THOUGHTS OF MISS UNIVERSE

2018



THE PRETHOUGHTS








SECOND ROUND PRETHOUGHTS (Dec. 9, 2018)




Preliminaries are being held on December 13 at 7 a.m. Eastern Standard Time so there should be a webcast available online at missuniverse.com

In the meantime, here is a clip of the delegates participating in a special Thai night event where the delegates modelled gowns from a Thai designer but bear in mind that these outfits were not tailored so a lot of them are ill-fitting but you can use this to help judging body and stage presence but interview has heavier weight so remember to look for stories and achievements among the delegates. Here is a link to the Thai night event.


In other pageant news, at the recently concluded 2018 Miss World pageant, it turns out that Mexico's Vanessa Ponce de Leon (a former winner of Mexico's Next Top Model) won her nation's first Miss World title whereas France had to settle for a top 12 spot and Puerto Rico's Valeria Vazquez won Miss Supranational 2018.

I'm going to post my final predictions for Miss Universe 2018 on December 15 after analyzing the preliminaries but in the meantime, I will present a second round of prethoughts of what my present thoughts are on each delegate. Rumor has it that there may be a top 20 this year rather than a top 16 as there was last year. There hasn't been a top 20 since 2006 when Puerto Rico won the crown in Los Angeles and coincidentally Puerto Rico is my winner for this year but there were many surprises among that 2006 top 20 group so how will it turn out this year?
There is a record-breaking 94 delegates competing this year (surpassing the record of 92 set last year in 2017) but Sierra Leone's delegate arrived a week late and therefore missed registration and fittings and as a result will compete in 2019 and will just watch the pageant as an audience member so this brought the number of contestants for 2018 down from 95 to 94. Sierra Leone's delegate also did not arrive on time last year.




We will all witness the magic unfold on December 16 on FOX when the Miss Universe 2018 pageant broadcasts live from Thailand. Steve Harvey will return as host for the fourth of a confirmed five years in a row and Ashley Graham will also do backstage reporting. Returning as color commentators are: Carson Kressley (who has done the same thing for several pageants before like the 2006 Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants) and Lu Sierra who is the runway coach for Miss Universe with Ne-Yo as the special guest performer.

Albania-Trejsi Sejdini

Oh, honey. This ain't no bunny competition. The provocative poses aren't helping either. She might have done better in a different era but IMG's era of pageantry is more feminist so unless Trejsi has some amazing story that I don't know about, I don't think a predominantly female judging panel will favor her. Albania has never won the crown and their last placement was in 2010 when they made the top 10.

Angola-Ana Liliana Avião

Angola sent a decent delegate but I don't think she has enough of a story so I'm thinking she is more a next tier delegate. Angola last placed when they won their only Miss Universe crown in 2011 thanks to Leila Lopes who still remains the Miss Universe with the longest reign of 15 months and 1 week.

Argentina-Agustina Pivowarchuk

Do cry for her, Argentina. The truth is I don't see her placing. The land of Evita Peron last placed in the top 10 for 2014 and they have one Miss Universe winner, Norma Nolan in 1962.

Armenia-Eliza Muradyan

Armenia is making its debut at Miss Universe this year and I wonder if it something to do with the fascination with the Kardashians but height and lack of story keeps her out of my list at the moment.

Aruba-Kimberly Julsing

Placements for Aruba are rare and I'm not expecting Kimberly to place this year. Aruba's last and best placement was in 1996 when Taryn Mansell was 1st runner up.

Australia-Francesca Hung

The land down under has performed quite well in recent years and a lot of eyes are on Francesca to bring the Aussies back as they have placed in 7 of the last 10 Miss Universe pageants missing out only on 2013, 2016 and 2017. Francesca is among my top 16 picks at the moment as I detect genuine warmth from her and she is also quite fascinating having a father of Chinese descent and a mother of Irish descent and biracial beauties usually stand out and Francesca also has notable accomplishments as she is studying for a Masters in Publishing at the University of Sydney after completing an undergraduate degree in Arts and Sociology. Australia placed in the top 5 in 2015 and they have won the crown two times which were in 1972 (Kerry Anne Wells) and 2004 (Jennifer Hawkins).

Bahamas-Danielle Grant

The Bahamas have never placed in the history of Miss Universe and I don't expect that to change this year but they have hosted the Miss Universe pageant in 2009.

Barbados-Meghan Theobalds

The birthplace of pop sensation Rihanna has never placed in Miss Universe history with sporadic participation over the years. Meghan is tall and congenial so she could be a surprise but I have her as a next tier delegate at the moment.

Belgium-Zoé Brunet

Belgium did place in 2015 and this year's delegate has a unique look with her afro hairstyle but I don't foresee a placement this year. Belgium has never won the Miss Universe crown but they have placed in the top 6 in 1981 and 1992.

Belize-Jenelli Fraser

Belize placed in the top 12 once back in 1979 but this year's delegate is not expected to place.

Bolivia-Joyce Prado

This year's pageant isn't in Los Angeles so they won't place. Of course, I'm kidding as a venue normally doesn't affect a country's chances but it is true that Bolivia's last two placements were when the Miss Universe pageant was held in Los Angeles (in 2006 and 1990). This year's delegate is studying odontology and has adopted the popular Pocahontas look but I don't see Bolivia placing this year.

Brazil-Mayra Dias

The land of the Samba has placed every year since they hosted the pageant in 2011 placing 7 years in a row. I don't think Mayra is strong enough to place though so I think the streak ends here but then I thought it would end last year yet Monalysa Alcantara did place. Brazil has won two Miss Universe crowns thanks to Ieda Maria Vargas in 1963 and Martha Vasconcellos in 1968?

British Virgin Islands-A’yana Keshelle Phillips

I think Nature's Little Secret will remain a secret this year.

Bulgaria-Gabriela Topalova

The land of roses has yet to place at Miss Universe but Gabriela actually looks quite good so she could pull off a surprise placement but I don't see much of a story here just that she aspires to be a journalist or run a talent agency.

Cambodia-Nat Rern

Cambodia made their debut at Miss Universe last year. I don't think this year's delegate will place though.

Canada-Marta Stepien

The land of the maple leaf has placed in the top 10 two years in a row now and Marta is expected to continue that trend. She is tall and statuesque and has a strong academic background as a student of Biomedical Engineering Technology at St. Clair College and is an applied researcher who speaks four languages (English, French, Polish and Russian). Marta is currently in my top 10 but could go higher in my list if she really impresses me in preliminaries. Canada has won two Miss Universe crowns thanks to Karen Baldwin in 1982 and Natalie Glebova in 2005 who happened to win her crown the last time Miss Universe was held in Thailand so Marta certainly hopes luck strikes twice!

Cayman Islands-Caitlin Tyson

The land of crystal blue waters and white coral beaches has never placed and this year's delegate is certainly congenial but chances of her placing are slim.

Chile-Andrea Diaz

Andrea has been accused of being Miss Chilezuela since she was born and raised in Venezuela but her father is Chilean so she left Venezuela (as many Venezuelans have due to the situation in their country). Andrea is not among my picks at the moment though as I don't see enough of a story here. Chile's Cecilia Bolocco won their only Miss Universe crown in 1987 and their last placement was in 2004.

China-Meisu Qin

The world's most populated country pulled off a surprise placement last year but they have never won the crown. Their highest placement was as 2nd runner up in 2002. I have this delegate as an honorable mention at the moment as I'm not totally sure but she is a possibility. She has studied Math at the University of Alberta in Canada.

Colombia-Valeria Morales

Valeria is one of those polarizing delegates due largely to her eyebrows. I'm putting her in my top 20 though as there seems to be a lot of consensus on her placing. I do see a bit of a resemblance to Ariadna Gutierrez who was the most famous runner up in 2015 when she was mistakenly crowned for 2 minutes. In terms of accomplishments, Valeria is an owner of Professional Models Fashion Academy and is a Social Communication student at Broward College in Florida so she also studies in the USA so her English should be good as is her body and how she carries it. Colombia has placed in the top 3 for 4 years in a row and Valeria hopes to make it 5. The world's finest coffee land won the Miss Universe crown twice (1958 and 2014) and have placed as 1st runner up a whopping 6 times.

