MISS WORLD 2018: SOMETHING FRESH, SOMETHING CONTINENTAL (PART 1)

It’s almost expected that Miss World will rejigger its competition format each year that it’s always a challenge keeping track of what rules would be in place.  This is because many times the organization only discloses the format later in the game, and even then there would be last-minute tweaks after the fact.  For instance, while most (including myself) assumed the competition format would be similar to last year except for the twist that the Head-to-Head Challenge would now be conducted in two rounds to ultimately select 10 instead of 20, it turns out more changes were afoot–instead of a 15-10-5 format like last year, it’s now whittling the 30 to a Top 12 with continental allocation (minimum two per region–Asia & Oceania, Africa, Europe, Caribbean, and Americas), and the Final Five is basically the continental winners.  The format is a throwback to the 2005-2006 editions but in a year where a certain region has a bevy of stellar standouts, it would be a bloodbath to secure those limited slots.  I remembered I was concerned about this back in 2007 with the strong group of Caribbean standouts, but they relaxed that rule and let merit prevail instead.

I have to take note that the stage featured an innovation that proves to be taking the contestants into consideration–there is like a semi-stadium set-up onstage divided into five sections for the five continents they set up, and seats are provided so while the host do their banter they are typically seated in their designated spaces (indicated by the flags lit below them).  Some noted it also created an impression that one is in a telethon, but then again, isn’t this pageant emphasizing the charity aspect?

Again, the Miss World organization decided to tap its hosts from generally either from within its ranks or from people they have had a long relationship with.  This year, there’s a twist as they decided to feature a pair dedicated for the Spanish speakers, so English (and most other languages) will feature the pair of Miss World 2013 Megan Young and Barney Walsh (longtime insider Donna Derby‘s son) and the Spanish team featured Mexican entertainer Fernando Allende and Miss World 2016 Stephanie del Valle.  For the Chinese audience in the venue, the veteran ageless host Angela Chow is the main host of the proceedings.  Mister World 2012 finalist Frankie Cena is back doing backstage commentary and the off-camera announcer is gameskeeper and Julia Morley‘s presumed successor, her son Stephen Douglas.  We all know the caliber of Angela Chow’s hosting by now and Megan is also near-flawless.  I don’t know much about Stephanie’s hosting because I’m viewing the English broadcast, but I presume she’s strong.  Fernando is also smooth since he’s a veteran and Barney is basically competent.

Prior to 2016, we see the contestants doing at most three wardrobe changes–one for Dances of the World,  and one for evening gowns.  They added cocktail dresses from 2016 for the first round of announcements.  But this year, there is an additional wardrobe change as for the opening number the ladies performed in glittery midriff-baring T-shirts and athletic shorts as they accompnay Voice UK 2018 runner-up Donel Mangena as he performed his single “Bang Like A Drum”.  To his credit, the tropical-infused electronic song is very much in line with current music trends, but it hasn’t quite caught a break in the UK charts.

Of course the key highlight of recent editions of this pageant is the “Dances of the World” segment, with the contestants bedecked in danceable national costumes and showcasing their culture.  This year’s twist features THAILAND (Nocolene Pichapa Limsnukan) taking centerstage with her flag routine as the ladies gather onstage, set to a peppy girl-power rap song, before seguing to the traditional dance sequence.  This time, to feature more contestants dancing, several of them were presented in pairs or groups, with a smattering of solos tossed in.  It’s as enjoyable as always.

As is customary in recent editions, they do recaps of activities and then use that opportunity to announce the winners of the head-to-head challenges and the fast-track events.  On top of that they guaranteed that the Top Five of BWAP are granted sltos in the Top 30 too, leaving only 13 slots for the judges’ interview.

Besides the aforementioned Donel Mangena and a performance from the Talent winner JAPAN (Kanako Date) there are three other music performances during the show.  There was Kazakh singer Dimash Kudaibergen singing his Chinese language ballad “An Unforgettable Day“.  His key characteristic is his multi-octave vocal range, and it was impressive.  I’m not crazy about sentimental ballads, but there is an audience for this.  It also served as the moment the non-finalists changed from cocktail dresses to evening gowns.

Fernando Allende has been using the show as a platform to premiere music videos to his song.  Last year, he premiered “Tombola“, and this year it’s “Despeinada [Disheveled]”.  From the more traditional Latin sound of last year’s song, this year it’s a more an early 1960s-sounding beach bopper, with the Miss World contestants serving as eye-candy backdrop.  It doesn’t sound like what is currently hot in Latin music (as they are seeped in reggaeton and cumbia these days), so I’m not really crazy about this.

