71st Miss Universe Candidate Round-Up: Americas

The region stands a hefty chance at regaining the title this year, with at least five contenders within striking distance. Even if the contest ran with just this group, many favorites will still be left out. That’s the Americas for you.

ARGENTINA – Barbara Cabrera. This model is a solid performer with great cheekbones but stands to be overshadowed.

ARUBA – Kiara Arends. It took the effervescent Thessaly Zimmerman to end the quarter-century drought last year. This law graduate was initially pegged as a worthy follow-up who can sustain the streak, the competition has just grown fiercer. Also, the “C” from the ABC Islands seems to be seizing the momentum.

BELIZE – Ashley Lightburn. It took a Miss Earth victory to spark this country’s competitive fire. And speaking of fire, look at this mathematician’s surname. She’s easily the strongest Belizean seen here in recent years, which hat speaks a lot, even if a placement is not yet necessarily foreseen.

BOLIVIA – Camila Sanabria. This recent Miss Grand International alumna replaced Fernanda Pavisic, who was fired for mocking her competitors on social media (makes you wonder how Russia’s Alina Sanko got away with it in 2020/2021). She’s a strong possibility, but the Latina contingent simply brought it’s A Game this year.  

BRAZIL – Mia Mamede. It’s still bewildering how last year’s bombshell derailed both her chances and her country’s streak with her listless preliminary performance. Much as this TV host delivered with more panache, the country might stay under the radar for now.

BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS – Lia Claxton. This statuesque student’s polished for a 19-year-old.  We got to hand it to this UK territory for sending stronger bets lately, even if results aren’t necessarily foreseen yet. Then again, if Northern Marianas could manage in Miss International 2022

CANADA – Amelia Tu. She’s a cute over-achiever of Chinese descent but the dry spell will likely continue for now. If only they gave Nova Stevens a shot two years ago.

CAYMAN ISLANDS – Chloe Powery-Doxey. With the original titleholder, Tiffany Connolly, embroiled in an ongoing case, doors opened for this athlete. She’s a long shot, but this opportunity is already cause for celebration.

CHILE – Sofia Depassier. For the past three years, this country has been sending potential drought-enders, but to no avail. Last year’s bet, Antonia Figueroa, at least won the Social Impact award. This US-based stunner, unfortunately, may have replicated the missteps of the 2020 representative. She let her gown wear her instead.  

COLOMBIA – María Fernanda Aristazabál. Many were disheartened when this 2020 national titleholder lost her shot at competing due to a shift in franchise. Obviously, that’s history now. She entered New Orleans as part of the “Trinity” of crown-ables, along with Philippines and Venezuela. Dazzling as her preliminary performance was, however, it didn’t stop other favorites from emerging. Much as she’s still a shoo-in, her place in that “Trinity” might now be in dispute.

COSTA RICA – Maria Fernanda Rodriguez. It’s an amusing coincidence that Colombia and Costa Rica sent us namesakes again. This pretty civil engineer was a close shot in Miss Earth 2017, but is sure to face a greater struggle here. Also, that gown presentation may have been too gimmicky.

CURAÇAO – Gabriëla Dos Santos. It’s established that we’re witnessing this island’s Golden Age, so we’ll skip the roll call for now. This polyglot started as a slow burn favorite, with her Aruban counterpart given the upper hand. That changed by the turn of the year, when she started emanating a more winning glow. It almost didn’t matter that she mirrored Clemence Botino’s narrative and tested COVID-positive upon arrival. The quarantine didn’t last long. And upon recovering, she made every moment count and grew more and more into a contender by the day. Then came the preliminaries, where she confirmed every suspicion that she was the silent threat. That presentation was jaw-dropping. And let’s just say for now that Top Five beckons.   

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC – Andreína Martinez. Last year, COVID-19 ended her Israel before it even began. This year, she arrived in New Orleans destined to stand out and delivered a flawless preliminary performance. See, there are many ways to maximize second chances. Hers is slaying.

ECUADOR – Nayelhi González. It took 12 years for this country to send another candidate of color (and, before that, another 12). This social worker is a goddess with incredible fashion sense. It’s sad that she’ll need to fight for a slot, but that’s how the game works.  

EL SALVADOR – Alejandra Guajardo. This philanthropist is a solid performer who channels Amelia Vega but not expected to end the drought just yet.

GUATEMALA – Ivana Batchelor. Anyone who watched Miss Grand International 2020 will vouch for her gift of gab. There’s a reason she placed 2nd Runner-Up in that pageant, and that’s most probably the same reason she nailed her closed-door interview. There’s fighting chance, even if the competition overpowers more now.

