THOUGHTS OF MISS UNIVERSE

2020/21



THE PRETHOUGHTS




SECOND ROUND PRETHOUGHTS (May 10, 2021)




Preliminaries are being held on May 14 at 7 p.m. Eastern Standard Time so there should be a webcast available online on the Miss Universe youtube page or at missuniverse.com



I'm going to post my final predictions for Miss Universe 2020 on the morning of May 16 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. The format seems to be unchanged from last year with a top 21 selected with the same regional divisions with the top 20 consisting of 5 delegates from Europe, 5 delegates from the Americas and 5 delegates from Asia/Africa/Oceania and 5 wildcard spots plus a 21st spot for the winner of the Internet vote. Some speculate that the regional divisions could be eliminated but I usually just end up selecting at least 5 from Europe and the rest of the spots are normally occupied by the other regions anyway so we'll see how they actually do it on pageant night. 2006, 2018 and 2019 had a top 20 but this year will be the first with a top 21 and it's the perfect year to do so as this year is extremely competitive and I'm having a very difficult time narrowing it down!! I'm clear on my winner though.
Covid naturally affected the number of delegates competing for the 69th Miss Universe pageant so we have 74 delegates confirmed so far for this year which is the lowest number of delegates since Miss Universe 2003 which had 71 contestants but it's still higher than Miss Universe 1988 which only had 66 delegates compete. Miss Universe 2018 had a record-breaking 94 delegates competing surpassing the previous record of 92 set in 2017. However, if any of this year's delegates test positive for Covid during their stay in Florida, then she may not be permitted to compete.




We will all witness the magic unfold on May 16 on fyi and Telemundo when the 69th Miss Universe pageant broadcasts live from the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida, USA. Olivia Culpo-Miss Universe 2012 and Mario Lopez will serve as hosts with Pitbull being featured as this year's performer. Special commentators are rumored to be: Paulina Vega-Miss Universe 2014, Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters-Tebow-Miss Universe 2017 and Cheslie Kryst-Miss USA 2019. Sponsors include: Muba Cosmetics doing hair and make-up for the ladies with Olivia Quido Skin Care and this year's delegates will wear swimsuits from Ema Savahl and cocktail dresses by Sherri Hill with shoes by Jojo Bragais and Fadil Berisha returns as this year's official photographer.

Albania-Paula Mehmetukaj

Paula did train extensively in ballet dancing as a child but I don't see this delegate placing in this competitive year. Albania has never won the crown and their last placement was in 2019 when they made the top 20.

Argentina-Alina Luz Akselrad

I have to say that I absolutely adore Alina and she is still in my top 5. In terms of overall styling, this girl is a pro and she has an amazing body and she comes across as very warm-hearted and I think the judges will find her endearing. As mentioned in my first round prethoughts, the wizard of Osmel Sousa, who used to direct theinternational pageant powerhouse of Venezuela, is now directing Argentina and Uruguay. In terms of achievements, Alina holds certificates in persuasive writing and children’s rights from the prestigious Harvard University and recently published her own book that offers guidance and empowerment to young women. Alina advocates for cancer prevention and volunteers to help pediatric oncology patients after her mother beat cancer and they even host a radio show together called "Mundo de Reinas." In 2017, Alina also won Miss Sudamérica which was a title also won by Venezuela's Barbara Palacios Teyde prior to winning Miss Universe 1986 so let's see if Alina can bring another placement or even another Miss Universe crown to the land of Evita Peron which last placed in the top 10 for 2014 and they have one Miss Universe winner, Norma Nolan in 1962.

Armenia-Monika Grigoryan

Armenia made its debut at Miss Universe in 2018 but has never placed. I don't foresee a placement for this delegate from the land of the heritage of the Kardashians.

Aruba-Helen Hernandez

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

Australia-Maria Thattil

The land down under sends us a conundrum this year. Maria is one of this year's most well-spoken delegates but she is also this year's shortest delegate standing at 5'2.5" (1.6 m) tall. It is extremely rare for shorter delegates to place but Maria hopes to change the narrative and since representation matters, the IMG era could reward a delegate like Maria and for that reason, she is currently among my top 21 so we shall see if I stay convinced after preliminaries. She could pull a scenario similar to Guam's 1982 delegate, Patty Chong Kerkos, who managed to place as 1st runner up in spite of also being short in stature standing at 5'2". Maria is the second consecutive Australian delegate of South Asian descent succeeding Priya Serrao who went unplaced last year and Australia's recent track record is actually quite good as they have placed in 8 of the last 12 Miss Universe pageants missing out only on 2013, 2016, 2017 and 2019. Australia has won the crown two times which were in 1972 (Kerry Anne Wells) and 2004 (Jennifer Hawkins).

Bahamas-Shauntae Miller

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-Hillary-Ann Williams

The birthplace of pop sensation Rihanna has never placed in Miss Universe history with sporadic participation over the years. While this is a decent delegate, I don't see her placing in this competitive year.

Belgium-Dhenia Covens

Belgium did place in 2018 but I don't foresee a placement for the diamond capital of Europe this year. Belgium has never won the Miss Universe crown but they have placed in the top 6 in 1981 and 1992.

Belize-Iris Salguero

The land of the jaguar and the Mundo Maya placed in the top 12 once back in 1979 but this year's delegate is not expected to place.

Bolivia-Lenka Nemer

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). I don't see the country where the Amazon and the Andes meet placing this year.

Brazil-Julia Gama

The land of the Samba has placed every year since they hosted the pageant in 2011 placing 9 years in a row and I expect Julia to make it a 10th year in a row. Julia is among my top 10 currently as she is a strong overall candidate with strong speaking skills, a great body and catwalk and I expect to make a big splash in this year's competition. She also previously placed in the top 11 at Miss World 2014. Brazil has won two Miss Universe crowns thanks to Ieda Maria Vargas in 1963 and Martha Vasconcellos in 1968 so will Julia get the tropical paradise a third Miss Universe crown?

