Miss Uni­verse 2019 most likely

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zone if you’re read­ing this in print) in At­lanta, Ge­or­gia: Fion­nghuala O’Reilly of Ire­land is Ir­ish and African-Amer­i­can, Birta Abiba Þórhalls­dót­tir of Ice­land re­port­edly has a Con­golese par­ent, Miriam Rautert of Ger­many has a mother from Trinidad and Tobago, and a Ger­man father, Teresa Ruglio of Malta orig­i­nally hailed from Venezuela, Fred­erika Alexis Cull of In­done­sia has a Bri­tish-born Aus­tralian father while her mother is In­done­sian.

The Filipino flair, of course, comes in the ele­ganza ex­trav­a­ganza. Reign­ing queen Ca­tri­ona Gray has al­ready flaunted the cre­ations of Cherry Veric at the pre­lims and Jear­son De­ma­vi­vas at the na­tional cos­tume show. She will wear Mak Tu­mang for her farewell walk. Filipino de­sign­ers who did the evening gowns are Joel Es­cober for Ja­pan, Benj Leguiab

IV for Sierra Leone, Ryan Ablaza Uson for Guam and Rian Fer­nan­dez for Cam­bo­dia. Joey Galon de­signed the nat­cos of Ire­land while Bea Bianca Mackey did a dress for New Zealand. I hope one of the an­chors, Fil-Am Miss Teen USA 1998 Vanessa Min­nillo Lachey, will wear Filipino on fi­nals night.

The Michael Cinco made cou­ture cre­ations for Ar­gentina, Sin­ga­pore, Spain and Uruguay, and Canada for the fi­nals. His equally bril­liant best friend, Cary Santiago, con­cocted the mag­nif­i­cent gown and as­tound­ing cos­tume for Gazini. By the way, even if there’s free­dom of ex­pres­sion and even if you have Sarah Bur­ton as­pi­ra­tions but with a Zara bud­get, don’t come for Cary Santiago. Your opinion is cheap.

n PHILIP­PINES. Our very own “In­day” Gazini Gana­dos, de­spite the tremen­dous pres­sure of clinch­ing a back-to-back ti­tle, is en­joy­ing her stint as our beau­ti­ful flag-raiser. It’s been 50 years since Glo­ria Diaz won our first Miss Uni­verse crown, and the Filipinos’ ex­cite­ment over an­other tri­umph shows no signs of abat­ing. Gazini, 23, was dis­cov­ered in Cebu by Jonas Borces for lo­cal con­tests, honed by Rodgil Flores of Ka­gan­da­hang Flores for na­tional pageants, and pol­ished by Jonas Gaf­fud (“Miss J”) for this all-im­por­tant global com­pe­ti­tion. All that train­ing, plus the as­ton­ish­ing out­fits cre­ated es­pe­cially for her by the coun­try’s best de­signer, Cary Santiago, made Gazini smolder on the run­way at the pre­lim­i­nar­ies.

n AL­BA­NIA. Cindy Ma­rina—I think a blonde win­ner can be good for the pageant. Jen­nifer Hawkins of Aus­tralia was the last blonde win­ner, in 2004. Cindy, 21, might be the bomb­shell that will make Europe love Miss Uni­verse even more, like when they did when fel­low blondes An­gela Visser of Hol­land won in 1989, Yvonne Ry­d­ing of Swe­den in 1984, all the way to the first queen, Armi Ku­usela of Fin­land in 1952. Cindy stud­ies In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions and Global Busi­ness at the Univer­sity of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia while also play­ing for the Al­ba­nian Women’s Na­tional Vol­ley­ball Team. She’s be­ing trained by for­mer Miss USAs and Miss Uni­verse fi­nal­ists Shandy Fin­nessey and Susie Castillo, a def­i­nite edge.

n FRANCE. I cheered for Maëva Coucke when she com­peted at Miss France 2018, know­ing that she hails from the same city that gave us Camille Cerf (Top 15 at Miss Uni­verse 2014) and Miss Uni­verse 2016 Iris Mit­te­naere. I wanted her to win Miss World 2018 (where our Kata­rina Ro­driguez went un­placed, a trav­esty) but she fin­ished at Top 12. Maëva, 25, has a de­gree in in­ter­na­tional trade, a mem­ber of the As­so­ci­a­tion Les Bonnes Fées, which aids those that are help­lessly ill and helps fight against breast can­cer, her mother be­ing a sur­vivor of the dis­ease. Doesn’t mat­ter if she fell dur­ing the G Son­sie Swimwear por­tion; her strik­ing Coco Rocha x Eva Green x Stefania Fer­nan­dez re­sem­blance makes this chic French­woman a win­ner.

n BRAZIL. I stared long enough at the gor­geous face of Ju­lia Horta, 25, un­til I re­al­ized that she re­sem­bles the Colom­bian-Amer­i­can ac­tress Diane Guer­rero, who played Crazy Jane in Doom Pa­trol and inmate Mar­itza Ramos in Orange is the New Black. And then I also re­al­ized that she has the same in­can­des­cent beauty as Mar­itza Say­alero, Miss Uni­verse 1979 from Venezuela. Ju­lia is a jour­nal­ist, dig­i­tal in­flu­encer and fem­i­nist, her nat­cos showed a foot­ball player call­ing for an end to vi­o­lence against women. Ju­lia was fourth run­ner-up at Miss Tourism In­ter­na­tional in 2017, won by our own Jan­nie Loudette Alipo-on.

