The Miss Universe Preliminary Competition was filled with pleasant surprises. It was indeed the game-changer which has entirely shaken my initial top favorites for the crown. There were a couple of front-runners who slid down to my list, there were some who surprisingly rose to the top of the leader-board and only a few have managed to maintain their momentum leading to the finals on Monday (January 30, 2017 at 8:00AM, Philippines time). I have classified my hotpicks into three: The Crownables, The Elites and The Shakers. Now let's take a closer look.
Venezuela (Mariam Habach) was the show-stopper of the night! The evening gown was strategically-fabulous and her stage presence was strong that it almost hide her not-so-gorgeous facial beauty. Brazil (Raissa Santana) delivered well, but not what I have expected. However, it couldn't be denied that among the women of color this year, Raissa has the edge in terms of overall presence and beauty. Ukraine looked so sophisticated and expensive while strutting in that red haute coutoure ensemble. I just loved how Alena was styled here - modest yet glamorous! On the other hand, my gut feel is telling me that Philippines, Aruba and Nicaragua will be the trio of beauties who will be fighting tooth and nail for the crown. 'Til that crown is not yet on anyone's head, it is still anybody's ballgame and Philippines is poised again to achieve another win. However, Aruba and Nicaragua might stop the Philippines' bid to win the coveted title again this year. Aruba's aura is so reminiscent with the Venezuelan beauty queen Minorka Mercado while Nicaragua's beauty simply radiates on stage! It all boils down to the final question-and-answer portion and the final look. The girl with the 'weightiest' response will definitely win!
The Elites. These are the contenders who are poised to place high in the finals: Spain (Noelia Freire), Panama (Keity Drennan), Thailand (Chalita Suansane), France (Iris Mittenaere), Curacao (Chanelle de Lau) and Argentina (Estefania Bernal).
There were a lot of surprises from this group. France, Curacao, Spain and Panama who were initially overshadowed by the other contenders during the first few weeks of the competition, have leveled up their respective performances and were able to pull off some pleasant revelations during the Preliminary Competition. France and Panama were a picture of elegance in both segments while Argentina was divine in her evening gown presentation. Spain was able to bounce back and proved that she can be a strong contender for the crown. She was looking radiant and beautiful in both rounds. Thailand figured strongly in the preliminaries. Body-to-hip ratio was almost to perfection. She was mesmerizing with her hour-glass frame and looked like a royalty in her evening gown. Some critics said, that the gown was over-the-top and too pageant-patty but one can't deny that it helped her stole the limelight. The only obstacle that Thailand needs to overcome is the interview portion where it rakes a greater percentage in the total tally.
The Shakers. The beauties who are poised to steal the thunder from this edition's perennial front-runners: The Netherlands (Zoey Ivory), Mexico (Kristal Silva), Dominican Republic (Rosalba Garcias), Turkey (Tansu Sila Cakir), Australia (Caris Tiivel) and USA (Deshauna Barber).
I was rooting initially for Australia and Turkey for the top plum but they gradually faded during the preliminaries. As what I have mentioned in my previous post, they needed further polishing in their presentation since it was a bit tacky and uninspired. USA was also a letdown. As expected her presence was outshone by the other contenders. Deshauna basically is lacking in the physical beauty department but I have a strong feeling that she will place given her background in the US military that translates to being an 'empowered woman'. Women empowerment is said to be the theme of this year's Miss Universe edition. Deshauna is also very articulate and given that the interview has a larger chunk in selecting the finalists, it is most likely that we could see this black beauty on top. The Netherlands, Mexico and Dominican Republic were shining through during both segments of the preliminary competition - regal, classy and worthy of a Top 12 spot.
N.B. As per reliable sources, the preliminary closed-door interview is 60 percent, and both the evening gown and the swimwear presentations only comprised a percentage of 40 percent (20 percent each). Meaning to say, most of the front-runners this year who are weak in the public speaking skills may not be able to penetrate through the Top 12. (Top 13 is reportedly reserved for the 'popular vote'). Let's see on Monday!