Again, I don’t know if you noticed, but just like the announcement of the Top 20, the order in which the five finalists were called seemed to already suggest the final placement. Could it mean that the telecast judges were already decided on their winner at that point, regardless of how each finalist answered? For now, that’s just my theory.
Anyway, here’s my take on the 5 finalists (in reverse order)…
DREADLOCKED DAMSEL. Jamaica’s Sanneta Myrie is not the first Rastafarian beauty to compete in an international pageant. That distinction belongs to Zahra Redwood, Miss Jamaica-Universe 2007. What gave Sanneta the upper hand is that Miss World tends to gravitate more strongly towards her country. She was a finalist in both the Multimedia and Talent challenges. In addition to that, she was also 5th in Preliminary Interview.
Such is Sanneta’s eloquence, that I thought she’d cause a major Top 3 upset when she was called into the Top 5. Alas, the judges might have found her final interview too derivative of Lupita Nyong’o‘s Academy Award acceptance speech. Either way, it’s an astounding achivement for this unconventional dreadlocked beauty.
LOVELY LEBANESE. A collective sigh of relief emanated from pageant fans, including myself, when the initial Leader Board announced Lebanon‘s Valerie Abou Chacra as the Interview champ. Prior to the pageant, she was considered as the one to beat, topping lists left and right. However, her prospects momentarily dimmed after only earning a nod in Top Model.
It’s fortunate that the preliminary judges didn’t deny her gorgeous face. And, when it came to that moment of reckoning, they were enamored enough by her beauty to place her in the Final 5. Netizens felt that she should have won the title, as it could have been a welcome diversion for her beleaguered nation. So, why didn’t she?
In the end, the panel might have noticed a lack of energy in her final interview – even if her plea for “love and serenity” was well-positioned and timely. I can argue, and excuse me for this analogy, that Linor Abargil exhibited the same level of meekness when she competed in 1998, but became Israel’s first Miss World titleholder anyway. Then again, we all know that she had an inspiring back story to bolster her chances.
One thing’s for sure, though – Lebanon can now celebrate for garnering their best placement in this pageant yet. Why, even Georgina Rizk and Christina Sawaya were clappers in this pageant before they were crowned Miss Universe 1971 and Miss International 2002, respectively.
LATE BLOOMER. If there’s one country that’s giving the Philippines a run for its money as the new Asian Powerhouse (at least, in this pageant), it’s Indonesia. Just like my country, this archipelago has been making the cut consistently since 2011, thanks mostly to its affinity towards Beauty with a Purpose projects. I had no doubt that Maria Harfanti would continue the streak, as I do find her gorgeous. And with her high interview marks and Beauty with a Purpose victory, it’s no surprise that she’d end up finishing 3rd overall. With this feat, she now ties with Indri Soeharto, Miss International 1977 2nd runner-up, as the highest placing Indonesian woman in a major international pageant.
FALSE ALARM. Lebanon may have scored the highest in preliminary interview, but it was Russia’s Sofia Nikitchuk, who topped the overall Leader Board all throughout. In addition to placing 3rd in Interview, the refreshing beauty was also a finalist in both Top Model and Beauty with a Purpose, which paved the way for her comfortable lead. Given those factors, plus the fact that both she and the outgoing titleholder, Rolene Strauss, wore red ball gowns, it looked like we were being conditioned for a third Russian victory. Little did we know that the telecast judges had their eyes fixed on another last minute favorite.
SPANISH SHOCKER. Mireia Lalaguna Royo‘s journey to the Miss World crown wasn’t devoid of controversy. Shortly after winning Miss Mundo España, rumors circulated that she’s only 15 years old, ergo, well below the minimum age requirement. Those rumors were quickly refuted. And then, dare I mention the other pink elephant in the room: Mireia is from Catalonia, a region that’s lobbying for separation from the rest of Spain. Nevertheless, she proudly donned her country’s sash all through out.
As far as early favorites go, Mireia started out in the middle of the pack. In other words, she was expected to place, but not any further. The preliminary judges seemed to be on the same boat. She placed 11th in interview and her cumulative Challenge Event scores only managed to bring her up to 9th place. So what caused her sudden surge?
During the live finals, Mireia looked her best, when it mattered the most. her clips from the fashion show and pageant activities unveiled a side of her beauty that’s both contemporary and regal – calling to mind several iconic supermodels of yore. It’s what likely paved the way for her Top Model victory, which in its self was also a positive omen, since three out of the nine previous winners of that challenge ended up winning the crown altogether.
Upon entering the Top 5, she emphasized the surprising turn of events by exclaiming “I did not expect this!”, implying that she herself didn’t expect to get that far. During her speech, she nervously professed her unwavering support for strong women and “happiness in helping each other out”. Amidst her occasional stammers, she still managed to look radiant, put-together, and most importantly, natural. Those are likely the traits that gravitated the judges towards her – therefore, paving the way for this milestone.
BONUS: SPAIN IN MISS WORLD THROUGH THE YEARS. The Kingdom of Spain made its Miss World debut in 1960. But, they had to wait until their sophomore year to get noticed, when Maria del Carmen Cervera finished 2nd runner-up in 1961 – a record that would remain unsurpassed for decades. Tensions with the British colony of Gibraltar (which debuted in the pageant a year before they did) caused them to skip the pageant from 1965-1969.
They’ve bounced back since then and achieved 14 more placements, including three Top 5 finalists: Gloria Valenciano (1978), Susana de la Llave (1988 – their sole placement that decade), and, most recently, Elena Ibarbia (2013). Some of those semi-finalists fared better in other pageants. Most notable of which were 1977’s Guillerma Ruiz, who finished 2nd runner-up in Miss Universe 1978 and 2008’s Patricia Yurena Rodriguez who was 1st runner-up in Miss Universe 2013.
In 2009, Spain witnessed what could be considered as brutal irony: Gibraltar, a minuscule territory situated within their borders (and the supposed cause of their spotty participation in the 1960s), beat them in capturing their first ever Miss World title, thanks to Kaiane Aldorino.
On the bright side, Spain started regaining momentum this decade, placing thrice in the last 5 pageants prior to this year. Now, with Mireia Lalaguna Royo‘s unexpected victory, they can now relish the fact that a Spanish woman is now among the illustrious roster of Miss World titleholders. Congratulations, Mireia! Congratulations, Spain!