As previously mentioned, the Final Five is based on Continental allocation, basically who the judges deemed as the top performer for each continent advances to the Final FIve, instead of selecting the actual Top Five performers amongst the Top 12.  For a year with standouts heavily stacked on certain regions, like Asia & Oceania in this case,   Anyway, I like the touch that prior to the announcement they interviewed roommates or friends from within that continent.

After the five Continental Queens were selected, just like since 2016 they are subjected to a Q&A with a question posed by an outgoing or former Miss World.  I’ll discuss their answers in detail when I discuss the Final Five in depth.

MISS WORLD – CARIBBEAN: JAMAICA – Kadijah Robinson.  This country has always been a pet country for this pageant.  Well, yes, this lady is polished, articulate, and educated like most of the fellow representatives from her country before her, but to be honest, I found her a tad low-key during her head-to-head challenge.  She also didn’t make the shortlist in any fast-track event, So one might wonder, why her instead of, say, TRINIDAD & TOBAGO?  Some speculated that TRINIDAD & TOBAGO makes an intimidating rival against the “favored” one, so the insiders decided to mark down the big rival enough to miss the cut and put this less intimidating lady as the top Caribbean performer instead.  Miss World 2008 Ksenia Sukhinova asked her, “In my year as Miss World, I saw the extreme difficulties that so many people have to overcome. What is the greatest obstacle you’ve had to overcome?”  This is Kadijah’s reply:  “The greatest obstacle that I’ve had to overcome is one of self-confidence, and I’m so glad I did because I’m here tonight standing in front of you in pure joy and humility. When I was younger, I always doubted myself and I always doubted my capabilities. It took me a very long time to overcome this, and I know it takes a lot of communication with the self and a lot of thoughts. It’s a long process, but I was able to do it. To whoever is listening tonight that is not confident with themselves, I implore you to communicate with yourself. Find your niche. Find yourself, and it will be the most awesome feeling ever.”  It’s actually a relatable obstacle (as I also have to deal with the same thing), but it doesn’t make for a compelling answer and worse, she didn’t really illustrate any specific example about the lack of self-confidence she faced.

MISS WORLD – EUROPE: BELARUS – Maria Valisevich.  She was a bit under my radar but I did believe she had what it takes to make it all the way to the Top 30 as she proved a strong communicator during the head-to-head challenge with an intriguing background being a licensed pilot alongside being a globe-trotting model.  She made the shortlist in Top Model and Sports.  She also was a more spontaneous, confident communicator during the Top 12 round that she pulled off the upset and beat the more favored FRANCE to be the Continental Queen of Europe.  For her final question, she was asked by Miss World 2014 Rolene Strauss this:  “Every Miss World winner builds upon a legacy of the previous Miss World. How do you plan on building on the legacy of Manushi Chhillar?”  Maria was obviously nervous but she delivered this answer:  “I think that Manushi had done a big job during this year. I’m so proud that I will have an opportunity – maybe, an opportunity – to continue this job. I think I will continue my own Beauty with a Purpose project which is connected with unable and disabled people, and talented children.

MISS WORLD – AFRICA:  UGANDA – Quiin Abenakyo.  Her late arrival helped her shine bright against the other latecomers in her group (even if they are no slouches, to their credit).  She indeed has one of the prettiest faces amongst this year’s contenders from her continent, and her bob weave does give her a stylish, cosmopolitan look.  Another lady who could’ve deserved a Top Model slot over, say, BARBADOS (yeah, I’m piling hard on her, am I?).  Winning the head-to-head challenge is already a big milestone for her country, and the final night judges were in the mood to add gravy to an already impressive achievement, as she emerged as a great underdog story, even if MAURITIUS arguably gave a better chit-chat.   For her final question, she was asked by Miss World 2016 Stephanie del Valle this:  “What unique quality would you bring to Beauty with a Purpose?” Quiin’s response went like this:  “I am very passionate about cooking. I believe one can show the love they have for everyone through food. My Beauty with a Purpose project is fighting teenage pregnancies. We can all come together and help, but we can also do this through food. When we all come together, we share ideas, we generate ideas, just like the Miss World family who are able to come up with different ideas to solve problems in our countries.”  It’s not quite cohesive but it’s solid.

