For the formal wear round, the non-finalists and the Top Nine walked to Coldplay’s “Adventure of a Lifetime”. Eight of them are highly worthy of belonging here–the ninth, I still maintain got his slot because of host country advantage and if I have my way, would yank him out and replace him with someone like, Czech Republic, Brazil, Venezuela, or even Sri lanka.
LATVIA – Matiss Pastars. With Poland (Jan Dratwicki) out of the way, he holds the fort for the pale-skinned, handsome Eastern European contingent. I can’t fault anything about his performance at all–he could’ve ranked higher and advanced if it weren’t for favored treatment for the Peninsular Southeast Asian contestants (as reflected on the mix of this year’s panel of judges).
INDIA – Mudit Malhotra. I’m glad he is the guy to bring India back to prominence in this pageant after six years. His face may register some harsh angles but his Bollywood charisma could never be denied. A commendable finish for this guy and hope to see more of his caliber in this pageant.
SPAIN – Daniel Torres. I’m upset that again this country is screwed over, garnering a finish that is beneath what it deserves. Last year, his namesake surnamed Barreres did not advance from the Top 15 to the Top Ten (at least), despite heavy prior buzz due to his Filipino heritage. This year, despite this guy’s undeniable charisma and enviable physique (arguably the best physique of them all this year), he didn’t advance to the Top Six. Sure, some might argue his stage presence is a tad muted, but in my eyes he’s still awesome, and my goodness why in the hell those judges can’t appreciate the perfection that is his physique. It’s such a shame he’s made a sacrificial lamb by the Thai and Vietnamese judges so that their bets would make the Top Six. Some might say it’s consolation enough that he improved upon his predecessor’s finish, but to me he should’ve been up there in the Top Six.
The Top Six question-and-answer format basically borrows from Miss Universe 2015–each of these finalists were asked a question relevant to their country. Like I said before, I’m slightly mad Spain was not in this mix.
VIETNAM – Nguyen Tien Dat. I concede he has a cute appeal that he does make a standout impression. I can concede he is worthy of belonging in the Top Nine. Still, was he better than Latvia, India, or Spain? Again he won favor because there are a significant number of Vietnamese in the judging panel alongside the Thais, which also would look upon him with favor on the basis of his nationality. He was asked “What do you think is the next big thing in your country in the next decade?” Though it was translated into Vietnames, he had to have the question repeated and simply answered that his country is opening up and that his country is ready to welcome people from other countries to visit his country. It does make sense, but I’ll dock him a bit for lack of comprehension.
THAILAND – Kittikun Tansuhat. I have to give him credit that when he combs his hair up instead of letting it fall into a bowl cut, he looks cute. And he stands out in his black velvet tuxedo. But still, was he better than Sri Lanka, Brazil, Venezuela, Czech Republic, Latvia, India, and most especially Spain? I don’t think so. He’s fortunate it is held in this country and the composition of judges are mostly of Thai and Vietnamese nationalities. His question was “What is the biggest challenge you faced hosting the Mister International contestants in Thailand?” To his credit he gave a solid answer about introducing to his fellow contestants Thai tourism and being nice to everyone.
NETHERLANDS – Chris Veltkamp. I forgot to note in my Homestretch review that he reminds me of Survivor: Outback runner-up Colby Donaldson (who later participated in a couple of All-Star editions). He earned his place as he exuded charisma onstage when it counts, admittedly edging out Spain in this respect, and his 6’3″ stature also generated impact. He was asked “How has your past experience in life shape you into becoming who you are today?”. His sincere answer: “I had a rough youth and it made me challenge many obstacles in life which made me the man I am today. I am proud to be the man I am today–it was hard to become and stand here and together with my friends, they are golden, they helped me, and all grace to them and I’m proud to stand here. Thank you.” There are many who argued he deserve to advance to the Final Three instead of Japan based on his answer, but I suppose the judges were simply just so into Japan that they can’t drop him to let this guy through.
The host Ryan declared the Final Three are subjected to one more challenge–to be blunt it’s not really much of a challenge. It’s simply the Final Look, where they simply walk onstage as the judges review their overall impression of them.
