People of varying fascinations – from intense to none at all – made their voices known in Inquirer Super’s first-ever democratic short list for Miss Universe.
The mechanics are simple. The perfect candidate gets 30 points, broken down into 10 points each for the swimsuit and evening gown events, and X factor.
To explain, we noted: “Swimsuit are katawan and lakad na dapat Victoria’s Secret; evening gown is elegance tsaka yung dapat dawn a glide onstage; X factor is your judgment sa mga tanong: ‘Mabait ba siya? Matalino ba? Bongga ba siya? May ibubuga ba siya?’” (You’ll notice that the scoring is not just for the preliminary contest but for, well, everything – because in the pageant world, everything matters.)
Of course, we didn’t think about the consequences of coming up with this listing. We didn’t expect to dog some of the survey takers and, to be fair to us, didn’t expect them to make us wait so long. We also didn’t expect to look like kids trying to relearn Microsoft Excel.
After checking and rechecking — and asking, “Sure ka na ba diyan? – here is our listing:
PHILIPPINES (27 points): BACK-TO-BACK?
The bashing didn’t kill her chances, apparently. Maxine Medina, 26, even got perfect scores from some of the survey participants. She showed off the body she worked so hard for and had dynamism (some would say a little too much). The fringe dress gave her hip movement extra oomph, the way it would dancers; and her bearing so elegant. No matter what we all say about her national costume, her aura said her head was just waiting for the Miss Universe crown.
VENEZUELA (27): BACH-TO-BACH
Only a few would call 21-year-old Mariam Habach the most beautiful in terms of the face, but it’s like she nailed everything else. Pageant insiders would easily give her the most beautiful walk and the most flawless skin. For a fact, the Venezuelan lady is given an intense regimen to get the perfect body. The evening-gown performance only proves that she is a go-getter, willing to do anything to stand out. It would be an added bonus for Miss Universe that she is among the most followed candidates on social media. Will the crown pass over from Wurtzbach to Habach?
BRAZIL (26.14): MISS U’S BEYONCE
We saw the Beyonce in Raissa Santana during the evening gown portion, even before the hosts revealed the pop icon was her idol. Brazilians are also notoriously sexy, too, although we would have wanted more pizzazz in this 21-year-old during the swimsuit portion. Her life story is a plus: The first Black representative for Brazil in three decades; bullied for being unconventional.
THAILAND (25.8): QUIET PRESENCE
Chalita Suansane, 22, is a quiet but strong presence at the competition. She doesn’t exactly give you the big smile you’d expect from a beauty queen, but she has the aura of a royalty. She became viral for her 17 pieces of luggage and her outfit upon arriving for the tilt (a Barong Tagalog). Although she might not be good in speaking English, her science background tells us she is a sharp lady. After sending Aniporn Chalermburanawong in the last edition, here’s another one that’s definitely in contention.
INDONESIA (24.8): PAST SWIMSUIT ROUND THIS TIME?
This 25-year-old’s height has made her noticeable even during the press launch, given she’s from Southeast Asia and that isn’t really our feature in this region. Kezia Warouw then got an extra push with her tan and the training from Aces & Queens. If she does make it to the Top 6, Indonesia makes it to through the cut for the fourth straight year and goes beyond the swimsuit contest, where all three before her were eliminated.
COLOMBIA (24.52): SWEET REVENGE
The moment she won the right to represent Colombia, this 23-year-old soared to the top of everyone’s list of favorites. To clinch the national crown, she impressed audiences with her presence. Colombia had to send one to avenge the loss of Ariadna Guttierez and Andrea Tovar was, to some, even better than her predecessor. With all eyes on her, though, people also saw a diva. It’s not necessarily a bad thing – she’s commanding onstage, even when she wore an unflattering gown at prelims. The attitude has given her some bad publicity, though.
FRANCE (24.32): UNDER THE RADAR
Iris Mittenaere went under our radar, until we saw her in action. Seeing her in person, we were swept away by the pretty face and the sexy body. She can also walk. Her performance at the prelims only emphasized these strengths – we cannot forget her performance in that yellow gown. We wonder what extreme sports this 24-year-old girl plays.
SINGAPORE (23.8): SG’S THIRD FINALIST?
Only two times has the city-state of Singapore place in Miss Universe, the last being in 1987, the year they hosted. However, 20-year-old Cheryl Chou, among the strongest oriental beauties this year, can break the 30-year-drought. A large majority of those who took the survey gave her a near-perfect score. Her performances show that she is determined to place.
ARGENTINA (23.74): A FACE TO REMEMBER
Estefania Bernal, 21, is one of the most beautiful candidates in the contest, and she has the same aura as last year’s first runner-up. Her face is so mesmerizing, whether she be doing an ugly-pretty face or a smile. Her background in modelling and her course – Media Communication – suggest she can pose for the cameras and is a people person, two things Miss Universe puts a premium on.
SPAIN (23.7): VIVA!
This 24-year-old’s long neck convinced many, including our participants, go “Viva Espana!” Noelia Freire definitely exuded confidence in the prelims. It’s like everything she did onstage, she’d been planning for a long time. When Pia said she wanted to go from hair dresser to police, we went wow. Her bipolar hobbies — puzzles and badminton – also tell us she’s a fun person to be with.
AUSTRALIA (23.66): A LITTLE MORE ATTITUDE
Her picture in the contestant profiles tells you this 23-year-old can be a chameleon. We didn’t see the fierceness she had in that photo during the preliminaries. We saw Caris Tiivel as a sweet girl with the cute, girl-next-door smile. Australia usually sends delegates with that quality, and it’s always a given that they are beautiful and in top shape. A little more attitude on coronation night and she can be better.
GEORGIA (23.2): STRONG AT THE RIGHT TIME
This woman peaked at the right time. The hair pushed back, the makeup, they all helped her stand out, even if Georgia isn’t really a Miss Universe powerhouse and she was right after France. Nuka Karalashvili, 25, is in public relations and has been on her country’s “Dancing with the Stars,” so we’re guessing she knows how to deal with people.
VIETNAM (23.2): AN AVENGER
Everybody thought that Vietnam’s Huong Pham was a shoo-in for the finals last year; that she was an even stronger Asian candidate than Pia. For some reason, though, she was shut out of the Top 15, to the shock of many. This year, our neighbor sent another sweet girl to the contest, and she’s so hard to criticize because, ugh, look at that face. Life would have been much easier if she wasn’t next to Venezuela, but she did well nonetheless.