Normally Julia Morley would announce two runners-up and the winner, but this year she only announced one runner-up.  There was speculation that there was a tie for third place for two of the Continental Queens, but because the Continental Queens will be on-hand to tour alongside the winner throughout the year, perhaps they decided ad hoc not to bother announcing the 2nd runner-up.  Anyway it turns out t

RUNNER-UP AND MISS WORLD – ASIA:  THAILAND – Nicolene Pichapa Limsnukan.  This country deserved some vindication after missing the cut last year with a stellar contender.  This lady is a huge upgrade as she has an excellent command of English since she actually grew up in the US.  We all know in Miss Universe American-raised Thais would shine brightly and it now extends to this one with this gem.  She made a splash by being in the Top Five in designer dress and making the Top 32 in Top Model, then also getting shortlisted for Talent with her flag routine, which was tapped as the opener for the final night Dances of the World sequence.  But she earned her slot by winning the head-to-ead challenge as she eloquently presented her advocacy stemmed from taking care of her autistic brother.  Her project may have fallen short of making the Top 25 in BWAP, but it’s still a strong project.  She also gave a strong answer to the question posed to her by the outgoing Miss World, Manushi Chhillar, thusly:  “Being a Miss World is glamorous and exciting, but it’s also hard work. What strengths would you bring to the role?”  Her answer:  “The strength I would bring to being Miss World is passion and love for the project I started, which is Love For All, which works with kids with autism. It’s based around my little brother. I feel that as long as you have passion, you’re able to work, you’re able to love, and do what you want to do. That’s going to be able to move the world, move society, and change who you are as a person, as well as change the world to make it a better place.”

I’ve noticed she has a resemblance to our representative from 13 years ago, Carlene Aguilar.  If Carlene was not too slickly packaged and have a dash of spontaneity like this lady, she could’ve easily justified her fan status as the favorite to win it and we would’ve had a much stronger outcome (probably even securing our first ever win).

Carlene Aguilar at Miss World 2005

MISS WORLD 2018:  MEXICO – Vanessa Ponce de Leon.  As the finals close in, many are buzzing that this lady is the anointed one, the favorite to win.  Her modeling background with her string of volunteer work makes her an ideal fit to this organization’s agenda.  She also justifies her status with a shortlist in Top Model, reserve slot in Sports, 2nd place in Multimedia, and a fourth-place tie for her BWAP project helping alleviate the poverty of indigenous people.  Though making Top Five in BWAP already would secure a place in the Top 30, she earlier earned her slot thanks to an epic head-to-head challenge win against the formidable TRINIDAD & TOBAGO.  She nailed her win in the Final Five by answering the question posed to her by Miss World 2013 Megan Young, thus:  “When I became a Miss World, I was able to use my position to help people. How would you use your influence as Miss World to help others?”  Vanessa answered, “I would use my position just the way I’ve been doing it for the past 3 years – being an example. We all can be an example of good in the world, we all have to care, we all have to love, we all have to be kind. It don’t cost a thing. Helping is not that hard. We just really need the world to make a change. You just need to go there. There’s always someone that’ll need what you have to offer.”

Mexico’s win was deemed long overdue after three 1st runner-up finishes (2005, 2009, and 2017) and a 2nd runner-up finish (2007).  But I observed a similar trajectory like what took place with another major powerouse pageant country that recently changed franchises, and coincidentally, who also shared very similar cultural ties.  I’m talking about the Philippines, of course.  Megan Young was the third winner under the new franchise, and so is Vanessa.  And both countries had a 1st runner-up within that three-year period.  For some detractors who are arguing that this win is “pre-ordained” and a reward for the new franchisee, could the same argument also affect us (as I presume some of the main detractors are from our own turf) and are you willing to diminish Megan Young’s win in the process?   There is the possibility that there is some truth to that arguments raised by detractors, but I think Vanessa earned her win fair and square.

Though I do have misgivings with the mercurial way the Miss World officers changes the rules almost ad hoc, and how it is increasingly operating like a home-grown cottage industry than a professional, accountable organization, I still feel there is a bit of fairness in the way things are decided, and unless hard evidence can be presented by those detractors, its projects for charities around the world has been enviable and had made a great impact over the decades.  Here’s hoping for a successful, fruitful reign for Vanessa Ponce de Leon!




