69th Miss Universe Initial Impressions: Europe

Despite ending its title drought five years ago thanks to Iris Mittanaere, this continent has noticeably been underperforming. And with the Continental Format no longer in place, the prospects of this region has seemingly grown even dimmer as they face intense competition from more pageant-crazy continents. What bodes well, though, is that they are not the least represented continent this year. From last year’s roster, we’re missing three-time winner Sweden, recent returnee Lithuania, and, from the Eurasian contingent, Turkey and Georgia. The saddest withdrawal, however, would have to be Germany, which officially skips the pageant for the first time since the contest’s inception. That leaves France as one of two remaining countries with spotless attendance. The other one, from North America, stands a chance at adding to its crown tally. Here’s my early assessment on Team Europe:

ALBANIA – Paula Mehmetukaj. This country broke an eight-year placement drought in the last edition, thanks to beautiful blonde Cindy Marina. While this MBA student is more vibrant than some of her photos might suggest, a consecutive placement might be a struggle.

ARMENIA – Monika Grigoryan. Props to this country for being the only 2018 debutante to make it this year. They’re turning it up a notch with this linguistics student, who’s arguably the prettiest candidate they’ve fielded here so far. But it remains to be seen if she can bank on her doll-like features alone.    

BELGIUM – Dhenia Covens. When 2020 national titleholder Celine van Oustyl opted out due to pandemic concerns, the 2018 2nd Runner-Up was sent in her stead. She’s the third consecutive 2018 alumna to see action in this contest*.  She’s not expected to duplicate any of her predecessors’ feats, but at least the turn of events opened doors for her.
* – Miss Belgium 2018 first runner-up Zoe Brunet placed Top 20 in Miss Universe 2018, while the Pinay titleholder Angeline Flor Pua placed Top 30 in Miss World that same year. A year later, Pua competed in Miss Universe without much luck.

BULGARIA – Radinela Chesheva. She’s a cut above the typical Bulgarian candidate and all, but she seems to have the propensity to go overboard. I mean, look.

CROATIA –  Mirna Naiia Maric. This country scored its fourth quarterfinal placement as of last year but has yet to advance any further. Not much is said about this model, so it’s unlikely that we’ve met their Frederika Cull. Then again, remember that two of those four quarterfinalists were shockers.

CZECH REPUBLIC – Klára Vavrušková. This dental student was a sight to behold in Miss Earth 2019, which makes her elemental placement that year a no-brainer. While still breathtaking, it’s unsettling that she hasn’t been talked about much here yet. We can only hope she’ll deliver when it matters, because she’s more than qualified to end the nine-year Czech shutout.

DENMARK – Amanda Petri. Some might remember this doppelganger and namesake to recent first-time Oscar nominee Amanda Seyfried from Miss World 2017. She may have far less competition this time, but the turnout’s expected to remain.

FINLAND – Viivi Altonen. It’s hard to fathom why this erstwhile pageant powerhouse went on 25 years without placing in this contest. But behold, here comes an underrated contender who won Miss Photogenic in Miss Supranational 2019 and is projecting strongly here so far. Whether or not she finally ends the drought, she’ll still be remembered as one of the brighter spots during this glum period. And speaking of brightness, her National Costume is Northern Lights-inspired.  

FRANCE – Amandine Petit. Because we all know their national organization loves pulling switcheroos, this student is actually the 2021 titleholder, who was assigned to compete early so she can crown her local successor by December. That makes 2020 reine Clemence Blotino eligible to join the next edition instead (granted she still wants to). As expected, this student is the epitome of French elegance and looks like a cross between Kylie Minogue and her national director Sylvie Tellier. At this point, only an interview disaster would derail her from being the European-most-likely.

GREAT BRITAIN – Jeanette Akua. Toppling former Miss World runners-up Sophie Moulds (2012) and Stephanie Hill (2017) in her national tilt amidst hard lockdown was no minuscule achievement. And there is indeed something noteworthy about this South African transplant who once escaped a kidnapping before joining The X-Factor UK and Britan’s Got Talent. For sure, her interview will be memorable. And even though she’s not highly buzzed just yet, she might pull a worthy upset.

ICELAND – Elísabet Hulda Snorradóttir. Last year, this country scored a breakthrough when their first biracial representative scored their best performance since 1980. This year’s bet is a polyglot who’s surprisingly adept in Asian language and looks like a younger Jessica Lange. Too early to tell if these traits can help her sustain last year’s landmark feat, but she does turn heads. Ask MUBA Cosmetics, who tapped her for a special photoshoot.

IRELAND – Nadia Sayers. The Luck o’ the Irish certainly fell short last year when Fig O’Reilly failed to make the cut. Fortunately, the Emerald Isle appears to remain in fighting form with this charming redhead, who can conceivably outdo 2017-2018’s consecutive surprise placers.

