A record number of delegates was initially expected to participate in this year’s Miss International pageant, happening once again in Tokyo Dome City Hall. But a number of no-shows led to a considerable attrition, thus whittling down the final roster to 69 (same as last year).
A run-through of the benched beauties: The devastating effects of Hurricanes Irma and Maria left Puerto Rico‘s Beverly Rodriguez with no time to prepare for the pageant, so she had to withhold her participation for next year. Argentina‘s Belen Garro is still listed as a delegate a number of sites, but was never seen in photos. Ditto for Germany‘s Victoria Selianov, who is said to be busy with her studies. The most high-profile dropout this year, however, would have to be Denmark‘s Natalie Volstedlund. She had already posted photos of herself during the initial activities, but she was sent home after a couple of days due to a reported nervous breakdown. She is now the second Danish delegate within four years to withdrew after pageant kick-off.
Then, there was also one near-dropout. Potentially contagious health issues plagued an Asian contestant upon her arrival. Fortunately, she recovered just in time to rejoin the activities. More on her, and her condition, later.
Here’s our review of the first group:
Australia – Amber Dew
It feels rather strange that she’s the only representative from an “A” country this year. This 21-year-old marketing student is more photogenic than last year’s surprise 1st runner-up. That’s not necessarily a guarantee that she’ll fare better, but we’re not counting her out as a potential upset.
Belarus – Polina Pimakhina
She was a Top 10 finalist in Miss Supranational 2016, where her highlight was doing an onstage cartwheel in the activewear round. Here, she was nowhere to be found during the initial activities. Her late arrival could cost her.
Belgium – Virginie Philippot
This year’s candidate is of Congolese descent. Everyone knows that this pageant has a love-hate relationship with girls of African lineage. Best she can hope for is a creditable performance.
Bolivia – Carla Maldonado
This interior design student projects well but isn’t expected to end her country’s 13-year drought.
Brazil – Bruna Zanardo
She abdicated her position as Miss Earth-Fire 2016 for a shot at Miss Universe Brazil, but couldn’t make it past state level. It’s great to know that she’s given another shot at a global title and , though she shouldn’t take this second wind lately. As it is, there are already at least three other strong Latinas battling to sustain their hype.
Cambodia – Nheat Sophea
One of three nations making their debut this year; her soft facial features tend to be catnip for Japanese judges. Whether or not they’d be willing to gamble on her remains unclear.
Canada – Marta Magdalena Stepien
Placements in this pageant are rare for Maple Land, but this girl is a worthy follow-up to last year’s semi-finalist, so she should be recognized accordingly.
Chile – Estefania Galeota
Chile’s participation in this pageant had been sporadic since its last placement in 2007. The fact that this girl hasn’t figured much in social media posts over the past weeks says something.
China – Jia Shi
A Chinese candidate of her caliber would have been a shoo-in in 2008-2011, when the pageant was held in China and/or one of its SARs. This year, she can at least be credited for taking her country back to the right direction in this pageant.
Colombia – Vanessa Pulgarin
Right now, it’s a tight, three-way race among three Latinas whose respective countries have an impressive track record in this pageant. This Señorita Colombia runner-up hopes to add a fourth crown to hers, and it’s highly possible.
Cook Islands – Silas Tuaputa
This Kiwi territory has been enjoying a resurgence in pageants lately, with their Miss World placement last year and Miss Earth talent medal last month. It’s nice to see them debuting in this pageant. This candidate’s a long shot, but it looks like she’s having the time of her life.
Costa Rica – Paola Chacon
Costa Ricans tend to cross over a lot in pageants and this girl has made her rounds. Her experience serves her well, but with the presence of other strong Latinas, she’ll likely duplicate her Miss Supranational showing.
Curaçao – Chanelle de Lau
You might remember her show-stealing performance in the 65th Miss Universe pageant held in Manila earlier this year. She’s an onstage dynamo with strong communication skills to boot, and if Miss International continues to step forward in rewarding women of color, this could finally be her time to shine.
Czech Republic – Alice Cincurova
This country last saw action here in 2010, and since this pageant is known for shock placements every now and then, this girl could potentially be on the receiving end.
Dominican Republic – Jennifer Valdez
She’s got a radiant smile, but we’ve seen more competitive candidates from her country.
Ecuador – Jocelyn Mieles
She’s not of the same wattage as her country’s 2011 titleholder, but she’s extremely photogenic and not to be counted out.
El Salvador – Fatima Magandi
She is arguably prettier than her predecessor who became her country’s first Miss International semi-finalist and her Miss World counterpart is currently making waves. These could earn her extra attention, but a consecutive placement is not set in stone.
Ethiopia – Bamiak Dereje
Her mass of curls gives her extra notice, but it’s doubtful that she’ll continue Eunice Onyango‘s* momentum.
* The Kenyan who finished 2nd Runner-Up in 2015; the best placement yet by a black African in this pageant
Finland – Pihla Koivuniemi
The Scandinavian contingent’s a competitive bunch this year and Miss International is the only global pageant that still rewards this country generously nowadays. Her classic Nordic looks could potentially appeal to Japanese judges.
France – Maeva Balan
Her country is the origin of the term “joie d’vivre“, and she sure looks like one. Profitez du Japon!
Ghana – Abigail Martey
The Gold Coast marks its sophomore year in the pageant with a very tall and fashionable candidate, but might befall the same fate as Ethiopia.
Gibraltar – Tessa Britto
She’s an above average representative with lovely eyes and a sweet, girl-next-door vibe; probably the most photogenic girl ever sent by her tiny British territory here so far.
Guadeloupe – Clotilde Stressais
This French-governed Caribbean island scored a shock placement back in 2006. This candidate lacks the polish and presence to pull the same feat.
Guatemala – Ana Lucia Villagran
This Central American country won in 1984 and last placed in 1993. The drought won’t likely end this year.