It is interesting that the Top 12 is filled with lesser-regarded countries instead of your usual heavy-hitters.  It makes for a refreshing mix, admittedly.  But still there are some ladies of stronger merit who I felt would be worthier of belonging here instead of some of the ladies who mnade it, like…

MARTINIQUE – Larissa Segarel.  I understand her brand of exotic and I have no objections to her making the Top Model shortlist.  But I thought her interview skills are raw and suspect and even thought she’s among the bottom five.  But somehow the insiders love her–is it her makeover late in the game as she changed from her straightened hair with bun to an Afro?  As she said onstage as interviewed by Angela Chow, “My Afro is my personality.”  Oh, I so miss TRINIDAD & TOBAGO, and this reveals the drawback of the Continental system–wouldn’t you rather see COOK ISLANDS, JAPAN, or even CHINA instead of her?

SCOTLAND – Linzi McLelland.  She’s a bit of a surprise to me, but she’s a brunette cutie with a great advocacy about suicide prevention fueled by her own personal experience.  She also made the shortlist in Sports.  The insiders felt she’s the top performing UK girl this year, so for that quality they were inclined to choose her to advance to this hallowed position, though I feel that the formidable Asian ladies could’ve taken that slot in her place.  Still I don’t really object to her presence here.

MAURITIUS – Murielle Ravina.  Thanks to her strong communication skills and advocacy, she edged out the usual suspects like NIGERIA and SOUTH AFRICA and made it this far.  She earned her Top 30 slot by winning the head-to-head challenge.  She is only the 3rd person from her country to make it this far in this pageant, and though I don’t find her conventionally pretty, I respect her well-rounded personality (she’s a political science major who has a knack for fashion design–her red cocktail dress with train is actually fabulous) and strong communication skills and she’s worthy of belonging here.

NEPAL – Shrinkala Khatiwada.  This country turns out to be having a banner year, actually topping INDIA at its own game.  She is a bright communicator with a glamorous charisma about her, that it’s not surprising she’s shortlisted for Top Model.  But she shone brightest in Multimedia and BWAP, winning both and compensating immensely for losing her head-to-head battle with SINGAPORE.  She’s proven to be a worthy choice of belonging here, even with the formidable presence of COOK ISLANDS, CHINA, and JAPAN nipping at her heels.

FRANCE – Maëva Coucke.  Many expect her to be the top European performer and be the Continental Queen for Europe.  SHe has that gorgeous face and toothy smile of two very illustrious predecessors, Miss World 2013 1st runner-up Marine Lorphelin and Miss Universe 2016 Iris Mittenaere.  Many fans (including myself) felt she has what it takes to reach the lofty heights achieved by those two ladies.  She made an early splash winning Top Model.  Though I found her charming enough in her head-to-head challenge video, other pageant fans and pundits sounded the alarm that she’s disappointing when she speaks.  Well, their concerns seem warranted when she lost her showdown with MAURITIUS.  And then when she’s called to the Top 12, admittedly what she said, as charming as it is, is weaker than what was delivered by the lady who ended up winning the Continental title.  I do agree with some Miss World detractors that Miss World is waiting for the right girl from this country to bring France its second Miss World win (after more than 65 years) but it seems they would need to wait a bit longer…

Miss World 2013 1st runner-up Marine Lorphelin and Miss Universe 2016 Iris Mittenaere

MISS WORLD – OCEANIA:  NEW ZEALAND – Jessica Tyson.  Though I don’t find her conventionally pretty, I’ve been hearing buzz that she’s a highly favored girl.  Partly this is because of her outgoing personality and superb communication skills, and a human-interest story being a sexual abuse survivor (which also served as her advocacy) and her background as a journalist reporting about Maori topics, supporting their cause.  Her BWAP advocacy was her key to making the cut as she made Top Five (tied in 2nd with INDONESIA), but she also was a major player in Sports as she won the swimming portion of that competition, and adding to the insiders’ favoritism of her, she was also shortlisted in Top Model even if most pageant fans and pundits don’t feel she’s modeling material.  But there is one contender from the Asia region who out-performed her and officially she is part of the Asia & Oceania continent and this is supposed to be treated as one region.  But after the results, the insiders decide to change their mind and reward her with a continental award as Miss World – Oceania anyway.  This is not the first time they did this–a similar thing happened when Megan won five years ago and Australia’s Erin Holland was belatedly given that official designation after the final results were announced.

