It’s the Sin City’s fourth time to host the Miss Universe pageant, and the Philippines shines brighter than ever with a colorful record of stellar involvement in the pageant. As fans exchange predictions on who should succeed Leila Lopes, SUPER shares its own list.
For months this year, the Miss Universe Organization created anxiety and worry for legions of fans with their extremely late pageant date. While the pageant traditionally held its finals in July, coinciding with summer, it was shifted to May in the late ’80s until the early 2000s and brought back to July in 2008, moved to August in 2009 and 2010, and finally brought to September last year.
It’s the very first time the pageant chose December for its annual spectacle. Despite this scheduling challenge for most national pageant organizations, 89 of the world’s most beautiful women—a record number for Las Vegas—still arrived last week for roughly three weeks of activities leading on to the crowning of the new queen.
Filipinos shine again
The Philippines is enjoying its fourth opportunity for worldwide exposure in Las Vegas. Since the city first hosted the pageant in 1991, Filipinos have been in the spotlight. Singer/actress Kuh Ledesma was invited to join the judging panel that year, even ending up asking a question during the final six interview.
In 1996, the country failed to place in the semifinals, but our representative, Aileen Damiles, captured the first ever Miss Photogenic award by way of Internet voting. The third time was in 2010, still fresh in our hearts and memory, when Venus Raj’s almost no-show in the pageant met widespread debates—only to end in rejoicing for fans over her Top 5 finish.
It was also the year the country received affirmation for its rabid love for pageants. The Viral Four, consisting of fashion designers Veejay Floresca, Martin Bautista, and sales/marketing executives Lex Librea and Aleq Africa catapulted Filipinos to universal fame with their four-minute YouTube video showing their priceless reaction to Raj’s inclusion in the semi-finals.
For 2012, last year’s third runner-up, Shamcey Supsup, has been invited to host “On the Scene,” behind-the-scenes coverage for the pageant, set to air on the Miss Universe YouTube channel.
And prior to that, our representative Janine Tugonon created media buzz with an appearance during boxer Manny Pacquiao’s press conference with Mexican contender Juan Manuel Marquez, days before their December 8 bout.
Who’s on our SUPER Hot List?
This year’s Miss Universe pageant, like that of any other year, lists a number of surprises.
It is considered a banner year for contestants of multiple racial origins. We have Miss Belgium Laura Beyne, who is half-Congolese; Miss Canada Adwoa Yahmoah, who is half-Ghanaian; Miss Finland Sara Chafak, who is half-Morrocan; Miss Germany Alicia Endemann, who is half-French; Miss Malaysia Kimberley Leggett, who is half-British; Miss Panama Stephanie Vander Werf, who is part-Dutch; Miss Paraguay Egni Eckert, who is part-German; Miss Puerto Rico Bödine Koehler, who is part-Dominican and part-Dutch; Miss Switzerland Alina Buchschacher, who is half-Trinidadian; Miss Thailand Farida Waller, who is half-Austrian; Miss Spain Andrea Huisgen, who is half-Dutch; and Miss USA Olivia Culpo, who is part Italian and part Irish. Truly, it is a global year for the pageant.
Powerhouses USA, Venezuela, Colombia, South Africa and the Philippines have again established their domination over pageant forum discussions. Like any other year, there are quite a number of dark horses set to shine in their own ways. Asia and Europe have strong contingents in the pageant’s 61st edition. As of this writing, the preliminaries have yet to take place. Nevertheless, here are our top picks (in random order) for this year’s pageant:
Croatia’s Elizabeta Burg’s Hollywood-esque looks—a Rachel Weisz look-alike—affirms her win during her local pageant in April. Will she win again on Dec. 19?
Malaysia is once again sending a strong contender in the person of Kimberley Leggett, who was crowned soon after last year’s Miss Universe pageant was concluded.
South Africa’s Melinda Bam had exactly a year to prepare—and it strongly reflects on her powerful interview video and stunning packaging.
Ranae Ayris was a surprise favorite during Miss Universe Australia, and her stellar presence is proving it. She reminds us of Miss Universe 1989 Angela Visser with her locks.
Ethiopia’s Helen Getachew is one of this year’s pleasant surprises with her striking consistency. Her exotic looks might just earn her country its second semifinals placement after six years.
France’s Marie Payet is bringing her native Reunion to the global stage with her representation of France. Though she was only a runner-up, she was sent after the original winner declined to compete in Las Vegas. She is expected to continue the French winning streak.
Chile’s Ana Luisa König’s participation brings back her country to the Miss Universe map after a long absence. It’s been eight years since there had been a Chilean semifinalist.
USA’s Olivia Culpo, 20, is one of this year’s youngest candidates. At 5’5”, she is also one of the shortest. But it was her sharp wit that won for her the Miss USA crown. We expect her to ace interviews.
Mexico’s Karina Gonzalez, like most other contestants, had more than a year to prepare. While her countryman boxer Juan Manuel Marquez’s win might give her chances a boost, we are looking forward to her national costume.
Tanzania’s Winfrida Dominic’s unconventional looks set the standard for African beauty, but it is her elegance that captures the eye. Will she be her country’s great follow-up to their great showing in 2007?
Germany’s Alicia Endemann was handpicked just a month before the pageant. But her alluring looks and modeling experience might just make her Germany’s second Miss Universe.
PSY and his hit “Gangnam Style” are not Korea’s only greatest exports to the world as of late. Sung-hye Lee and her consistency are doing wonders for her country, too.
No year is complete without a helping from Colombia, a dynamic powerhouse. This year, Daniella Alvarez takes the reins in the lucrative quest for her country’s elusive second Miss Universe crown.
Georgia Tamar Shedania’s beautiful face and stance make her the ultimate dark horse and Trump pick for this year. Her fashion sense is hard to ignore.
Finland’s Sara Chafak is half-Moroccan. And let’s not forget, Finland’s last semifinalist and runner-up was half-Nigerian. Sara’s makeover is considered one of the most remarkable in Finnish pageant history.
The Czech Republic recently won in the Miss Earth pageant. Also named Tereza, this year’s Czech delegate has all it takes to double her country’s feat.
Haiti’s Christela Jacques is her country’s third representative since 2010. With an evening gown worthy of a red carpet appearance, she can just make it far—and big.
Switzerland’s half-Trinidadian Alina Buchschacher is not the first biracial Swiss beauty to compete in Miss Universe. But her polished looks and classic elegance might make her the first Swiss winner.
Venezuela never sends an unprepared contestant. Irene Esser is the epitome of preparedness. Her strong consistency in photos, videos and articulation makes her one of those to beat this year. She could be a runaway winner, according to critics.
The Philippines’ Janine Mari Raymundo Tugonon was sent on a clear mission—to win our country’s third Miss Universe crown. Though pressure may be greatest on her, she comes prepared with her flawless figure with a new asset to boot—her “cobra walk.”