Here is my “fearful forecast” for this year’s Miss Universe pageant, along with my other favorites.
WINNER: Ireland – Rozanna Purcell
If there’s one country which deserves to win its first Miss Universe crown this year, it’s definitely the Emerald Isle. Rozanna is Ireland’s best shot in years, especially with her perfect body, electrifying blue eyes and Angelina Jolie lips. It’s probably also a good sign that she’s the near-namesake of Miss World 2003 Rosanna Davidson – her country’s only Grand Slam winner so far. Who needs the Luck o’the Irish, when you’re perfection personified?
1st RUNNER-UP: Philippines - Maria Venus Raj
Whether it’s because of her superb presentation skills or her triumph in the face of adversity, Venus is a goddesss through and through. Fresh from the much-publicized controversy surrounding her citizenship, she came to Vegas extremely well-prepared, with a superb body and amazing presentation skills to boot. It also helps that her supporter’s cheers were among the most deafening. It’s high time we ended this drought.
2nd RUNNER-UP: Russia – Irina Antonenko
Prepare to be vindicated, Oxana Federova. This living doll was my pre-pageant favorite and is arguably THE face of the competition. I’m just a bit worried about her almost lifeless presentation and clumsy gown choice. But then again, with a face like that, you could practically get away with parading in a burlap sack. She is just that mesmerizing.
3rd RUNNER-UP: Mexico – Jimena Navarrete
I consider her the strongest Latina delegate this year. Plus, let’s not forget that her country usually figures well whenever the pageant is held in Las Vegas (Lupita Jones won in 1991; Vanessa Guzman finished 5th in 1996). It looks like Mexico is ready to avenge Karla Carrillo’s undeserving exclusion last year.
4th RUNNER-UP: France – Malika Menard
She fell out of many lists after her disappointingly subdued preliminary performance. I, however, am still keeping the faith. Facially, she is one of this year’s strongest delegates and her evening gown is among the best.
Colombia – Natalia Navarro
Is it just me, or does she look like local celebrity Alessandra De Rossi in her close-up shot? Anyway, Colombia has been placing only in even-numbered years since 2004, and Natalia aced both areas of the preliminary competition. Expect the streak to continue.
Trinidad and Tobago – La Toya Woods
It’s great to see TNT back in fighting form after missing the competition last year. La Toya looks like a mix of two former Trini queens: Her face reminds me of Kenisha Thom (2006), while her styling gives me Arlene Peterkin (1995) flashbacks. She also made the news for agreeing to pose topless for her glamshot. So, hmmmm….
Venezuela – Marelisa Gibson
Suffice to say, the pressure is totally on Marelisa. But a three-peat might still happen. After all, her presentation is strong and her video interview reveals that she is one of the bubbliest personalities in the bunch. The only thing I’m concerned about is her stiff styling. Then again, I said the same thing about Stefania Fernandez last year, and look where she ended up.
Puerto Rico – Mariana Vicente
Another possible Top 5 usurper comes in the form of this Latin Barbie. Mariana was also one of my early front-runners, but then, the competition proved to be so tight (as always), I placed her in the 9th position. Her silver disco ball gown is stunning, but her decision to sport frizzy curls drew mixed reactions. Let’s see where that puts her.
New Zealand – Ria Van Dyke
Undoubtably, the strongest Kiwi delegate we’ve seen in this contest within the last 20 years. Ria’s presentation may have been a little on the safe side, but her face is one of the most beautiful in this year’s bunch. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for her.
Uruguay – Stephany Ortega
Her country made headlines early this year for unexpectedly finishing fourth in the World Cup. I’m somehow hoping for this underrated South American bombshell to also pull off a surprise.
Albania – Anxhela Martini
Her name sounds like a European knock-off to perennial American Idol reject Angela Martin. Now that I’ve got that boring observation out of the way, let me just say that I am pretty impressed with this NYC-based model. I originally had her as an alternate, but now I think her overall presentation is worthy of a Top 15 placement.
Jamaica – Yendi Phillipps
Along with Venezuela’s Marelisa Gibson, Yendi is also one of the most vivacious personalities this year. While her disappointing gown performance makes it unlikely for her to surpass her successful Miss World 2007 finish, I still think she’s worthy of a placement.