Hearkening back to editions in the late 1990s to mid-2000s, they decided to hire a veteran act with at least an immortal chestnut to perform.  This year, it’s Sister Sledge as they performed their eternal disco chestnut “We Are Family” not once but twice, first after the continental queens were announced and then after the winner was announced.  I adore this song, and the sisters look great even after 40 years since the song came out, but I have to say, the ladies are about 70% of their full power as I hear some off-pitch moments–partly because they are now reduced from a quartet to a trio.  Actually, only two of the original sisters, Debbie and Kim, are still in this act, as youngest sister Kathy chose to concentrate on a solo career and Joni passed away last year.  So who’s the third member singing along with them?  It’s a guest artist, Tanya Tiet.  Actually this act also has some other great songs in their repertoire, like “He’s the Greatest Dancer” (which is sampled in Will Smith‘s No. 1 smash “Getting Jiggy with It“) and then there is the retro 1985 UK no. 1 hit, “Frankie“.  But then again, neither of those songs seem to fit the tone of the pageant, even if “Frankie” could’ve been an opportunity for a corny production number featuring backstage host Frankie Cena, but I have a feeling he’s not game for that, so we’re left with making them perform the same song twice.

COMING UP:  THE TOP 30

MISS WORLD 2018: CONTESTANTS REVIEW (PART 5)

GROUP 17:  This is the last of four groups that have three ladies advancing to the Top 30.  First there is MEXICO (Vanessa Ponce) who is a formidable force to reckon with and a big front-runner from the get-go.  The other two from this group advanced by impressing the insiders enough in interview:  NORTHERN IRELAND (Katharine Walker) and RUSSIA (Natalya Stroeva).

ARUBA – Nurianne Arias.  She’s actually an above-average contender who is polished, intelligent, and well-spoken.  It’s just that she’s drowned out by other girls that piqued the interest of insiders.

MALTA – Maria Ellul.  It can be argued she’s the weakest link of this group, but she actually gave great points about her love for the environment and her choice of Anne Frank as a relevant historical figure and how she effectively linked her with the issues brought about by the current immigrant crises.  So she’s a worthwhile contender with a batch filled with so much of them.

SPAIN – Amaia Izar.  She exudes a lot of charm and has a great story about her efforts learning Chinese.  But one has to note, it started when she started when she wanted to visit her architect brother who is working in Taiwan.  I wonder if it is taken against her for that detail since Taiwan is considered a renegade province by the mainland Chinese.  Still, she also has highlight making the shortlists in Top Model and Talent (with her flamenco dance).  She probably missed the Top 30 by very little.

GROUP 18:  This is another group where all members ultimately failed to advance.  But somehow for many people (including myself), it seems that an injustice was committed here as this group of ladies are actually of a high standard and several are Top 30 worthy.  There are some a couple of occasions where I go:  “Seriously, BARBADOS over this?”

CROATIA -Ivana Mudnić Dujmina.  Her striking good looks made her a worthy choice for making the Top 32 in Top Model.  She’s not as “deep” as other contenders out there, but her great looks are undeniable and she’s a worthwhile contender.

HAITI – Stephie Morency.  She at least has a highlight making the Talent shortlist, where she created an emotional moment with her imploring dance.  She’s a well-spoken lady too so she’s a worthwhile contender who deserved a better break.

SRI LANKA – Nadia Gyi.  She has a human interest story as she lost her dad and had to stop school for a while and take odd jobs to survive but somehow after setting up a tech start-up she earned a diploma.

TANZANIA – Queen Elizabeth Makune.  She’s a gorgeous stunner to my eyes, and she’s well-spoken, so it’s shocking she didn’t figure in any fast-track event, not even Top Model.  She’s one I would say, “BARBADOS over her?!  Seriously?!”  If we exclude ENGLAND and PORTUGAL from Holly Carpenter contention because they received citations for non-bearing events, this lady would be my choice as winner for the Holly Carpenter award.

TRINIDAD & TOBAGO – Ysabel Bisnath.  With her intelligence, eloquence and background being educated in Oxford, it’s no shock she won in this group.  But then she had to deal with the unstoppable juggernaut that is MEXICO, and despite placing Top 12 in BWAP (for setting up a school), she’s shut out of a Top 30 slot.  You would think she would ace the interview, but oddly, the judges somehow preferred BABADOS and MARTINIQUE over her.  I have previously noted she’s the winner of the Ruth Ocumarez award for this pageant.  A big injustice, if you ask me.

TURKEY – Sevval Sahin.  BELIZE, you may need to take pointers from this lady regarding communicating your passion for fashion.   She could even provide useful fashion tips that could significantly improve your style.  It’s no surprise she made the Top 32 in Top Model, and it is indeed highly befitting.  Clearly she’s overshadowed by stronger communicators and other ladies that piqued the insiders’ interest, but this achievement is something she could be proud of, on top of being one of the stronger representatives fielded by this country in recent years.

