Much has been said about how hard it is to pick one winner from the tough field of 89 delegates vying for the Miss Universe 2011 crown. And I am one of them. But then again, the yearly celebration of the Most Beautiful Woman in the Universe will never pass without sharing my final list of Top 15 + 1 (Global Fan Vote) who are likely to be called on finals night which will be aired on Livestream and ABS-CBN and Star World in the Philippines.
I have reviewed the beauties not just once or twice. I already lost count of how many times I actually sat down in front of my laptop to look at all the photographs and to watch the countless videos made available for everyone around the world to see. I’m quite pleased at how the people in Sao Paulo and other pageant sites have made it easy to experience the whole thing for netizens without leaving home.
So without further ado, here is my final list of Top 15 for Miss Universe 2011 (by region this time around since this is rumored to be the method of announcement in tomorrow’s live finale’ plus that one lucky girl who just might clinch the global fan vote and become #16 on the list):
Miss China Zilin Luo has been getting a lion’s share of attention even before she landed in Sao Paulo. And the moment she started strutting her 6′ frame in the host city, everyone swarmed around this Oriental beauty. Talks abound that she is being groomed to win the crown. But with the constant lobbying of her pageant director, one preliminary judge – Alvaro Genaro – got the axe for meeting Miss China in person and even posing in pictures with her. Regardless, Roseline has unmistakable strengths to enter the semis on her own merits. And up to now, she is one of a few with practically guaranteed placements – be it Top 15 or higher. One nagging question, though. Why was her Evening Gown during Preliminaries so strikingly similar to that of Miss India?
Miss Malaysia Deborah Henry is her country’s most outstanding Miss Universe delegate after more than four decades of undistinguished participation. She went to Sao Paulo fully prepared for the competition – with the most stylish of wardrobes, the most regal of bearing and one of the most successful trainers in recent years, i.e., Ines Ligron. And boy, did she live up to all the pre-arrival hype. This beauty constantly wows whenever she steps into the spotlight. Her previous Miss World experience came into play as her web interview is probably the best this year. Too, she will never be caught off-guard, not especially in front of the cameras. Her performance during the preliminaries is a testament to all these.
Miss Philippines Shamcey Supsup is on the verge of approximating, if not exceeding, the Miss Universe performance of her predecessor – Venus Raj – who placed fifth in Las Vegas last year. From Day 1, she has been selected to attend several activities that were anything but mundane. The minute she flashed her ever-winsome smile (for Operation Smile), the Brazilians started warming up to her presence in a big way. She was one of 20 shortlisted for the media interviews and gained the adulation of Sao Paulo’s gay community after being named one of the 5 rampadoras at The Week’s special fashion show. During personal appearances, she is one of the most requested for photo ops. At this point, only her scores during the preliminaries (which she rocked, by the way) are in the way of making it to the Top 15. But all things being equal, she is rightfully deserving of a slot and I don’t think she will be ignored by the judges, sentimental nationalism aside.
Miss Angola Leila Lopes is the only African delegate I am putting in the Top 15 this year. Owing to a smaller number (only 7) of representatives from the continent, the conspicuous absence of ladies from Namibia, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Benin and Senegal weakened the selection even more. But I’m not putting in one just for token reasons. This tall, exotic beauty from Benguela is a stand-out stunner with balmy looks and delicate features that add up to winning qualities. She may not possess the bubbliest of personalities, but her presence is quietly divine and her personal style entrancing.
Reeling off the Europeans in my Top 15 is Miss Albania Xhesika Berberi. This enigmatic-looking lady is the exact opposite of her predecessor, Angela Martini, who is the epitome of sexiness. But don’t let that fool you into thinking that she is a so-so performer. In fact, she is everything but a weak contestant…a silent killer actually. She doesn’t hoard attention, but the moment she does, her captivating aura enthralls and doesn’t let go.
Miss Greece Iliana Papageorgiou is the supermodel who invaded the Miss Universe ramp with more sophistication than consciously limelight-hugging elan. The first week saw her with limited visibility. But thereafter, she began electrifying all pre-pageant appearances with a chic head-turning disposition. All her official photos in the website are consistently dazzling. And she translated this to full effect during the preliminaries where she owned the stage and gave one of the most fluid movements that shouldn’t get lost on the judges’ score buttons.
It is not very often when famous national celebrities represent their countries in the Miss Universe Pageant. Miss Kosovo Aferdita Dreshaj is one of them. Already a star, she has more to lose if she doesn’t make a clear mark in the competition. It could just be me, but her collective pre-preliminaries performance in Sao Paulo is lackluster. She is probably feeling stilted due to her celebrity status or just ill at ease outshining the rest in every twist and turn. Nontheless, the race to Top 15 won’t be complete without her in the field. She takes to the spotlight like second skin and her precious minutes of fame during the preliminaries were never wasted.
Gifted with one of the most beautiful faces in the competition, Miss Netherlands Kelly Weekers has been one hot Miss Universe 2011 property right from the start. And this doll can never be called dumb in any aspect whatsoever. She is, in fact, very smart and intelligent the moment she opens her mouth, and with the help of her academic credentials, she continues to express a level-headed mind that goes beyond physical beauty and other superficialities. If she is fated to do an Angela Visser, then the Dutch people can all rejoice in wild abandon. She is a real underdog at this point, if you ask me.
