Miss Earth 2021 Candidate Review (Asia and Oceania)

As expected, the host continent is coming in strong. It’s also the second largest group this year with 22 candidates. It seems we’re in for an intense showdown among the Southeast and Pacific groups. The most pleasant surprise, however, is seeing the Middle East more full force than ever. Though, it’s curious to note that IRAQ’s supposed sophomore entry, Sima Mohammed, apparently skipped all judging rounds.

Here’s my assessment of the ASIA AND OCEANIA group:

AUSTRALIA – Phoebe Soengiono. This creative consultant of Indonesian lineage exudes bubbly charm and energy, as made evident by her social media content. There may be quibbles about her Intelligence round performance, as she spent more time asking clarificatory questions than giving actual answers. Whatever the case, she’s still a formidable charmer who can conceivably redeem herself should she advance in the competition.

BANGLADESH – Umme Zamilatun Naima. Whenever we Google her country, the images that turn up usually depict its crowded, chaotic cityscapes. So, it’s refreshing to learn about the mangroves and the Bengal tigers in her Eco Video. She’s a strong follow-up to last year’s debutante, though she had minor fumbles in the Intelligence round. Either way, her eloquence and beauty are hard to discount, and she still has the merits to pull a surprise.

CAMBODIA – Dam Sopheaksindy. She’s a public figure in her homeland, which explains why she’s so adept in conducting herself on camera. That skill sure came in handy in her interviews, where she drove her points across despite the language barrier. She’s the best sent by her country so far, but she needs to overcome the likes of Thailand, Vietnam, and Myanmar to earn a slot.

CHINA – Xue Hui. She’s a dance sports graduate who displayed good command of English in her interviews. She has charm to spare but standing out among this group might be a struggle.  

INDIA – Rashmi Madhuri. After garnering two elements and one win from 2006-2010, it’s hard to fathom why this superpower hasn’t placed since then. Charismatic as this entrepreneur is, she’s not foreseen to buck the trend just yet.

INDONESIA – Monica Khonado. For an ASEAN country that’s slowly but surely claiming its stake as a pageant powerhouse, it’s perplexing to know that it has yet to place here. This TV host seems poised to finally reverse her country’s fortunes, with her soft Oriental features and her conviction when speaking about her advocacies. Perhaps, it is high time they earned a break.

IRAN – Hima Zaker. She’s a veterinarian who is also surprisingly adept in acrobatics. She might not be making a huge splash thus far, but it’s nice to see her Middle Eastern country make its debut.

JAPAN – Konatsu Yoshida. This receptionist may not be as hyped as the other Asians, but it would be wise not to count her out. Japanese candidates have unexpectedly made the cut here before. So, by that logic, she deserves to place even higher. We never know, really.

KYRGYZSTAN – Ekaterina Zabolotnova. While this entrepreneur is a notch more charismatic and more expressive than most other candidates sent by this Central Asian country to this pageant before, standing out still feels like a stretch.

LAOS – Roungfa Lattanasamay. Now that this country has fully embraced pageantry, it’s about time it also tested waters here. This might not be their big break yet, though. And if you listen carefully in the Intelligence round, the interpreter jumped the gun in answering questions on the candidate’s behalf. The tito joke that usually follows is “Crown the translator!”

LEBANON – Tatyana Alwan. This psychology student comes across as a younger, Middle Eastern counterpart to the 2008 Pinay titleholder Karla Henry. She’s the youngest at 18, there wasn’t much youthful vibe in her interviews, and to be blunt, she came across jaded.  Still, she has a stunning face, and she can possibly blossom into a seasoned contender, should she revisit the pageant route.

MALAYSIA – Nisha Thayananthan. It’s sad that this country skipped last year after competing non-stop since 2001, but then again, that might have been the timeout they needed. Because here comes this gorgeous, outspoken doctor who impressed in the looks-based challenges and stole hearts in the Intelligence round with her first-hand accounts of being a front liner amidst the pandemic. This could finally be their year.

MYANMAR – Linn Htet Htet Kyaw. She’s a solid contender with a 50-50 chance of replicating her predecessor Amara Shune Lei’s landmark placement, but her fate rests on how she’ll fare against her equally worthy ASEAN neighbors.  

NEPAL – Supriya Shrestha. She’s well-versed in her advocacies, which is what we’ve come to expect from a typical Nepali candidate. More so, because she’s a TV host in her country. Her main hurdle is that she didn’t participate in the looks-based judging rounds.

NEW ZEALAND – Eva Louise Wilson. Based on her name and features, it’s easy to assume that she’s pure Caucasian. But really, she’s a proud Maori. Her placement in Miss Supranational 2019 may have been deemed a surprise, but here, she’s widely expected to advance. She may even be in the running for an element if luck is on her side.

NORTHERN MARIANAS – Crystal Fiona Rio. It’s safe to say that this American commonwealth is shedding its 90s cellar-dweller tag, because this teen actually has a fighting chance!  Apart from her pretty face, she also displayed freshness and charm in her interviews. Should fortune favor these 15 islands, they may finally be due for a breakthrough – if not now, then soon.

PHILIPPINES – Naelah Alshorbaji. Well, we can’t blame her if she feels right at home, because – just to get the obvious out of the way – she’s from the pageant’s country of origin. Pinoy naysayers tend to root against the motherland in this tilt, but one can’t deny that this sultry Fil-Syrian has the merits to work wonders on any global stage, and more specifically in this case, earn an element. 

SINGAPORE – Ruth Isabelle d’Almeida. She’s an interesting Eurasian mix as her father is Singaporean of Portuguese descent while her mother is Filipino-Chinese. She’s a comely young lady with smarts to spare, though some may note that she registers as more tween than woman.

SRI LANKA – Diandra Soysa. While this 23-year-old computer student is conventionally prettier than most previous Sri Lankans sent to this pageant, she is still generally overshadowed. 

SYRIA – Sanna Atia. Perhaps one reason she hasn’t earned much buzz is that we’ve yet to fully grasp the concept of her country competing in a pageant. But fact is, she’s here to slay. And as far as sophomore entrants go, this stunner has tremendous potential to make pageant history for her otherwise conservative nation. It might also help that she shares half her heritage with the host delegate.

THAILAND – Baitong Jareerat Petsom. First of all, it’s a relief that this country finally fielded a new contestant, as they inexplicably sent a repeater last year. This regal stunner is from the film industry, which explains why her Eco Video was executed with so much dramatic flair. It’s unclear if she can finish what Paweensouda Drouin started, but a Top 8 finish feels conceivable, at the minimum.

VIETNAM – Nguyen Thu Vân Anh. Looks-wise, this sales and marketing professional has the merits to bring her country back to the finals after their 2018 landmark win. Unfortunately, she stumbled in some of her interviews.

STANDOUTS: AUSTRALIA, BANGLADESH, CAMBODIA, INDONESIA, JAPAN, MALAYSIA, MYANMAR, NEW ZEALAND, NORTHERN MARIANAS, PHILIPPINES, SYRIA, THAILAND, VIETNAM

COMING NEXT: AMERICAS AND CARIBBEAN

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