Ever since the average Miss World delegation started hitting the hundred mark, the elimination process has become more noticeably streamlined, making the finals feel more akin to an American Idol results show. It seems that, nowadays, the purpose of the initial cut is to simply acknowledge the highest pre-pageant scorers. After which, the roster is immediately reduced into a more manageable number. Long story short: only the delegates who make the Top 10/11 are scored by the telecast judges. The remainder are, in effect, honorable mentions. At least, that’s my interpretation.
I fully understand the need for quicker proceedings. My only wish is that they still reserved an element of suspense. Case in point: The order in which the Top 20 was announced turns out to be the same as the Pre-Final Leader Board Tally. What’s the use, then, of revealing the Top 10 in this manner?
Behold, my take on this year’s quarter-finalists and semi-finalists:
QUARTER FINALIST ROUND-UP. The axe may have fallen prematurely on the following Top 20 delegates, but their performances still deserve to be lauded:
In what was anticipated to be a lackluster year for the UK, two of its candidates still managed to make the cut. Prospects were initially dim for Northern Ireland‘s Leanne McDowell. She didn’t figure in any Challenge Event, but thanks to her high Interview score, she managed to hang on to her Top 20 placement by a thread. Scotland’s Mhairi Ferguson, initially pegged as this year’s weakest Brit, scored favorably enough in Interview and accumulated enough Challenge Event credits to finish 18th (and, ironically, 1st in UK).
Ecuador‘s Camila Marañon was traipsing in and out of the Leader Board prior the announcement of the Top 20, but thanks to her high Beauty with a Purpose placement, she ultimately secured a spot. She was 19th. The young African Republic of South Sudan once again sent a top-notch delegate – Ajaa Monchoi finished 17th. To Yuan Lu‘s credit, she actually registers better in video than in stills. Her 16th place finish is justified. Then we have New Zealand‘s Deborah Lambie, touted as a potential surprise in the beginning, and surprise us she did. Her multiple Challenge Event placements catapulted her to 15th place.
Kazakhstan‘s Regina Vandysheva and Netherlands‘ Margot Hanekamp probably endured the most heartbreaking upsets at this stage. The former fell from 9th to 13th place after the Beauty with a Purpose scores were factored in. The latter scored only one point behind the eventual 10th placer.
REVERSAL OF FORTUNE. Nobody expected Poland to the place in 2009, while its stunners from 2011-2014 wound up as clappers. Props to Marta Palucka for reversing that odd trend and finishing in 14th place. Though in my reckoning, she should have even placed higher.
KOREA’S LOSS, BRAZIL’S GAIN. Choi Song-ee‘s pageant journey was anything but smooth, though she did earn Korea‘s first elemental title in Miss Earth 2013. Now, as Catharina Choi Nuñes, she became the first woman of Asian descent to represent Brazil in Miss World. Much as I wish she fared better than her 12th place finish, there’s consolation in her clinching the Continental title for the Americas. Even if, curiously, another South American delegate finished ahead of her. More on that later.
MISS POPULARITY. For the second year in a row, a highly-regarded Southeast Asian earned a free pass into the Semi-Finals thanks to the People’s Choice Award. This year, the lucky candidate is Vietnam‘s Lan Khuê. It’s a welcome turn of events, considering how her equally-competitive Miss Universe compatriot fared. Now, I can’t help but wonder: could she have fared better during the finals if she wore her winning fiery Designer Dress , instead of that generic glittery frock?
SALVAGING THE HYPE. Initially, I found Australia‘s Tess Alexander a tad overrated. The preliminary judges seemed to agree, as she was nowhere to be found in the first Leader Board. It took her multiple Challenge Events to propel her into 10th place.
SUSTAINING THE STREAK, PART 1. South Africa’s Liesl Laurie is fortunate that the dreaded Predecessor’s Curse didn’t make a comeback this year. The preliminary judges liked her enough to place her 2nd in Interview and in the overall Top 10 altogether. On a side note, I’m wondering when the likes of Venezuela, Czech Republic, Turkey, and Peru will follow suit, given that they’ve yet to place since their recent victories.
TAHITIAN TANTALIZER. In the weeks leading to this year’s pageant, France’s Hinarare Taputu was considered as one of the frontrunners. She sustained the hype by placing 4th in Interview, with Sports and Top Model placements to boot. If only she submitted a Beauty with a Purpose project, then she could have defended her Top 5 placement. Whatever the case, it’s great to see a Tahitian woman back in this pageant after 5 years – and competing strongly at that (albeit under the French flag).
SUSTAINING THE STREAK, PART 2. Hillarie Parungao is the first Miss World Philippines titleholder with no foreign roots or showbiz background. But what else sets her apart from her predecessors? Why, her lively presentation skills, of course! Over the past few weeks, the Nueva Vizcayan beauty captured the hearts of fans and netizens with her lively introductory videos and well-produced online material. As such, she was duly rewarded with the country’s first Multimedia Award (and second Challenge Event/Fast Track victory, so far). It was sufficient enough for her to momentarily enter the Top 3, and more importantly, secure another semi-final finish for the country.
VOCAL POWER “PUNCH”. If there’s one candidate who stole the show that evening, it was definitely Guyana‘s Lisa Punch. Apart from conquering the Talent event and garnering high placements in both Multimedia and Beauty with a Purpose, the former Rising Star contestant got to showcase her amazing vocal chops not once, but twice during the live pageant. First was a reprise of her winning original piece after being announced as Talent winner. The second was a rendition of Alicia Keys‘ now-classic ballad during the final deliberation.
And, to those who are wondering why she didn’t capture the Continental Beauty title for the Americas, despite ranking higher than Brazil‘s Catharina Choi, the eventual awardee: It’s probably because the Miss World organization apparently reclassified Guyana, culturally, as a Caribbean nation, despite being located in South America. In fact, last year’s Guyanese semi-finalist, Rafiyah Hussein, was crowned Caribbean‘s Queen of Beauty.