ITALY – Viviana Vizzini. It’s amusing that when you describe this lady as “vivacious” (because she is), it contributes to the charming alliteration that is her name. When she was selected, international pageant fans were eager to brand her as a ray of hope for her title-deprived nation. Because, again, how can a country synonymous to glamour not have international pageant titles yet (well, apart from the continent not caring about pageants as much)? The hype may have dissipated, but it would still be exciting to see her go far, and perhaps even seize a spot from a favorite.

KAZAKHSTAN – Kamila Serikbai. Her piercing Central Asian features give her distinction, as she’s the only one from her sub-region competing this year (Come back, Kyrgyzstan!). She may not be noticed as much, but she might perform respectably in interview since she’s a law student. 

KOSOVO – Blerta Veseli. During the first few days of the contest, this architecture student became the subject of a viral video where she’s seen flat out ignoring a reporter then brusquely walking away. Fortunately, people came to her defense as there’s now general understanding that the organization is practicing enhanced precaution. She’ll probably be forgiven for that incident. Also probable, though, is the uphill battle she’ll face in bringing her disputed nation back to the finals.

MALTA – Anthea Zammit. This pageant veteran’s an extremely talented dancer, as proven by her Talent Fast Track placement in Miss World 2016 and brief performance in Miss Supranational 2017. She’s also noticeably more vamped up than ever and apparently received catwalk training from Filipinos. While the panel will be likely inclined to choose other Europeans, it’s great to see that she did her homework.

NETHERLANDS – Denise Speelman. The passionate manner by which she recounts overcoming her eating disorder could help her excel in interview. But in all other crucial aspects, she might be outshone by other Europeans.

NORWAY – Sunniva Frigstad. The coronation night coincides with her country’s Independence Day, so that’s one reason to celebrate. She’s a cute, bubbly girl, but this playing field rarely settles for that alone.

POLAND – Natalia Piguła. Fans heaved a collective sigh when original representative Magdalena Kasiborska withdrew due to health reasons. Luckily, her replacement is no slouch in the looks department herself. This engineer looks like she can put up a fight.

PORTUGAL – Cristiana Silva. Some might reckon this law student as more articulate and more conventionally pretty than last year’s Monaco-based quarterfinalist. But now that the selection committee is less obligated to meet a continental quota, chances of a repeat placement are less guaranteed.

ROMANIA – Bianca Lorena Tirsin. In both instances this girl competed internationally, she achieved the highest result for her country in that pageant*. But despite having the most intimidating track record among this roster, she faces her steepest challenge yet. Never has a Romanian candidate advanced in this contest. So, if her harbinger’s luck doesn’t run out (which we sure hope doesn’t), then she should easily secure that overdue breakthrough. It should be about time.
* – 2nd Runner-Up in Miss Supranational 2017 and 3rd Runner-Up in 2018. Hypothetically, if she joins Miss World anytime soon, she’d have to win in order to beat Ioana Boitor’s 2006 1st Runner-Up placement.

RUSSIA – Alina Sanko. As the 2019 national titleholder, she was already eligible to compete in the previous edition. While prioritizing Miss World earned her a Top 12 placement, it resulted in this country skipping this contest for the first time since its 1994 debut. Funny how she’s the one actualizing the comeback, and it sure calls to mind the Pinoy proverb “Sa hinahaba-haba ng prusisyon, sa simbahan din ang tuloy” (“No matter how long the procession, you still end up at the church“). But despite looking every inch a top contender, Alina’s prospects took a major dent before pageant kick-off and tainted what would have been a glorious return. In a now-infamous IG story, her make-up artist was clearly seen poking fun at some of the contestants’ photos, as she chuckled in reaction. This triggered immense online uproar that propelled Alina to issue apologies in both English and Russian. Well, it looks like the uproar has died down since then. But, in all likelihood, the powers-that-be still got wind of that incident and there will be repercussions to some extent (Notice the lack of hype). Let’s just hope, for her sake, that she’s behaving in Florida.

SLOVAK REPUBLIC – Natália Hoštáková. Save for its 1994 breakthrough placement and 1998 Photogenic citation, it’s frustrating that this contest just seems pre-conditioned to bypass this country, despite sending knockouts – like this aspiring hotel manager. Hopefully, someone really bucks the trend soon.

SPAIN – Andrea Martínez. She may not be a clear frontrunner or newsmaker like some of her recent predecessors, but she’s still a fiery contender with a compelling glow-up story to boot. And whether they give her the edge or not, she can still relish gaining a wider platform for her anti-bullying campaign, #RaiseYourVoice.

UKRAINE – Yelyzaveta Yastremska. This entrepreneur reportedly became emotional when she received next to no reception upon her arrival in Florida. Much as she’s not expected to restore her country’s glory days in this contest just yet, she deserves all the support that she can get, just as much as any other candidate.

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