If my memory serves me correctly, this is the first time in pageant history that Miss Universe and Miss World are held in the same weekend. This is the shortest ever waiting span between two of the world’s premier international pageants. Thus, there are no crossover delegates – we only get to see each candidate compete once this year.
The unfortunate trade-off is that both pageants suffered major attritions in their roster of participating countries. 14 countries withdrew from last year’s Miss World line–up. Sadly, that number was further diminished. Greece‘s Theodora Moschouri was mysteriously dismissed due to “inappropriate behavior” and don’t get me started on the sad plight of Canada’s Anastasia Lin.
Dismissed due to “inappropriate behavior”, whatever that means
Barred from entering China for speaking against alleged human rights violations
Now that I’ve gotten those factoids out of the way, I will now present my 25 picks for this year’s pageant. This is not a prediction in the strictest sense of the word, although I’m pretty sure about who I want to see in the Top 5. The remainder is a loose shortlist of favorites.
Here we go. Let’s start with my frontrunners:
PICK FOR MISS WORLD 2015 – LEBANON – Valerie Abou Chacra. Just look at that face. Valerie has been on top of almost everyone’s lists – including mine- from the get-go, and she could easily run away with the crown, if this pageant was judged solely on looks. But it’s not. Her frontrunner status came under threat as up until yesterday, her only ace was being shortlisted in Top Model. At least she surely will vindicate the dismal performance of last year’s Lebanese delegate – the lovely but exceptionally timid Saly Greige. Either way, I’m keeping the faith.
PICK FOR 1ST RUNNER-UP – AUSTRALIA – Tess Alexander. The Land Down Under has become a semi-final staple in this pageant recently, and this charming redhead will likely continue that trend. I’ve yet to warm up to her pale features, honestly. But judging from her impressive placements in Top Model, Talent, and Sports, she will likely go far. Couple that with her radiant personality, and she might even pull an upset victory.
PICK FOR 2ND RUNNER-UP – FRANCE – Hinarare Taputu. The last time a Tahitian woman saw action in this pageant was in 2010, when Mihilani Texeira placed in the Top 25 as Miss French Polynesia. Five years later, gorgeous Hinarare seems poised to surpass that feat, albeit competing under the French flag. If she wins, she’ll be bringing honor to two sovereign entities.
Completing my Top 5 are…
BRAZIL – Catharina Choi Nuñes. She’s half-Korean. In fact, she was crowned Miss Earth-Fire back in 2013, representing Korea. She was a heavy favorite back then and she’s still a heavy favorite now, except that she’s now representing the other half of her lineage. Catharina now makes history as the first woman of Asian descent to represent Brazil in this pageant. Keep an eye on her catwalk.
POLAND – Marta Pałucka. One thing I noticed about her country’s performance in this pageant recently is that they place when they’re not expected to place (e.g. 2009’s Anna Jamroz), while their stunners tend to be clappers (e.g. 2012’s Weronikza Smjadzidska). I’m counting on Marta to reverse that bothersome trend. After all, her Top Model and Beauty with a Purpose placements should amount to something.
Here are my other 20 favorites in alphabetical order:
BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA – Marijana Marković. I actually consider Marijana as the most beautiful pageant contestant fielded by her country in this decade so far. Unfortunately, she only managed to earn a nod in the Designer Dress category, which won’t even earn her points. Granted she scores high in interview, she will likely be out-performed by delegates who placed high in challenge events. Shame.
CHINA PR – Yuan Lu. Well, she’s from China. And the pageant is taking place in China. She’s also a Top Model and Talent short lister. Nope, I’m not counting her out.
COLOMBIA – Maria Alejandra Lopez. She spent most of her formative years in the United States, which explains her American twang. She was a pre-arrival favorite, but her prospects dimmed when she failed to figure in any of the challenge events. Her only weapons left in her arsenal now are her stunning beauty and her eloquence, but it’s still going to be an uphill battle.
GUADELOUPE – Arlène Tacite. I consider her the most elegant contestant from the Caribbean this year, which was further justified by her Designer Dress nod. Sadly, she is handicapped by her lack of challenge event placements. Her island did place in the quarter-finals back in 2012, but the distinction of most successful Guadeloupean in this pageant to date belongs to Veronique de la Cruz, who placed in 1993 as Miss France. So near, yet so far.
