While awaiting the lengthy judges’ deliberation prior to the final announcement of results, we were treated to a backstage interview conducted by Miss International 2016, Kylie Versoza, looking resplendent in a satin green terno. Kylie did a terrific job and on hand to translate into Japanese this time was Stephen of Missosology. It can be argued he also did a better job than the female Japanese translator for INDONESIA and PHILIPPINES. I’m supportive of having female translators, but competency is a prerequisite, and that female translator fell significantly short of that.
4TH RUNNER-UP: UNITED KINGDOM – Hariotte Laine. She was always on the radar throughout her Japan stay–the question was whether her or FINLAND would be the best performing European blonde. With her impeccable “angelic” national costume and more vibrant stage presence, she made the stronger impression and became the top-performing European.
She was the last to deliver her speech, and her speech went like this: “At 13, I fell in love with the Miss International Beauty Pageant It was the first pageant I had ever watched I wanted to become the confident, beautiful woman that stood before me on that stage. I wanted to inspire others to chase for their dreams and never stop. So in my actions for Miss International, I set up a pageant network with a thousand women over the United Kingdom across all ages, of all backgrounds, doing unstoppable things together, supporting our communities and charities. Together, here in Japan, I’ve shown again that we are unstoppable. My new sisters, I hope to share the pageant network and continue to Cheer All Women.” For me, this is the second best-composed speech behind PHILIPPINES. And she also showcased her intelligence in her chit-chat with Kylie. I thought she might even land as high as 1st runner-up, so I was mildly disappointed she only got 4th runner-up as I felt she deserved a bit better. Especially with…
3RD RUNNER-UP: COLOMBIA – Alejandra Vengoechea. Though I do consider her a shoo-in, I wasn’t as impreseed with her as other pageant observers were with her. I don’t find her an energetic presence onstage, and I would’ve rather have VENEZUELA up here in her place. But somehow, the Japanese judges just are enamored with her, which baffled me a bit. But I have to say she made a standout impression in the semifinal swimsuit round as she chose to be covered up in a long-sleeved outfit that reads more “rhythmic gymnast” uniform than “sexy swimsuit”.
I probably learned the reason why the judges were into her when she delivered her speech: “Since I was a little girl, I found a passion in my life, but that for me is a passion that is a difficult discipline for me–sometimes I wanted to give up, sometimes I battled with fears. But there is one woman in my life that transformed that [sic] fears–my mom, also my ballet teacher, that those woman [sic] made my life different. because the essence of a woman is to transform life. That is what I want to be as Miss International. ‘Cheering All Women’ for me is that we cannot compete, we should be together in every situations [sic], no matter the race, no matter the nationalities, no matter the physical.” The classically inclined judges probably love her background as a ballerina, and it tugged their heartstrings and hence connected with her and granted her this high a finish. I’m still not as impressed with her and would’ve rather have Patch take her place, but well, this year they were in the mood to have their heartstrings tugged.
2ND RUNNER-UP: UGANDA – Evelyn Namatovu Karonde. She made a major splash as she exudes a classic black Barbie doll type of beauty. There are aspects of her features that made me recall three legendary black beauty queens at Miss Universe–Miss Universe 1985 2nd runner-up Benita Mureka Tete of Zaire (now DR Congo), Miss Universe 1998 Wendy Fitzwilliam of Trinidad & Tobago, and a few splashes of Miss Universe 1999 Mpule Kwelagobe of Botswana. Needless to say, I highly welcome her Best in Swimsuit (formerly Miss Perfect Body) win.
Many would welcome a black African win from thsi pageant, and eyes are on her to see if she can deliver. She seemed poised to do that, but then she delivered her speech: “Somewhere in sunny Uganda, I realize a number of women are such in desperation with their agricultural projects because of an international travel ban. As a businesswoman and entrepreneur and a livestock farmer, I cannot fathom the frustration of producing without entrance to the market. Ladies and gentlemen, I cannot speak only on behalf of the Africans, but as the next Miss International, I’ll focus my energy in international business and financial empowerment among women. Africa has the lowest number of population amongst all continents, but it had a little young youth that have the strength and power and will to prosper in life.” The content of the speech in hindsight was actually strong, but I have serious issues in the way she delivered it as it lacks energy. I have a feeling she could’ve been the winner, until this speech came, so she ends up in a three-way tie with Kenya’s Eunice Onyango in 2015 and last year’s Reabetswe Rambi Sechaoro from South Africa. I think all Africa needs to do to finally clinch that elusive win is to field a Barbie stunner with the gift of gab to deliver a speech that tugs at the judges’ heartstrings. Once they found that girl, we’ll see that long-awaited breakthrough.