Costa Rica-Natalia Carvajal

The land of peace and brotherhood sends us Natalia this year who along with Ecuador is very hyped. While she does have a good body and boasts a career as a TV host who even appeared in her country's edition of Dancing With the Stars, she is more of a next tier delegate for me but we'll see if she can change my mind after preliminaries. After their first placement in 1954, Costa Rica incredibly had to wait 50 years for their next placement in 2004 and they also placed in 2011 and 2013.

Croatia-Mia Pojatina

Croatia has placed thrice as a semifinalist (2009, 2012 and 2017) but this year's delegate isn't strong enough.

Curaçao-Akisha Albert

Curaçao made the top 10 in 2015 and they got a 1st runner up placement in 1968 and they also finished 4th in 1997. I don't see a placement happening this year though.

Czech Republic-Lea Šteflíčková

I don't foresee a placement for Lea this year. Czech Republic has never won the crown but they did have a 4 year streak in the semifinals from 2007 to 2010 which was when they last placed.

Denmark-Helena Hauser

The happiest land on Earth and the land of the Little Mermaid returns this year with a promising delegate who is among my top 16 at the moment. Many people have commented that Helena has a great look which I liken to Russia's Oxana Fedorova, the dethroned Miss Universe 2002. She started a project relevant to today's society called 'ThisIsMe' where she confronts the issue of only modified or enhanced pictures being shown on social media. Denmark has never won the crown but was 1st runner up in 1963 and they last placed in 2007. Is it time for a return?

Dominican Republic-Aldy Bernard

The land where your heart flames to the rhythms of merengue sends us Aldy this year who hasn't really stood out so it seems unlikely for her to place. The Dominican Republic won the crown in 2003 thanks to Amelia Vega and placed in the top 10 in 2015.

Ecuador-Virginia Limongi

The land where the hemispheres meet last placed in 2013 when they pulled off their highest placement ever when Constanza Baez placed as 2nd runner up. I think Ecuador is being hyped much like Costa Rica so I have her as a next tier delegate at the moment but we'll see if she can change my mind after preliminaries. The reigning Miss Universe Demi-Leigh did visit Ecuador earlier this year so maybe that means something.

Egypt-Nariman Khaled

The land of ancient wonders and modern progress has never placed and that isn't expected to change this year.

El Salvador-Marisela de Montecristo

The gentleman of the Americas sends us Marisela who is one to watch because she won the reality show Nuestra Belleza Latina in 2013. I have Marisela in my top 20 for that reason as I recall Miss Nicaragua 2013, Nastassja Bolivar who also placed in the semifinals of Miss Universe 2013 and Nastassja also won Nuestra Belleza Latina 2011 but that wasn't during the IMG era of pageantry so we shall see if this accomplishment gets smiled upon or not. The host country of the 1975 Miss Universe pageant has never won the crown but they did place as 1st runner up back in 1955 and they haven't placed in the semifinals since 1996.

Finland-Alina Voronkova

It looks like another year out for the land of thousands of lakes. Even though the land where tolerance and northern lights shine bright hasn't placed since 1996, they have 2 Miss Universe winners including the very first Miss Universe, Armi Kuusela who won her crown in 1952 and later married Filipino businessman, Virgilio Hilario.

France-Eva Colas

France did a shift this year sending their winner (Maeva Coucke) to compete at Miss World 2018 resulting in Eva who was Maeva's runner-up being sent to Miss Universe. Eva is a decent delegate but I'm not really sure about her so I have her as a next tier delegate. France's 4 year streak in the semifinals was broken last year so we'll see if Eva can bring back the fashion capital of the world which has won two Miss Universe crowns (1953 and 2016) and France is one of three countries that has competed at every Miss Universe pageant since its inception in 1952 (Canada and Germany are the other two and USA was disqualified in 1957).

Georgia-Lara Yan

Some have noticed her look but this country has never placed and I think interview could be a reason for that so I don't expect this delegate to place.

Germany-Celine Willers

I don't foresee a placement for Germany this year. The land that has produced some of my favorite music has competed in every Miss Universe pageant since the first one in 1952. Germany hasn't placed since 2002 and they won the crown once back in 1961.

Ghana-Diata Hoggar

The shining star of Africa's gold coast managed a placement last year but this year's delegate is not expected to place.

Great Britain-Dee-Ann Kentish-Rogers

Dee-Ann is safely among my picks this year. I think her story is strong as mentioned in my first-round prethoughts and she just has a gleam about her when I look at her face so I am looking for Dee-Ann to do well this year and bring a second consecutive placement to the land of the Union Jack which has never won the crown.

Greece-Ioanna Bella

Ioanna has moved into my list of semifinalists at the moment as I like what I'm seeing from her. She has a great body and carries it beautifully but apart from that, she also has a story of having to give up volleyball after an injury and she is involved with philanthropic work working with a non-profit organization to construct a hospital for cancer patients and helping with the relief of flood victims in southern India. The birthplace of the Olympic spirit hasn't placed since 2005 which was also the last time Miss Universe was held in Thailand and they haven't won the crown since 1964 thanks to Corinna Tsopei so will Ioanna bring Greece back?

Guam-Athena Su McNinch

Placements for Guam are rare as the land where America's day begins hasn't placed since 1982 when Patty Chong Kerkos achieved their highest placement of 1st runner up. This year's delegate is not expected to place.

Guatemala-Mariana García

The heart of the Mundo Maya last placed in 2010 but this year's delegate is not expected to place.

Haiti-Samantha Colas

Quelle coincidence that the delegates from France and Haiti have the same last name! Haiti finished as 1st runner up in 2016 as they did in 1975. However, this year's delegate is not expected to place.

Honduras-Vanessa Villars

Honduras hasn't placed since 1955 which makes them the country that has had to wait the longest for a repeat semifinalist. This year's delegate is not expected to place.

Hungary-Enikő Kecskès

Enikő had some promising headshots but appears too thin so I'm not expecting a placement for the land of the Blue Danube. Hungary has never won the crown and last placed in 2012.

Iceland-Katrín Lea Elenudóttir

The land of glaciers and lava and Björk hasn't placed since making the top 15 in 2009. Katrín does have facial beauty but I am concerned about her height so I have her as an honorable mention at the moment but we'll see if she can change my mind after preliminaries. Iceland has never won the crown but their highest placement was as 1st runner up in 1962.

India-Nehal Chudasama

Nehal is among my picks this year. I think her story of promoting fitness and losing weight is inspiring and India's delegates normally have strong interview skills so I think Nehal has what it takes to place. India has won Miss Universe two times thanks to Sushmita Sen in 1994 and Lara Dutta in 2000 and they last placed for 2014.

Indonesia-Sonia Fergina Citra

Like France, Indonesia's 4 year streak was broken last year. The emerald of Southeast Asia is not expected to place this year.

Ireland-Grainne Gallanagh

The emerald isle pulled off a placement last year but they have never won the crown but they do have 2 2nd runner ups in 1963 and 1983. Under the directorship of former Miss Indiana USA, Brittany Mason, Ireland has sent another delegate to watch in Grainne so we'll see if that Irish luck strikes twice. Grainne has been in and out of my list quite a few times but at the moment, I have her as an alternate. She does have a great body and speaks well so I would not be surprised to see her place. She works as a nurse but I wonder if that's enough of a story so we'll see what happens.

Israel-Nikol Reznikov

That small land with a very rich history last placed in 2005 and Rina Messinger is Israel's only Miss Universe winning the crown in 1976. This year's delegate is not expected to place.

