70th Miss Universe Candidate Round-Up: The Americas

ARGENTINA – Julieta Garcia. It’s sad that Osmel Sousa has abandoned ship, just when his efforts have started bearing fruit. At least he managed to make one final hurrah as director of this country. This 22-year-old international model channels an archetypal telenovela vamp with her piercing eyes and neck-length bob, but it’s still unclear if she can continue what Alina Akselrad started.

ARUBA – Thessaly Zimmerman. This well-travelled communications graduate has the charisma and vibrant exoticism to gain notice, but placements for her island are far too rare for her to be considered a sure shot.

BAHAMAS – Chantel O’Brian. First, a side note: they added “THE” to her sash, which alphabetically puts her in the T Group, after Thailand. Personally, it’s a pet peeve. Anyway, this marketing professional competed in Miss World 2015 sporting much longer hair. The new look certainly works wonders, and she just won the Spirit of Carnival Award for embodying Carnival Cruise Line‘s company values of “fun, friendship, diversity, and inclusion”. Badly put, it’s functionally like Miss Congeniality, except sponsored. That spirit certainly reflects in her presentations so it will probably also propel her scores.

BOLIVIA – Nahemi Uequin. Her predecessor, Lenka Nemer, embodied her country’s best shot in years. But Social Impact Award notwithstanding, that hope sadly remained unrealized. Much as this model is more or less of the same competitive league, there’s a chance she’ll befall a similar fate

BRAZIL – Teresa Santos. Sure, they spent half of their ongoing placement streak stalling in the quarterfinals, but the point is, they’re on a roll. The only thing missing now is Crown #3, and with Julia Gama coming so close last May, that hunger’s surely more voracious than ever. This blonde bombshell certainly looks the part. But after her frustratingly listless preliminary performance, some worry that the crown may now be a bit farther from reach.

BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS – Xaria Penn. It’s refreshing to see a representative of this UK territory ante up in terms of styling and overall projection. Not sure where this will put her in the overall tally, but it’ll certainly be better than usual. It’s a welcome development.  

CANADA – Tamara Jemuovic. This multi-hyphenate of Serbian descent was originally slated to compete in two major pageants this year. But with the 60th Miss International pageant currently shelved, at least she gets to see action here. She’s a classically beautiful blonde with outstanding credentials and deserves more buzz than she’s earning.  

CAYMAN ISLANDS – Georgina Kerford. This isn’t the only time a Caucasian represented this territory. The last was 1999’s Gemma McLaughlin. This teen enjoyed early hype when she was crowned, but with buzz now significantly reduced, she’s now more likely to continue the trend.

CHILE – Antonia Figueroa. Of the three Miss Earth 2018 alumnae competing this year, this model is the most seasoned, as she also saw action in Miss World 2016 (That was Catriona’s first try, if you’re still willing to recall). She’s definitely projecting at her strongest ever and can conceivably fight for a placement slot. She is also now the second South American in a row to receive the Social Impact Award, for her initiative Volunteers for Children. Granted they continue handing out that special award for a while, perhaps they should also guarantee its future recipients instant placements as well? Just a thought.

COLOMBIA – Valeria Ayos. And speaking of Miss Earth 2018 alumna, here’s the lady who scored the best finish in that batch (She was Miss Water). Clearly, she’s learned to diversify her style with looks that both soften and flatter her strong dusky features. A repeat royal court finish may not be as guaranteed, but Top Ten seems to be a lock at least.

COSTA RICA – Valeria Rees. With a face that spells “instant standout”, imagine how things would have played out if the pageant really did happen in her country! But now that the other Valeria’s competing on foreign soil against other Latina stunners, a consecutive placement may not be as assured.

CURAÇAO – Shariëngela Cijntje. With three placements over the last six years, this island has never enjoyed more traction. But while this law degree holder is of the same worthy caliber, a back-to-back placement is still too early to call.

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC – Debbie Aflalo. This international relations graduate took over after original local winner, Andreina Martinez, tested positive with COVID-19 before she could even depart. While it all seems the perfect fit for this half-Israeli to be competing in her father’s homeland, there are many other favored Latinas.

ECUADOR – Susy Sacoto. The Center of the World clearly isn’t the center of attention this year, but she does have flattering angles and a pleasing persona.