British Virgin Islands-Shabree Frett

The delegate from the British Virgin Islands has never placed and it is expected that Nature's Little Secret will remain a secret this year.

Bulgaria-Radinela Chusheva

Girl...so I hear she's a dancer... The land of roses has yet to place at Miss Universe and although this year's delegate is supposedly completing her master's degree in marketing, she is currently not on my list.

Cambodia-Sarita Reth

Cambodia made their debut at Miss Universe in 2017 and apparently, this year's delegate is a noted television personality in her country. I'm told she could charm her way in but I don't see it body-wise so I have her as an alternate currently.

Cameroon-Kossinda Angele

Camerooooooon! The land of Bebe Zahara Benet is making their debut and is the only new country competing at Miss Universe this year and also one of the few from Africa. I think this delegate needs more polish so I don't foresee a placement this year.

Canada-Nova Stevens

The land of the maple leaf very possibly has their third Miss Universe winner with Super-Nova! This girl has an amazing story. Of Sudanese descent, Nova was born under the name Nyawal Bukjok in Kenya to a family fleeing the second Sudanese Civil War and was sent to live with Canadian relatives at the age of 6 and Nova recently reunited with her family living in Ethiopia. Overcoming all obstacles, Nova models professionally and is actively involved in the Black Lives Matter movement which is a hot topic in recent years and she combats bullying. Nova has the model body and is extremely well-prepared as she has the message and the interview skills needed in this era and she will even wear a Michael Cinco gown during the finals. Canada's most recent placement was in 2018 and they have won two Miss Universe crowns thanks to Karen Baldwin in 1982 and Natalie Glebova in 2005 so is a third Miss Universe crown on the way and is Nova's Miss Universe win written in the stars??

Cayman Islands-Mariah Tibbetts

The land of crystal blue waters and white coral beaches has never placed and that is not expected to change this year.

Chile-Daniela Nicolás

The land of the Andes is being represented by stunningly photogenic Daniela who is currently in my top 10 and I really like this delegate and hope she does very well. She is a noted television personality in her country having acted in four sitcoms. Chile's Cecilia Bolocco won their only Miss Universe crown in 1987 and their last placement was in 2004.

China-Jiaxin Sun

The world's most populated country pulled off a surprise placement in 2017 but they have never won the crown. Their highest placement was as 2nd runner up in 2002. I don't have this delegate among my picks at the moment.

Colombia-Laura Victoria Olascuaga

Laura was actually the runner-up to Gabriela Tafur Nader who terminated much of last year competition finishing in the top 5 but she won the right to represent Colombia on her own as their was a franchise change this year and the stunning Maria Fernanda Aristizabal who won the original Miss Colombia crown was not able to compete but a lot of people are hoping she may be assigned the 2021 Miss Universe pageant in December. In the meantime, we have Laura who is very well-prepared as Colombian normally are with a strong body/catwalk and interview skills and she is in my top 21 at the moment. After 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-Ivonne Cerdas

The land of peace and brotherhood sends us Ivonne who is one to watch for the simple reason that Costa Rica is in talks to host the 2021 Miss Universe pageant in December so there could be a courting process happening here. I am thinking of putting her in my list after preliminaries and she has a strong chance of being one of the surprise delegates that most people didn't see coming and she does have a good story about becoming a software engineer in spite of being dyslexic. 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, 2013 and 2018.

Croatia-Mirna Naiia Maric

This delegate is currently not among my picks. Croatia has placed thrice as a semifinalist (2009, 2012 and 2017) but has never won the crown.

Curaçao-Chantal Wiertz

Chantal is in my top 21 at the moment. I'm actually very impressed with her as she looks amazing but apart from that, she has a great story about her struggles with autism. Curaçao last made the top 10 in 2018 and they got a 1st runner up placement in 1968 and they also finished 4th in 1997.

Czech Republic-Klára Vavrušková

Klára is among my top 21 picks at the moment. She has a very strong overall look and a great body and she has a good pageant history recently placing in top 4 at Miss Earth 2019 and her environmentally conscious efforts should be rewarded. 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-Amanda Petri

The land of the Little Mermaid sends us Amanda this year who previously went unplaced at Miss World 2017 and is also expected to go unplaced at Miss Universe. Denmark has never won the crown but was 1st runner up in 1963 and they last placed in 2007.

Dominican Republic-Kímberly Jiménez

The land where your heart flames to the rhythms of merengue sends us Kimberly who is currently an alternate for me with a strong chance of moving into my top 21 if I like what I see in preliminaries. I think most people might be dismissing her due to the delay of the posting of her up close video. Kimberly is a strong overall candidate with a great body and even an intriguing eye color and her English is decent so she is one to watch. The Dominican Republic won the crown in 2003 thanks to Amelia Vega and placed in the top 20 in 2019.

Ecuador-Leyla Espinoza Calvache

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. This year's delegate is decent but I don't foresee a placement for this delegate.

El Salvador-Vanessa Velásquez

The gentleman of the Americas sends us Vanessa who is among my honorable mentions at the moment but I would be glad to see this one place as she is another warm delegate with a pleasant overall look. El Salvador is one of those countries that tends to get lost in the shuffle. 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-Viivi Altonen

Viivi is among my top 21 picks at the moment and I'm glad Finland sent a very strong delegate this year. As mentioned in my first round prethoughts, Viivi is like a citizen of the world having lived in four countries: Finland, Switzerland, Mozambique and India where she even appeared in a Bollywood film! 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. I expect a placement for them this year and could Viivi even cross the Finnish line as the new Miss Universe??