n THAI­LAND. My friend Tee and I sought her out af­ter her heart­break­ing loss at Miss Earth 2017 (won by our own Karen Ibasco) be­cause we were drawn to her oth­er­worldly beauty. Paween­suda “Fah­sai” Drouin, a Cana­dian-Chi­nese Thai, has be­come a dar­ling of Filipinos since. Fah­sai, 26, grad­u­ated with dis­tinc­tions from the Univer­sity of Cal­gary in Canada, where she stud­ied Ki­ne­si­ol­ogy as a pre­med­i­cal de­gree. Be­fore the start of the pageant, she was the “girl to beat,” es­pe­cially when Mouwad, the new crown maker, seemed to fa­vor her.

n COLOM­BIA. Even if Miss Uni­verse 2014 and fel­low Colom­bian Paulina Vega weren’t a judge this year, Gabriela Ta­fur, 24, is on track to re­deem her coun­try af­ter a shutout last year. She grad­u­ated law cum laude from Univer­si­dad de Los An­des in Bogota. She’s an ad­vo­cate for gen­der equal­ity and sup­ports 80 so­cial ini­tia­tives that con­trib­ute to the well­be­ing of Colom­bian chil­dren.

n IRE­LAND. Fion­nghuala O’Reilly, the first bira­cial beauty to rep­re­sent her coun­try, has the most im­pres­sive re­sumé. As per her bio, “she works re­motely from Dublin as a di­rec­tor for Nasa’s In­ter­na­tional Space Apps Chal­lenge, the world’s largest hackathon whose mis­sion is to bring in­ter­na­tional com­mu­ni­ties to­gether to cre­ate in­no­va­tion to help solve the world’s most chal­leng­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal and space-themed prob­lems. She’s a data­naut who’s pur­su­ing her dream of go­ing into space, and that alone makes her the only who can be called Miss Uni­verse, lit­er­ally.

n IN­DIA. Var­tika Singh, 26, was best friends with our Parul Shah when they com­peted to­gether at Miss Grand In­ter­na­tional in 2015, fin­ish­ing sec­ond and third run­ners-up, re­spec­tively. She has an in­tense star qual­ity akin to Bol­ly­wood god­dess Deepika Padukone, though her evening gown styling was a head-scratcher. Still, this for­mer tech­ni­cal ad­viser in qual­ity as­sur­ance for the World Bank, Vogue In­dia reg­u­lar and bud­ding ac­tress, is the most stun­ning con­tender from In­dia since Lara Dutta, Miss Uni­verse 2000.

n BANGLADESH. Shirin Ak­ter Shila, 20, is her coun­try’s first rep. With Miss Uni­verse 1994 Sush­mita Sen of In­dia as men­tor, she just might make the cut. She’s a physics stu­dent at Dhaka Univer­sity who also works as a fash­ion model. She’s a would-be phi­lan­thropist and an en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist.

n PANAMA. Mehr Eliezer, 22, was born in In­dia, spent part of her child­hood in the Philip­pines, and is the first na­tion­al­ized Pana­ma­nian to join and be­come Miss Uni­verse Panama. The ar­tic­u­late stun­ner is an ad­vo­cate for gen­der equal­ity, a strong ally of the LGBTQ+ com­mu­nity and an am­bas­sador for Pro­bid­sida, a Pana­ma­nian or­ga­ni­za­tion that works to re­duce the amount of HIV and AIDS cases in Panama.

n PUERTO RICO. At 24, the dan­ger­ous blonde Madi­son An­der­son has paid her pageant dues. She was fourth run­nerup at Miss Florida Teen USA 2014, same place­ment at Top Model of the World 2015, and third run­ner-up at Miss Grand In­ter­na­tional 2016, where our Ni­cole Cor­doves placed sec­ond. She speaks to high-school stu­dents about anti-bul­ly­ing and self-love. Madi­son also founded Meta­mor­pho­sis, which helps re­cov­ered vic­tims to be­come their bet­ter self so they can achieve a suc­cess­ful so­ci­ety rein­te­gra­tion. Her men­tor is Miss Uni­verse 2001 Denise Quiñones.

n SIERRA LEONE. Marie Es­ther Ban­gura, 22, is a stu­dent partly work­ing in her com­mu­nity for “Good Touch, Bad Touch,” a cam­paign that works to put an end to the sex­ual ex­ploita­tion of the youth. Her goal is to start a cou­ture fash­ion line and host­ing her own TV show, a la Tyra Banks or Oprah, which she will call “Mo­ments with Marie.”

n MEX­ICO. Sofia Aragon, 25, is a dead-ringer for Miss Uni­verse 2010 Xi­mena Navarette, and with a men­tor in Miss Uni­verse 1991 Lupita Jones, this writer has the mak­ings of a win­ner. She is a men­tal-health ad­vo­cate, hav­ing suf­fered from de­pres­sion. “She be­came a speaker when she re­al­ized that by shar­ing her story, she can help peo­ple overcome the same strug­gles she ex­pe­ri­enced,” said her bio. n

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