash would benefit BRAZIL (Stephanie Pröglhöf) but admittedly after seeing her threadbare costume (when you expect a grand Carnival-themed costume) and her lackadaisical presentation, I knew she would miss the cut.  I saw a lot of great potential with PORTUGAL (Carina Neto) as she resembles the impeccably elegant Jackie Kennedy Onassis.  But that busy evening gown she sported was a big let-down so well, so much for that potential.

Well, at least we have at least two black ladies who made the Top 15, but I still wonder if MADAGASCAR is superior to the likes of HAITI (Cassandra Chéry) and ZIMBABWE (Tania Tatenda Aaron).  Both delivered commendable performances, as HAITI proved to be very polished and ZIMBABWE stepped up her game during the finals with her distinctive Afro hairdo–I particularly liked her warrior dance in the National Costume round as she did it in very high stiletto platform heels–try doing her moves in those shoes…

I also think INDIA (Tanishqa Bhosale) and MOLDOVA (Daniela Marin) delivered performances worthy of a Top 15 placement, but well, slots are indeed limited and there is not enough room for them.

There was a huge crowd chanting for BOLIVIA (Maria Elena Antelo), and she fed off their energy and also delivered a sterling performance, and she dazzles in her fringed evening gown.  Many pageant fans and pundits are also sad at PANAMA (Shirel Ortiz)‘s exclusion as she was also faultless,  Again, like INDIA and MOLDOVA, the predominantly Japanese panel felt a bit differenttly.

But most people are upset at the exclusion of POLAND (Marta Palucka) and LAOS (Piyamarth Phounpaseuth) so both are prime candidates for the Ruth Ocumarez Award.  I’m scratching my head why the Japanese didn’t cotton to POLAND’s gorgeous looks.  For LAOS, buzz has been dipping for a while, admittedly as styling herself with her hair down proved to be the wrong strategy as she then lost that regal spell that impressed many pundits in her early appearances.  But both still were great, so I’m still wondering:  MADAGASCAR and UKRAINE over these ladies?!

I’ve noticed the Japanese panel are in a bit of a Hispanic/Latin mood.  So I don’t really mind that PARAGUAY (Daisy Lazcano) advanced and make the cut–she is worthy of belonging here…

But I’m slightly more surprised how they have a very high regard for SPAIN (Susana Sanchez) and ECUADOR (Michelle Huet) that they made it all the way to the Top Eight.  Sure, SPAIN was great looking, and I have to admit ECUADOR was a dynamo onstage and dazzled with her shiny green geometrically embroidered evening gown.  But in the case of SPAIN, her lackadaisical cultural speech makes it seem her Top Eight slot is wasted and should’ve been given to another lady in the Top 15.  In the case of ECUADOR, I have to say she delivered an impressive speech and thought she’ll make it all the way to the Royal Court, but perhaps the Japanese judges just felt as driven and commendable her performance turned out to be, they still want to reward someone taller and prettier…

I called it that INDONESIA (Vania Fitriyanti Hetambang) will break the seven-year-long streak of successors to the winning country failing to make the cut.  But little did I know that the composition of the judging panel would feature two Indonesians.  Though I’m convinced she made it on merit, I still wonder if the presence of those two Indonesians (plus a Thai) was a factor for her inclusion.  I’m giving her he benefit of the doubt as at least she didn’t advance further to the Top Eight.

I betted on AUSTRALIA (Emily Tokić) and MEXICO (Nebai Torres) would make the Royal Court, to the point of bumping out the eventual winner in the process.  But they did not advance to the Top Eight.  I know I can account for judges’ tastes that might have prevented AUSTRALIA from advancing further, but in the case of MEXICO, considering she actually ended up with the Best Dresser special award (which was apparently awarded after the main pageant), why suddenly the judges marked her down in the Top 15 catwalk?  Well, I did notice she displayed some nerves during the Top 15 round–but don’t they consider other factors, too?  I feel bad not to see MEXICO in the Top Eight, so she leaves us with a big “what-if” scenario.