Italy-Erica De Matteis

The land of culture, pasta and fashion has never won the Miss Universe crown but they do have two 1st runner ups (1960 and 1987) and last placed in 2014. This year's delegate is not expected to place.

Jamaica-Emily Maddison

Emily is decent but I'm thinking she's more of a next tier delegate as I don't see much of a story here. Even though the island of reggae has won Miss World 3 times, they have never won the Miss Universe crown but their best placement was 1st runner up in 2010 and they also placed as 2nd runner up last year.

Japan-Yuumi Kato

I saw that she once had to hunt for her own food so that could be a point of interest but this year's Japanese delegate doesn't have the body so if she placed, she won't go far so I have her as a next tier delegate at the moment. The land of the rising sun last placed in 2015 and they have won the Miss Universe crown twice (1959 and 2007).

Kazakhstan-Sabina Azimbayeva

Kazakhstan is a country that has never placed and that isn't expected to change this year.

Kenya-Wabaiya Kariuki

Kenya placed among the top 6 in 2016 which marked their first placement in history. I don't expect this year's delegate to place though.

Korea-Ji Hyun Baek

I don't see this year's Korean delegate placing. Korea last placed in 2007 and the closest they came to the crown was a 1st runner up placement in 1988.

Kosovo-Zana Berisha

I don't see this year's delegate from Kosovo placing. Kosovo last placed in 2012.

Kyrgyzstan-Begimay Karybekova

Kyrgyzstan is debuting this year but I don't see this delegate placing.

Laos-On-anong Homsombath

Laos debuted last year but I don't foresee a placement for Laos this year.

Lebanon-Maya Reaidy

The land of cedars is under the directorship of Miss USA 2010, Rima Fakih and the reigning Miss Universe Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters was invited to attend Maya's crowning. She is a decent delegate who speaks English well and she advocates for women's rights but the body isn't quite there yet she is a possibility so I have her as an alternate at the moment. Lebanon has won once in 1971 but hasn't placed since 1973.

Malaysia-Jane Teoh

Malaysia normally doesn't place and that isn't expected to change this year. They have only placed once which was back in 1970.

Malta-Francesca Mifsud

Malta has never placed and although Francesca studies law, I don't see her making enough of an impact so I'm thinking she is more of a next tier delegate.

Mauritius-Varsha Ragoobarsing

The peaceful island of paradise has yet to place and that isn't expected to change this year.

Mexico-Andrea Toscano

Andrea has received training under noted Venezuelan pageant coach, Osmel Sousa so I currently have Andrea among my top 20. She does walk well as she demonstrated during Thai night and she has a story about studying Nutrition and she started a nutrition project for inter-state migrant children to give nutritional education and improve their health. The land of the Mariachi has won the Miss Universe crown twice (1991 and 2010) and last placed in 2016.

Mongolia-Dolgion Delgerjav

Mongolia is debuting this year but this delegate is not expected to place.

Myanmar-Hnin Thway Yu Aung

Myanmar has never placed and isn't expected to this year.

Namibia-Selma Kamanya

Namibia won their only Miss Universe crown in 1992 which was also a pageant held in Thailand and they haven't placed since 2003. This year's delegate is not expected to place though.

Nepal-Manita Devkota

Nepal debuted last year but this year's delegate is not expected to place.

Netherlands-Rahima Dirkse

Rahima could be up there but she isn't really being featured much so if she places, she would be a surprise to most people. She has a Dutch father and a Brazilian mother giving her those exotic looks and she studies bio-pharmaceutical sciences. Right now, I have her as next tier delegate but I'll be watching her closely during preliminaries and she might move into my list. The land of tulips and windmills made the top 5 for 2014 which was their last placement and Angela Visser won the crown for Holland in 1989.

New Zealand-Estelle Curd

New Zealand won the crown once in 1983 but the Kiwis haven't placed since 1992 surprisingly. This year's delegate is not expected to place.

Nicaragua-Adriana Paniagua

The land of lakes and volcanoes last placed in 2013 and while this is a well-dressed delegate, I don't expect her to place.

Nigeria-Aramide Lopez

Aramide is a find. She's tall, lovely and has strong presence and she is among my top picks this year. In terms of accomplishments, Aramide holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in history and diplomatic studies and is passionate about educating young women in her country and reads to them. Nigeria's only placement was in 2001 by Agbani Darego who would go on to win Miss World later that year and I am looking for Aramide to get that second placement for her nation.

Norway-Susanne Guttorm

The land of the fjords hasn't placed since 2005 and they won the crown once in 1990. This year's delegate is not expected to place.

Panama-Rosa Montezuma

This tropical isthmus last placed in 2016 and inherited their only Miss Universe crown in 2002 when Russia's Oxana Fedorova was dethroned and Justine Pasek who was originally the 1st runner up took over. This year's Panamanian delegate is not expected to place.

Paraguay-Belén Alderete

Paraguay has never won and they last placed in 2006 and 2004 placing as 3rd runner up both times. This year's delegate is not expected to place.

Peru-Romina Lozano

Romina is among my top picks this year. She is hard working having once worked 4 different jobs after becoming independent at age 18 and came from a family that lived in a jungle region. Romina has been looking impressive and speaks English well so she is very well prepared. The Miss Peru pageant has been standing out in unique ways and in the pageant that Romina won, the Peruvian contestants stated gender violence statistics instead of their body measurements. In the most recent pageant to crown next year's delegate, the Peruvian contestants removed wigs to reveal bald heads to educate people about cancer. The land of the Incas is expected to make it since their last placement in 2016 and their only winner was Gladys Zender back in 1957.

Philippines-Catriona Gray

As mentioned in my first round prethoughts, this Cat has two lives! Catriona competed at Miss World 2016 finishing as a top 5 finalist and many people expect Catriona to do very well this year including myself as she is still in my top 5. Catriona has been praised for her strong interview skills and her countrymen are counting on her to bring a fourth Miss Universe crown to her nation. The longest running streak in the semifinals currently belongs to the Philippines placing 8 years in a row and Catriona is expected to make it a 9th consecutive year. The tropical haven of Asia has 3 Miss Universe winners: Gloria Diaz in 1969, Margarita Moran in 1973 and Pia Wurtzbach in 2015.

Poland-Magdalena Swat

Poland's most recent placement was in 2012 and the land of Chopin has never won the crown but have placed as 3rd runner up twice (1986 and 1989). This year's delegate is not expected to place.

Portugal-Filipa Barroso

Portugal got their first and only placement ever in 2011 finishing in the top 10. This year's delegate is not expected to place.

Puerto Rico-Kiara Liz Ortega

As mentioned in my first round prethoughts, Kiara still is my winner and that probably won't change as she is just it to me. Not only is she stunning but she also exudes genuine warmth and just comes across as right for the job of Miss Universe. Her nation has recently suffered due to some powerful hurricanes so a win would bring great hope to the shining star of the Caribbean. Puerto Rico has won the Miss Universe crown 5 times (1970, 1985, 1993, 2001 and 2006) and last placed in 2013 so is Kiara about to bring a 6th Miss Universe crown to her country?

Russia-Yulia Polyachikhina

Yulia studies journalism at Chuvash State University and she is only 18. Other people seem to like her but I'm thinking she is more of a next tier delegate as she doesn't come across as accomplished enough for the IMG era of pageantry. Russia last placed in 2012 and their only winner, Oxana Fedorova was dethroned in 2002.

St. Lucia-Angella Dalsou

St. Lucia has never placed in this pageant's history and that isn't expected to change this year.

Singapore-Zahra Khanum

Placements for Singapore are rare and this year's delegate is not in my list. Singapore last placed in 1987 which was also the year they hosted the Miss Universe pageant.

Slovak Republic-Barbora Hanová

Slovak Republic placed only once which was in 1994 in the Philippines. Delegates from this country normally are very good looking but their interview skills and preparedness usually aren't up to par so this year's delegate is not expected to place.