Her country is a perennial favorite of pageant owner Donald Trump, but Miss Ukraine Olesya Stefanko is not about to rely on that to shine in the finals. Her fresh face, tempered sensuality and vibrant ways contribute to a remarkable package that will make her effortlessly shine in a field of 89 contenders. The preliminaries became a showcase of all the good stuff she is made of. I don’t know with you, my dear readers, but I’d feel a bit flustered if she fails to crack the quarterfinals. This girl is, quite simply, a knockout!
From North America (including Central America & the Caribbean for Miss Universe grouping purposes)
The Caribbean has always been a good source of excellent Miss Universe performers, but instead of the usual countries that we see moving up the ladder in the finals, Miss Bahamas Anastagia Pierre is the gem of the scattered islands in my opinion. Her magnetic smile and captivating looks will never go unnoticed. And during the preliminaries, she delivered on the goods (inspite of a marginally tacky gown). She may not be on the upper tier in my list, but she is deemed a solid part of the quarterfinal cast.
At first, I didn’t pay much notice of Miss Panama Sheldry Saez (probably due to her tired look during arrivals), but in two weeks’ time, she grew on me in leaps and bounds. One minute, she evokes femme-fatale all over and then elegant & good-looking goddess the next. In swimsuit, she is a certified bombshell and in evening gown, a fashion plate. The one and only time a Panamanian technically won the title was when Oxana Fedorova of Russia was dethroned in 2002 and 1st Runner-Up Justine Pasek took over. In Sheldry, I can definitely see her booking a quarterfinal slot and confidently rising to the top to the delight of her countrymen. If she moves an inch away from the crown and takes a firm grab, then her victory would sit well with me. Should that happen, then Panama should consider hosting Miss Universe in 2012 instead of 2013.
Sash factor or not, Miss USA Alyssa Campanella is another shoo-in to the Top 15. Her gorgeous face sets an excellent benchmark for all the wannabes in 2011. One source of worry, though, is how she dramatically lost weight the past two weeks. Perhaps due to the pressure of the contest, she must have been eating a lot less (feasting on just salad and water) and exercising more. And that won’t augur well in the finals should she formally claim her quarterfinal position. In swimsuit, she is model-thin and not in a very pleasant-looking way. She can easily ace any Q&A, but she needs to score big-time in the first two rounds in order to reach the last 4 who will be given a chance to speak their minds out.
From South America
Her country may not be the best-performing South American nation in Miss Universe history, but Miss Argentina Natalia Rodriguez could just be what the doctor ordered to regain a dose of supremacy in the pageant. She is endowed with one of the most classic faces that true-blue missosologists can attest to as both queenly and ravishing. I can see a potential winner in her. Now if she can only translate the external belief into an internal boost that will carry her through the rest of the finals, then the Land of Pampas may have reasons to celebrate on September 12.
To some, Miss Peru Natalie Vertiz is already a Latina overload as she is the representation of all the tried-and-tested features that make Spanish-speaking senoritas a cut above the rest, year in and year out. But coming to the defense of this statuesque mujer hermosa, I will add that she has the exquisitely-moderated oomph and sizzle that do not make you feel full. Her looks and moves are highly-refined. Care has been given so as not to play up her styling to the max. The blend is right. She displayed this during the preliminaries, especially during the Evening Gown round. And her inclusion in my Top 15 is but a fitting reward.
It is a rare year when an Osmel Sousa ward fails to make the first cut in a major beauty competition. 2011 will be one of the usual. Miss Venezuela Vanessa Goncalves can very easily outclass her predecessor Marelisa Gibson who was shut out of the Top 15 in 2010. No secrets at all about the major, major cosmetic surgeries to perfect her looks. No regrets there because the results are nothing short of amazing. And not to be outdone, her body was similarly ‘sculpted’ to excellent effect. In jest, some may quip that her abs look photo-shopped in the flesh. But that’s as far as how some people would seal their disbelief. This vivacious and voluptuous vixen wants to blow away the competition. Will she add another grand-slam crown to her country’s collection? Your guess is as good as mine.
And who will get the hotly-contested Global Fan Vote? Well, since the Philippines is already in my Top 15, I reckon that the 16th slot will be a close toss between two ladies who are neck-to-neck in this regard.
Miss Nicaragua Adriana Dorn (L) and Miss Dominican Republic Dalia Fernandez will face-off for the last slot. And with good reasons. Both ladies are breathing down each other’s neck in the Telemundo voting, so it is logical to think that they will just be as active in pursuing the position in the Miss Universe website. But beware! Miss Thailand Chanyasorn Sakornchan might just spring a surprise this late in the game.
Whew! This is such a lengthy blog to finish. I shall take a much-needed breather first. As for my choices for the winner (or Top 4 if you will), a separate entry is in the offing.
In the meantime, I would love to read your choices. Feel free to post a reply.