Many pageant observers did not see it coming that Puerto Rico’s Valerie Hernandez would bag the Miss International 2014 title. She did not figure in many pageant websites’ prediction list, which included Mexico’s Vianey Vaquez, the Netherlands’ Shauny Bult and the Philippines’ Mary Anne Bianca Guidotti. But the 21-year-old student and model proved that underdogs could win the competition.
And last Tuesday, November 11, Valerie shed tears of joy as she was being crowned by the outgoing queen Bea Rose Santiago. She is the second Puerto Rican to win the title. The first was Laurie Tamara Simpson who was also crowned in Tokyo, Japan in 1987.
During the speech round, where the Top 10 finalists were asked about their message if they become the winner, Hernandez said: “I think it’s not just crown, it’s not just the title, it’s one of the hardest responsibility. As Miss International, I want to send a message of love, peace, and unity.” She did not give the best speech, but her understated elegance and queenly stance must have captured the judges’ attention. She also gave solid performances in all three rounds (national costume, swimwear and evening gown). Aside from that, she was well-styled throughout the finals night.
Runners-up and special awards
Completing the Top 5 were first-runner up Zuleika Suarez of Colombia, second runner-up Punika Kulsoontornrut of Thailand, third runner-up Victoria Tooby of the United Kingdom and fourth runner-up Milla Romppanen of Finland.
The candidates from Argentina, Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, and Panama composed the rest of the Top 10 finalists.
Miss Colombia won the Best Dresser (Best in Long Gown) and Miss Friendship awards. Other winners of special awards were Miss India Jhathaleka Malhotra (Miss Internet Beauty), Miss Indonesia Elfin Rappa (Miss National Costume) and Miss France Aurianne Sinacola (Miss Perfect Body).
While Hernandez’ win came as a surprise to many, the biggest letdown of the night was the exclusion of top favorites Miss India, Miss Netherlands and Miss Philippines in the Top 10. Miss Netherlands has a stunning face but was lackluster on stage. Miss India was a fashion victim in her baby pink ball gown. Miss Philippines gave pretty decent performances all rounds but was lacking the charisma and freshness that she had during her Bb Pilipinas days.
On the technical side, changing the format from Top 15 to a Top 10 did not help in making the finals show more engaging. The whole pageant was a snooze-fest and having all 70-plus candidates walk the ramp in national costume, swimsuit and evening gown was dragging. Add to that the limited use of the English language during the duration of the show. The pageant definitely needs to work on improving its finale production.