Miss Universe 2015: My Fearless Forecast

Given the recent uncertainties plaguing this pageant (prolonged host city bids, Donald Trump‘s controversial statements), it’s not surprising that the delegate count suffered a major attrition this year. With 80 contestants, it’s the smallest roster this pageant whipped up in this decade so far. Even Miss Earth and Miss Supranational attracted more representatives this year, and those contests are far younger. One can’t help but wonder if we will ever see the Miss Universe delegation exceeding the 90s mark. Only time will tell.

One thing you can’t fault in this pageant, though, is the overall quality of its delegates. And I guess it’s one factor why it’s still considered as one of the world’s popular international beauty contests. In recent years, we’ve seen rosters where more than half of the contestants were competitive. This year is no exception.

The pageant is taking place in Las Vegas, Nevada for the third time within the last five years, which is, again, indicative of the pageant’s organizational woes. Then again, this may or may not bode well for certain North American countries. I will elaborate later.

Without further ado, here’s my rundown of this year’s Miss Universe delegates.

 All photos are courtesy of the Miss Universe Organization, unless otherwise stated. 

FRONTRUNNERS- Candidates who will fight for the crown.           Colombia, USA, Vietnam

I’m still generally torn at this point, but the scenario I foresee is a repeat of the last pageant’s Top 2: Colombia or USA. (Ariadna or Olivia? North or South America? Back to back or home court advantage?) Both candidates are standouts in their own ways and both churned out solid performances during the past few weeks. Coincidentally, and on a sad note, two former Miss Universe titleholders from those countries passed away this year: 1967’s Sylvia Hitchcock and 1958’s Luz Zuluaga. If both countries made the finals for the second time this year, it would be a fitting and touching tribute.

Now, more on the candidates: Ariadna Gutierrez was crowned Miss Colombia even before the previous Miss Universe was held. So when her countrywoman, Paulina Vega, was crowned last January, fans quickly began clamoring for a repeat victory. It’s highly conceivable, but by no means set in stone. Then we have USA‘s Olivia Jordan, a part-time actress who made history as the first woman to represent her country in both Miss World and Miss Universe. While not necessarily the most gorgeous delegate in this batch, she certainly has the most infectious personality, with a million-watt smile to boot. If she reaches the final round, expect her to ace the final question. Complicating matters is Huong Pham, the sizzling onstage dynamo from Vietnam. She could very well be the strongest delegate ever sent by her country to this pageant, and the likeliest to crash Ariadna and Olivia’s party.

RUNNER-UP USURPERS – Top 5 possibilities; Might even pull a Top 3 upset: France, India, Peru, Philippines

Leading this pack are two Asian powerhouses: India and Philippines. India‘s Urvashi Rautela was originally crowned in 2012, but was dethroned due to a technicality. She’s made waves in Bollywood since then and I’m extremely elated that she was given a second shot. Her beauty and confidence are undeniable. And again, watch out for her interview.Then there’s the PhilippinesPia Wurtzbach, who finally won her local pageant on her third try and is now, more than ever, determined to silence her detractors. Her preliminary gown choice was underwhelming, but there’s a story behind it. It was a last-minute replacement to her reportedly unflattering original gown. Either way, she looked regal. The 3-year wait really did wonders on her.

Also fighting for a Top 5 spot is France‘s Flora Cloquerel. If you recall, this exquisite half-Beninese topped the Interview segment of Miss World last year, only to fall out of contention for not scoring enough Challenge Event points. She’ll likely ace the interview portion once again, this time with no convoluted point system to rain on her parade. And given the tragic shootings that happened in Paris last November, the judges will likely rally behind her. Lastly, don’t underestimate Peru‘s Laura Spoya, who has improved dramatically since her Miss International 2010 semifinal stint.

SEMI-FINAL PICKS – Rounding up my personal Top 15. Australia, Brazil, Georgia, Italy, Japan, Kosovo, Thailand, Venezuela

My next three picks will be banking on tradition and sash power: First, we have Venezuela‘s Mariana Jimenez. I’m still a bit over the fence about her prospects, to be quite honest. She stood out in Swimsuit (typical for delegates from her country), but her Evening Gown presentation looked dated. She’s a worthy pick all in all, but I also won’t be surprised if a non-placement shocker happens.

Quick fact about Australia‘s Monika Radulovic: She placed 1st Runner-Up in Miss Tourism International 2012, behind our very own Rizzini Alexis Gomez, who sadly succumbed to lung cancer a few months ago. The Bosnian-born bombshell may not be the Land Down Under’s best bet in recent years, but she still delivered when it mattered. Then, we have Brazil‘s Marthina Brant, who went to Las Vegas with very little preparation (she was crowned just last month), but stood out nonetheless.

Let’s hope make room for these refreshing choices: Italy‘s Giada Pezzaioli was a raw ingenue when she pulled that Top 7 shocker in Miss World 2010. Since then, she has seasoned into a polished, chic contender. I won’t disapprove of her placing this time. Aniporn Chalemburanawong‘s tuk-tuk costume may be making waves online, but that is far from being the only ace up her sleeve. With luck, we might finally see Thailand back in the Miss Universe Top 10 after 27 years.

