ALL EYES are again on Japan as the last of the BigFour pageants, the 53rd Miss International Beauty Pageant, comes to a close tonight.
Japan has proven yet again that it can host an international pageant — and in a very classy way at that. Miss International has not only established a stronghold of its cultural roots, it has also made a big step toward re-establishing its relevance in this day and age where pageant importance is characterised by popularity and commercialism. While the country is having territorial disputes with neighboring countries, the presence of Misses China and Korea in the pageant is a a testament to the pageant’s mantra of “achieving world peace through mutual understanding”. The presence of the 67 delegates sends a message across that despite diversified cultures, we can all live in perfect harmony.
Enough of these, let’s now focus on the girls. Here’s my ultimate choices for Miss International 2013.
15th | Nicaragua, Celeste Castillo
Celeste is one of the most underrated Latinas in the competition. Weak sash may be her disadvantage, but that pretty face and good body deserve some recognition. This 20 year-old Managua native is finishing her degree in social communications and public relations.
14th | Japan, Yukiko Takahashi
This 25-year-old lady gets a free ticket to the semis for being the host delegate. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t deserve to make it. Truth be told, she is prettier than her predecessor, the reigning queen Ikumi Yoshimatsu. This girl, who wants “to help many children in the world – even one at a time – through education”, is a kindergarten teacher.
13th | Spain, Araceli Carrilero Martinez
She was 1st runner-up in the local pageant, but fate seems to have taken a different course. Araceli, 21, is now having the time of her life in Japan after the original winner resigned. This serene, unassuming beauty is a model by profession and is taking up mechanical engineering.
12th | Venezuela, Elián Herrera
Elian’s towering height make her stand out. She may be lacking in facial beauty, but in motion, this 22-year-old beautyproves why she deserves to wear the Venezuela sash. Pressure is now on her to bring home her country’s third Big4 crown this year, following the victories of Venezuela in Miss Universe and Miss Earth this year. She was a volleyball player prior to joining pageants.
11th | Poland, Katarzyna Oracka
One of the girls who are gaining ground as the pageant comes to a close is the 25-year-old Katarzyna. She has one of the best bodies in the competition, plus a really beautiful face and expressive eyes. This beauty with brains is on her last year as a law student at the University of Warsaw.
10th | South Africa, Cindy Rosslind
One of the most underrated beauties, 23-year-old Cindy is slowly but surely cementing a spot in the semis with her shapely body and endearing appeal/ This Cape Town native is a psychology (honors degree) graduate and a classically trained vocalist. She could pull off a big surprise come finale.
9th | Finland, Helianna Ylimaula
Sexy, classy, sassy – those are the words that would best describe Helianna. Her teeth and smile may be bothering at times, but overall she remains a contender for the crown. Following Finland’s first runner-up finish last year, will this 23-year-old flight attendant finally break the country’s 40-year title drought in Miss International?
8th | India, Gurleen Grewal
“I will be wearing a sash that has India printed on it, and I want to make India proud,” Gurleen was quoted in an online site. Her country must be proud of her because she is really giving her best in Tokyo. Her vivacious personality and versatile look will earn her a spot. Don’t count this 21-year-old student-model out.
7th | Gabon, Reilly Makaya
Pretty with a winsome smile, Reilly could be considered the most stunning black delegate this year. Will this 21-year-old model become Africa’s first Miss International? With her impressive intellect and year-long preparations, the possibilities are endless.
6th | Sweden, Eleonore Lilja
She has the girl-next-door look and a sexy body to boast. Her doll-like features for sure will bring Sweden back to pageantry world’s map. Did you know that made it to the Top 10 of Sweden’s Next Top Model? However, she was disqualified for refusing to cut her hair short.
5th | Puerto Rico, Ashley Beth Pérez
Her appointment as Miss PR International was met with diverse opinions, with majority saying she’s another clapper. But she isn’t ugly unlike what people think she is. Proper styling work wonders for her. Her good presentation skills also works to her advantage. She knows her angles and projects well. Her previous pageant experiences (she was a runner-up in a minor pageant) molded her into a very competitive pageant queen.
4th | Iceland, Sigrún Eva Ármannsdóttir
After clapping in Miss World in 2011, she bounced back the following year and placed among the Top 20 in Miss Supranational. Now on her third international pageant, Sigrun is keen on bring home the crown. She’s not putting on some make-up during outdoor activities, her hair sometimes needs combing. Despite that her natural beauty still shines through. While some may think she’s a lackluster beauty, it can’t be denied she is the face of the competition. Fun fact about her: she does not drink and smoke.
2nd Runner-up: Mexico, Lucero Montemayor
“Always the bridesmaid, never the bride” seemed to be a curse for Lucero. She was runner-up to Cynthia Duque twice – first during her state pageant, and second during Nuestra Belleza Mexico. She was also runner-up to Marilyn Chagoya as NBM Mundo. Finally, her potential was seen, and she was chosen to represent Mexico in Miss International. She’s an experienced model no wonder she nails her professional shots. She may look harsh in candids at times, but it can’t be denied this girl is in the game to win the game. Mexico is a tradionally strong sash in Miss International and with very good ties with the organization. Lucero for sure won’t settle for anything less.
1st Runner-up: Philippines, Bea Rose Santiago
I’ve seen Bea in the flesh during the Bb Pilipinas Gold coronation night, and I have to say this girl really shines on stage especially with her refined walk and queenly aura. Contrary to what haters say, she doesn’t look old in person. She could do real damage in the all-important final speech round with her good communication skills. Her glamorous beauty and sophisticated stature at 5’9″ makes her a real contender for the crown. Hate her all you want, but you can’t deny she is a force majeure in the competition.
MISS INTERNATIONAL 2013: Netherlands, Nathalie den Dekker
Nathalie is on her fifth international pageant and for sure, she already knows what to do by now. Back then, people have been critical about her height but she proved them all wrong when she won Miss Tourism International 2010 and placed in Miss World two years later. Now, pageant fans are saying she’s lacking freshness and that her hair is a let down. But I have to disagree. I see a more relaxed Natalie in Tokyo than she was in Vegas for Miss Universe last year. What makes her a winner? She has everything it takes: a beautiful face, the pageant experience and the intelligence that could blow the judges away. Plus, the gift of gab which could be of great help if ever she wins as she will be an ambassadress for the organization. It’s been a while since the pageant crowned a European. It’s about time.