ALBANIA – Ina Dajci. Casual observers are bound to cite her as a standout because she resembles Angelina Jolie in select shots. There’s some sense in that sentiment, though she hasn’t garnered enough buzz to be in heavy contention.
ARMENIA – Nane Avetisyan. This Eurasian country has been sending worthy enough candidates since its 2018 debut, but has yet to deliver a solid, standout impression. The status quo is expected to remain.
BELGIUM – Kedist Deltour. In a year when the African race has never been tighter, here comes this Ethiopian immigrant whose upbringing reads like the plot of a Brothers Grimm tale. She lost her mother at age eight, abandoned by her father and stepmother at an orphanage at age nine, and adopted, along with her siblings, by a Belgian couple at age ten. Obviously, she blossomed into quite the headstrong queen. One can only hope her back story earns her more than a consolation special feature the same way Angela Ponce and Nova Stevens did after being shut out in their respective years. She deserves to go far.
BULGARIA – Elena Danova. Well, she doesn’t rely on shock factor the way her predecessor did, that’s for sure. This one’s a chic, sweet-faced ingenue who registers well in photographs.
CROATIA – Ora Ivanišević. Well, she’s certainly the more formidable between the two Former Yugoslav entrants, but it remains to be seen if she can actually stand out in her region.
CZECH REPUBLIC – Karolina Kokešova. Even former Miss Earth Top 4 placer Klára Vavruškova couldn’t end this country’s decade-long drought last May. So, even with all the pre-arrival hype surrounding this business graduate, there will be reservations. Well, without a doubt, she is a stunner, and should the continent be granted more slots by virtue of miracle, she should definitely be first in line.
DENMARK – Sara Langtved. This animal rights advocate was an early favorite in Miss Earth 2019, but as fans know, the country had to wait another year for a drought-ender. Now, that stakes are higher, her chances of being a shoo-in are considerably reduced.
FINLAND – Essi Unkuri. This country’s still “Waiting for Godot”, as far as ending its placement drought is concerned, but this beauty’s a solid step in the right direction. We still look forward to the day this erstwhile powerhouse rallies back.
FRANCE – Clemence Botino. They say the final stretch of a journey is always the hardest. In this Guadeloupe native’s case, it’s quite the extreme. For starters, she endured quite the arduous wait before embarking on her Miss Universe journey. Since her local successor, Amandine Petit, was contractually obliged to remain in France this month, she had to forego competing in the 69th edition in Florida last May and Amandine was sent instead. Now that it’s finally her turn, her journey seemingly came to a screeching halt. Upon landing in Israel, she tested positive for COVID-19 – this, despite being fully vaccinated and having undergone the necessary tests before her departure. The news sent shockwaves to the community as it coincided with the emergence of the new Omicron variant, same reason the host country closed its borders immediately after the candidates’ arrival. Fortunately, the MUO seemingly relaxed their rules and Clemence wasn’t automatically disqualified. Instead, she spent her first 10 days in Israel quarantined in a hotel, posting amusing daily updates to while away the hours. It’s a great relief that she made it in the clear just in time and she’s certainly making the most of this second wind. She certainly looked sizzling hot in her Josephine Baker-inspired national costume.
GERMANY – Hannah Seifer. It’s sad to see the “Perfect Attendance Club” down to two members* after this erstwhile superpower missed the previous pageant. Good thing they’re back with this cute, well-travelled teenager. Next step for the country now should be to one day restore their heyday, because that isn’t quite expected to happen yet.
* – Hang in there, Canada and France.
GREAT BRITAIN – Emma Rose Collingridge. Sad as it is to see veterans Stephanie Hill (Miss World 2017 2nd Runner-Up) and Amy Meisak (Miss Scotland Earth 2015) fall short for the second straight year, it’s nice to meet this sophisticated young blonde. She does have the bearings to contribute to the recent British resurgence. But, again, it all boils down to how much love they’ll show the continent this time.
GREECE – Sofia Arapogianni. This country’s comeback came with mild controversy a few months back when the original purported delegate pulled out on political grounds. But in an awkward turn of events, it was revealed that she was never even officially recognized as a candidate. In her stead is this promising contender, who somehow channels 2016’s Miss Mexico Kristal Silva in select captures. She’s not among the favorites yet, but it’s nice to see this country trying again. In time, we’d love to see another Evelina Papantoniou.
HUNGARY – Jázmin Viktória. The thing with this country is that they place when they’re not expected to place (and sometimes, vice versa). Following that line of thought, let’s not count this one out just yet, as she does have one of the best silhouettes in this batch.
ICELAND – Elísa Gróa Steinbórsdóttir. This country has been constantly sending noteworthy delegates since reverting to regular participation in 2016. This flight attendant, for one, delivered the strongest preliminary performance among this year’s Nordics.