Kosovo’s Mirjeta Shala and Georgia’s Janeta Kerdikoshvili were both originally slated to compete in 2013, but were barred from entering Russia for political reasons. So, it’s nice to see them finally competing here. Mirjeta’s a standout with her short hair and was the epitome of grace and glamour in Evening Gown. On the other hand, Janeta’s gorgeous face could easily help her forth her country’s breakthrough in this pageant. Granted, of course, she doesn’t flub her interview like she did in Miss World 2011, where she nearly placed dead last.

And finally, I’m gambling on Japan‘s first bi-racial beauty queen, Ariana Miyamoto. She brings with her a colorful back story as her victory was initially met with backlash because of her African-American roots. Support for her has skyrocketed since then and she was one of the most applauded delegates in evening gown. It would be certainly interesting to see her in the mix.

 ALTERNATE 15- Candidates who might steal a semi-final spot. Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Finland, Great Britain, Ireland, Jamaica, Mexico, Netherlands, Paraguay, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Tanzania  

Dominican Republic‘s Clarissa Molina and Paraguay‘s Myriam Arevalos  are the likeliest usurpers, followed closely by Ireland‘s Joanna Cooper, AKA Cara Delevingne Version 2.0. Scandinavia is also competing strongly with Denmark‘s Cecillie Wellemberg, Finland‘s Rosa-Maria Ryyti and Sweden‘s Paulina Brodd, who happens to be the daughter of 1992 semi-finalist Monika Brodd.

Spain won its first Miss World crown just a few hours ago, so this bodes well for Carla Garcia Barber (pictured), who, incidentally, placed 8th in that pageant in 2011. Poland’s Weronika Szmajdzinska was robbed in Miss World 2012, but she’s lost some of her sparkle since then. Nonetheless, she delivered a memorable evening gown presentation. Austria‘s Amina Dagi is stunning – with or without a beard (Google her National Costume, quick. LOL).

Tanzania‘s Lorraine Marriot is Africa‘s best shot at breaking their 2-year dry spell. And finally, we have the wishy-washy case of Mexico‘s Wendy Esparza, who earlier attempted to boycott the pageant after the Donald Trump controversy. The saga may or may not boost her chances, but my guess is that her country will miss the cut in Vegas for the first time.

STRONG POSSIBILITIES – Candidates who performed creditably, so don’t ignore them just yet. Albania, Argentina, Chile, China, Costa Rica, Curacao, Czech Republic, New Zealand, Puerto Rico, Russia, Ukraine

Chile‘s Maria Belen Jerez was a revelation. Curacao‘s Kanisha Sluis has been gaining ground, ditto for New Zealand‘s Samantha McClung. And don’t underestimate the short stunner from Albania, Megi Luka! Finally, while we’ve seen far more competitive delegates from Puerto Rico in years past, Catalina Morales‘ fashion sense is commendable.

SILENT THREATS – Candidates who might pull a shocker. Angola, Bahamas, Bolivia, Bulgaria, Canada, Ecuador, Germany, Ghana, Haiti, Hungary, Indonesia, Israel, Korea, Lebanon, Montenegro, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Panama, Portugal, Slovak Republic, South Africa, Turkey 

Bolivia’s Romina Rocamonje is the reigning Miss Hispanoamericana. Hungary‘s Nikoletta Nagi and Indonesia‘s Anindya Kusuma are not to be ignored. After all, their countries have blindsided us in the past. BahamasToria Nichole Penn is the tallest delegate this year, so you can’t miss her. Myanmar’s May Thaw apparently picked up a few pointers from the Miriam Quiambao School of Graceful Recovery (She tripped down the stairs during her evening gown presentation). And don’t you just love that Angola‘s full name is Whitney Houston A. Shikongo?

LONG SHOTS- Uh, Welcome to Las Vegas. Aruba, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Croatia, El Salvador, Gabon, Greece, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Malaysia, Mauritius, Nigeria, Norway, Serbia, Singapore, Uruguay 

Norway‘s Martine Rodseth has a pretty face, but she’s the weakest link among this year’s otherwise solid Nordic contingent. Guatemala‘s Jeimmy Aburto is reportedly the Miss Congeniality shoo-in. Nigeria‘s Debbie Collins should win an award for “Most Luscious Lips”. We appreciate the presence of Greece‘s Mikaela-Elena Fotiadi, her country’s sole representative in this year’s major pageant scene. And finally, kudos to the British Virgin IslandsAdora Rocio Baly, whose trim, slender figure makes her an upgrade from the cellar-dwellers we normally associate with her archipelago.

Who among these international beauties will succeed Paulina Vega? We will soon find out. Right now, it’s just too close to call. So, my best bet will be to simply watch things unfold tomorrow morning.

 

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