HAITI – Mideline Phelizor. Three Miss Supranational alumna represented this country over the last four years, and she was the sole non-placer. Props to her, however, for giving a solid preliminary performance, even if she stands to be overshadowed.

HONDURAS – Rebeca Rodriguez. It’s impossible to write about this country’s Miss Universe journey without mentioning its drought: a staggering 67 years, as of this writing. With this brand ambassador donning the sash, her countrymen have never been so hopeful. And case in point: Don’t we normally associate those cheering horns from Colombian fans? So, could all that warrant an overdue second placement? It’s possible, but there will still be an element of struggle.

JAMAICA – Toshami Calvin. While Miss World clearly loves this island, the absolute stunners tend to be found here, albeit in intervals. This health science graduate belongs to that distinction, and likely secured her slot with her performance.   

MEXICO – Irma Cristina Miranda. Historically, whenever this country wins the contest, they’d miss the cut the following year. At first, this volunteer wasn’t unanimously expected to bring forth recovery from 2021’s non-placement. After that showstopping performance, however, it may be wise to reconsider her.

NICARAGUA – Norma Huembes. This operations management professional is competitive enough but stands to be overwhelmed by the Latina onslaught. It’s frustrating, considering the country placed just two years ago.

PANAMA – Solaris Barba. After Maeva Coucke and Anne Murielle Ravina, it’s her turn to try her luck here. She pulled a placement-worthy performance, as any Miss World 2018 Top 12 placer should. But with only 16 slots, she stands to follow the footsteps of her Mauritian batchmate.  

PARAGUAY – Lia Duarte Ashmore. This marketing professional has amazing form, but she will likely struggle replicating her Miss Grand International 2017 placement – and, much more, Nadia Ferreira’s.   

PERU – Alessia Rovegno. Guess we can as call it the Janick Maceta Effect, but the country sure is pinning its hopes on this Daisy Fuentes clone. Not that it’s unwarranted, because she has been serving looks, but there might have been stronger preliminary performances. Should she manage to live up to the hype, she ought to rally harder.

PUERTO RICO – Ashley Cariño. As last year’s Miss Florida USA, she had to settle for third place in nationals. Call it the proverbial blessing-in-disguise, but here she is wearing her homeland’s sash one year later. It’s a brilliant move, as she may equal or even surpass the placements of both her predecessor, Michelle Colon, and her Miss USA sister, Elle Smith.   

SAINT LUCIA – Sheris Paul. This techie has exotic charm but won’t likely score her island’s breakthrough. Come to think of it, none of the “Saint” islands ever have.

THE BAHAMAS – Angel J. Cartwright. Fine, so maybe adding “The” was an auspicious omen last year, but can they at least put them back to the B Group? This year’s candidate has the looks and the impressive credentials but lacks the same Carnival Spirit that brought forth Chantal O’Brian’s milestone.

TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO – Tya Jané Ramey. This multi-hyphenate has the credentials, as she was Miss World Caribbean 2019. Much as having Wendy Fitzwilliam in the panel might help, a similar feat might not be assured. Nevertheless, it would be great to see the twin islands compete again more often.

URUGUAY – Carla Romero. It’s sad that Osmel Sousa relinquished directorship before he could even make things happen for this country. As far as South America’s concerned, they’ve had the short end of the scepter recently. That status quo is expected to remain for now.

USA – R’Bonney Gabriel. Surely, the favoritism scandal that rocked her national crowning’s inconsequential by now. She’s proven herself not just worthy, but also fair. And as the first half-Pinay to wave the American flag in this contest, she’s definitely pulling out all stops. That daring magenta Rian Fernandez gown is sure to be the first of many surprises. So, can the tenth Texan Miss USA be the ninth American Miss Universe? Let’s wait and see. For now, it’s safe to say: there goes one Trinity member.

VENEZUELA – Amanda Dudamel. For a long-standing pageant powerhouse, it’s strange that this country has yet to win a crown this decade. Worse, they even missed the cut entirely at least once in three major pageants. Now, here comes their best shot at restoring those fortunes, and she also enters the race as part of the Trinity. One can’t turn a blind eye to this designer’s angelic face and bright persona, and just like her fellow designer, Miss USA, she looked divine in a potentially disastrous gown choice. Granted she delivers in those moments of reckoning, perhaps Venezuela could use the limelight again.

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