IRELAND – Katharine Walker. This pediatric nurse made the Top 30 of Miss World 2018, representing Northern Ireland. It’s worth noting that while that the UK constituent country competes as its own entity in some pageants, it defaults to the Emerald Isle in this system. Toning down her blonde-ness did give her some edge, but the absence of the continental format still slims her prospects.
ITALY – Caterina Di Fuccia. To be blunt, the country most probably won’t bag their first global crown yet, but this teacher was a revelation in the preliminaries – especially with her pre-Raphaelite curls. She can conceivably topple some of the early favorites, granted she charms the panel enough.
KOSOVO – Shkurtesa “Tuti” Sejdiu. One of the frontrunners in the mysteriously-shelved inaugural edition of Miss Universe United Arab Emirates was a Kosovar. So, this girl can rest easy knowing she won’t be trumped by a compatriot representing another country. But even with that development, she hasn’t really received much buzz.
MALTA – Jane Cini. Google her predecessor, Anthea Zammit, and you’d think the islands sent the same girl. They didn’t, of course. Both just happen to sport bouncy curls and have curvaceous figures. Sticking to that archetype isn’t expected to be fruitful, but just like her predecessor, she sure is fun to watch.
NETHERLANDS – Julia Sinning. Much as she registers better in videos than in photos, she’s currently considered a long shot. Then again, the woman who represented her country 30 years ago, Pauline Huizinga, more or less belonged to the same look archetype and she finished second!
NORWAY – Nora Nakken. She was a contestant in the first virtual edition of Miss Earth in 2020, and this marks her debut on an actual global stage. It’s comforting how, after years of being uncharacteristically way below the radar, this country finally sent another contender. The same goes for the rest of the Scandinavian contingent, really, even if no one’s necessarily a heavy favorite.
POLAND – Agata Wdowiak. It’s not like this pageant completely disregards this country. After all, they did score two surprise placements and two awards over the past decade. Too bad this isn’t Miss Supranational, where Polish beauty of her mettle instantly spells “runaway shoo-in”. Here, she will have to rally extra hard to be in contention.
PORTUGAL – Oricia Dos Santos. It’s still hard to believe how this country only started making the cut ten years ago, despite competing since 1959. Well, there is such a thing as making up for lost time and this Miss Venezuela 2018 2nd Runner-Up benefits from both the experience and the South American superpower’s competitive edge. Looks like this is gearing up to be the Iberian peninsula’s best year yet.
ROMANIA – Carmina Cotfas. The most heartbreaking takeaway from Bianca Tirsin’s recent shutout would be “If she couldn’t do it, who can?” Much as this radio host has the makings of a worthy follow-up, she’s likely to endure a similar fate – unless, of course, they grant her an “apology placement”, which is a long shot.
RUSSIA – Ralina Arabova. So, just to put confusion to rest, the Republic of Tatarstan is, in fact, part of Russia, even if other pageants have perplexingly tried to pass it off as a separate entity. And here they are, competing under their Motherland’s sash, and it’s refreshing to see it worn by a girl of her ethnicity for a change. She’s a decent, polished contender, but her last minute appointment may have cost her exposure.
SLOVAK REPUBLIC – Veronika Ščepánková. At 6’2, she towers over the bunch and looking at her photo with her Czech counterpart might give 80s-90s fans the urge to sing “You Are My Star”. Outside of that, she isn’t expected to follow Silvia Lakatosova’s footsteps.
SPAIN – Sarah Loinaz. Not only has this half-Moroccan from San Sebastian competed in both the Miss World and Miss Universe local systems, she has also successfully represented her country in Reina Hispanoamericana 2016, where she competed alongside Haiti’s eventual Miss Universe 1st Runner-Up, Raquel Pellisier. To say that the experience has served her would be an understatement, as she has seasoned into becoming her country’s best shot in almost a decade. In a year where Spanish speakers are expected to dominate the competition, she’s poised to be the last European standing.
SWEDEN – Moa Sandberg. Being the lone brunette among this year’s formidable (but interchangeable) Nordic bunch has its advantages. But chances are, she’ll replicate her Miss International finish seven years ago.
TURKEY – Cemrenaz Turhan. Historically, this pageant hasn’t been very generous to this country, though they were afforded a surprise in 2012. This management engineering student is a worthy contender, but not much is expected about her prospects.
UKRAINE – Anna Neplyakh. Hers is the type of beauty that grows on you and having more than 300K IG followers should somehow amount to something. But it’s hard to discount that this country isn’t as favored as it was during the Trump Era. And with her continent earning the short end of the scepter as of late, she’s regarded as a dark horse at best.