South Africa-Tamaryn Green

Tamaryn is in my top 10 at the moment. She is a medical student and is a strong overall delegate in terms of interview skills, body and presence. The reigning Miss Universe is from South Africa and only Venezuela managed to win two years in a row (2008 and 2009) so could Tamaryn do it for Mandela's rainbow nation? In addition to Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters winning for South Africa in 2017, they also won in 1978 thanks to Margaret Gardiner.

Spain-Angela Ponce

As mentioned in my first round prethoughts, Angela is making history as the first transsexual delegate to compete for the Miss Universe crown but it seems like it is being kept quiet so I'm not so sure that a placement is in the cards for Angela. She is in my list at the moment as she has a story and she is on a mission to create awareness which seems in step with the current story-driven era but I wonder if this whole issue might not be deemed family-friendly and if it will be kept quiet so it's an interesting conundrum so we'll see what happens. Spain won its only crown back in 1974 and placed in the top 10 last year.

Sri Lanka-Ornella Gunesekere

Ornella has quite the pageant resumé. She was unplaced at Miss International 2010 but made the top 10 at Miss Grand International 2015 and was 3rd runner up at Miss Supranational 2016 so Ornella likely has strong interview skills so this could mean a placement but I don't consider her among the stronger overall delegates so right now I have her as an honorable mention so I'll be watching her closely in preliminaries to be sure. Sri Lanka has only placed twice (last year in 2017 and 1955).

Sweden-Emma Strandberg

The land of the midnight sun hasn't had much success in recent years and that is not expected to change this year. Sweden has won the crown 3 times (1955, 1966 and 1984) and they last placed in 2009.

Switzerland-Jastina Doreen Riederer

The land of the Alps and great chocolates has never won the crown but they do have a 2nd runner up (2006) and a 3rd runner up (1983). They haven't placed since 2013 but this year's delegate is not expected to place.

Thailand-Sophida Kanchanarin

This year's host delegate hopes to break the spell of Thailand not placing when they host which happened in 1992 and 2005. Sophida is accomplished as she works as an investment banking manager and Thailand has always been a great host so I think Sophida could place so she is among my picks. The golden kingdom of Thailand has won two Miss Universe crowns (1965 and 1988) and they currently have a three year streak in the semifinals so Sophida hopes to make it a fourth consecutive year.

Turkey-Tara De Vries

Turkey pulled off a surprise placement in 2012 and they have never won the crown but this year's delegate isn't expected to place.

Ukraine-Karyna Zhosan

Karyna has potential even if a certain former owner isn't involved anymore. I have her among my top 20 at the moment as she is quite international in that she studied at the Odessa National Academy of Food Technology specializing in Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Business. She models and acts in China and opened a charity foundation for orphans in Kenya. Ukraine has never won but they were 1st runner up in 2011 and 2nd runner up for 2014 but haven't placed since.

Uruguay-Sofía Marrero

Placements for Uruguay are rare and this year's delegate isn't expected to change that. Uruguay hasn't placed since 1985.

USA-Sarah Rose Summers

Sarah Rose Summers should definitely place this year as she is a stunning beauty with a warm and sunny personality and also works as a certified child life specialist. I have her in my top 5 at the moment and Miss USA normally is expected to place. USA has only missed the semifinals 5 times (1957, 1976, 1999, 2002 and 2010) and they have won 8 Miss Universe crowns which is more than any other country. Could Sarah get a 9th for the USA?

US Virgin Islands-Aniska Tonge

The land of beauty and culture hasn't placed since 1971 and this year's delegate is also not expected to place.

Venezuela-Sthefany Gutiérrez

Sthefany is among my top 5 picks. Of course, Venezuela is the world's pageant powerhouse and Sthefany is expected to do very well and possibly get her nation's 8th Miss Universe crown. She is studying law and is also rocking the popular Pocahontas look this year. Venezuela may have had a rare absence from the semifinals in 2016 but made the top 5 last year so let's see how Sthefany does.

Vietnam-H'Hen Niê

H'Hen Niê is my henny! As mentioned in my first round prethoughts, H'Hen is among the stronger overall delegates this year and remains among my top 5. That distinctive short hair and her modelesque look combined with her achievements make her a strong overall delegate. Vietnam has only placed once which was in 2008, the year they hosted the Miss Universe pageant so H'Hen Niê is expected to get a second placement for Vietnam but could she even get the crown?

Zambia-Melba Shakabozha

The land of the smoke and thunder of Victoria Falls sends us a very tall delegate. Upon inspection, I think she needs to have some dental work done and her legs are quite thin so right now I'm thinking that she might be a next tier delegate or possibly an honorable mention. Zambia has never placed so we'll see if that changes this year.



So there you have it! Again, I will post my final predictions on December 15 and then the truth will be unveiled on December 16 on FOX!!



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FIRST ROUND PRETHOUGHTS (Dec. 1, 2018)



Who will succeed South Africa’s Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters and be crowned Miss Universe 2018?
Find out December 16 at 7 p.m. EST on FOX!

The lovely ladies are arriving in Thailand so it is time for the first round prethoughts for Miss Universe 2018!





One Night in Bangkok



And the world’s your oyster… For the third time in history, the golden kingdom of Thailand has stepped up to host the 2018 Miss Universe pageant and this was a fitting year for them to do so as it fulfills the 13-year-chain of Thailand hosting the Miss Universe pageant as they also hosted the 1992 Miss Universe pageant won by Namibia’s Michelle McLean and the 2005 Miss Universe pageant won by Canada’s Natalie Glebova so naturally we expect them to host the 2031 Miss Universe pageant! Who will be the lucky young lady chosen this year? The productions of Miss Universe hosted in Thailand have always been memorable and exceptional so pageant fans have high expectations for this year’s event being held on December 16 at 7 p.m. Eastern Standard Time at the IMPACT arena in a suburb of Bangkok (Muang Thong Thani) which was also where the 2005 Miss Universe pageant was held and this year’s event is airing again on the FOX network. There is a rumor that the Mikimoto crown that was used from 2002 to 2007 and again last year in 2017 might be replaced by a newly designed crown. Pictured here is what it may look like.

The blue rectangular stones remind me a lot of the discontinued DIC crown that was used from 2014 to 2016 but the snowflake/star designs give it more of a Winter/Universe feel which is fitting since Miss Universe is being used during American Winter time and Christmas. We will learn during the telecast if this is indeed the new crown or if the Mikimoto crown will be reused.
Steve Harvey, Ashley Graham, Carson Kressley, Lu Sierra, Ne-YoSophida (Ning) Kanchanarin of ThailandReturning this year to host the Miss Universe pageant for the fourth year in a row as part of his current five year deal (which could get extended) is Steve Harvey. Also returning as backstage commentators are Ashley Graham, Carson Kressley and Lu Sierra and this year’s musical guest is Ne-Yo. I love Ne-Yo’s songs “Never Knew I Needed” (which I mentioned during my prethoughts for Miss USA 2014) and “Closer” among others so I’m hoping those will be among the songs he will perform. I predicted Thailand’s Maria Lynn Ehren to win the Miss Universe crown last year but she would have to settle for a top 5 spot as South Africa’s Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters would claim a second Miss Universe crown for her nation. A record-breaking 95 delegates are expected to compete this year surpassing last year’s record of 92 delegates with 3 countries sending their first delegates ever in Miss Universe history (Armenia, Kyrgyzstan and Mongolia). This year’s host delegate, Sophida (Ning) Kanchanarin, hopes to follow in the footsteps of the two Miss Universe winners that represented Thailand (Apasra Hongsakula in 1965 and Porntip Bui Nakhirunkanok-Simon in 1988). Sophida’s accomplishments seem to be in step with Miss Universe owner IMG’s direction of the Miss Universe pageant as she graduated from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas studying Business Administration and earning a degree in Finance. Fluent in English, Sophida would return to Thailand after graduation in the United States and she would become an Investment Banking Manager at the young age of 23, making her the youngest female manager in TMB Bank. Sophida has commented in media interviews that being the youngest female manager in a male-dominated industry like investment banking is challenging but she enjoys it and wants to advocate for more female leaders and equal pay amongst genders. I think IMG will smile on Sophida’s accomplishments so the host delegate is certainly one to watch this year even though Thailand did not place in the previous years that they hosted the pageant (1992 and 2005) so will that all change for the host country of Thailand this year and could Sophida get a third Miss Universe crown for her nation?