Haiti – Sarodj Bertin
Likely Trump Choice #1 – It’s wonderful to have Haiti back in full swing after a 21-year absense. There are two things to consider here: 1.) the destructive earthquake which ravaged her country earlier this year, and 2.) her mother who was murdered back in 1994. I think this sensual island girl has enough interesting back story to be noticed.
USA – Rima Fakih
Likely Trump Choice #2: Aside from being the host delegate, Lebanese-born Rima is also the first Muslim-American to represent her country in this pageant. I’m almost certain she’ll be up there. While not conventionally beautiful, she is indeed a breath of fresh air compared to the usual run-of-the-mill ”All-American” girls sent to this pageant in recent years.
IF THERE WERE A TOP 20…
These five girls would be shoo-ins.
Australia – Jesinta Campbell
She may not be a strong as, say, Rachael Finch and Laura Dundovic, but her girl-next-door charm is undeniable. Her participation in the Miss Universe promotional tour early on in the pageant might mean the Donald’s got his eyes on her.
Canada – Elena Semekina
At 6’1, this stunning blonde is the tallest girl in the bunch, which literally makes her a stand-out. She was unjustly ignored in Miss International 2008, which is why it’s great to see her competing strongly here. I’m also amused by the fact that her Russian accent is still intact.
Dominican Republic – Eva Arias
The island of Hispaniola is indeed well-represented this year! I didn’t care much for this deadringer to Sandra Bullock at first, but her fiery performance in the preliminary round made me pencil her in as a possibility.
South Africa – Nicole Flint
Of course, we all know that her country played gracious host to the World Cup held early this year. But I guarantee that it’s not the only thing going for this Katharine McPhee look-alike. She also delivered the goods when it mattered.
Ukraine – Anna Pavlovska
Eastern Europe’s answer to Mischa Barton. Although a lot were disappointed with her gown choice, I still think this sexy blonde is in the game.
Other potential surprises.
Bahamas- Braneka Bassett - Many are raving about this Bahama Mama’s strong preliminary performance. I could just imagine if she were chosen to compete last year in her homeland instead. Can she finally bring forth the Bahamian breakthrough?
Belgium – Cilou Annys - Her controversial flag-toppling moment and atrocious national costume aside, Cilou also has one of the prettiest faces this year.
Brazil – Debora Lyra - She is the reigning Miss Model of the World 2009. But then again, this is an even bigger playing field.
Czech Republic – Jitka Valkova - Again, one of this year’s prettiest faces. But I’m still undecided whether or not she can keep the Czech streak going.
Peru – Giulianna Zevallos - With her strong stage chops and interesting gown choice, she has vastly improved from her unsuccessful Miss Earth 2008 stint.
Slovak Republic – Anna Amenova - Slovaks usually stay in the middle of the pack, but certainly not this year. However, like her “twin sister”, Puerto Rico’s Mariana Vicente, gorgeous Anna’s main setback is her questionable styling.
Spain – Adriana Reveron- The former Miss Earth 2008 front-runner has lost some of her sparkle, but we never know what the judges might see in her.
Thailand – Fonthip Watcharatrakul - Talk about last-minute favorite! Her figure may not be among the strongest, but her fine Asian features and impressive gown performance cannot be ignored.
And I also have a soft spot for…
Argentina – Yessica di Vincenzo - Another unfairly ignored alumnus from Miss International’s class of 2008; she reminds me a bit of Dayanara Torres
Denmark – Eva Sandra Causevic – Another early favorite; however she comes across as rather “teen”.
Ghana – Awurama Simpson - One of the prettiest faces from the African continent this year.
Great Britain – Tara Hoyos Martinez - First Latina to represent her country; typical British lass oozing with Colombian charm.
Japan – Maiko Itai - Riyo Mori Version 2.0
Netherlands – Desiree Van Den Berg - Avalon-Chanel Weyzig must be avenged.
Romania – Oana Paveluc - Gorgeous face, although her gown looks like it’s made of rubber; Potentially this year’s Sarah Cosic.
Sweden – Michaela Savic - Sexy vamp, but somewhat fell under the radar as the competition progressed.