GROUP 19:  The winner of this group originally belonged to another group  (Group 13 to be exact), so after the results of the first round were announced, I wonder if any of the original five ladies in this group thought, “Bitch stole my slot!”  Still, there are a couple of ladies who are Top 30-worthy who by the twists and machinations of the competition format, missed the cut.

ARGENTINA – Victoria Soto.

ECUADOR – Nicol Ocles.  It’s nice to see a black representative from this country–it has happened before, but it’s a welcome treat when this rarity shows up.  Anyway she’s a solid contender but her highlight is being shortlisted in the Sports fast-track.

EL SALVADOR – Metzi Solano.  She’s a strong communicator, but she’s obviously drowned out by the stronger Latinas out there.

KENYA – Finali Galaiya.  She made headlines being the first non-black to represent this very African country in this pageant (she’s of Indian descent).  She made a great impression with her intelligence and eloquence.  That is a quality that helped her make the Top 12 in BWAP with her HIV-prevention and widow cleansing project.  She also made Top Three in Multimedia and won the special activity creating a promotional video for Sanya.  She probably missed the final cut by very little.

MADAGASCAR – Miantsa Randriambelonoro.  Yes, she has a lofty background studying to become a cartographer, but everything about her is otherwise raw so she can be seen as the weakest link of this group.

POLAND – Agata Biernat.  She’s undeniably great looking just like almost all contestants fielded by her country.  But interestingly she fared best in the “homely” fast-track events in Sports and Talent (with her contemporary gymnastic dance).  If it weren’t for ARGENTINA’s presence, it would’ve been either her or KENYA who would be pitted against UGANDA in the second round of the head-to-head challenge.

GROUP 20:  This group and Group 19 (and to a lesser extent Group 18) could be characterized as the “groups of latecomers”.  This group has yielded a gem who went pretty far:  UGANDA (Quiin Abenakyo).  More on her as I do my full-fledged Miss World finals review.

ANGOLA – Nelma Ferreira.  She’s actually an above-average contender, but well, there are standouts that piqued the insiders’ interests over er.

GUINEA-BISSAU – Rubiato Nhamajo.  Like SLOVENIA, she has a passion for sports and this is reflected as she’s selected as a reserve in the Sports fast-track.  This small country rarely makes inroads in an internatiomal pageant, so this is an achievement worth celebrating.

HONDURAS – Dayana Sabillón.  She has a human interest story as she’s born with a congenital heart condition and her path to recover from this is inspirational.  Her patrician features are probably not to the insiders’ liking so she couldn’t make inroads even if she’s a strong communicator.

HONG KONG – Wing Wong.  She has a name that makes you think she would speak in that stereotypical choppy Chinese accent.  But it’s a treat that it turns out her accent is more plummy English RP (Received Pronunciation) and she’s very well-spoken.  She’s good looking too so she’s very much a worthwhile contender.

Consider this review of the non-finalist contestants a prelude to what’s coming up:  my review of the Miss World 2018 finals.

JUST ME!

JOSEPH

MISS WORLD 2018: CONTESTANTS REVIEW (PART 4)

GROUP 13:  One person advanced from this group, but it’s interesting that it wasn’t because she won the second round of the head-to-head challenge, but because she won not one, but two fast-tracks:  NEPAL (Shrinkala Khatiwada) won both Multimedia and BWAP with her project building a health center in a remote village.

BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA – Anđela Paleksić.  She’s like either a homelier version of a young Vanessa Paradis or a relative of a young Helena Bonham-Carter.  She expressed an interest studying the Serbian language–probably for most part that actually would be easy for her because by all intents and purposes it’s the same as the Bosnian (and Croatian) language, with perhaps a few changes in idioms and choice of words, plus the use of a different alphabet (Cyrillic instead of Latin as used by Bosniaks and Croats).  But well, she does make a good point about trying to bridge the conflicts that still simmer amongst these peoples, even if they speak practically the same language.  Still, it’s not compelling enough to make an impression with insiders.

 

Vanessa Paradis (L) and Helena Bonham Carter (R)

GUAM – Gianna Sgambelluri.  Now here is a round-faced girl who everyone would say is adorably cute.  She’s also intelligent and well-spoiken.   But as strong as she is, she is elbowed out by stronger standouts out there.  She’s another Holly Carpenter finalist, alongside…

LUXEMBOURG – Cassandra Lopes Monteiro.  She has a striking dusky look that would’ve made her a good fit for Top Model, but the insiders on hand did not dig her enough to make that shortlist.  Her communication skills is that of a typical European, so she doesn’t also make significant headway in the interview department, too.

