So who will succeed Miss Universe Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach and be crowned the 65th? I have trimmed down the ladies to just six (6) contenders who have the biggest potentials of making it on top – Miss Philippines Maxine Medina, Miss Venezuela Mariam Habach, Miss Colombia Andrea Tovar, Miss Thailand Chalita Suansane, Miss Brazil Raissa Santana and Miss Australia Caris Tiivel.
Much as I would want to wish (or push) for a first-time country winner like Marina Jacoby of Nicaragua, the cast of front-runners has come to a list of six where the usual suspects are part of the mix. Just when I thought at the onset that achieving a back-to-back win is close to impossible, the chances of Miss Philippines Maxine Medina in defeating all odds are gaining clarity by the day. The Preliminary Competition established the host delegate as one of two (2) clear leaders. And her closed-door interview – regardless of how the bashers have been constantly hammering on her communication skills – went very well, light and breezy in fact. Confirmation of the use of an interpreter for the finals is an added spotlight that upped the noise on her candidacy even more. It cannot be ignored that she is in the zone now more than ever. This is the scenario I am sensing. Otherwise, it is likely that the crown will be returned to… Venezuela. Mariam Habach Santucci is prepared to assume the responsibility if the judges will see her fit to be crowned as the big winner. She may not have the most beautiful face in the Universe, but she has the most well-thought-of preparation for the competition. Her turns during the Preliminary Competition was just the latest preview of bigger things to come from this Latina. And her constantly-seen and felt closeness with Miss Philippines is a plan that seems to have really worked to her advantage as well. After this duo, the next lady-in-waiting is already a wee bit distant third, and she is from… Colombia. Andrea Tovar arrived in Manila, armed with the determination to make up for the unfortunate fate that befell her compatriot Ariadna Gutierrez during the last edition. But the hype about her diva attitude lasted only for a day or two because her true color started to show to all media partners. She is not the difficult lady to deal with, as previous online talks established her to be. Hers is the type of personality that is both serious and delightful. She can be very gay one moment, and can turn serious and attentive the next. She takes each day of the competition as one big judging moment towards being hopefully found by organizers most deserving (or worth recommending) to become the 65th. She fell a notch or two short of expectations during the Preliminary Competition, but you cannot deny the electric presence that this beauty has in every public appearance that she makes. She remains in the thick of the fight, like it or not. Next to her, another Asian makes up the top field for me, and she represents… Thailand. Chalita Suansane (or “Chaling” to her countrymen) has managed to sustain the bid in her mission for the Land of Smiles. True, she is not the best English-speaker among the contestants. It is also the quality that leaves some believers doubting on whether she has what it takes to bring her bid to greater heights. But believe me, she knows how to play the game – from the now popular aura selfies to the 17 luggages to her consistency in presenting herself as a classy and unforgettable rep all the way to the charm she displays to everyone who gets the opportunity to engage in small talks and the like. She has the winner mode sewn all over. I am hoping that a respectable assessment of her closed-door interview will add up to her solid presentations in swimsuit and evening gown. Otherwise, she might have to take a step down and give her spot to… Brazil. Raissa Santana was one of the first to arrive in Manila, and since then, she has accumulated a battalion of supporters who have placed faith in her beauty and ability to win the top prize. She moves and attracts with utter delight, not to mention the concensus of some media colleagues and backstage hands that her warmth and friendliness are genuine. She is in it win it, but without losing sight of the enjoyment and a gamely attitude to take everything in with an open mind amd heart. She is followed in the magic circle of six by… Australia. Caris Tiivel is always in the picture. She neither lagged behind significantly nor did she zoom like a shooting star every chance she gets. She knows that Australian candidates are almost always favored for the relaxed disposition and spontaneous vibe that they emanate. And this Aussie stunner is no exception. She glows with an effortless stance, and takes your hand for a ride along with the goal of becoming her country’s 3rd Miss Universe titleholder.
Will my Top 6 prevail, or will they cave in to the other six (6) delegates below?In the lower half of my Top 12 are three ladies who wear sashes of countries that have never won Miss Universe yet. They are Marina Jacoby of Nicaragua (who has grown by leaps and bounds in front of my eyes), Kezia Warouw of Indonesia (who has always been caught in the crossfire of online criticisms due to her countrymen’s boundless support for a victorious bid) and Hawa Kamara of Sierra Leone (her country’s very first entry to Miss Universe and a very worthwhile representative at that). I am not saying in finality that none of the three will make it farther up in the finals. But in the actual unraveling of events – and if they do indeed enter the anointed dozen – these three ladies will give it their ultimate best to maintain their positioning and hopefully improve in the judges’ scores to steal the limelight from one of the Top 6 players. The other three in the lower half of my Top 12 are expected standouts who also delivered during the Preliminary Competition. Miss Spain Noelia Freire (the classy Señorita who – stand alone – is a true potential winner in the making), Miss Mexico Kristal Silva (who started to really convince me of her chances only after the Preliminaries) and Miss Dominican Republic Sal Garcia (the statuesque and warm-hearted girl from the Carribean whose overall quality screams “winner” every single time she is around). I have no problems with any one of the three slipping into the upper half if their individual performances in the first cut will merit a higher placement.
And so, after being announced that a Top 13 will be called during the Finals (with the 13th spot being the judges’ choice), I am very willingly giving that position to the same lady who holds the rank in my assessment – Deshauna Barber of the USA. Her sash factor will work like a charm, especially that the eventual winner will be her roommate in New York City. I can really see her being called by Steve Harvey. I did not include her in my first 12 anymore because I have concluded that there are better representatives than her in all aspects.
And just to complete a Top 15, allow me to include Johanna Acs of Germany and Iris Mittenaere of France. I reckon that there might be a need for at least one more European lass in the first cut. And either of the German or French ladies should fit in nicely if a a second slot has to be allocated to the region. Both of them stood their ground behind the first 12 + thirteenth mentioned above, and not by a far margin.
And so, my task is complete. I’m all for a back-to-back over a back-to-Venezuela climax on Monday. I will be rooting for Miss Philippines Maxine Medina inside the MOA Arena till my throat hurts from endless screaming and cheering. She is my 65th Miss Universe. And she will take our breath away, with or without an interpreter.