EL SALVADOR – Alejandra Gavidia. The second Latina to finish 1st Runner-Up in this pageant was from this country, the stunner in question being 1955‘s Maribel Arrieta. Placements had been frustratingly sporadic since then, and much as this candidate is striking, the drought is expected to continue.

GUATEMALA – Dannia Guevara. This law student placed in Miss Grand International 2019, but this country has a far less stellar track record here. She can still be a worthy surprise, and it’s nice to see the country back after three years.  

HAITI – Pascale Bélony. This health education specialist scored her country’s first placement in Miss Supranational last August, but she’s now in a vastly more competitive playing field. To her credit, she continues to make the same striking impression. 

HONDURAS – Rose Meléndez. Sporting a headdress in her evening gown was an interesting touch. Followers of 90s dance pop also might notice a similar aura as M People’s vocalist Heather Small, especially when she lets her afro loose. It’s an interesting look, but it’ll take more than that to end a drought.

JAMAICA – Daena Soares. The island of reggae outdid itself by placing five times in the 2010s and started the 2020s on a high note, thanks to Miqueal-Symone Williams. This year may not be one of those bright spots, though, as this aesthetician is currently overshadowed.

MEXICO – Débora Hallal. When this TV host was crowned as Andrea Meza‘s follow-up, fans were quick to clamor for a back-to-back. Sure, it made sense then. But now that the roster is complete, securing that feat now feels more elusive, more so after the preliminaries, where she might have been upstaged by a bevy of last minute favorites. She still very much looks the part, but there’s now a gnawing feeling she’ll end up like her two compatriots who competed after her country’s reigning queens.

NICARAGUA – Allison Wassmer. In the first few days of the pageant, she was one of the girls documented to have been in close contact with Miss France, who tested positive with COVID-19 upon her arrival. Luckily, that didn’t seem to have overt effects as she managed to be present in subsequent activities. She may not be projected to sustain Ana Marcelo’s finish, but good health takes precedence.

PANAMA – Brenda Smith Lezama. After placing in Miss Teen USA 2013 as Miss Missouri, this Mexican-Panamanian has since tapped both her lineages for a shot in competing globally. Obviously, the Panamanian side proved to be more auspicious, but it’ll be a steep climb for her to secure a spot.

PARAGUAY – Nadia Ferreira. Looks-wise, this model leads the race by a substantial mile and if the contest was judged solely on IG following, she might as well be crowned right now. But of course, we all know it takes more than that, especially in this age of IMG. They seek substance now. If she manages to tone down the influencer veneer and gets her soul even more, it just might happen. Frankly, we could use more countries winning for the first time.

PERU – Yely Rivera. Obviously, she’s facing double the pressure. Her sister, Kelin, break the Top 10 two years ago, while her predecessor, Janick Maceta, made the Top Five for the first time since their country’s 1957 win. She does have the leverage to earn high marks, but surpassing those feats might be a tall order.

PUERTO RICO – Michelle Marie Colón. Again, it’s great to see the Island of Enchantment regain its footing, especially now, 20 years after Denise Quiñones bagged their fourth title in their shores. This catwalk dynamo of Afro-Caribbean descent is hard to overlook, but that purple ruffled evening gown may have been a dangerous choice. Granted the panel absolves her from that 80s-inspired number and let her through the next round, she can easily be back in the running.

USA – Elle Smith. Before anyone starts quibbling over her late crowning, remember that this pageant was held jointly with Miss USA in its early years. As such, the state girls and the international girls were eligible for the same special awards, and the American girl would always belatedly join the fray and, in some cases, win anyway. Now, as the second Bluegrass girl to compete in this pageant, this journalist doesn’t disappoint. She’s an instant standout, with her contrasting dusky complexion and blonde curls. And seeing how pulling a Karen Ibasco* earned her the national title with ease, she’s bound to ace her interviews here as well.

*- Elle Smith’s winning answer in Miss USA noticeably echoes the response that earned the Philippines its fourth Miss Earth title in 2017.

VENEZUELA – Luiseth Matéran. Truth is, they’re not always invincible. Otherwise, why would the term “El Tocuyo Award” even be coined?  But the thing with Venezuela is that they always bounce back – often, with a vengeance. For sure, this celebrity can potentially avenge Mariangel Villasmil’s shutout with her glistening aura and winning stance. But after being upstaged by a few emerging favorites in the preliminaries, a return to the royal court may be too early to call.

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