Gray Cat, Two Lives, Short Days, Long Nights


Philippines-Catriona Gray Philippines-Catriona Gray Hear the Lioness roar! The pageant obsessed nation of the Philippines is being represented by Catriona Gray and if that name sounds familiar, it could be because this “Cat” has two lives – the first life representing the Philippines at Miss World 2016 where she finished in the top 5 in a pageant won by Puerto Rico’s Stephanie Del Valle and now her second life is a new opportunity to represent the Philippines and possibly get that other renowned international crown and the title of Miss Universe 2018. A lot of people felt that Catriona was robbed at Miss World 2016 after she aced her final question and answer even if Catriona’s look was suspiciously similar to that of Megan Young who won the 2013 Miss World title for the Philippines. When asked what qualities it would take to wear the Miss World crown, Catriona responded, “I think, first of all, it takes bravery. To be a Miss World is to carry a burning torch. It is an action carried out by one to illuminate the lives of many and I would dedicate my whole self, my love for the arts and my voice to trying to uplift, empower and educate people and it would be my greatest honor and duty to hold this torch high enough so that all the world could feel and see its light.” Will we be hearing more illuminating answers like these during the upcoming Miss Universe pageant coming from Catriona? The universe is waiting to hear what Cat has to purr. This kitty gurl gon’ get her twirl! She ain’t kitten around meow. Catriona certainly has trained for this moment and is prepared to answer any question and has perfected her “Cat”walk skills and she calls her walk the lava walk and I’m sure she feels the pressure of her countrymen to bring a fourth Miss Universe crown to the Philippines only three years after Pia Wurtzbach won the 2015 Miss Universe crown. The Philippines also won Miss Universe in 1969 thanks to Gloria Diaz and in 1973 thanks to Margarita Moran so is it time again? Catriona, like many recent Filipina titleholders, also has mixed blood. She has a Caucasian father, Ian Gray who is Australian (of Scottish descent) and Catriona was born and raised in Australia to both Ian and Catriona’s Filipina mother, Normita Ragas Magnayon. Passionate about the arts, Catriona’s achievements include earning a Certificate in Music Theory from the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. Catriona was also the lead singer of her school's jazz band and also performed in local productions of Miss Saigon. She even earned a black belt in Choi Kwang-Do martial arts which IMG should surely smile upon. She works as a commercial model in the Philippines. Catriona is certainly a contender for the Miss Universe crown and the Philippines has placed in the top 10 every year since 2010 giving them the current longest streak in the semifinals at Miss Universe so will Catriona do it or could we possibly have another Olivia Jordan scenario? What I mean is that Olivia Jordan represented the USA at Miss World 2013 and Miss Universe 2015 and both of those pageants were won by the delegate from the Philippines so is it possible that since Miss World 2016 was won by Puerto Rico’s delegate that since Catriona is competing, does that mean Puerto Rico will win Miss Universe 2018??? Let’s meet that delegate now, shall we??



95 Dynamite Despacitos are After My Crown…
And on December 16… One of ‘Em… Is Gonna Get It!



This headline is a play on the epic opening of Miss USA 1988 voiced by Michelle Royer, Miss USA 1987 who acted superbly saying that 51 dynamite desperados (the contestants of Miss USA 1988) were after her crown. If I’m calling them despacitos instead of desperados, I could only be talking about Puerto Rico’s delegate, Kiara Liz Ortega, who is another favorite for the 2018 Miss Universe crown. “Despacito” was, of course, the hit song of 2017 by Puerto Rican artists Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee which stars Miss Universe 2006, Puerto Rico’s own Zuleyka Rivera in the music video. Kiara is also the first Puerto Rican delegate to be crowned under the directorship of Miss Universe 2001, Puerto Rico’s Denise Quinones who took over the reins from Puerto Rico’s 1995 delegate, Desiree Lowry who directed Miss Universe Puerto Rico from 2009 to 2017 but Puerto Rico didn’t enjoy as much success during Desiree’s directorship placing in the semifinals only four times and only Mayra Matos made the top 5 in 2009 and there was that controversial episode where Kristhielee Caride was dethroned as the 2016 Puerto Rican delegate due to appearing unenthusiastic during a media interview. Denise was able to unite an appearance of 4 of the 5 former Miss Universe winners from Puerto Rico together onstage during the 2018 Miss Universe Puerto Rico pageant

[Deborah Carthy-Deu (1985), Dayanara Torres (1993), Denise Quinones (2001) and Zuleyka Rivera (2006)] while Puerto Rico’s first Miss Universe, Marisol Malaret-Miss Universe 1970 was unable to attend. Kiara stands at 5’7” and was born in 1993 while fellow Puerto Rican, Dayanara Torres reigned as Miss Universe. Adding to Kiara’s strength, she has an infectious smile and a warm, glowing personality so this could really help her in interviews and in terms of achievements, Kiara works for an organization named Centro Inés which helps children and seniors master independent and creative skills while providing educational, recreational and support services. Could 2018 also be 2016 in reverse since France won Miss Universe 2016 and Puerto Rico won Miss World 2016 and France is a favorite for Miss World 2018 being held on December 8 so that could mean Puerto Rico could win Miss Universe 2018 according to these patterns working in Kiara’s favor. Did you notice that Puerto Rico has won the Miss Universe crown every year after the Miss Universe pageant was held in Thailand? Thailand hosted in 1992 and then in 1993, Dayanara Torres won Miss Universe for Puerto Rico and Thailand hosted in 2005 and then in 2006, Zuleyka Rivera won Miss Universe for Puerto Rico so does this mean that Puerto Rico’s win is actually coming next year in 2019 or does it mean that the trend will be broken and that Puerto Rico wins this year or could Puerto Rico possibly win both this year AND next year??? Oh, the boricuan possibilities!