INDIA – Aditi Arya. Aditi was shortlisted in three challenge events and is currently up for two awards. A placement is more than likely. Whether or not she’ll make the Top 5, though, is a another question. Recent editions of this pageant haven’t been kind to her country: they missed the cut in 2010 and 2011, and their frontrunners from 2012 and 2014 were brutally shut out of the Top 5. Can Aditi finally revive India’s 90s heyday? We will soon find out.
INDONESIA – Maria Harfanti. We get it, Indonesia, you’re a late bloomer. Maria made a favorable impression during the fashion show with her nominated designer dress. She has a strong chance of sustaining her country’s semi-final streak, especially with her placements in Talent and Beauty with a Purpose.
KAZAKHSTAN – Regina Vandysheva. Regina is currently shortlisted in Top Model and Beauty with a Purpose, but her shining moment was her 4th place finish in the Sports and Fitness category. Only a weak interview will put her out of contention.
NAMIBIA – Steffi van Wyk. Much as I’m still reeling from the non-placement of last year’s gorgeous Namibian candidate, I can rest easy knowing that vindication is in the horizon. While Steffi is not your textbook pageant contestant, she won the Sports and Fitness category, reportedly with historic high marks. Bolstering her chances further are her nods for Talent and Beauty with a Purpose.
PHILIPPINES – Hillarie Parungao. She may not have the same wattage as Megan Young (who she purportedly bears a slight resemblance to), her prospects are still kept bright by her challenge event placements – namely in Top Model, Talent, and Beauty with a Purpose. The streak will likely continue.
RUSSIA – Sofia Nikitchuk. Russia may have been flying frustratingly under the radar this year, but they still have a shot at pageant placement with elegant Sofia. She is currently short-listed in both Top Model and Beauty with a Purpose.
SAMOA – Latafale Avua’a. The Samoan breakthrough beckons, thanks to this lovely lady, who placed runner-up in both Sports and Talent. Her nomination in the Beauty with the Purpose category seals the deal.
SOUTH AFRICA – Liesl Laurie. Yes, the outgoing titleholder – the immaculate Rolene Stauss – is from her country, but that shouldn’t be a point against her. After all, Valerie Weigmann already broke that curse last year. With Liesl’s elegance, eloquence, and challenge event placements, the South African streak will likely continue.
SOUTH SUDAN – Ajah Monchol. Despite being a newcomer in the pageant circuit, her young nation has quickly become synonymous to impeccable stage presence and strong projection skills. Ajah is no exception.
SPAIN – Mireia Lalaguna. Like Russia, Spain‘s performance in international pageants this year so far has been disastrously uneven. Their best bet now is this dark horse, who short-listed for Sports, Top Model and, Beauty with a Purpose.
THAILAND – Thanyanchanok Moonninta. Thanyanchanok is currently in the running for the People’s Choice Award, the same award which propelled last year’s Thai delegate into the semi-finals. In case that doesn’t work out for her, she at least figured in two challenge events – Beauty with a Purpose and Talent (even though she was nowhere to be found in the latter’s initial shortlist). That’s more than enough safety nets for you, Miss Moonninta.
UKRAINE – Khrystyna Stolocka. Another underrated beauty, Kyrystyna’s sole shining moment up until yesterday was qualifying as a reserve participant in the Sports challenge. She also reportedly short-listed for Beauty with a Purpose. Will that be enough?
URUGUAY – Sherika de Arias. I have a gnawing feeling that Sherika won’t make the cut, since she failed to figure in any of the challenge events. Still, she deserves to be commended. Not only is she gorgeous, she also represents a step towards the right direction as her country had been sending mediocre contestants in recent years. Send this woman to another pageant, stat.
UNITED STATES – Victoria Mendoza. One interesting tidbit about this Latina is that she actually beat former Miss America Teresa Scanlan in qualifying for this pageant. So far, she was short-listed in both Sports and Talent.
VENEZUELA – Anyela Galante. It’s hard to believe that a supposed powerhouse like Venezuela hasn’t placed in this pageant after Ivian Sarcos‘ 2011 victory. It seems Anyela’s paving her way for a comeback, especially with her Top Model placement.
VIETNAM – Tràn Ngoc Lan Khuê. It’s refreshing to see this country fielding frontrunners in both Miss Universe and Miss World this year, though the former may have the upper hand. Lan Khuê‘s only shining moments thus far are her Top Model placement and her Designer Dress nod for her fiery ensemble. Other than that, she will have to ace her interview if she wants to advance. Then again, she’s also nominated for People’s Choice…