1ST RUNNER-UP: MEXICO – Andrea Toscano. Vindication seems overdue for this alumni of Miss Universe 2018, as many are outraged at her exclusion from the Top 20. She is arguably the most gorgeous face in this year’s pageant, and se proved to be a consistent performer all throughout.
She was the first to be called to the Top Eight, and this is her speech: “Empowerment becomes selfish when it doesn’t break the glass ceiling for others. And that is our challenge at this moment–‘Cheering All Women’ is sharing our life stories, is sharing what we do for others, As Miss Mexico I introduced a policy for children by developing policies in Mexico. And I want to say, ‘Congratulations, Japan!’, ‘Omedeto, Nihon!’ You have all my admiration for believing in the power of education to improve the quality of life of children by developing policies for health and education. And I believe being Miss International is not about winning a contest–it is about deserving the responsibility to be heard, to be a role model in every country. and in every society.” There is nothing to fault about her speech, though I still maintain PHILIPPINES and UNITED KINGDOM delivered better speeches, alongside the speech of the eventual winner, but still she’s so consistently strong that this lofty placement was fully justified.
Before I disucss the winner, it’s so epic to see that the last four finalists standing were all from one region: Southeast Asia. And these countries are the ones most enthusiastic about pageantry lately…
MISS INTERNATIONAL 2019: THAILAND – Sireethorn Leearamwat. I don’t find her conventionally pretty, but there is something very likable about her that you do get drawn to her. She is by all accounts a very sympathetic personality that it was expected that she earned the Continental prize for Asia. Normally this is treated as a consolation prize to reward congeniality, but little did we know the spell she held with the Japanese judges. I have to say she did look elegant and regal during the final, but for me, not enough to beat the likes of MEXICO and UGANDA, for starters.
I think what clinched the deal was her speech: “Do you know I was criticized a lot when I became Miss Thailand, but I never give up and now, I’m here. I dare to dream, to be a beauty queen, even if there’s nothing really [sic] to my career as a pharmacist. I used all critique as power to make myself improve to be the best representative and make my nation proud. So the definition of ‘Cheer All Women’ for me is how to encourage, support and inspire women around the world that [sic] make that dream come true and make a great thing to our world. And if I am priveleged to be Miss International 2019 I will be an inspiration that if an ordinary girl like me can do it, you all can do it, too.” For me, PHILIPINES and UNITED KINGDOM delivered better-composed speeches, but since the female interpreter ruined the former’s message and the latter was probably not scored high enough to soar higher than her eventual placement, they were touched by this lady’s underdog story, and felt it’s time to reward the underdog, and the shocking breakthrough took place.
In hindsight, Sireetorn cribbed a bit from the Kylie Playbook, but with a more retro-conservative twist: she assumed Kylie’s deferential stance, which channels the Yamato Nadeshiko ideal of Japanese femininity. Who needs to include JAPAN in the Top 15 when they already have this girl? A bonus fact is that she can pass for Japanese, as she reminds me of legendary Pizzicato Five vocalist Maki Nomiya, if Maki chose to be more conventionally elegant instead of being the iconic avant-garde fashion plate that she is.
The spontaneous reaction of the other contestants welcoming THAILAND’s victory was a heartwarming sight to behold. Even if I nursed some heartache at the fact that PHILIPPINES didn’t make the winners’ circle, I could not begrudge the surprise victory delivered by Thailand. In some ways, it’s about time this country finally have a turn in earning a plum prize as so far they only have the two Miss Universe wins in their ledger. And it seems the Thai juggernaut might continue as the ladies fielded for Miss Supranational and Miss Universe are making major waves. Could this be the start of a Thai wave? Anyway, congratulations to Sireewat and the rest of the royal court!