The Pain in Spain Stays Mainly in the Brain


So she did something about it. Spain’s Angela Ponce is about to make history and become the first transsexual delegate to compete for the Miss Universe crown. Angela was born male in 1991 and started transitioning to female as a young adult. Angela will be roommates with Miss Peru, Romina Lozano while they are in Thailand. Angela previously competed in 2015 to attempt to represent Spain at the Miss World pageant but would go unplaced at that pageant only to come back and triumph to win her national title and represent Spain during this story-driven era of the Miss Universe pageant making her this year’s most newsworthy contestant. Elodie Gossuin, Miss France 2001 with her familyJenna Talackova Prior to 2012, the rule was that Miss Universe contestants had to be born female but today, in this modern world, humans who were born mentally female and physically male are able to change their external appearance through medical operations. There is a lot of history that would lead up to this momentous occasion and it started in 2001 when there were widespread rumors that France’s delegate Elodie Gossuin was born male. This controversy garnered much media attention but the rumors were false and Elodie was allowed to compete for Miss Universe 2001 and even placed in the top 10 and would go on to win the 2002 Miss Europe title. Elodie married model Bertrand Lacherie in 2006 and she even gave birth to the couple’s four children - two set of twins with the first set of twins born in 2007 and the second set born in 2013! That Elodie sure is special! That whole controversy opened a new can of worms about whether or not transgendered delegates should be allowed to compete in pageants for females. There are other pageants that are exclusively for transsexuals like the Miss International Queen pageant but there are those that are recognized as female after having the operation and therefore want to be recognized as female and don’t think it should matter if they were born physically male and want to compete in pageants for traditional females. In 2001, when the controversy surrounding Elodie surfaced, then reigning Miss Universe, Lara Dutta, stated to the media that what the Miss Universe contract states is that the delegate must be a female citizen of her country which could be read in many ways. In 2012, the controversy resurfaced when another transwoman, Jenna Talackova (born male but later transitioned to female and her first name was originally Walter) was initially disqualified from competing to represent Canada at the Miss Universe pageant only to hire an attorney, Gloria Allred, pointing out that her passport indicates that she is female after transitioning even if she was born physically male. The decision was reversed and Jenna was allowed to compete and would place in the top 12 at Miss Universe Canada 2012 but would not make the top 5 in a pageant that was won by Sahar Biniaz who was replaced by runner-up Adwoa Yamoah who represented Canada at the 2012 Miss Universe pageant which was won by Miss USA, Olivia Culpo. Olivia was asked about the controversy during the judge’s question round of Miss USA 2012 when one of the judges, Rob Kardashian, asked her a question submitted on Twitter, “Would you feel it would be fair that a transgender woman wins the Miss USA title over a natural-born woman?” Olivia’s response was, "I do think that that would be fair but I can understand that people would be a little apprehensive to take that road because there is a tradition of natural-born women, but today where there are so many surgeries and so many people out there who have a need to change for a happier life, I do accept that because I believe it's a free country." It took another six years but the time has come to see how the first transgendered contestant will fare at Miss Universe. Naturally, there is a lot of pressure on Angela Ponce and she certainly has a story but how much of it is she willing to tell? Angela is one of those contestants that will either be very present in the competition or not place at all so we shall see how she fares in the preliminaries and we will see if the land of flamenco can do it this year. Other Spanish Miss Universe delegates representing the LGBTQ community included Patricia Yurena Rodriguez who was 1st runner up in 2008 and afterwards came out as a lesbian. Also, last year’s Spanish delegate and top 10 finalist at Miss Universe 2017, Sofia del Prado came out as a lesbian and she is currently dating Spanish basketball player, Laura Nicholls. Spain hasn’t won the crown since Amparo Munoz won Spain’s only Miss Universe crown back in 1974. Could Angela be the next?

Spain's Sofia del Prado who placed in the top 10 of Miss Universe 2017 is pictured here with girlfriend Laura Nicholls.



H'Hen Niê Is My Henny



Good mornting, Vietnam! One strikingly gorgeous contender for this year’s Miss Universe crown is H'Hen Niê from Vietnam. Vietnam has only placed amongst the semifinalists once in the history of Miss Universe pageant which was back in 2008 which was also the year Vietnam hosted the Miss Universe pageant. This year, the land of pho sends us this stunner who really stands out with her shorter hair which is quite rare in pageants but often helps certain delegates stand out in a good way. Remember, we are looking for stories and achievements amongst our potential semifinalists and H'Hen Niê certainly has one. Coming from the ethnic minority of the Rade people in Vietnam, H'Hen Niê defied her cultural norms of marrying and starting a family young, she decided to move to Ho Chi Minh City to pursue the Business Finance program at the College of Foreign Economic Relations. She had a strong work ethic since childhood helping with the family’s coffee farm to working as a domestic worker while pursuing higher education and interning at a bank. She would catch the eye of Vietnamese designer Đỗ Mạnh Cường and she would eventually audition for season 6 of Vietnam's Next Top Model in 2015 to finish in 9th position in the reality TV competition. H'Hen Niê’s success gave her the ability to pay off her family’s debts and it has taught her that education is a key to break out of poverty. She will also have great visuals as her preparations for Miss Universe have been well documented through a series of Youtube videos. Here is one of them:

Hoping to inspire young people to overcome their obstacles and pursue higher education, H'Hen Niê donated 70% of her prize money to providing scholarships to students in her old schools. A contest was held to select her national costume and the winning design was a costume resembling the internationally famous Vietnamese bánh mì sandwich. Will H'Hen Niê become the world’s henny and not only become a second semifinalist for her country but possibly get her Vietnam’s first Miss Universe crown?



One “Miss” is All It Takes


South Africa-Tamaryn GreenVenezuela-Keysi Sayago Possibilities… The reigning Miss Universe, Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters, hails from South Africa and she was invited by South Africa’s first Miss Universe, Margaret Gardiner (who won the coveted Miss Universe crown in 1978 and also is a member of the Hollywood Foreign Press) to attend the 75th annual Golden Globe Awards ceremony which was held on January 7, 2018. It was wonderful to see South Africa’s two Miss Universe winners united at such a special event. Mandela’s rainbow nation hopes to be the next country to capture the Miss Universe crown two years in a row with their latest bet, Tamaryn Green. Tamaryn is currently a medical student at the University of Cape Town aspiring to become a doctor and after five years of medical school, Tamaryn decided that it was time to go for her national crown and it paid off in a big way. Education is very important to the Green family as Tamaryn’s mother is a teacher and her father is a curriculum adviser. Tamaryn is certainly fit and exotic and her accomplishments should be rewarded so will she be able to achieve the elusive consecutive win for her country? The only nation to accomplish this feat is the pageant powerhouse of Venezuela and their consecutive crowns were won in 2008 and 2009 thanks to Dayana Mendoza and Stefania Fernandez. This year, Venezuela is being represented by Sthefany Gutierrez and being a pageant powerhouse always puts the pressure on Miss Venezuela but they have consistently set a high standard and is always the country to watch. In fact, one of Sthefany’s runner ups at Miss Venezuela, Mariem Velazco recently won the Miss International 2018 crown so is this a good sign for Sthefany? The long-haired Pocahontas look seems to be trending this year and Sthefany certainly has the Pocahontas look down to a tee. Venezuela has the most international beauty pageant titles of any other country and a large part of this success has been attributed to the strict training from beauty czar, Osmel Sousa, who has been behind Venezuela’s success since the 1970s and Venezuela has captured 7 Miss Universe crowns since then winning in years of 1979 (Maritza Sayalero), 1981 (Irene Saez), 1986 (Barbara Palacios), 1996 (Alicia Machado), 2008 (Dayana Mendoza), 2009 (Stefania Fernandez) and 2013 (Gabriela Isler). Osmel is now 72 years old so he has decided to retire from coaching the Venezuelan contestants earlier this year so will that have an impact on Venezuela’s future success or has he trained his team enough to carry on the beauty torch without him? Osmel has also trained other countries so he’s still around. In fact, he has had a hand in coaching Mexico’s 2018 representative Andrea Toscano.




NAFTA
North American Fabulous Titleholders Agreement


Canada-Marta StepienUSA-Sarah Rose SummersMexico-Andrea Toscano with Osmel SousaThe North American contingent is quite strong this year with these three fabulous titleholders. Canada, USA and Mexico have captured many Miss Universe crowns. The USA has eight wins while Canada and Mexico each have two wins. Canada’s Marta Stepien hopes to get another win in Thailand since their last win was in 2005 when Thailand last hosted Miss Universe so she certainly hopes that luck will strike twice. Marta was first runner up to last year’s Canadian representative, Lauren Howe, who placed in the top 10 last year so Marta hopes to surpass that and she could very well do that as she is very tall and statuesque and in terms of achievements, she studies Biomedical Engineering Technology at St. Clair College and is an applied researcher and also speaks four languages. Marta has also received extensive training in Colombia so she is well prepared for the competition so Marta could bring a third Miss Universe crown to the land of the maple leaf. Of course, Miss USA is regularly part of the competition and everyone expects Nebraska’s Sarah Rose Summers to continue that trend especially with her bright and sunny personality. The USA has only missed the semifinals five times in Miss Universe history (1957 due to a disqualification, 1976, 1999, 2002 and 2010). The USA already has the most wins at Miss Universe and Sarah could even bring a 9th win to the land of the free and the home of the brave. Sarah’s accomplishments include working as a certified child life specialist and she also earned two degrees with cum laude status from Texas Christian University majoring in child development and strategic communication, with a minor in business. Mexico is being represented by Andrea Toscano and she hopes to bring a third Miss Universe crown to the land of the Mariachi succeeding their wins in 1991 thanks to Lupita Jones and 2010 thanks to Ximena Navarrete. Andrea, as mentioned previously, has had some coaching from Osmel Sousa who is known internationally for being the man behind Venezuela’s international pageant success. Coming from Manzanilla, Andrea is studying at the University of Colima majoring in Nutrition and is also interested in neurolinguistic programming. Mexico also had a name change to the title which was Nuestra Belleza Mexico last year but has since changed to Mexicana Universal. So will we have a NAFTA (North American Fabulous Titleholders Agreement) and agree that all 3 of these lovely ladies will make the semifinals for Miss Universe 2018 and could one of them even win the crown?