I have to hand it, COLOMBIA (Anabelle Castro Sierra) impresses with her beauty, statuesque height, and impeccable presence during finals night.  But I wasn’t impressed with her cultural speech and thought ECUADOR would overtake her.  But well, the judges probably still think her looks outweighed ECUADOR’s speech so she made the Royal Court instead of her.

As I called it, ROMANIA (Bianca Tirsin) delivered the breakthrough, making it all he way to 3rd Runner-Up.  She actually delivered a strong speech (though some noted filled with lofty, highfalutin words) so I’m glad she made the Royal Court.  Now, after a year or so, maybe she should give Miss Universe a try–she has proven she has better communication skills than a normal contestant from her country being sent to this pageant, so she can probably deliver a similar breakthrough in that pageant, too.

It looks like the panels’ eyes were focused on three ladies, PHILIPPINES (Ahtisa Manalo), SOUTH AFRICA (Reabetswe Sechoaro) and VENEZUELA (Meriam Velazco).  All delivered top-notch performances and I feel after the three competition rounds and the Top 15 catwalk round the deciding factor was the cultural speech.  I have a feeling with a confidently delivered cultural speech, SOUTH AFRICA could’ve made major history.  Unfortunately she displayed nerves when she delivered her speech, and the content didn’t specify a specific advocacy, and for that she had to settle for tying the feat of Kenya’s Eunice Onyango three years ago.  Now, perhaps it’s colored a bit by my patriotic bias, but I felt that actually PHILIPPINES delivered the best-composed speech, but I have to admit VENEZUELA’s speech was also top-notch and it has an added element–she disclosed that it’s her birthday that day.  That factor may have swayed the judges to give VENEZUELA its eighth win, pulling away from the now neck-and-neck battle for most titles by these two big pageant powerhouses.

I noted that VENEZUELA resembles Miss Universe 2009 Stefania Fernandez.  Little did I know that Stefania’s good luck also rubbed off on her and hence she clinched the victory.  But I also have to note that during the pageant night, Meriam didn’t channel Stefania, but rather actress Liv Tyler.  She exuded a sweet sympatica persona (which seems to be genuine considering how the other girls rushed to congratulate her after her victory), just like Liv Tyler.  As much as I would’ve preferred Ahtisa to win over her, and was rooting for a historic black South African win, I’m still pleased with the outtcome.  Now, let’s see how this pageant progresses from here, and if the African support will still be sustained.

JUST ME!

JOSEPH

 

 

MISS INTERNATIONAL 2018: AT THE HOMESTRETCH (CONCLUSION)

RUSSIA – Galina Lukina.  We’ve seen prettier Russians before but she does deliver a competitive enough performance to be taken into consideration for the Top 15.

SINGAPORE – Eileen Feng.  She’s not in anyone’s radar but I find her presence refreshing.  I consider her a worthwhile contender.

SLOVAKIA – Radka Grendová.  She’s a polished blonde with a great figure, so even if she doesn’t seem to garnering much buzz, I think she could be a sleeper contender.

SOUTH AFRICA – Reabetswe Sechoaro.  Here’s my choice of the one to win it all.  She exudes the vibe of a black Barbie doll and that could be catnip for the Japanese judges to overcome their resistance towards non-Latin black candidates and put her through the Top 15 and beyond.  I think she can indeed do it and make history in the process as she is renowned for her strong communication skills so she will likely deliver a killer cultural speech.  I’m rooting for history to be made and that she becomes the first black non-Latin winner in this pageant.  Making her win will also reap benefits for this pageant as this will ensure continued participation and support from the rising African continent.  On top of that this pageant will have additional bragging rights as they would be first to crown a South African woman of color–the five South African winners of Miss World and Miss Universe are all white, remember.

SPAIN – Susana Sanchez.  She has the gorgeousness and the trimness to be in serious consideration for the Top 15.

SRI LANKA – Natalee Fernando.  Her features are not really to the Japanese (and most pageant fans’) tastes so she is regarded as an also-ran.  We can credit her for making the most of what she has.

SWEDEN – Izabell Hahn.  She has refreshing good looks but she doesn’t quite have the polish that DENMARK and SLOVAKIA have.  Still, the Japanese Nordic blonde bias may still work in her favor.