France-Amandine Petit

Ooh là là! The belle mademoiselle Amandine is among the stronger delegates competing this year and she is accomplished currently obtaining her master’s degree in social, sanitary, and gerontological management and she has a heart for the elderly particularly those suffering from Alzheimer's disease. Amandine was going to compete for 2021 Miss Universe title but to avoid a potential conflict with both the Miss France and Miss Universe pageant scheduled for December, Amandine is competing in May and Clemence Botino is going to compete for the 2021 Miss Universe crown instead. This same scenario caused a flip-flop for the 2014 and 2015 France delegates. Amandine is among my top 21 picks although I am a smidge concerned that she may not be as fluent in English. France made the top 10 last year and the fashion capital of the world has won two Miss Universe crowns thanks to Christiane Martel in 1953 and Iris Mittenaere for 2016. With Germany's absence this year, France is now one of only two countries that has competed at every Miss Universe pageant since its inception in 1952 (Canada is the other one and USA was disqualified in 1957).

Ghana-Chelsea Tayui

The shining star of Africa's gold coast sends us Chelsea who is currently not among my picks. Ghana hasn't placed since 2017 and they have never won the Miss Universe crown.

Great Britain-Jeanette Akua

As mentioned in my first round prethoughts, Jeanette defeated some heavy-hitters for the Great Britain title including two former Miss World runners-up. Of South Africa descent, Jeanette has a similar story to Miss Universe 2017-South Africa's Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters who escaped a kidnapping. Jeanette is also a singer who competed at the X Factor UK 2013 placing in the top 10 so could there be a similar style of recognition in store here as Jamaica's Toni-Ann Singh-Miss World 2019. I have her among my top 21 even though I do have concerns about her body. The land of the Union Jack last placed in 2018 and they have never won the crown.

Haiti-Eden Berandoive

Eden is not among my picks but she has an interesting story about being attacked by a teacher as a teenager and she advocates for education. Haiti last placed in 2016 when they finished as 1st runner up as they did in 1975.

Honduras-Cecilia Rossell

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.

Iceland-Elísabet Hulda Snorradóttir

The land of glaciers and lava and Björk placed in the top 10 in 2019 but this year's delegate is not expected to place. Iceland has never won the crown but their highest placement was as 1st runner up in 1962.

India-Adline Castelino

Adline has had to wait a long time to compete at Miss Universe having won her national title 15 months ago in February 2020 so will that extended training period pay off? I have Adline in my top 10 currently as she is accomplished holding a degree in Business Administration from Wilson College in Mumbai. Indian delegates have long been known for their strong interview skills and Adline certainly possesses them and the country which embodies unity through diversity has won Miss Universe two times thanks to Sushmita Sen in 1994 and Lara Dutta in 2000 and they last placed in 2019.

Indonesia-Ayu Maulida

Indonesia has placed in 6 of the last 7 Miss Universe pageants so the emerald of Southeast Asia has become a country to watch so she is in my top 21 currently. Ayu comes from a royal background and Zozibini Tunzi assisted in her crowning back in March 2020 right before the Covid pandemic became international. Indonesia has never won the crown and they last placed in 2019 and they are among the countries that has won online votes before so they could win the online vote this year.

Ireland-Nadia Sayers

Nadia is a formidable candidate perhaps a bit more on the petite side but she is not on my list currently. The emerald isle has never won the crown. They last placed in 2018 and their highest placement was as 2nd runner up twice in 1963 and 1983.

Israel-Tehila Levi

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-Viviana Vizzini

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. Vivacious Viviana does have a fabulous name and a nice body and her English is good so she's a possibility. I have her as an honorable mention at the moment but she could move up after preliminaries.

Jamaica-Miqueal-Symone Williams

Miqueal-Symone is among my top 21 picks at the moment as this ebony enchantress does speak very well and has a strong overall look as she is an international model. She also pursued her Bachelor’s degree in Marketing at the University of the West Indies. 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 in 2017 with a top 20 placement in 2018.

Japan-Aisha Harumi Tochigi

The land of the rising sun last placed in 2015 and they have won the Miss Universe crown twice (1959 and 2007). Aisha happens to have a similar story to Japan's 2015 delegate Ariana Miyamoto as Aisha is also half-black with a father of Ghanaian descent and she also pointed out that there was an all biracial top 5 at Japan's national pageant. Will this story work again? Well, it could so I have my eye on her but I have her as an alternate at the moment.

Kazakhstan-Kamila Serikbai

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

Korea-Hari Park

Korea last placed in 2007 and the closest they came to the crown was a 1st runner up placement in 1988. Her English is good as she lived in Australia for ten years and she is majoring in modelling but this delegate is not on my list.

Kosovo-Blerta Veseli

A female judging panel probably won't be as receptive to this delegate but this starlet does speak well and she is an architecture student and hosts a television show in her country. Kosovo last placed in 2012.

Laos-Christina Lasasimma

Laos debuted in 2017 and has yet to place. Christina could possibly be their first placement. She is half-Belarusian on her mother's side and she is quite photogenic but her speaking skills are just okay to me so I think she might not place but we'll see if she can change my mind after preliminaries.

Malaysia-Francisca Luhong James

This delegate prides herself in her indigenous background. 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-Anthea Zammit

The heart of the Mediterranean has never placed and I don't see that changing this year.

Mauritius-Vandana Jeetah

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

Mexico-Andrea Meza

As indicated in my first round prethoughts, Andrea is in my top 5 and likely will stay there as this is a very strong candidate with a high chance of winning the crown. Andrea was previously 1st runner-up at Miss World 2017 so that factoid immediately makes her one to watch as she is tall and striking and even works in the male-dominated field of software engineering. The land of the Mariachi has won the Miss Universe crown twice (1991 and 2010) and last placed as 2nd runner up in 2019.

Myanmar-Thuzar Wint Lwin

Myanmar has never placed and even though this delegate appears to be decent, I think her interview skills and particularly her English may not be as strong. She does want to draw attention to the political situation in her country so I have her as a next tier delegate but we'll see how she does in preliminaries.

Nepal-Anshika Sharma

Nepal managed to place in the top 10 for the first time in 2018 and this year's delegate is tall and speaks well and she also works in a male-dominated field of information technology so she is one to watch. I have her as an alternate currently but she could move into my list after preliminaries.

