My Predictions for Top 16 (plus 5 spoilers)
I am no card player. It’s just not my thing. But since Las Vegas is the host city of Miss Universe 2012, I decided to play along and present my predictions in a slate of different card hands. Royal Flush, of course, is the best combination, followed by a Straight Flush. From there, I skipped to a plain Straight with five spoilers making up my Full House. No deck of cards is complete without a Joker, so I assigned the online voting winner to the same, with no intentions at all of tagging it as a joke.
Will Irene or Melinda be celebrating a victory party in the wee hours of December 20?
This hand is the hardest to accomplish because I’m practically playing for all the marbles here. Irene, Elizabeta, Bodine, Melinda and Janine are five of the most hyped but with good reasons at that. Some people might question the inclusion of Miss Philippines in this top-tier line-up. Why not? She has been a consistent performer since Day 1. The much-maligned evening gown is not attributable to her since she worked the same very well. Her face may not launch a thousand ships, but the uniqueness of her overall appearance is something that shouldn’t escape the eyes of well-meaninged judges. Irene and Bodine are also not free from less-than-nice comments, though not as played up noisily. These two babes tend to go for the jugular everytime, and the excesses in their actions can be interpreted as overkill. How about the high-strung-projecting Melinda? She is beautiful and sophisticated, but far from perfect. Hers is the profile with tell-tale signs of a stilted queen – less than reachable with a victory possibly going up to her head in no time at all. And Croatia? She with the classically sculpted facial features all wrapped up in the body of a teenager. I can see her with the Diamond Nexus crown, and with the full blessings of Donald Trump. But can she really be a wonderful (and level-headed) Miss Universe? Nobody is flawless. These five, however, come close to my idea of a winner, give or take a couple of shortcomings.
Will Gabriela dig her way to the Top 5?
Make no mistake, the ladies in my second group of five are no pushovers. I can also add that any one (or two) of among them can easily replace one (or two) of the forecasts above. Gabriela and Carolina, in particular, can very quickly snatch a Top 5 slot if the leaders start lagging behind during the finals. Now, with Karina, she obviously has at least two allies in the panel of judges even before the finals start. Now, is that fair? No. But do any of us have the power to assemble a more objective board? No. So let’s just hope that each one of them go on country-blind mode right this instant. Interestingly for Asia, Ayako Hara is the other regional bet I can see zooming in well on finals night. She has this underlying samurai disposition that equips her with the talent to shine with sharp projection and outlast candidates standing in her way. I see less of Riyo Mori in her, but an Akiko Kojima (the first MU from Japan) is somehow evident in her style. Lastly, there is Diana. Kosovo has had a more than respectable track record in the pageant the last few years. Beauty-wise, she won Miss Photogenic on her own merits and not through voting. And need I remind everyone that she fits the apple of Trump’s eyes very well?
Has Miss USA been a good host delegate?
A straight hand is one of the weaker plays in a game of poker. It can only beat a pair, two pairs or three of a kind. But still, it can do well with a dash of good luck on the side. The 11th-15th places are the trickiest to come up with predictions for because practically anyone can surprise by being included here during the finals. In the end, I opted for the host delegate, another strong contender from the Carribbean, a pair of European standouts and the Malaysian entry. Olivia may not be the most visible online (or most congenial in the flesh) among the 89, but she has surely made her mark as well as one of the most articulate, if not the prettiest. She’ll be there in the Top 16 alright. As for Lindsay, her performance this year should be a source of pride for Cayman Islands, its strongest delegate to MU so far. And France? Marie gave a lasting impression during the preliminaries. She should’ve earned good scores to guarantee her place in the semis, just like Tereza who initially held strong to the top of the heap, but turned lukewarm (albeit still commanding) of late. Finally, Kimberley enters the picture. And what a way for this Asean regular to get its due recognition with a lovely young lass who – inspite of looking less of a Malay/Chinese and more of a Caucasian – has shown competitiveness to the highest level.
Winning the online voting is definitely no joke. It doesn’t work on just one’s own efforts, but with the united support of many. So as the Joker, Miss Thailand Farida Waller is someone who can always take the place of anyone in the Top 15 (or Top 10 like last year’s Laura Goncalves). Her legion of fans and followers cannot be taken for granted, as proven by the Land of Smiles in the past. By the way, Vietnam and the Philippines are also strong vote gatherers who are likely to keep this communal honor.
Take your pick: Tereza or Elizabeta?
Will Finland be this year’s sleeper hit?
I went with the term ‘Full House’ to imply that my cut-off mark for predictions stops here. And boy, is this a very strong set of spoilers for the Top 15. It doesn’t get any better than this for the 2012 batch. The quartet of Georgia, Poland, Australia and Paraguay alone is enough to scare the front-runners. So one unguarded moment can always lead to shifts in placement. In my opinion, Tamar and Renae are the likeliest to replace any two of my forecasted ladies above. And as if their presence is not enough, here comes the Finnish entrant who wowed during the preliminaries. Sara Chafak is one sleeper who might turn into a slayer if she advances during the live proceedings.
I am upping my ante for either Miss Croatia Elizabeta Burg (top pick) or Miss South Africa Melinda Bam (second pick) to win Miss Universe 2012. Things have been gradually going their way for two weeks now, especially for the former. Inversely, I’m just feeling that either Miss Venezuela Irene Esser or Miss Puerto Rico Bodine Koehler may have already whetted the appetite of everyone to the point of satiety. It appears to me that there would no longer be global excitement in seeing them take the title. As for Miss Philippines, I can see her making Top 5, but no more than the runner-up positions of Venus Raj or Shamcey Supsup (crowd clamor notwithstanding) based significantly on the line-up of final telecast judges. If they prove me wrong and she places higher, then I would be the most thrilled. Darkest horses for me are Kosovo and Czech Republic. Longshots, on the other hand, are Georgia and Finland.
Isn’t it obvious? I want a European (or a Filipina) to win for 2012.
Okay, time to lay your cards down. Let me see your hands.