MISS WORLD – AMERICAS:  PANAMA – Solaris Barba.  This is a spoiler as since 2016 if the original continental winner wins the overall title of Miss World, the next-ranked contestant from that region will then end up with the title.  Many presumed the next-ranked lady would’ve been CHILE, but this lady has been stealthily winning over the insiders and nipped her in the end.  Both her and CHILE’s BWAP projects landed in the Top 12 but we have to hand it that this lady’s project is more impactful as her project deals with natives suffering from albinism.  She also got shortlisted in Talent with her Salsa dancing, in Sports, and in Top Model.  Though she didn’t secure a head-to-head or fast-track win, those achievements made her such a contender that it’s expected she earned a slot via interview.




I’m glad there is an onstage competition among the Top 30 this time, as after they were announced, there is then a sequence where each of them would be introduced with fresh new video footage of them running along a secluded beach with their voiceover talking a bit about themselves as onstage they walk in cocktail dresses.  It would’ve been perfect if there aren’t audio gaffes and some missed cues and missing video loads (like NIGERIA, for example).  One reason I think the people behind the production of Miss World is now more of a cottage industry instead of a professional operation.

BARBADOS – Ashley Lashley.  I’m baffled why the insiders like this lady so much.  For many pageant fans and pundits, her looks are just too “exotic” for comfort, yet somehow the insiders dig that type of “exotic” and shortlisted her in Top Model.  They also shortlisted her in BWAP for her diabetes project.  There is also her ambition to become the future UN Secretary-General–it seems a very lofty, impossible ambition so you wonder if she is aware what it takes to achieve that position.  Well, it seems she may have an inkling, even if it sounds naive at first.  I think the quality that made her win over the insiders is her upbeat, cheerful attitude.  Still, her over the likes of TRINIDAD & TOBAGO?  Anyway, she does have a catchy name and I wonder if I’ll be around in 30-40 years to see would indeed achieve her ultimate goal…

BANGLADESH – Jannatul Ferfous Oishee.  If Nobel peace prize winner Malala Yousafzai is a beauty queen, she will probably be like this lady, as this lady has a strong resemblance to her.  This is the second time this country made the cut, but unlike last year when it was solely because of a strong Bangladeshi internet fanbase propelling her placement, this lady earned her slot by successfully presenting her advocacy, beating…

Malala Yousafzai

NIGERIA – Anita Ukah.  She has the height and model frame that earned her a shortlist in Top Model, even if I felt there should’ve been room for RWANDA and TANZANIA there, as I felt those two had more charisma than this lady.  Anyway, I’m not mad at her inclusion (earned by winning over the insiders in interview) as I have to respect that people have different tastes.

SINGAPORE – Vanessa Peh.  Projection wise, she’s raw, but she earned her slot by winning the head-to-head challenge with her gift of gab.  She also got short-listed in BWAP for her awareness campaign to help the underprivileged and elderly in her country with lack of access to healthcare.

BELGIUM – Angeline Flor Pua.  She’s the child of two full-blooded Filipinos who moved to this country, yet from her speech and demeanor she’s very much a Belgian native.  This quality might have intrigued the insiders and earned her this Top 30 slot via interview.  She also got shortlisted in Top Model with her exotic Filipina features.  I find her a refreshing part of this Top 30, and our consolation prize for PHILIPPINES breaking the finals streak.

RUSSIA – Natalya Stroeva.  Her very Asian features (as a native Yakut, part of the Sakha Republic, the largest of many administrative divisions that comprise Siberia) does bring intrigue as Asian-looking Russians seeing action in international pageants are not common.  She got shortlisted in Top Model and BWAP (for her work with orphans, as it turns out she’s an orphan herself), though she earned her Top 30 slot via winning over the insiders in interview.

NORTHERN IRELAND – Katharine Walker.  Looks- and styling-wise I don’t think she’s worthy of landing Top 30, but well, the insiders just somehow liked her and gave her one of the interviewe slots.  Her sole fast-track highlight was making the shortlist in Sports.

VENEZUELA – Veruska Ljubisavljević.  She earned her slot by winning a head-to-head challenge slot, first by winning Group 3 and then knocking out Group 4 winner PHILIPPINES with her more fluid way of communicating her advocacy (basically any program to help out her beleaguered countrymen, who are mired deep in a hyperinflationary economic crisis).  She also turned out to make Top 10 in Multimedia.  Since Ivian Sarcos‘ win seven years ago, this powerhouse track record in this pageant has been spotty, so she can be seen as one of the brighter highlights in recent years.  There are pageant pundits who criticize her appearance, but I think she still passes muster and a worthy Top 30 quarterfinalist.