Netherlands-Denise Speelman

Denise overcame an eating disorder so she has that message to share so she's a possibility. I have her as a next tier delegate with a possibility to move up my list so we'll see if she can change my mind after preliminaries. 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.

Nicaragua-Ana Marcelo

The land of lakes and volcanoes last placed in 2013 and Ana certainly is photogenic but in this competitive year, her body just might not be up to par so I have her as an honorable mention at the moment but we'll see if she can move up after preliminaries.

Norway-Sunniva Frigstad

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-Carmen Jaramillo

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. Carmen was originally 1st runner up to previous Panamanian delegate, Mehr Eliezer who did not place. This year's delegate is not among my picks.

Paraguay-Vanessa Castro Guillén

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-Janick Maceta Del Castillo

Janick recently placed as 3rd runner up at Miss Supranational 2019 and she works as an audio engineer in New York. I'll admit I'm not as enamored with her as many other people seem to be but I might end up putting her in my list anyway. Also, some are convinced that since this is a postponed year (like 2014 and 2016) which favored countries that hadn't won since the 1950s like Colombia and France that the last country on that list without a repeat win in Peru since they haven't won since 1957 thanks to Gladys Zender so we'll see if the pattern goes that way and if Janick gets the win but it looks like a longshot to me. The land of the Incas last placed in 2019.

Philippines-Rabiya Mateo

Rabiya has a very strong chance of winning the online vote so she will be in my top 21 and she is expected to keep the streak going for the pearl of the Orient seas. It should also be noted that the Philippines had a franchise change and Rabiya is the first winner of the Miss Universe Philippines title whereas the previous representatives won the Binibining Pilipinas Universe crown. Rabiya is an educator passionate about teaching children from underprivileged backgrounds and she is half-Indian on her father's side similar to Venus Raj who started the Philippines' streak in the semifinals in 2010. Will Rabiya place giving an 11th consecutive placement for the Philippines matching India's 11-year streak from 1992 to 2002? The tropical haven of Asia has 4 Miss Universe winners: Gloria Diaz in 1969, Margarita Moran in 1973, Pia Wurtzbach in 2015 and Catriona Gray in 2018.

Poland-Natalia Piguła

Natalia is accomplished as she graduated from the Faculty of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Architecture at the Łódź University of Technology. She also runs her own company in transportation and courier services and has experience working on one of the largest railways in Europe. Poland pulled off a surprise placement in 2018 and the land of Chopin has never won the crown but have placed as 3rd runner up twice (1986 and 1989). This delegate has possibilities but I have her currently as a next tier delegate with possibilities of moving up after preliminaries.

Portugal-Cristiana Silva

The land of explorers got their first and only placement ever in 2011 finishing in the top 10 and they just placed among the top 20 in 2019. Cristiana is certainly photogenic and is studying law but is more on the petite side so her chances are looking slim in this competitive year so I have her as a next tier delegate.

Puerto Rico-Estefanía Soto

Estefanía was originally 1st runner up at the national level to Madison Anderson who placed as 1st runner up last year at Miss Universe representing Puerto Rico. This delegate is well-spoken but I am not as sure in terms of face and body so I have her as an alternate currently but we'll see if she can change my mind after preliminaries. The shining star of the Caribbean has won the Miss Universe crown 5 times (1970, 1985, 1993, 2001 and 2006).

Romania-Bianca Lorena Tirsin

The land of mysterious Dracula has never placed but that is expected to change this year and Bianca is in my top 10 at the moment but she could even move into my top 5 after preliminaries. However, there was a bit of controversy surrounding Bianca after a photo circulated of her face covered in black and gold makeup which was seen as wearing blackface which is considered disrespectful to black people. Bianca posted an online apology as this was the idea of a designer and she asked not to be associated with a modelling job and I considered her apology to be heartfelt and sincere. Bianca is also apparently wearing a Michael Cinco gown and with her great body and appearance combined with her strong interview skills, she is absolutely a contender and she has even also placed in the top 5 at Miss International 2018 and as 2nd runner up at Miss Supranational 2017 which is extremely rare for Romania so is Bianca about to place similarly at Miss Universe?

Russia-Alina Sanko

Speaking of apologies, Alina also had to issue one after an online video was posted which showed her with a make-up artist scrolling through the headshots of the contestants on the Miss Universe website appearing to be mocking some of them. While she claims she got confused, I think she was aware of her actions and will probably will be frowned upon and they may make an example of her. Alina is certainly photogenic but she appears more Teen than Miss bodywise and I feel like an all-female judging panel won't be as receptive to her either even if she is a talented artist who also made the top 12 at Miss World 2019. All of this makes me place her as an honorable mention possibly moving down to a next tier position. Russia returns after an absence last year and they last placed in 2012 and their only winner in 2002, Oxana Fedorova was dethroned a few months after winning her title.

Singapore-Bernadette Belle Ong

The land of racial harmony last placed in 1987 which was also the year they hosted the Miss Universe pageant. This delegate is not expected to place.

Slovak Republic-Natália Hoštáková

Slovak Republic placed only once which was in 1994 so this is another one of those countries that tends to get lost in the shuffle despite this year's delegate being of very good quality. I currently have this delegate in my next tier but we'll see if she can impress during preliminaries.

South Africa-Natasha Joubert

Stunning Natasha is in my top 5 currently as she is one of this year's strongest overall candidates and she seems poised to handle double the pressure to possibly make South Africa the second country after Venezuela to win Miss Universe two years in a row but she also has the chance to make South Africa the first country to place in the top 2 four years in a row which has never happened before. Colombia made top 2 from 1992 to 1994 and Venezuela also made top 2 from 1996 to 1998 so will South Africa surpass this? Natasha can do it! Interestingly enough, Natasha didn't actually win her national title but she finished as 2nd runner up but the winner and 1st runner up were assigned to other international pageants. South African delegates are known for their strong interview skills and they have won three Miss Universe crowns thanks to Margaret Gardiner in 1978, Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters in 2017 and Zozibini Tunzi in 2019.

