Portugal – Matilde Lima
This classically-trained pianist is notches better than the average Portuguese contestant., but she probably won’t be Laura Goncalves‘ follow-through.
Puerto Rico – Danyeshka Hernández
Facially, we’ve seen better from this island, but this girl’s a solid performer through and through. And again, at the wake of the cataclysms brought about by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in her U.S. territory, the powers-that-be might be inclined to save her a slot.
Romania – Ioana Mihalache
This Miss Earth and Miss Grand alumna made a memorable impression in the national costume presentation by dressing as a sexy female Dracula, but probably won’t earn her country’s first Miss Universe placement.
Russia – Kseniya Alexandrova
Polina Popova prioritized Miss World due to scheduling conflicts, but her runner-up is no slouch in terms of beauty and overall packaging. While we miss the ethereal, goddess-type likes of Oxana Fedorova, this finance graduate seems poised to secure her country’s first MU placement since 2012.
Saint Lucia – Louise Victor
So they finally decided to spell out the word “Saint” on her sash, so she’s now alphabetically first in the “S” group. That’s just about the most significant pageant milestone this island will experience this year.
Singapore – Manuela Bruntraeger
This petite Eurasian was a double medalist in last year’s Miss Earth pageant. Here, she adheres to the recent trend of better-than-average Singaporean MU candidates. Her presentations were correct, but making the cut will be a struggle.
Slovak Republic – Vanessa Bottánová
This country seems to be outdoing its Czech counterpart in this pageant recently, but while this blonde is gorgeous, she probably won’t earn a European slot.
Slovenia – Emina Ekić
Slovenian delegates sent to this pageant in recent years range from plain to pretty-but-barely noticed. This girl falls on the latter category.
South Africa – Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters
She became an instant early frontrunner the moment she was crowned in her national pageant. This led many fans to believe that she can finally clinch the Rainbow Nation’s second crown. Sadly, she got overpowered by other “crown-hungry” contenders as weeks progressed and that evening gown was particularly questionable. She’s still undoubtedly Africa’s best bet. But with her continent being awkwardly grouped with Asians in the bizarre new competition format, there’s fear that the Orientals might outrun her altogether. Let’s hope the judges give enough due credit to her beauty and eloquence.
Spain – Sofia del Prado
Attention, Winwyn Marquez Fans: meet Winwyn’s predecessor. This sultry Spaniard won Reina Hispanoamericana two years ago, and now looks poised to end her country’s two-year drought. She’s a likely European shoo-in.
Sri Lanka – Christina Peiris
Oh, how the mighty rise and fall. When this pretty young entrepreneur was appointed as her country’s delegate, fans were quick to predict that she would finally end her country’s 61-year drought. But much as she’s still a stunner, she hasn’t pulled a compelling-enough performance to secure an Asian slot. Right now, it’s a neck-and-neck battle among her, India, and Nepal.
Sweden – Frida Fornander
This lovely blonde has improved dramatically since her Miss Earth 2014 stint. With her unassuming angelic beauty, she can conceivably usurp a European slot.
Tanzania- Lilian Maraule
This radio personality registers as a younger and more exotic Dionne Warwick. She also gained public sympathy for coming to Vegas with a paltry budget, reportedly with only $80 in pocket money. Plus, she made her national costume by herself using organic materials. It will surely earn her attention, in addition to her decent preliminary performance. Making it her ticket to the Top 16 would be a stretch though.
Thailand – Maria Poonlertlarp
With South Africa slightly losing her grip, it appears that the final showdown will be between another Peters and this towering Eurasian beauty. This Thai-Swedish is extremely well-prepared, and she has that dignified, regal aura that are akin to an actual royal. Say what you want about her occasional stiffness, but aren’t monarchs usually that way?
Trinidad and Tobago – Yvonne Clarke
The magical twin islands return after a two-year absence, and what a rough road it was to get here. Two weeks before flying to Vegas, “Yvee” was briefly dethroned for alleged breach of contract, a snafu which almost led to sponsor pull-out. Things seem to have settled amicably, for now at least, since she’s now representing her country ably. She’s a distant cry from past regal contenders from TNT, but she might benefit from Wendy Fitzwilliam’s presence in the judging panel. Either way, may this indicate that we’ll be seeing her country in action again more often.
Turkey – Pinar Tartan
This 20-year-old law student was actually a replacement to the candidate who was sent to Miss World instead, due to the national winner’s dethronement. She has the makings of a future strong contender. Right now, though, she’s not generating much impact.
Ukraine – Yana Krasnikova
This aspiring book author is atypically petite for a Ukrainian candidate. Aggravating matters was her decision to wear that ill-fitting juggernaut of a ball gown.
Uruguay – Marisol Acosta
This America Ferrera dead-ringer is statuesque, but will most probably be South America’s weakest link.
USA – Kára McCullough
This scientist is the second black woman from D.C. in a row to represent the US in this pageant. While she wasn’t the absolute favorite to win the national title, she proved herself more than worthy of the global stage with her amazing presence and astounding gown performance. The latter has always been one of her aces. And so is interview, which will surely secure her spot.
US Virgin Islands – Esonica Veira
At 28, she’s the first-ever beneficiary of Miss Universe’s expanded age limit. She’s also the most hard-working veteran in the bunch, having competed in Miss World 2011, Miss Supranational 2013, and Miss Earth 2014. Her peak was in Supranational, where she sported short hair and finished 4th Runner-Up. Here, she sadly looks past her prime. But whatever happens now, nothing can take away the landmark accomplishments she attained for her U.S. territory. She will always be remembered as the best USVI candidate to date.
Venezuela – Kaysi Sayago
This powerhouse may have won in 2013, but it still feels absurd that they only made the Top 5 twice this decade. This engineering graduate stands a good chance of vindicating Mariam Habach‘s shocking shutout, and hopefully, also regaining her nation’s clout. Much as she looks subdued for now, she may be saving her surprises for the final night.
Vietnam – Nguyen Thi Loan
This polished pageant veteran has enjoyed her fair share of placements from Miss World 2014 to Miss Grand International 2016. However, she also briefly gained infamy after commenting “Ugly!” in Miss International 2016 Kylie Verzosa’s Instagram. She has since apologized, stating it was a critique Kylie’s styling in the said photo and not an attack on Kylie herself. Consider it water under the bridge, but much as she performed commendably in this pageant, replicating her past achievements will be far from certain.
Zambia – Isabel Chikoti
Zambia returns after a six-year absence with a soft-faced, well-toned candidate. She’s an underrated African charmer, who could have been a frontrunner for her continent in less competitive years.