SOUTH AFRICA – Thulisa Keyi.  She made an initial splash being co-winner of the designer dress award and making Top Five in Top Model, but after that buzz dissipated.  She secured her slot by winning over the judges’ interview, and though she has strong merits, the judges’ had their eye on more refreshing countries.

INDIA – Anukreethy Vas.  She possesses the charisma of a Bollywood star, but interestingly though she figured in the Multimedia fast-track in the Top 10 and made the shortlist in Talent with her traditional Indian dance, she missed the shortlist in Top Model and BWAP.  She secured the slot by winning the head-to-head challenge.

VIETNAM – Trần Tiểu Vy.  Interestingly, she reminds me of our representative last year, Laura Lehmann.  Like Laura, she placed Top 5 in BWAP with her project helping bring water to a remote village.  Unlike Laura, she won insiders’ favor by getting shortlisted in Top Model.  She’s a worthy Top 30 placer indeed.

Laura Lehmann (image courtesy of Miss World Philippines)

INDONESIA – Alya Nurshabrina.  Her BWAP project helping a village with its water, sanitation and irrigation for agriculture was so lofty and worthy that she was in a tie in 2nd place with New Zealand and secured her Top 30 slot with her BWAP ranking.  She also got shortlisted in Talent (with her Broadway performance of “Good Morning Baltimore” from Hairspray) and placed Top Five in Multimedia.  She’s also a great communicator, so her placement is not that surprising.  Still, one expected her to win her head-to-head heat but was beaten by the less pageant-crazy country of…

,,,MALAYSIA – Larissa Ping.  Considering this country is not normally as pageant ga-ga as INDONESIA is lately it’s so interesting how this country won the popular vote with both of them pitted in the same group.  I’m not crazy about looks-wise, but she does have great qualities like a gift of gab, a strong advocacy (her BWAP project installing computers in schools made Top 12), and she interesting made a splace in Top Model, making the shortlist and Top Five in designer dress.  She also made Top Five in Talent with her skill singing and playing a traditional string instrument called the sape.

UNITED STATES – Marisa Butler.  She earned her Top 30 slot by winning the Sports fast track, but she also proved a formidable force in Talent as she’s an opera singer.  She’s actually good looking and a great personality, but it’s interesting that she made the most impact in the “homely” fast-tracks.

COOK ISLANDS – Reihana Koteka-Wiki.  Her country made the cut the first time two years ago by winning the Sports fast-track.  This time, this country earned its slot in the Top 30 by interview, as she’s definitely a strong communicator with a great international background, having traveled to 20 countries so far and residing in seven of them thanks to her father’s position in the UN (most likely under the New Zealand delegation as this country is a protectorate under that country).  She also is a force tor reckon with in Talent, with her booty-shaking traditional dance (think Tahitian dance) and her BWAP project on mental health awareness made the shortlist.  SHe also was in the reserve list for Sports.  If there was no continental divisions and the next cut was expanded to a Top 15, she would’ve advanced to the next round, easy.

CHILE – Anahi Hormazabal.  Many people (including myself) thought she has what it takes to be in the overall Top Five.  However, with a certain lady from her continent being anointed as the favorite and reports that she doesn’t really want to win it all, she had to content herself that she advanced to the Top 30, made the shortlist in Top Model and Top 12 for her BWAP project integrating Haitian immigrants to Chilean society.

JAPAN – Kanako Date.  She’s not conventionally pretty but she’s a very fascinating person as she is skilled in several languages, is very well-read and educated, and is an opera singer (she’s the winner of the Talent fast-track).  She also made the BWAP shortlist with her project trying to stamp down syphilis.

CHINA – Mao Peirui.  This lady is a cosmopolitan lady with a great command of English as she runs an educational company.  She also made a big splash in Top Model, being a co-winner for designer dress and 3rd place in Top Model, and she made an even bigger splash in talent, placing second behind Japan with her classical piano playing skills.  She also made the shortlist in BWAP with her education profession and project.  If it weren’t for the Continental allocation, I believe she would easily have made the Top 12 and possibly even beyond.