Spain-Andrea Martínez

Andrea could do it as she is a decent overall candidate but I have her as a next tier delegate currently as I'm not seeing enough of a general consensus on her placing so we shall see if she can pull off a placement. Spain won its only crown back in 1974 and last placed in the top 10 in 2017.

Thailand-Amanda Obdam

Amanda is also in contention to win the online vote so for that reason alone, she is among my top 21 picks at the moment. She seems to be winning a lot of favor but I'm also not as enamored with her as others seem to be. She also packed approximately 150 outfits for only a two week stay in Florida... Like last year's Thai delegate, Paweensuda Drouin, Amanda also has a Canadian father and Thai mother. She also attended the University of Toronto Mississauga studying management and business administration. After posting criticism of the government engaging in police brutality in March, Amanda was fired from a Thai position as mental health ambassador. The golden kingdom of Thailand which hosted the Miss Universe pageant in 1992, 2005 and 2018 has won two Miss Universe crowns (1965 and 1988) and they currently have a five year streak in the semifinals so will Amanda make it a sixth consecutive year?

Ukraine-Yelyzaveta Yastremska

Apparently, Yelyzaveta raised some concern that the Latin delegates have a lot of supporters in Florida but she has few so Colombia's delegate encouraged the fans to also show her some love. Of course, this is nothing new in the pageant world and it has been this way for decades. I might have this delegate in my next tier as she does look to be well-prepared but it just may not be enough under these competitive conditions. Ukraine has never won but they were 1st runner up in 2011 and 2nd runner up for 2014 but haven't placed since.

Uruguay-Lola de los Santos

Lola is openly a member of the LGBTQ community but none of the previous delegates that came out prior to competition have placed. Also, placements for Uruguay are rare and I don't see that changing this year. Uruguay hasn't placed since 1985.

USA-Asya Branch

As the host delegate representing the land of the free and the home of the brave, Mississippi's Asya is expected to be in the mix so she is among my top 21 picks. Asya has her own cosmetics line called Branch Beauty. There has been some talk of her not posting as much on social media but that isn't really a requirement and some people may be expecting too much when the ladies should be focused on the competition especially during these troubled times. USA has only missed the semifinals 5 times (1957, 1976, 1999, 2002 and 2010) and they have won 8 Miss Universe crowns (1954, 1956, 1960, 1967, 1980, 1995, 1997 and 2012) which is more than any other country. Could Cheslie get a 9th for the USA?

Venezuela-Mariángel Villasmil

Mariángel is in my top 5 at the moment. Of course, Venezuela is the world's pageant powerhouse and even though Gabriela Isler-Miss Universe 2013 now directs the Venezuelan delegate instead of Osmel Sousa, Mariángel is well-spoken and is fluent in English with a great body/catwalk and styled to high standards and could possibly get her nation's 8th Miss Universe crown. She owns a bakery called Slainte Cakes and even kept her business running during a week-long national power outage with generators. Venezuela has placed in 11 of the last 13 Miss Universe pageants missing the semifinals in 2010 and 2016 and placed in the top 20 last year so let's see how Mariángel does.

Vietnam-Nguyễn Trần Khánh Vân

The Vietnamese delegate is another one that came with a lot of outfits at approximately 200 for a two week stay in Florida so I wonder what some people are thinking but Vietnam does have a two year streak in the semifinals so could this one make it a third year in a row? I'm leaning towards a non-placement as I have her in my next tier currently so we'll see if she can change my mind after preliminaries.




So there you have it! Again, I will post my final predictions on the morning of May 16 and then the truth will be unveiled later that evening on May 16 on fyi and Telemundo networks!



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FIRST ROUND PRETHOUGHTS (May 2, 2021)



Who will succeed Miss Universe 2019, Zozibini Tunzi of South Africa and be crowned Miss Universe for 2020?
Find out May 16 at 7 p.m. EST on fyi and Telemundo!

It’s two weeks to pageant day and the delegates are arriving in Florida so it’s time for my highly anticipated first round prethoughts!





Camino A La Coronavirus
(Hindsight is 2020)



Zozibini Tunzi in front of the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, FloridaThe coronation night of Miss Universe 2020 will take place at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino - Hollywood, Florida, USA on May 16, 2021. Most people recognize the guitar-shaped structure and may remember this is also the hotel in which Anna Nicole Smith passed away in 2007. This is the 69th edition of the international beauty pageant and 74 candidates from all over the world are currently listed to compete (we were at 76 delegates but Bangladesh and Egypt opted not to compete for this edition) but with these very uncertain times, more dropouts are to be expected but we will likely beat the low number of only 66 delegates that competed for Miss Universe 1988 in Taiwan but the 1953 Miss Universe pageant actually had the fewest participants with only 26 contestants. This year’s only debuting country is Cameroon.