TAIWAN – Kao Man-jung.  She’s better than your typical representative from this country but still she’s a tad less polished than the other contenders out there.

THAILAND – Keeratika Jaruratjamon.  She does exude the polish and elegance to be in serious contention for the Top 15 and beyond.

UKRAINE – Bohdana Tarasyk.  She may have a great figure, but we’ve seen prettier ladies from this country before.

UNITED KINGDOM – Sharon Gaffka.  She does have enough prettiness to put her in serious contention for a Top 15 slot, though most pageant fans and pundits would probably prefer other contenders in her place.  Still do not discount the Japanese high regard for this country.

U S A – Bonnie Walls.  I’m intrigued about her ethnic make-up as she’s clearly not a blonde Caucasian like her two very successful predecessors from 2015-16.  Is she Native American?  Hawaiian?  Latina?  Filipina?  I’m not certain if her looks would pass muster with Japanese tastes but let’s see if her expectedly strong communication skills will give her a ticket to the Top 15.

VENEZUELA – Mariem Velazco.  She reminds me of Miss Universe 2009 Stefania Fernandez, if she chose to color her hair jet black.  Many are saying she could make a play for the winners’ circle, and I think it is indeed a conceivable outcome for her.

Miss Universe 2009 Stefania Fernandez (photo courtesy of Miss Universe Organization)

VIETNAM – Nguyễn Thúc Thuỳ Tiên.  She has a polished enough presence but not yet that certain aboutt her making maximum impact to make the Top 15.

ZIMBABWE – Tania Tatenda Aaron.  I like the way she projected herself during the press presentation but it seems to fizzle a bit from there.  She was the second African-most-likely.  Would there still be room for her?

With all 77 accounted for, let me now trot out my leaderboard to share how I think they all stand:

TOP CONTENDERS:  LAOS, MEXICO, SOUTH AFRICA

SHOO-INS:  AUSTRALIA, JAPAN, PHILIPPINES, POLAND, ROMANIA, THAILAND, VENEZUELA

LIKELIEST:  BELGIUM, BOLIVIA, BRAZIL, CHILE, CHINA, COLOMBIA, COTE D’IVOIRE, CZECH REPUBLIC, DENMARK, ECUADOR, EL SALVADOR, GUADELOUPE, GUATEMALA, HUNGARY, INDIA, INDONESIA, KOREA, MOLDOVA, NETHERLANDS, NICARAGUA, PANAMA, PARAGUAY, PERU, PORTUGAL, PUERTO RICO, RUSSIA, SLOVAKIA, SPAIN, SWEDEN, UNITED KINGDOM, VIETNAM, ZIMBABWE

EXCELLENT:  CUBA, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, EGYPT, ETHIOPIA, FRANCE, HAITI, HONG KONG, MONGOLIA, NEW ZEALAND, NORTHERN MARIANAS, SINGAPORE, UKRAINE, U S A

VERY STRONG:  ARUBA, COOK ISLANDS, CURACAO, FINLAND, HAWAII, KENYA, LEBANON, MAURITIUS, MYANMAR, NEPAL, SRI LANKA,

STRONG:  ARGENTINA, CANADA, COSTA RICA, GUAM, HONDURAS, MACAU

VERY GOOD:  GERMANY, GHANA, MADAGASCAR, TAIWAN

GOOD:  MALAYSIA

Now, here is my “Fearful” Forecast:

TOP FIVE:  AUSTRALIA, LAOS, MEXICO, PHILIPPINES, SOUTH AFRICA

TOP EIGHT:  POLAND, ROMANIA, VENEZUELA

TOP 15:  BRAZIL, COLOMBIA, DENMARK, INDONESIA, JAPAN, PORTUGAL, THAILAND

BUBBLING UNDER:  BELGIUM, BOLIVIA, CHILE, CHINA, COTE D’IVOIRE, CZECH REPUBLIC, ECUADOR, EL SALVADOR, GUADELOUPE, GUATEMALA, HUNGARY, INDIA, KOREA, MOLDOVA, NETHERLANDS, NICARAGUA, PANAMA, PARAGUAY, PERU, PUERTO RICO, RUSSIA, SLOVAKIA, SPAIN, SWEDEN, UNITED KINGDOM, VIETNAM, ZIMBABWE