MOLDOVA – Tamara Zareţcaia.  She’s a good-looking blonde, but she lacks a standout quality to make any inroads.  Her highlight is making the reserve list in the Sports fast-track.

GROUP 14:  This is the third of four groups with three members making the Top 30.  SINGAPORE (Vanessa Peh)’s eloquence helped her knock out the formidable NEPAL in their head-to-head showdown.  BELARUS (Maria Vasilevich) and MARTINIQUE (Larissa Segarel) earned their slots by winning over the insiders in interview.

CURACAO – Nazira Colastica.  She’s an otherwise solid contender, but she has a tendency to use highfalutin words to express something mundane and that may be taken against her in interview.

NETHERLANDS – Leonie Hesselink.  Her speaking style could be viewed as rough for some ears, but others (including myself) would view as refreshingly down-to-earth and forward.  Her main highlight was placing third in the Sports fast-track and winning the 60 m dash.

PUERTO RICO – Dayanara Martínez.  She’s actually a top-notch contender with a Stephanie del Valle-like drive and vibe.  But she didn’t make enough impact with the insiders and her highlight is making the Top 18 in Talent with her singing.

GROUP 15:  The clear winner of this group was THAILAND (Nicolene Pichapa Limsnukan), who dominated this group with her charm, gift of gab (thanks to an excellent command of English thanks to being raised in the United States) and outgoing personality.  Not that the other ladies in this groups are slouches, though.

AUSTRIA – Izabela Ion.  This farm girl shares a similar background raising animals with her next-door neighbor counterpart that her country used to share running an empire over 100 years ago.  But she’s deemed the lesser of the two even if she has undeniable good looks and likeable merits.  So she’s also another prime candidate for the Holly Carpenter award.

GREECE – Maria Lepida.  She got shortlisted in Top Model, and I have a feeling it’s because she has a resemblance to actress Jennifer Lawrence.  Otherwise her interview skills and overall presence are not the sort that impress the insiders.

Jennifer Lawrence (image courtesy of Vogue)

HUNGARY – Andrea Szarvas.  In the head-to-head challenge, Frankie was obviously fascinated with her story running an ostrich farm.  She seems to be a strong. lively, and eloquent communicator in her native language that perhaps she only miss making the Top 30 by very little.  She at least has the consolation of making the shortlist in Sports.

MONGOLIA – Erdenebaatar Enkhriimaa.  She’s a tad plainer and less charismatic than recent representatives from her country, but she still made inroads making Top 10 in Multimedia and Top 25 with her BWAP project on eradicating tuberculosis.

UKRAINE – Leonila Guz.  Here’s another Holly Carpenter finalist, who has undeniable good looks but well, did not figure in any fast-track shortlist.  There is a good reason–she seems shallow though she is aware of the issues at home (like the ongoing war with Russia, for instance) but well, not enough to impress the insiders that she has depth.

GROUP 16:  Like Group 8, this is a group that the winner of the head-to-head challenge ultimately failed to advance to the Top 30 but one member of the group made it via interview:  BELGIUM (Angeline Flor Pua) charmed the insiders enough to make the Top 30 and make up for the absence of PHILIPPINES in this group.

BULGARIA – Kalina Miteva.  She actually has the qualities worthy of a Top 30 placement as she has great looks (which is Top Model worthy even if she didn’t make the shortlist there), has an interesting talent with her spoon dance routine (which she got to perform in the finals and yes, gave her a Talent shortlist), has a good human interest story with her family offering foster care for disadvantaged children, and she has strong communication skills.  She won the head-to-head challenge in tis group, but was knocked out facing the obviously formidable THAILAND.  Such are te tough breaks in this pageant, sometimes.

COLOMBIA – Laura Osorio.  She’s actualy a polished, well-spoken contender, but she ended up a Holly Carpenter award finalist as her advocacy and personality didn’t pop out to catch the attention of insiders.

LAOS – Kadoumphet Xaiyavong.  The Bulgarian supporters are probably breathing a sigh of relief that this Southeast Asian country is only a fledgling newcomer with a smaller fanbase unlike the likes of Indonesia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam, hence they were able to beat this country.  This lady is generally a solid contender, but not enough to make inroads with the insiders.

PORTUGAL – Carla Rodrigues.  This lady is very charming and vivacious so it’s probable she’s only crowded out by the very limited slots available for interview performers.  She is technically a finalist for the Holly Carpenter award, but she got a Top Five citation in Designer Dress (a poufy, flouncy orange number as I saw in some pics).

ZAMBIA – Musa Kalaluka.  She’s attractive enough and she is intelligent and eloquent, but was obviously crowded out by other African standouts.

COMING UP:  GROUP 17 to 20