GROUP 13 – Belgium, Colombia, Curaçao, Finland, Ireland, Rwanda
RWANDA – Naomie Nishimwe. This mental health advocate is another compelling speaker, though she didn’t give the same striking impression in her Head-to-Head challenge as she did in her introduction. Too bad she wasn’t shortlisted in the Talent Fast Track, as she kept showcasing her dancing skills in her video.
IRELAND – Pamela Uba. As the first black woman to represent the Emerald Isle in this pageant, she’s already made history. The real clincher, however, would be her gripping back story about how she began life in Ireland as an asylum seeker along with her entire family and spent the following decade in direct provision. How she managed to become an athlete and start a career as a scientist since then is nothing short of inspiring, so she’s bound to move the panel with her stories. Factor in her 3rd place finish in the Sports Fast Track, and she’s probably in strong contention.
BELGIUM – Céline Van Ouytsel. Some might classify her beauty as unconventional, which is not always a dealbreaker in this pageant. In fact, some of this country’s previous placers belonged in that same category. In this bubbly blonde’s case, she was a delightful standout during the Head-to-Head round. Her only hurdle now is her lack of Fast Track placements.
COLOMBIA – Andrea Aguilera. Considering this country’s level of pageant obsession, it’s odd that they haven’t won here yet. This social communicator has the ethereal beauty to potentially end that wait, but her only highlight so far was advancing in the second round of Head to Head, only to be overtaken by Cote d’Ivoire. Hopefully, she can continue to charm the judges in the crucial closed-door interview.
CURAÇAO – Alvinette Soliana. Sporting short curls gives this mental health advocate a refreshingly exotic look. Her highlight, though, was her Head-to-Head interview, where she confessed having overcome suicide attempts in the past. She’s bound to move the panel in her interviews.
FINLAND – Emilia Lepomäki. Just like her fellow Scandinavian, Miss Sweden, she was also a candidate in Miss Earth’s first of two virtual editions – only difference being, she actually joined another live pageant prior to this (Miss Eco International). Much as she intriguingly looks Asian, this Finnish isn’t expected to make it to the finish. Though it’s worthy to note that she qualified in the Sports Fast Track.
GROUP 14 – Canada, Costa Rica, Cote D’Ivoire, Guinea, Hungary, India
COSTA RICA – Tamara Dal Maso. Imagine if Miss Universe Germany 2002 Natascha Borger (who’s half-Venezuelan) toned down the sex appeal and took on a demure image, and you’ll likely get someone like this advertising major. She’s an angelic beauty who speaks earnestly about her advocacies, but it remains to be seen if she can outrun her fellow Latina stunners.
INDIA – Manasa Varanasi. Of course, India’s back in the game. Their resurgence in this pageant already began four years ago with Manushi Chhillar and even came close to winning in 2019 with Suman Rao. And with Harnaaz Sindhu winning Miss Universe earlier this week, it now raises hopes of them replicating their achievements from 1994 and 2000*. Strangely, the pursuit hasn’t been smooth thus far for this stunner. Since the Head to Head Challenge was introduced, it was the first time the country didn’t advance to the next round. And save for her Beauty with a Purpose placement, she hasn’t figured in other Fast Tracks. Then again, we might be in for a similar scenario as 2016 winner Stephanie del Valle, who famously beat Catriona Gray despite having no challenge wins or placements. Should Manasa follow a similar trajectory, it will still be within expectation. No doubt, she has the gorgeousness and intellect to mesmerize the powers-that-be.
HUNGARY – Lili Tótpeti. Those still reeling from Krisztina Nagypal’s shutout two years ago, might take comfort that the Land of the Magyars is back with another gorgeous contender. This grammar school graduate likely warmed hearts with her emotional Head-to-Head interview, but it remains to be seen how she’ll fare overall.
CANADA – Svetlvana Mamaeva. Since kicking off the previous decade with surprise placements, the Land of the Maple Leaf hasn’t made a major splash here since. Representing them this year is this Moldovan immigrant whose accent is still very much intact. Her credentials do make her the right fit for this playing field, though standing out will be a challenge. Thankfully, she qualified in the Sports Fast Track.