When South Africa’s Zozibini Tunzi was crowned Miss Universe 2019 on December 8th of that year, the world was in a more normal state but then this little thing called the Coronavirus which originated in Wuhan, China starting in 2019 quickly started making its way around the world creating a worldwide pandemic in mid-March 2020 that hasn’t been seen in world history in a very long time causing shutdowns and restrictions and a new way of life that most people living today have never seen before. People are having to wear masks in public and social distancing is encouraged while unnecessary travel is discouraged varying by region. Vaccines have started to become available in 2021 but international cases are still on the rise overwhelming health care systems so it still may be some time before the world sees a return to some normalcy. Even the contestants from India and Argentina recently tested positive for the Coronavirus but have since recovered and were cleared to compete for Miss Universe 2020. Miss Universe 1952-Finland's Armi Kuusela hugs her trophy wearing a post-dated sash saying the year 1953 More people are interacting virtually and working from home and special events like concerts and sporting events have been dramatically reduced. Zozibini’s long reign was unfortunately limited due to the travel restrictions so much of her reign consisted of her conducting webcam interviews with numerous titleholders past and present but there were some fascinating interviews. Major international events like the Olympics and, of course, the Miss Universe pageant have had to be postponed for safety reasons. Although, as most of us know, this is not the first time that the Miss Universe pageant has been postponed. This is actually the third time that the Miss Universe pageant was held in the following year. The 2014 Miss Universe pageant won by Colombia’s Paulina Vega was actually held in January 2015 and the 2016 Miss Universe pageant won by France’s Iris Mittenaere was held in January 2017. This naturally begs the question, should they have kept the title post-dated? Hindsight is 20/20 (2020). The first Miss Universe titleholders in the 1950s all had postdated titles at the time. For example, the first official Miss Universe, Finland’s Armi Kuusela won her crown in 1952 but at the time she was named Miss Universe 1953 but from the 1960s onwards (excluding 2014, 2016 and now 2020), the Miss Universe titleholders were named Miss Universe for the year in which they won. The post-dated title practice was implemented by the Miss America pageant which has seen their 2021 pageant postponed from 2020 to 2021. Miss America titleholders for 2006 to 2013 also saw a similar scenario as they were all crowned in the years that they won their titles unlike the other titleholders that won their titles in the previous year. i.e. New York’s Nina Davuluri won Miss America 2014 in September 2013. Now, the 2020 Miss Universe pageant has become the third leap year being much further delayed to May 2021 which gives Zozibini Tunzi the distinction of being the longest reigning Miss Universe from December 8, 2019 to May 16, 2021 which is 525 days which defeats the previous longest reigning titleholder who was also another African queen, Angola’s Leila Lopes who reigned as Miss Universe 2011 for 465 days from September 12, 2011 to December 19, 2012. The next three longest reigning Miss Universe titleholders were: Venezuela’s Gabriela Isler who reigned 442 days from November 9, 2013 to January 25, 2015; Canada’s Natalie Glebova who reigned 419 days from May 31, 2005 to July 23, 2006; and Philippines’ Pia Wurtzbach who reigned 407 days from December 20, 2015 to January 30, 2017. Not counting the dethroned Miss Universe 2002, Russia’s Oxana Fedorova and her successor Panama’s Justine Pasek, the shortest full-term Miss Universe was France’s Iris Mittenaere who reigned just under 10 months from January 30, 2017 to November 26, 2017; followed by Venezuela’s Barbara Palacios Teyde who reigned for just over 10 months from July 21, 1986 to May 27, 1987. However, the winner of Miss Universe 2020 will likely only have an approximate 7 month reign as it is anticipated that the actual 2021 Miss Universe pageant is planned to be held later this year in December 2021 in Costa Rica. Some believe that since postponed/leap years have favored countries that hadn’t won for long time (i.e. Colombia won Miss Universe 2014 in 2015 after having not won the crown since 1958 and France won Miss Universe 2016 in 2017 after having not won the crown since 1953) so a lot of people are eyeing Peru for a win in this postponed year due to them not winning the crown since 1957 or perhaps Argentina since they haven’t won since 1962??

Olivia Culpo and Mario LopezWith another sign of the times, the Miss Universe pageant will not be aired on one of the big four American networks (ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX). CBS aired the Miss Universe pageant from the early years to 2002 then NBC aired the Miss Universe pageant from 2003 to 2014 and finally FOX aired the Miss Universe pageant from 2015 to 2019. With all major events not enjoying the high ratings they once did in their heydays and with so many other streaming options available today winning the eyes of viewers, pageants are no longer the draw to American viewers that they once were. I was hoping that ABC would pick up the Miss Universe pageant for 2020 seeing how they dropped the 2020 Miss America pageant which aired on NBC in December 2019 but that was not to be. Instead, the Miami-based Spanish network, Telemundo (which is under the NBC umbrella) is airing a Spanish broadcast of this 69th Miss Universe pageant for 2020 but the English American broadcast will be aired on the fyi network which recently aired the Miss USA 2020 pageant in November 2020 but this smaller channel is not available in all states and was also discontinued in Canada in 2019 so we are anticipating low ratings for this major event as all major events have experienced recently such as the Oscars which aired on April 25 with a 60 percent dip in ratings compared to the previous year. The Miss Universe pageant will be available the next day on the Roku channel and in various parts of Asia, the iqiyi app can be used to stream the pageant. It should also be noted that the Miss USA and Miss Teen USA pageants will no longer be under the Miss Universe umbrella as of 2021 and will now be directed by Crystle Stewart-Miss USA 2008 Steve Harvey holds up the card showing the results of Miss Universe 2015and those pageants are slated to be held from November 26 to 29, 2021 in Tulsa, Oklahoma in the Paradise Cove Theater in the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and River Spirit Casino Resort. Crystle has also hinted that these events will be streamed so it looks like the days of pageants being shown on the major American networks are over. The Miss Teen USA pageant last aired on NBC in 2007 and has been webcast ever since.

This year’s hosts are: Olivia Culpo-Miss Universe 2012 who returns after serving as a color commentator for the 2019 Miss Universe pageant and Mario Lopez who is hosting the Miss Universe pageant for the second time after his most recent stint of hosting Miss Universe in 2007. As a very experienced host, Mario has also hosted numerous other pageants starting with Miss Teen USA 1998, then also hosting Miss Teen USA 2003 and Miss Teen USA 2007. Mario has also hosted the Miss America pageants for 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2020 but he has never hosted a Miss USA pageant which may be due to his very brief marriage to Miss USA 1996-Ali Landry. Steve Harvey completed his five year contract in 2019 but he tweeted, “I’ll miss you guys — but I’ll see you for the 70th,” which hints at his possible return for the 2021 Miss Universe pageant expected to be held in December 2021 in Costa Rica. While, Harvey’s return has yet to be seen, many people have not forgotten the debacle of the 2015 Miss Universe pageant where Steve Harvey notably mistakenly declared Colombia’s Ariadna Gutierrez as the winner only to come back on stage two minutes later stating that he read the card incorrectly and that Ariadna was actually 1st runner up and the Philippines’ Pia Wurtzbach was actually the winner causing an uncomfortable but newsworthy moment where Paulina Vega had to remove the crown and sash from her compatriot, Ariadna and transfer them to Pia.

