Dominican Republic- Carmen Muñoz
Her achievements as a lawyer in one of her country’s top firms and ongoing advocacies for women and children are sure catnip for the IMG powers-that-be. Outside of that, she will likely duplicate her Miss International 2013 finish.
Ecuador – Daniela Cepeda
This psychopedagogy major believes that every child has the right to education. She’s another middling contender in the Latina pack.
Egypt – Farah Sedky
This foreign language student actually looks prettier than what her coronation photos initially suggested and she actually whipped up a fine performance. She may not necessarily bring forth her country’s breakthrough, but she’s a step towards the right direction. Welcome back, Egypt!
El Salvador – Alisson Abarca
This Central American country achieved its overdue first placements in both Miss International and Miss World over the past 13 months. Here in Miss Universe, the drought will probably last for one more year.
Ethiopia – Akinahome Zergaw
Being a fashion design student might partly account for her impressive posture and amazing smize, but she won’t likely be the African-of-choice.
Finland – Michaela Söderholm
We dream to see the day that this Nordic country regains its status as a formidable force in pageantry. For now, consider this trilingual student a step back towards the right direction.
France – Alicia Aylies
It’s funny how one of the South American frontrunners this year is actually representing France. That’s because this fencing champion is from French Guiana, an overseas French department located in South America that last competed independently in this pageant in 1984. She’s a worthy follow-up to the incumbent queen. A back-to-back may be a long shot, but her elegance and exotic beauty will still put her through.
Georgia – Mariam Gogodze
Just like Miss China, she’s another androgynous, short-tressed ingenue. We admire her chutzpah to maintain her raw, tomboyish packaging, even if she probably won’t be rewarded for it here.
Germany – Sophia Koch
Germany was regarded as a powerhouse in the early years of this pageant, but its last Top 5 placement was 40 years ago. This angelic beauty has the looks that can easily revive her country’s 50s heyday. But now that we’re at the age of IMG, her best prospects, given her lack of a compelling back story, would be to at least make the first cut – still a laudable feat in its own right.
Ghana – Ruth Quarshie
The Gold Coast returns after a one-year absence with this striking and statuesque model. Not much is said about her so far, but she could be a worthy surprise.
Great Britain – Anna Maria Burdzy
This lady from Leicester enjoyed a fair amount of press coverage after training in Manila and ordering her competition gown from Leo Almodal. She’s shown a vast amount of improvement over the past months and it seems she has many more surprises in store. We could use witnessing a British Invasion every now and then.
Guam – Myana Welch
This tiny U.S. territory was almost a no-show this year in light of the ongoing tensions with North Korea. Fortunately, they still managed to stage a last-minute pageant – even with just three contestants! That lucky candidate is actually taller and stronger than the average modern-day Guamanian rep and could also pull an upset.
Guatemala – Isel Suñiga
The game-changing success of Siera Bearchell last year surely paved the way for full-figured women to excel in this pageant. Judging from this girl’s vivacious performance, she seems fully aware of that.
Guyana – Rafieya Husain
Among the pageant veterans who entered this race, it’s this Guyanese who enjoyed the loftiest past placement. She was 7th in Miss World 2014 and even garnered the Continental Queen of the Caribbean title (even though her country is geographically in the Americas). Years ago, it would be easy to presume that she’d struggle in this go-round. But with this pageant’s new-found inclination towards inspiring backgrounds and advocacies, maybe lightning can strike twice.
Haiti – Cassandra Chery
Well, she obviously has big high-heeled shoes to fill, given her predecessor’s landmark 1st Runner-Up finish. She’s a worthy follow-up, but she hit a roadblock after preliminaries when she became the subject of pregnancy rumors. The controversy was aggravated when a photo of her crying in the corner circulated in social media, leading fans to speculate about her impending disqualification. The dust has seemingly settled since then, and she was later seen fooling around with Misses France and Jamaica in a subsequent photo upload. Granted she continues to hold her head up high despite that hurdle, she can be a worthy contender.
Honduras – April Tobie
Not much was expected from this volleyball player when she won her national title. Come pageant season, though, she showed impeccable grace and form, especially in the preliminaries. Fans are now penciling her in as a possibility.
Iceland – Arna Yr Jónsdóttir
The Miss World 2015 leaderboard indicated that she was briefly in the Top 10 of that pageant. Her claim to fame, however, was her withdrawal from Miss Grand International 2016, following allegations of fat-shaming (Read: She’s NOT). Joining this pageant feels like a timely post-Siera Bearchell move on her part, as she is making the right impression. Will the judges reward her in the same capacity?
India – Shraddha Shashidhar
When this versatile globe-trotter won her local pageant, fans were quick to clamor for her country’s MU comeback. It’s not far-fetched, but then, she also hasn’t shown much consistency in her Vegas appearances thus far. At this point, attention seems to be veering towards two other South Asians.
Indonesia – Bunga Jelitha
Her name is the Bahasa (and Tagalog) word for “flower”. To be blunt, her predecessor, Kezia Warouw, was far more stunning. But given her incredible presence and stage chops, she seems poised to finally bring her country past the second cut. Probably even beyond.
Iraq – Sarah Idan
She’s only the second woman to compete in this pageant under the Iraq sash after 1972’s Wijdan Burham El-Deen Sulyman. That alone is an incredible milestone. While not necessarily a standout beauty, her raison d’etre is clearly to spread a message of peace. That being said, a token placement might be in store.
Ireland – Caitlín Áine Ní Toibín
This business student is the Emerald Isle’s first national titleholder under the directorship of former Miss Indiana USA Brittany Mason, who’s part-Irish. She’s a formidable contender, though as it is, it’s already a neck-and-neck battle among Team Europe. Considering that she revealed having suffered anxiety in the past, this experience is a great confidence boost for her.
Israel – Adar Gandelsman
Her palette-swapped Wonder Woman-themed national costume was tacky, but to her defense, she actually did channel Gal Gadot. She also garnered press attention for not only taking a selfie with Miss Iraq, but also for appearing with Misses Egypt and Lebanon in a group photo. She might be spreading herself too thin in trying to make a statement, but she’s undeniably one of the most beautiful girls in this bunch. It’s high time her country regained its traction in this pageant.
Italy – Maria Polverino
She’s quite a looker, even if her overall styling’s a bit amiss. She’s also one of two contestants this year with a visible tattoo. Hers reads “For the first time“, which she says is a line from her favorite song. We wonder if it’s a reference to Kenny Loggins.
UP NEXT: Jamaica to Poland