We are now at the homestretch of the 65th Miss Universe pageant. After weeks of exploring the Philippines, doing some charity works, photo shoots and rehearsals, another edition draw to a close on January 30.
It is refreshing to see the Miss Universe pageant outside Las Vegas and the US. This edition has been one of the best in recent years where girls actually got to explore the host country, and take part in various ancillary events including the well-executed fashion shows in Vigan and Davao. Above all, they were surrounded everywhere by the warm reception of the Filipinos, both pageant fans and non-fans alike. That is why the finals at the Mall of Asia Arena is set to be the most festive. And with this year’s batch of beauties, it is going to be one hot finale!
So before Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach takes her final walk in her home country and crowns her successor, here’s my take on who deserves to win the DIC crown and be named the next Miss Universe. All based on what I’ve seen in person, their media interviews and videos available on the net, preliminary competition performance and some gut feel.
AUSTRALIA, Caris Tiivel | I remember standing beside her at the buffet in Conrad the morning after the arrivals. She had minimal make-up on but still looks fresh! Caris has been moving under the radar. She had decent performance in the preliminaries but that evening gown doesn’t offer anything new or extraordinary.
PANAMA, Keity Drennan | In 2011, she was sent to Miss International where she finished 4th runner-up. Now back stronger than ever, Keity has been among the best dressed and most active ladies in the competition. She hasn’t lost the spark and her good prelims performance was proof of her pageant experience.
ARGENTINA, Estefania Bernal | I wasn’t a fan of this beauty during pre-arrivals, but my perception of her changed when I saw her in the flesh. She’s one of the most beautiful candidates in this edition. Despite the not-so-good evening gown during the preliminaries, Estefania’s beauty still shone through.
SOUTH AFRICA, Ntandoyenkosi Kunene | I have always thought Ntandoyenkosi was sent to the wrong pageant while she was in Miss World. After watching her at the Miss Universe prelims, I have to say this is indeed the pageant for her. She gave a solid performance in both rounds of the preliminaries. Her styling was on point, too.
UKRAINE, Alena Spodynyuk | Alena has the face. Add to that the towering height and regal bearing, it won’t be a surprise to see her make the cut. Her preliminary swimwear performance was underwhelming but I have to say she had the best evening gown in this batch! Her red sequined gown was a showstopper.
ARUBA, Charlene Leslie | As one of the tallest girls in the batch, it wasn’t hard for Leslie to standout. But she always manages to make good impressions with her graceful demeanor and good styling. During the all-important prelims, She sealed the deal with a solid swimwear catwalk and a winning evening gown look.
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, Sal Garcia | I have to admit, I wasn’t a big fan of Sal before the prelims. But she blew me away with her performance. Solid in both rounds, but it was her evening gown that she truly made a mark. Queenly, sophisticated – name it! Sal has become a contender.
The Top 13
USA, Deshauna Barber | Occupying the first of the 13 spots in my list is Deshauna. I have to say she was one of the girls who impressed me at the kick-off event last December. But it was a total turnaround during the arrivals. She was lacking the spark in the events, even looks dry. Her prelims presentation was just okay, although the red gown looked perfect on her. So why is she in the Top 13? Deshauna could bring the house down with her gift of gab.
INDONESIA, Kezia Warouw | To be honest, I wasn’t really impressed with Kezia when she arrived. Nothing really spectacular, even in person, but I have to say the height is truly an advantage. However, the preliminaries was a game-changer. She was very charming on stage despite that little trip during the evening gown segment. Indonesia has been placing in the last three editions and this could be their fourth. But winning the crown? That I’m not sure of.
PUERTO RICO, Brenda Jimenez | Probably one of the most underrated ladies in the conpetition is Brenda. She’s actually better than some of the hyped candidates and her performance in both the swimwear and evening gown rounds of the prelims prove that. In person, Brenda exudes so much confidence and charm. She was a replacement to the original winner and I must say PR made a good decision.
COLOMBIA, Andrea Tovar | The pre-arrival favorite from Colombia remains to be among the most anticipated ladies in the pageant. Despite issues and controversies about her attitude, Andrea remains a crowd and media favorite because she truly is one charismatic lady. She wasn’t as “perfect” as she was in her national pageant, but her safe performance during prelims could merit her a placement in the competition.
The Top 9
FRANCE, Iris Mittenaere | France has been sending topnotch delegates since 2010 and this year is no exception. While Iris was below the radar prior to arrivals, her potential was undeniable. And the prelims was the perfect time for her to bring out her best, and she did with so much bravado. It is also worthy to note her impeccable evening gown.
SPAIN, Noelia Freire | At the beginning, I have sidelined this lady to just a filler in the competition. But her appearance in each event made me notice her because of her effortless beauty. The preliminaries made Noelia a solid contender for the crown. I absolutely loved her during the swimwear competition with her svelte look. She could have worn a better gown but she graced the stage with pure elegance.
MEXICO, Kristal Silva | I have to admit, when I saw Kristal in person I doubted her chances of making it. Facially, she wasn’t the most stunning, but her performance throughout the competition was remarkable. While most people went gaga over the other Latinas, Kristal silently but surely gave a flawless performance in the prelims. She’s a pro at this, after all.
The Top 6
VENEZUELA, Mariam Habach | I wasn’t impressed with Mariam and her transformation prior to arrivals. But as they say, it’s different when you see the girl in the flesh. Her facial features are softer, her beauty very refreshing. Despite rumors about her attitude problems, it’s hard to ignore Mariam. She was the star of the preliminaries! That evening gown presentation was the best in the batch.
THAILAND, Chalita Suansane | After breaking the drought last year, it looks like the Land of Smiles is set to follow the footsteps of its Southeast Asian neighbors. Chalita is one fine lady worthy of all the hype. From arrivals to preliminaries, her star didn’t dim. She was always at the top of her game, never willing to be overshadowed. And that is a true mark of a queen.
NICARAGUA, Marina Jacoby | The biggest surprise of the pageant is this beauty from Central America. Marina departed from her country totally unnoticed but arrived in Manila and left an indelible mark. Her look that is not too sweet and not too fierce is refreshing! She gave solid performances in swimsuit and evening gown rounds. It would be a crime to waste her!
The Top 3
NETHERLANDS, Zoey Ivory | I was a fan of this beauty since the day she was crowned Miss Nederland. And to finally she her in person and compete in Miss Universe was a dream come true. She might be wearing a “weak” sash, but her natural beauty, inimitable charm, towering height and alluring presence make up for it. Her prelims performance was satisfactory, but I’m pretty sure with her gift of gab she could nail her closed-door interview and make the first cut.
PHILIPPINES, Maxine Medina | I remember telling before that Maxine is lucky to be competing in her home country, because she will have better chances of placing. But I ate my words after seeing her side-by-side the rest if the candidates and literally outshine most of the favorites. Maxine has great stage presence and her winning smile is one of her greatest weapon come finale. All she needs to do is nail her final question. And with an interpreter beside her, the back-to-back victory is within reach.
BRAZIL, Raissa Santana | For the second year in a row, I’m sticking to my pre-arrival favorite. I’ve loved Raissa even before she won Miss Brasil. I loved her even more when I finally saw her in person. Her distinct look and fabulous hair make her a standout, but it is her charming and relatable personality that truly captures people’s hearts. Her prelims performance weren’t as solid at her Miss Brasil performance, it was enough to put her through to the first round. If the MUO is after a girl who embodies femininity, strength and beauty then Raissa is the best choice! Haraya