This year, there will be a top 21 with the 21st delegate being the winner of the online vote on the official Miss Universe website. If past history has taught us anything, the winner of the online vote should either be Philippines, Thailand or Indonesia. Although, there have been some years when other countries like Puerto Rico and supposedly Portugal in 2011 won an online vote…



Champagne Super-Nova


Nova Canada’s Nova Stevens is currently my winner at the moment so let’s see if she stays at the top of my list after preliminaries. I’ve been noted for being as objective as possible when making predictions so it’s actually pretty rare that I choose my own country as the winner and in fact, the only other time I chose Canada to win was back in 2006 when Alice Panikian competed and finished in the top 10. Canada had won the crown in the previous year 2005 thanks to Natalie Glebova who was a close third place on my predictions list for that year. Super Nova also happens to hail from my city of Vancouver as she has an amazing story that I think is right in sync with the direction of the IMG era of pageantry. Nova’s original name was Nyawal Bukjok and she was born in Nairobi, Kenya to a South Sudanese family that fled Sudan during a dangerous afflicted war time in her country, Nova was sent to Canada at the age of six to live with relatives in various regions of Canada including the provinces of Alberta and Ontario. Nova’s family would later flee to Ethiopia and Nova recently was filmed reuniting with family members in Africa. Nova is believed to be the first woman of Sudanese descent to compete for the Miss Universe crown. Nova has even worked as a model in New York City and with her statuesque figure standing 6 feet tall, making her one of the tallest contestants this year, Nova is ready for the job. She has a captivating speaking ability and the gown she will wear in the competition was even designed by notable Filipino designer, Michael Cinco and his gowns have been known to be showstoppers. Recently, the Black Lives Matter movement has been making waves in America and increasingly around the world and Nova has been instrumental in organizing events like marches and rallies bringing awareness to the issue of inequality and she helped to lobby for Vancouver mayor, Kennedy Stewart to declare August 1 as Emancipation Day in Vancouver. She is also a spokesperson for the Keep6ix organization which helps youth from troubled backgrounds that were erroneously accused of criminal acts.

Botswana's Mpule Kwelagobe is crowned Miss Universe 1999 by Trinidad & Tobago's Wendy Fitzwilliam-Miss Universe 1998Nova won the right to represent Canada on her third try at the national title finishing in the top 20 for 2018 and in the top 12 for 2014 under the name Nyawal Bukjok. Now, Nova has a chance to become the third Miss Universe for the true north, strong and free succeeding London, Ontario’s Karen Baldwin in 1982 and Toronto, Ontario’s Natalie Glebova in 2005. Of course, I have to point out the patterns and there are two that support a win for Nova for 2020. Canada won its 2005 Miss Universe crown eight years after the USA won the 1997 Miss Universe crown and now here we are, eight years after the USA won the 2012 crown so is it Canada’s time again? Also, it should be noted that Nova Stevens is the third black woman to represent Canada at Miss Universe succeeding Juliette Powell in 1989 and Adwoa Yamoah in 2012. The third black woman to represent the USA (Chelsi Smith) would go on to win Miss Universe 1995 succeeding Carole Gist in 1990 and Kenya Moore in 1993. Will the third black woman to represent Canada win the Miss Universe crown just like the third black woman to represent the USA? It’s also possible that we may have our second set of black-to-black winners if Nova succeeds Zozibini which hasn’t happened since 1999 when Botswana’s Mpule Kwelagobe succeeded Trinidad & Tobago’s Wendy Fitzwilliam. Four of the last five Miss USA winners were black so will a similar trend happen at Miss Universe? Hey, it’s only fair especially if four of the five Miss Universe winners from 1980 to 1984 were blonde or if four of the five Miss Universe winners from 2006 to 2010 were Latina.
Also, wouldn’t it be great to have a Miss Universe winner named Nova?? Almost like it was written in the stars?? I’m hoping the judges say Yes-va to Nova!
It should also be noted here that with Germany’s absence from the 2020 Miss Universe pageant, this leaves only two countries that have competed at every Miss Universe pageant since its inception in 1952 and those two countries are Canada and France. Germany is not competing for the first time ever for 2020 and the USA was disqualified in 1957.



Is It Too Late Now To Say Sorry?
(I’ve Heard It All Before)