2ND RUNNER-UP: ITALY – Vinicio Modolo. He was a big hyped favorite who garnered buzz with his very handsome face and lean but sinewy physique. His question was, “Do you think being handsome would get you ahead in life?” He gave a candid answer saying yes, being handsome would help one reach far in life, especially if he is handsome on the inside. With that solid answer, he secured his place in the Final Three. Now, with him delivering a stronger answer, why was he only in third place instead of second place? Let’s discuss that further with…
1ST RUNNER-UP: JAPAN – Masaya Yamagishi. He is like the male equivalent of Miss Universe 2003 4th runner-up Miyako Miyazaki. He made an indelible impact by conveying sex appeal with his come-hither presence in the swimsuit video and that provocative skimpy mini-yukata. Apparently they weren’t able to secure a Japanese interpreter so he was forced to ramble in halting English, first after being called to receive his question, he started with greeting the host and cheering crowd with “Hello, I’m Masaya Yamagishi, nice to meet you.” His question was: “Japan has always been a world leader in technology. Why is this so?” His halting response goes: “Japanese people is so kind, and uh, how to study, and friendly, and uh, I’m sorry, uh… thank you… Japanese people help us, we love everyone, we love anything, so, uh, I hope, Japanese people hope peace and happy, and so…” He exudes a lot of charm to his credit, but the East German judge in me would penalize him for his weak answer and have Netherlands advance in his stead. But I suppose the judges and sponsors, not only do they love him to bits, but they appreciate what a struggle it is to speak a non-native language like English. Anyway, he also has undeniable stage presence (which helped him earn a Getz Emperor sponsor’s award), and made an impact sporting a green tuxedo with a black shirt. Hence it’s understandable how the judges propelled him all the way to a first runner-up finish, his country’s best finish thus far in any major international male pageant.
11TH MISTER INTERNATIONAL: LEBANON – Paul Iskandar. His imposing 6’6″ height made him unforgettable, and compounded with his beefy physique and handsome features (with those sweet doe eyes), he was the favorite to win it all from the get go. Turns out he doesn’t let go and the judges are not intimidated by his gigantic stature. His question was about the fact that his national director was one of the victims of the New Year’s Eve shooting at a nightclub in Istanbul, Turkey, and how was he affected by it. He delivered an answer that was kinda heartfelt: “This event affected me emotionally and mentally, because my national director was supposed to be here with me, representing my country, Lebanon. At the end he’s more than my nationla director–we spend every day together, helping and dong charity works in Lebanon after I got the title of Mister Lebanon. So I wish him to be well, and I’m doing this to [sic] Lebanon and I’m very proud. Thank you so much.” By looking like a pillar of strength while showing he doesn’t hesitate sharing a softer side of himself, he proved to be a deserving winner for this pageant.
With this victory, Paul Iskandar proved that beefcake behemoths like himself have what it takes to ultimately win it all. Before in Mister World, the likes of Fabien Hauquier from Belgium*1 back in 2003 and Pato Laguna from Chile back in 2007 had to content themselves with Top Five finishes while slightly shorter but handsome and charismatic charmers edged them out for the win. Let’s see if more beefcake behemoths will emerge in the male pageant scene after this, but with his astounding stature of almost 2 metres, at this pount I’ll dub him the Ultimate Beefcake Behemoth for now, and I’m very pleased he deservingly won the title.
*1 Yes he won a lesser international pageant called Zeus of the World a few years later, but that is a lesser pageant that was staged only one time.
Now the challenge ahead is how this pageant can garner the support to step up its production values as the international male pageant scene is starting to become increasingly competitive, with the splashy introduction of Mister Supranational and the rise of upstarts like Mister Global and Mister Universal Ambassador. Hope with a winner as well-regarded as this guy, this pageant can generate the ammunition to respond to the gauntlets thrown at it.
Images courtesy of Jory Rivera for OPMB Worldwide and Drew Francisco for Missosology unless otherwise indicated.