STRIKING DISTANCE:  CUBA, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, EGYPT, ETHIOPIA, FRANCE, HAITI, HONG KONG, MONGOLIA, NEW ZEALAND, NORTHERN MARIANAS, SINGAPORE, UKRAINE, U S A

Based on buzz and my own opinion, it looks like the crown is a toss-up between the regal LAOS (Piyamarth Phounpaseuth), the classically gorgeous MEXICO (Nebai Torres) and the ebony doll stunner SOUTH AFRICA (Reabetswe Sechoaro).  Let’s see what kind of history would be made tomorrow afternoon.

JUST ME!

JOSEPH

MISS INTERNATIONAL 2018: AT THE HOMESTRETCH (PART 4)

MOLDOVA – Daniela Marin.  I find her very interesting, exuding a sexy jailbait ingenue vibe that could intriguingly be her ticket to make the Top 15 (or at least win the Miss Perfect Body special award).  Let’s see if both outcomes (making the Top 15 and winning Miss Perfect Body) will come true.

MONGOLIA – Munkhchimeg Batjargal.  She’s polished but her charisma is a tad inconsistent.  Still a worthwhile contender.

MYANMAR – May Yu Khatar.  She’s an adequate contender, not making much impact.

NEPAL – Ronali Amalya.  She registers as less polished and her features are not the sort that makes impact in this pageant (or in most pageants for that matter).

 

NETHERLANDS – Zoë Amber Niewold.  She has the good looks and trim figure to be a Top 15 possibility.

NEW ZEALAND – Natasha Kristina Unkovich.  Her features has an sharpness that the Japanese may not appreciate but she’s otherwise a worthwhile contender.

NICARAGUA – Stefanía Alemán.  She exudes that traditional Latin spice especially in swimsuit.  But I like her with a little more finesse like during the press introduction.

NORTHERN MARIANAS – Celine Cabrera.  I like her features but her country is always overlooked in this pageant except for congeniality awards–so could she be the winner of Miss International – Oceania this year?

PANAMA – Shirel Ortiz.  She is notable for her thick mane of hair parted in the middle and her strong jawline.  She also seems to have a great figure so she could be in contention for the “Miss Perfect Body” award.

PARAGUAY – Daisy Diana Lezcano Rojas.  She made the Top 10 at Reina Hispanoamericana last year alongside winner Wynwin Marquez.  I think she has the looks, figure and charisma to make the Top 15 here, too.

PERU – Marelid Elizabeth Medina.  She has what it takes to be worthy of a Top 15 placement but there are much stronger choices in the fiercely competitive “P” continggent.

PHILIPPINES – Ahtisa Manalo.  Many pageant fans and punditts noted her resemblance to Miss International 2016 Kylie Versoza and so they played up that vibe during her stay so far.  I normally don’t recommend that approach but Japanese love their archetypes and templates and her fitting the Kylie “Namiyumi” archetype does work.  At the very least she will vindicate Mariel de Leon‘s non-placement last year and can make a serious play in the winners’ circle.

POLAND – Marta Pałucka.  This Miss World 2016 Top 20 placer (Hillarie Parungao‘s batchmate) delivers on the beauty and charisma so I’m bullish that she can be a Top 15 shoo-in and make a play for the Top Eight and beyond.

PORTUGAL – Carina Neto.  Her features have a Jackie Kennedy-Onassis vibe about her and that could give her a ticket to the Top 15 and possibly beyond.

Jackie Kennedy circa 1960

PUERTO RICO – Yarelis Salgado.  She competed in Miss America 2015, and she does have a very compeitive polished presence.  With the powerhouse “P” contingent, would there be a slot available for her?

ROMANIA – Bianca Tirsin.  She delivered the beauty and charisma that served her well at last year’s Miss Supranational, making it as far as 2nd runner-up.  She can bring forth her country’s breakthrough and make the Top 15 (or even beyond).

COMING UP:  RUSSIA to ZIMBABWE plus the “FEARFUL” FORECAST