Witness the Fitness


Great Britain-Dee-Ann Kentish-RogersTwo delegates have interesting fitness related stories this year which could translate into placements and they are the delegates from Great Britain and India who are seen here photographed together. Great Britain’s Dee-Ann Kentish-Rogers of Anguillan descent prides herself in being one of the few black representatives of the land of Union Jack (the other being Anita St. Rose who represented Great Britain at Miss Universe 1996) and she loves to sport the unique dreadlocks hairstyle. Dee-Ann loves to do Sudoku puzzles regularly which she would do with her grandmother as a bonding activity. Contestants of this year’s Miss Universe Great Britain pageant fundraised for A Sisterhood which is a women’s empowerment charity supporting victims of acid attacks in India and funds support centres in the UK for women who have suffered from female genital mutilation. Dee-Ann has work experience in law and athletics and she is passionate about going to schools hosting workshops speaking about the necessity to respect women. Dee-Ann is certainly a very competitive woman growing up a tomboy with several male cousins, she would play soccer and climb trees and today, she is proud of having participated in athletic events starting as a 400m runner and later switching to the heptathlon. In 2014, Dee-Ann (representing Anguilla) competed in the second Commonwealth Games in Glasgow but suffered a knee injury and as a result, she would give up her Olympic dreams to pursue a Law degree from the University of Birmingham and now she is competing in pageants citing that posture is important in pageantry as it is in running track and field so Dee-Ann has an incredible story and is absolutely one to watch during the 2018 Miss Universe competition. Great Britain placed among the semifinalists last year and also in 2013 but they have never won the Miss Universe crown. Will Dee-Ann be able to change that? Another delegate that has a passion for fitness is India’s Nehal Chudasama. Nehal’s story of transforming herself from fat to fit is inspiring. Nehal works as a fitness consultant, anchor and model. After losing her mother when Nehal was 13, Nehal managed to get the support from her father to pursue modelling which is not a common profession amongst Gurajati girls. Nehal is interested in fitness/athletic activities, dancing and cooking. Nehal would win the Miss Beautiful Body award at her national pageant. Two years ago, Nehal became determined to lose weight and get in better shape and she said she was able to meet this goal by visualizing the end result in her mind and never giving up despite any setbacks. Nehal wants to change the Indian perception of fitness especially among females and she wants to work to encourage as many people as she can to adopt fitness as a lifestyle to achieve both mental and physical health. She also currently aspires to work in Indian Civil Services rather than pursuing a career in India’s entertainment industry of Bollywood which is right in step with IMG’s direction for Miss Universe so will Nehal inspire her way to the semifinals? India has captured two Miss Universe crowns in the years of 1994 thanks to Sushmita Sen and 2000 thanks to Lara Dutta and Lara assists in training India’s delegates so we shall see if the obsession with fitness pays off.




Rest in Peace
Chelsi Pearl Smith-Miss Universe 1995




The universe was her oyster and she was the Pearl.

Of all the deaths in the pageant world on which I have had to report, this one is, by far, the most painful and devastating for me because I actually developed a friendship with Chelsi Smith-Miss Universe 1995. Chelsi was born on August 23, 1973 in Redwood City, California and passed away on September 8, 2018 in Mifflin, Pennsylvania after battling liver disease/liver cancer for over a year which was a struggle that she kept quiet. On September 8, 2018, Chelsi’s mother posted on social media that she had passed away and the news quickly spread and Chelsi’s death was featured in various media publications. Chelsi passed away in the Locust Grove Nursing Home in Mifflin, Pennsylvania. (Chelsi’s mother works in Pennsylvania and Chelsi spent her final days with her). The family had a private ceremony and another memorial service was held in Texas on October 6, 2018. This death came as a shock to the pageant world and to many people who knew Chelsi and there was a great deal of outpouring of grief on social media on which Chelsi was very active but much less so during her final year. Many people commented how Chelsi had this ability to make you feel as if you were the only person in the room when you talked to her and she had such incredible focus and warmth. She was very insightful and intelligent. Chelsi Smith as a child with the Trimble familyChelsi Smith on her wedding day with her ex-husband Kelly Blair It is often said in pageants that beauty comes from within and Chelsi was the perfect example of how true beauty starts on the inside and emanates on the outside. In fact, Chelsi was one of the few Miss Congeniality winners to win the Miss USA crown. She also won Miss Congeniality at Miss Texas USA 1995 which demonstrates Chelsi’s integrity and character. Chelsi often joked that she was very aware that she looked like a member of the famous singing Jackson family (particularly Janet Jackson). Chelsi just had “it” – that star quality that can’t be defined and just comes naturally and can’t be taught. Many people knew even before Chelsi won Miss Universe that they were looking at a Miss Universe. Chelsi’s unmistakable poise and confidence coupled with her natural speaking style with that incredible voice combined with her stellar beauty made Chelsi the true queen she was. Chelsi took pride in her biracial background being born to teen parents: an African-American father, Craig Smith who was 19, and a Caucasian mother, Mary Denise Trimble (also aged 19) who were briefly married after Chelsi’s birth but then divorced when Chelsi was 2 years old. Chelsi was primarily raised by the Trimble family including her grandparents Barnie and Jeanette Trimble and aunts Stacie and Paulette. Denise struggled with alcoholism at the time and signed custody of Chelsi over to Barnie and Jeanette who would also divorce when Chelsi was 7 years old. After completing her reign as Miss Universe, Chelsi would also experience marriage and divorce after being married to fitness trainer, Kelly Blair for just under five years from December 28, 1996 until their divorce was finalized on what happened to be a notorious day in American history (September 11, 2001). Chelsi would keep the Blair name though and maintained friendship with that family particularly Kelly’s brother Randy who used to perform songs with Chelsi in Christian venues prior to Chelsi’s success in pageantry. My website is celebrating its 20th year of existence this year (being born on June 9, 1998) and this website has gone through a few changes to the cover page over the years but since 2004, I have stuck to its current design and the most prominently featured pageant queen on the cover has been Chelsi Smith so it should be obvious to everyone how much I adored her. In fact, it was the 1995 Miss Universe pageant which Chelsi won that sparked my obsession with pageants. A friend of mine taped it and we watched it over and over again and practically had the entire 1995 pageant memorized. The 1995 Miss Universe pageant has so far been the only Miss Universe pageant to be held in Africa (in Windhoek, Namibia from which Miss Universe 1992, Michelle McLean hails.) Chelsi holds the distinction of being the only Miss Universe to be crowned in the African continent. In 2006, much to my delight, Chelsi appeared as a judge for the 2006 Miss Teen USA pageant marking her first return to a nationally televised pageant since completing her reign during the 1996 Miss Universe pageant. I complimented Chelsi in my commentary for Miss Teen USA 2006 on how I adored her and her incredible voice. Much to my surprise, on June 13, 2007, I received an email from Chelsi after a friend told her about my website which I never expected and she thanked me for the compliments and we became friends after that. She even sold me something very special of hers. Over the years, I would create and send her birthday cards and would send them to her each year on August 23 from 2009 to 2018. She unfortunately didn’t see the last two due to her illness but her warm words of gratitude and appreciation meant so much to me and she loved the ones that she saw and thanked me many times over and said they meant more to her than I would ever know. Pictured here are those 10 birthday cards I made for Chelsi.