COTE D’IVOIRE – Olivia Yacé. This marketing management degree holder is a direct descendant of Queen Abla Pokou, the Akan queen who ruled what is now Ghana and her country in the 1700s. This means she’s literally of royal blood and it more than explains her fixation with crown-like headpieces. So far, she’s already earned two tickets to secure her country’s first placement in this pageant. First was her Top Model Fast Track win at the Miss World Fashion Show, where she also placed 2nd in the Designer Dress Award. Then, she was also among the eight overall Head to Head Challenge winners. There’s no way anyone can overlook her near-imperial presence at this juncture. Granted the powers-that-be opens doors for a non-traditional pageant nation, she can walk away wearing a different crown.
GUINEA – Nene Bah. While this West African country has yet to score a breakthrough in this pageant, they’ve actually sent high quality candidates and even came close to placing in 2014. This accountancy graduate from the University of Ottawa looks set to continue the fight, though the presence of other African stunners won’t make that very easy.
GROUP 15 – Armenia, People’s Republic of China, Guinea-Bissau, Iraq, Nicaragua, Somalia
IRAQ – Maria Farhad. It’s indeed refreshing to see this beleaguered nation finally debut, and what a journey for this 20-year-old to get here. Her family fled her hometown of Baghida in 2014 and returned to find it in ruins three years later. She may not fit everyone’s textbook definition of a top contender, but her story’s bound to compel the powers-that-be. Placing 3rd in the Designer Dress Award in the Miss World Fashion Show was another high point.
SOMALIA – Khadija Omar. This year’s second newcomer is this coastal country in the Horn of Africa. Being the lone hijab-wearing contestant is bound to make her stand out, especially with her striking facial features. That alone could translate to a surefire debut placement, even if she hasn’t figured in the Fast Tracks.
NICARAGUA – Sheynnis Palacios. This broadcaster exuded confidence in her Head-to-Head Challenges the way a public figure should, and deservingly, she has now secured her spot in the Top 30. This now makes her the first Nicaraguan to make the cut since 2001’s Top Five placer Ligia Arguello.
ARMENIA – Mirna Bzdigian. Being a transplant from war-torn Syria makes her this country’s most storied contestant in its four years of competing so far. While she qualified for the Sports Fast Track, it’s hard to gauge if she can parlay that into an actual placement.
PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA – Jiang Siqi. Having been sent to Utah as an exchange student accounts for her good grasp of English. It’s also quite impressive that she’s already started two start-up companies at her tender age. Still, she’s leagues behind the Zhang Zi Lins and the Wen Xia Yus of yore. There’s also the disadvantage of not being the host candidate this time.
GUINEA-BISSAU – Itchacénia Da Costa. The lusophone among the Guineas hasn’t really made a mark in pageantry, but this well-traveled lady might just be their best shot yet. She tied with Ireland in 3rd Place in the Sports Fast Track.
GROUP 16 – Cambodia, Ghana, Haiti, Senegal, St. Maarten, Uganda
GHANA – Monique Malulawe. After a string of impressive showings from 2013 to 2016, Africa’s Gold Coast has been strangely low-key lately – not even so much as a Beauty with a Purpose citation, which used to be one of its specialties. This student is a well-spoken quality contender, but it looks like that trend will prevail for now.
UGANDA – Elizabeth Bagaya. Her beauty puts her at par with 2018’s breakthrough finalist Quiin Abenakyo and 2019 Top 40 placer Oliver Nakakande. But with no Fast Track placements to back the hype so far, that streak may be in jeopardy. Her last resort would be to impress the judges in closed door interview.
CAMBODIA – Phum Sophorn. She may be the prettiest candidate sent by her country so far, but it seems their growing voting populace hasn’t seriously tapped this pageant. Couple that with her lack of Fast Track placements and it looks like the usual ASEAN suspects will still prevail in the final tally.
ST. MAARTEN – Lara Mateo. Curiously, she’s a French speaker, even if her sash implies she’s from the Dutch side. Does this mean she’s representing the whole island? Anyway, this late comer may be considered a long shot, but she at least figured in the Sports Fast Track.
SENEGAL – Penda Sy. Some may consider this model and student raw, but her tearful tribute to her mother in her Head to Head Challenge may have pulled some heartstrings. Hopefully, this also translates to a strong closed-door interview.
HAITI – Erlande Berger. This entrepreneur may not have figured in the Fast Tracks but at least she won her Head to Head Challenge Round. While she was edged out by Nicaragua in the finals, she might continue to charm judges in her interview.
TANZANIA – Julianna Rugusima. Based on her absence in the Head to Head Challenge and her lack of Fast Track placements, one can infer that she was the last to arrive in Puerto Rico. She makes a striking impression, but she will have to impress the judges in her interview to be in contention.