Albania – Blerta Leka
This Red Cross volunteer registers as a tad more mature than her 19 years, but is attractive enough to make an impression. In what can be considered as a competitive year for her region, her key to being noticed is being alphabetically first. But bear in mind: that has its pros and cons.
Angola – Lauriela Martins
In terms of overall packaging, this architecture student channels a sweeter version of Micaela Reis, the Angolan who attained her country’s then-highest finish 10 years ago. Her neighbor from her continent’s southern tip may be receiving all the praises as of this writing, but this underrated fresh-faced beauty can be next in line.
Argentina – Stefanía Incandela
Other Latin American countries tend to be top of mind lately, but the Land of Tango is steadily regaining its leverage. This public relations graduate is well-prepared and showcased great energy during the preliminaries. With reports of questionable behavior plaguing her heavily-hyped Latina counterparts left and right, she could be a worthy alternate.
Aruba – Alina Mansur
This Miami-born polyglot delivered a creditable preliminary performance and is actually stronger than the usual Caribbean suspects. Fun fact: The One Happy Island’s best and last placement happened in Vegas.
Australia – Olivia Rogers
It was initially assumed that this speech pathologist from Adelaide would help her country recover from missing the cut last year. But after her safe swimsuit performance and a rather dowdy gown choice, her prospects are now less than certain. A strong interview might still salvage her chances.
Austria – Celine Schrenk
Her surname sounds native to her country but her complexion is intriguingly duskier than the usual Austrian candidate. She actually delivered a solid preliminary performance, but will that be enough for her to outdo her more-favored neighbors?
Bahamas – Yasmine Cooke
She’s a medical student, which is exactly the kind of background IMG is looking for nowadays. Without that, she’d be regarded as middle-of-the-pack.
Barbados- Lesley Chapman-Andrews
Much as her luxurious curls give her a distinctive look, it’s unlikely that she’ll avenge her worthy predecessor’s non-placement.
Belgium- Liesbeth Claus
She was the 1st Runner-Up in her national pageant but she’s actually more photogenic than the winner, who was sent to Miss World. Just like other previous Belgian delegates, though, her downfall is her evening gown.
Bolivia- Gleisy Noguer
Her official Miss Universe bio erroneously lists her height as 6’4. In truth, she doesn’t really stand head and shoulders above her rivals. The same can be said about her standing in the South American group.
Brazil – Monalysa Alcântara
A woman-of-color succeeding her Brazil’s first titleholder-of-color since 1986 feels like making up for lost time, and we appreciate that. After her middling preliminary performance, though, we’re beginning to doubt if she can follow through with what Raissa Santana began, and moreover, sustain her country’s six-year streak.
British Virgin Islands – Khephra Sylvester
Her Miss World counterpart, Helina Hawlett, gained impressive mileage from her Fast Track challenges. In Miss Universe, they don’t do Fast Track challenges. This candidate won’t benefit from such brownie points.
Bulgaria – Nikoleta Todorova
To her credit, she vaguely looked like Iris Mittanaere in her evening gown presentation. Overall though, she exhibited the same lack of competitive drive seen in Bulgarian candidates of yore. When oh when will this country ever catch a break?
Cambodia – Sotheary By
She’s been modeling for five years and the experience shows, but she is clearly overshadowed by her next-door neighbors from Thailand and Vietnam. Being her country’s first-ever Miss Universe contestant is already cause for celebration in itself.
Canada – Lauren Howe
It’s easy to peg this sportscaster as the most facially stunning Canadian rep seen in recent years, even rivaling Siera Bearchell. In the Trump era, she’d be a clear frontrunner. But now, she faces tough competition from other stunners with more compelling back stories. Her excellent preliminary performance may or may not be enough.
Cayman Islands – Anika Conolly
Facially, she’s a clear cut above most Caymanian delegates we’ve seen competing in pageants, though her short-haired predecessor definitely had much more spunk. The fact that both Pia and Iris visited her islands at some point might earn her extra attention.
Chile – Natividad Leiva
Most fans already had a fixed list of pre-arrival favorites when this girl was crowned. So, when she set foot in Vegas, those fans scrambled to save her a slot. Thus far, she’s shown incredible polish and stage chops, for somebody appointed one month before the pageant. Well, she didn’t make the Top 8 of Miss Earth 2015 for nothing.
China – Roxette Qiu
Her distinctive qualities are her androgynous face and slender supermodel frame, but those qualities tend to backfire in pageants. She’ll surely fare better in the modeling circuit.
Colombia – Laura González
Having three consecutive Top 3 placers as predecessors adds certain pressure, but this aspiring actress is performing well just the same. Her major hurdle now, though, isn’t something that happened during the pageant, but rather, last Halloween. A month ago, photos of her dressed as Tomb Raider‘s Lara Croft, replete with toy gun and faux bullet belt, surfaced on Instagram and fueled controversy. While there’s nothing murderous about Lara Croft per se, the image of Laura aiming the toy gun towards the screen in another post was deemed insensitive and untimely, following the tragic shootings that happened in Vegas earlier that month. Aggravating matters is yet another follow-up video post where she’s seen pretending to be shot dead. Granted the MUO can forgive that misconstrued past act of jest and if Laura hasn’t been a headache to the staff throughout the pageant, she can still advance.
Costa Rica – Elena Correa
There are angles wherein she resembles Filipina model and actress Isabelle Daza, who happens to be the daughter of former Miss Universe Gloria Diaz. She’s a formidable-enough contender who is correct in all her presentations, but chances are, she will replicate her Miss Supranational 2013 finish.
Croatia – Shanaelle Petty
As a half-African American, she’s the first woman of multi-racial lineage to represent her country in this pageant. Apart from that, her late mother was also a contestant in the first ever Miss Universe Croatia. Couple that interesting background with her strong projection skills, and that could work to her advantage.
Curaçao – Nashaira Balentien
Her unplaced predecessor, Chanelle de Lau, went on to secure their island’s best Miss International showing early this month. As for her, her only highlight here thus far was her bizarre wedding cake-inspired national costume.
Czech Republic – Michaela Habánová
Ten years ago, this country began a placement streak, which lasted until 2010. Give this girl credit for being stronger than her two immediate predecessors, but it’s unlikely that she’ll revive the streak.
UP NEXT: Dominican Republic to Italy