I also decided to create a video montage to honor Chelsi including some rarities from my vast pageant collection so here are some clips of Chelsi’s path through pageantry and how she triumphed in her competitions and overcame incredible obstacles to win the ultimate crown. This montage ended up being 67.5 minutes long and begins with Chelsi's singing performances at the 1993 Miss Texas Teen USA pageant, leading to her winning the regional Miss Southeast Texas USA pageant in 1993, competing in Miss Texas USA 1994 and then competing in and winning Miss Texas USA 1995, Miss USA 1995 and Miss Universe 1995 and being highlighted as the reigning Miss Universe at Miss Teen USA 1995, Miss USA 1996 and especially at Miss Universe 1996 before crowning her successor Venezuela’s Alicia Machado. Chelsi would later judge Miss Teen USA 2006, Miss California USA 2011 and came up on stage during Miss Texas USA 2011 to be recognized amongst other former Texas titleholders. Funnily, co-host Jason Feinberg didn’t know who Chelsi was at first but co-host Crystle Stewart-Miss USA 2008 quickly revealed that he was in the presence of a Miss Universe generating a shocked reaction from him and Chelsi would blow several appreciative kisses to Crystle. Chelsi and Crystle are the only two black women to win Miss Texas USA and both of them also won Miss USA but Crystle would have to settle for a top 10 spot at Miss Universe 2008 making Chelsi the only Texan to win the Miss Universe crown of the 8 winners from the USA. Texas has won 9 Miss USA crowns which is far more than any other state but Chelsi was the only of those 9 Texan Miss USAs to win Miss Universe. Christy Fichtner came close as she was 1st runner up at Miss Universe 1986 and Michelle Royer (1987), Gretchen Polhemus (1989) and Kandace Krueger (2001) all finished as 2nd runner up at their respective Miss Universe pageants. I now present to you my special montage video of Chelsi's path through pageantry.

As you can see, Chelsi’s triumphs were not easy feats with strong competitors in each competition. Chelsi’s first runner-ups would be: Erica Randall at Miss Southeast Texas USA 1993 (a win announced by Dan O’Rourke), Harris County’s Lisa Elena Patino at Miss Texas USA 1995 (a win announced by Ron Franklin), New York’s Shanna Moakler at Miss USA 1995 (a win announced by Bob Goen) and the brilliant Manpreet Brar of India at Miss Universe 1995 (a win also announced by Bob Goen). Yet, Chelsi would shine as the brightest star.

The iconic top 3 of Miss Universe 1995: India's Manpreet Brar (1st runner up), USA's Chelsi Smith (Miss Universe 1995) and Canada's Lana Buchberger (2nd runner up)

Chelsi also was a judge at Miss Peru 2016 won by Valeria Piazza (semifinalist at Miss Universe 2016) and she was also a judge at Miss British Virgin Islands 2016. Chelsi was the 6th Miss USA to win the Miss Universe title succeeding: South Carolina’s Miriam Stevenson (1954), Iowa’s Carol Morris (1956), Utah’s Linda Bement (1960), Alabama’s Sylvia Hitchcock (1967) and South Carolina’s Shawn Weatherly (1980). Chelsi is also the 6th Miss Universe to enter mortality succeeding: Sweden’s Hillevi Rombin Schine (1955) who died in a plane crash in 1996, Spain’s Amparo Munoz (1974) who died of brain cancer in 2011, USA’s Sylvia Hitchcock Carson (1967) who died of cancer in 2015, Colombia’s Luz Marina Zuluaga (1958) who also died in 2015 and USA’s Linda Bement (1960) who died earlier this year in 2018. Three of the 8 Miss USA’s that won Miss Universe have now entered mortality making Venezuela the country with the most currently living Miss Universe winners as all 7 of them are alive. Chelsi also had the shortest earthly lifespan so far of the deceased Miss Universe titleholders passing away at the age of 45. Amparo Munoz passed away at age 56. Although, Chelsi is biracial, Chelsi is the considered the first African-American woman to win Miss Texas USA and Miss Universe. She is considered the third black Miss USA succeeding Michigan’s Carole Gist in 1990 and Michigan’s Kenya Moore in 1993 and Chelsi is considered the second black Miss Universe succeeding Trinidad & Tobago’s Janelle Commissiong in 1977.
After her Miss Universe reign, Chelsi would pursue a career in the highly competitive entertainment industry. She would continue to model and had a few acting roles such as an appearance in the TV show “Due South” in 1996 and the movie “Playas Ball” (2003). Chelsi also signed with Music World which was under the Columbia/Sony label and was managed by Beyonce’s father Mathew Knowles from late 1999 to early 2004 and Chelsi recorded some songs, one of which was “Dom Da Da” which was featured during the movie “The Sweetest Thing” released in 2002 starring Cameron Diaz. Chelsi opted to buy out of the contract though as she felt like she was shelved to be kept out of the way. Here is a Youtube clip of Chelsi's single “Dom Da Da”.


Chelsi was also part of a Pussycat Dolls-esque girl group called “Godiva: Assorted Flavors” from 2002-2005 with other girls like Elise Neal and Tammy Townsend. Chelsi is on the far right of the picture below and beneath that is a Youtube clip of a behind-the-scenes look at this group.



In 2008, Chelsi made an appearance at a Fashion Rocks the Universe event where she was photographed but unfortunately was heavily criticized for having gained weight.


She described this weight gain as simply giving up but she was determined to make a comeback. She created a sizzle reel for a proposed show called “The Reconstruction of Chelsi Smith” that was shopped around but didn’t get picked up but Chelsi would lose the weight anyway yet this outdated picture from 2008 surfaced a lot during media reports of Chelsi’s death.


Towards her end, Chelsi was much quieter on social media but few were aware that she was terminally ill.

A self-described gypsy, Chelsi was very much a free spirit who had friends everywhere and lived as she pleased but she also had her struggles. She mentioned in her final walk speech as Miss Universe that her reign was not an easy one and that it took patience and hard work but would be the experience of a lifetime. Chelsi also had issues with insomnia on occasion. Exactly two years prior to her death, Chelsi experienced a scary situation in Texas when someone showed up claiming to be her Uber ride and when she got in the car, he threatened her and tried to rob her but Chelsi had to pull the rarely used do-you-know-who-I-am card and demanded that he drop her off and he did so fortunately she got out of that situation unscathed which demonstrates just how bold and fearless Chelsi was and her life experiences around the world surely taught her much and already added to her high level of intelligence. One of life’s mysteries is how could someone so internationally loved and adored be taken so soon? My opinion is that God just simply couldn’t wait for her. Chelsi was predeceased by her maternal grandparents and she spoke lovingly of them often on social media so I like to think of them as being reunited. The impact of Chelsi’s passing was widely felt especially since she was a modern-era queen and much more media coverage of her was available online than any other.
May this beautiful, talented, charismatic, intelligent, iconic queen Chelsi Smith rest in paradise.







So as of December 1, Tom’s tentative top 5 for Miss Universe 2018 are:
1. Puerto Rico
2. Philippines
3. Vietnam
4. USA
5. Venezuela

Will my top 5 change over the coming weeks or will they stay the same? I will post a second round of prethoughts on December 9 where I will comment on all of the delegates and then after viewing the preliminary swimsuit and gown competitions which are being held on December 13, my final predictions for Miss Universe 2018 will be posted on December 15.



Of course, tell everyone to watch Miss Universe 2018! The big night is December 16 at 7 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on FOX!


 

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Some photos courtesy Miss Universe L.P., LLLP