The land of mysterious Dracula and the land where the Danube makes its Delta, Romania is represented this year by Bianca Tirsin who has a strong pageant history as she has previously competed at Miss Supranational 2017 where she placed as the second runner-up and then at Miss International 2018 where she placed as third runner-up. An impressive background like that immediately makes Bianca one to watch at this year’s Miss Universe pageant. Romania has never placed in the history of Miss Universe and Bianca has a strong chance of earning their first placement. Romania Russia Hailing from Transylvania, Bianca is an entrepreneur who started her own business at the age of 16 selling oral care products. However, Bianca has recently had to apologize after a picture of Bianca wearing black and gold make-up covering most of her face started circulating and Canada’s Nova Stevens pointed out her disappointment saying that it was not okay. When someone with light skin wears black or brown make-up, it is known as wearing blackface which is seen as in bad taste. Many prominent figures and performers have been seen wearing blackface in years past such as on sketch comedy shows or as part of a costume and recent attention has increasingly been drawn to its inappropriateness. In her online apology video, Bianca explained there was no malicious intent behind her actions and the picture to paint her face black and gold was the idea of a designer with whom Bianca had been working and that although there was a lack of judgment, there was no ill will and she pleaded to not identify her with a modelling job. She says we all need to learn more and to know more so perhaps we can use this incident as an opportunity to educate ourselves on this issue. Will this incident cost Romania their first placement in Miss Universe history or will this be an opportunity to heal and could Canada and Romania even be holding hands as the final two for Miss Universe 2020?? We’ll see what happens! Also, it is pretty rare for a first-time placing country to win the title. This hasn’t happened since Botswana’s Mpule Kwelagobe captured the 1999 Miss Universe crown and prior to that many other Miss Universe winners such as: Finland’s Armi Kuusela in 1952, France’s Christiane Martel in 1953, Colombia’s Luz Marina Zuluaga in 1958, Thailand’s Apasra Hongsakula in 1965, Puerto Rico’s Marisol Malaret in 1970, Trinidad & Tobago’s Janelle Commissiong in 1977 and Namibia’s Michelle McLean in 1992 all won their respective Miss Universe crowns for their country when placing amongst the semifinalists for the first time. Another delegate that has had to apologize was Russia’s Alina Sanko. Alina has also had success previously placing among the top 12 for Miss World 2019 and she is quite a talented artist. However, a recent online video showed Alina with a make-up artist appearing to mock some of the headshots of various contestants while scrolling through the Miss Universe voting site. While the make-up artist was making the comments, Alina appeared to be going along with what he was saying. She said she got confused and didn’t react immediately and she is endlessly sorry but she couldn’t stop the man from saying rude words about the contestants. She says she sincerely loves every person and that this was a harsh lesson and she hopes her example can prevent other people from making such a mistake and she asked for forgiveness. Here we have Russia’s delegate in a similar situation as the Romanian delegate so will this whole situation affect Alina’s chances? Russia won the Miss Universe crown in 2002 but that winner, Oxana Fedorova, was dethroned a few months later saying she wanted to finish her education but more likely due to her unwillingness to do the job after completing a degrading interview with Howard Stern which left the organization having to make excuses for her not making appearances. Russia also returned this year after an absence last year and they haven’t placed since 2012 when Elizaveta Golovanova made the top 10 so will Alina and her heartfelt apology be able to turn it around and possibly even get another win from Russia, with love??



All That She Wants…Is Another Title

She’s gone tomorrow, boy. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Several of this year’s contestants are experienced, recycled beauties who have previously competed in other international pageants and even national pageants. The aforementioned Bianca Tirsin of Romania placed in the top 5 of Miss Supranational 2017 and Miss International 2018 and Alina Sanko of Russia placed in the top 12 of Miss World 2019. The USA’s Asya Branch also previously competed for Miss America 2019 representing Mississippi but mysteriously going unplaced. Other contestants competing this year that have previously competed in another international pageant include: Belize’s Iris Salguero (unplaced at Miss World 2016), Denmark’s Amanda Petri (unplaced at Miss World 2017), Malta’s Anthea Zammit (unplaced at Miss World 2016) but two other notable contestants competing this year would be those from Mexico and Brazil. Mexico Brazil Mexico’s Andrea Meza was first runner-up at Miss World 2017 so that high placement combined with Andrea’s amazing body and speaking skills immediately make her a front-runner for the 2020 Miss Universe crown and Andrea's wider-set facial structure reminds me a lot of Carole Gist-Miss USA 1990 and 1st runner up to Miss Universe 1990. Andrea holds a degree in software engineering which is a field dominated by men so she is proud of this achievement. She is also an activist working with the Municipal Institute for Women seeking to terminate gender violence and she works to fight for the rights of women and to have them play a more significant role in society. Andrea also actively fundraises working with an international charity association that aids downtrodden individuals in nations like India, Indonesia and China. She is a certified make-up artist and model who actively practices crossfit and various extreme sports. She has become a vegetarian due to her concern for the wellbeing of the world and animals. She is also the official Tourism Brand Ambassador for the state of Chihuahua promoting tourist attractions in that area. Mexico has won two Miss Universe crowns thanks to Lupita Jones in 1991 (who has directed Mexican pageants for years but Lupita also recently announced that she is running to hold the position of governor of the Mexican state of Baja California) and Ximena Navarrete in 2010 and they placed as 2nd runner up last year thanks to Sofia Aragon so the land of the Mariachi hopes that Andrea can get them a third Miss Universe crown. Brazil’s Julia Gama placed in the top 11 of Miss World 2014 which also makes her one to watch at Miss Universe. Julia has the unique distinction of being among the first Brazilian actresses in China! After appearing in Chinese films, Julia received the “The Most Incredible Award” from Belt and the Road Chinese Government International Initiative in 2017. Coming from a multiracial background with roots in Italy, Germany, Lebanon and Portugal, Julia is passionate about diverse cultures and she started working as an international ambassador for Leprosy six years ago and is an activist in India, China, Europe and Brazil and has received several distinctions from international organizations. Apart from being an actress, entrepreneur and motivational speaker, Julia has also studied chemistry engineering and has a degree in drama arts. Julia is fluent in English, Spanish and Portuguese, and can communicate in Mandarin and German. Julia decided to leave China after the Covid pandemic arose and returned to Brazil to work with Smile Train. Brazil has won two Miss Universe crowns back in 1963 thanks to Ieda Maria Vargas and in 1968 thanks to Martha Vasconcellos and Brazil has placed every year since they hosted back in 2011 and they are expected to keep the streak going and place for a tenth year in a row along with the USA also placing every year since 2011 but the Philippines currently has the longest streak placing every year since 2010 and they anticipate Rabiya Mateo will be their 11th placement in a row which would match the streak that India previously enjoyed placing 11 consecutive years from 1992 to 2002.



It Feels So Empty Without Them

With this year having a top 21 with the 21st delegate being the winner of the Internet vote, we shall focus here on the delegates that are representing the three countries that recently enjoy a fandemonium like no other and these countries are the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia. The pearl of the Orient seas, the Philippines, is being represented by a half-Indian delegate, Rabiya Mateo whose father is Indian (similarly to their 2010 delegate, Venus Raj, who started the Philippines’ streak in the semifinals as they have placed every year ever since) but her father left home causing Rabiya to become the breadwinner of her family. Rabiya is an educator who started teaching at the young age of 21 and she is passionate about teaching underprivileged children and started her own program called ‘Feed Me and I Read You,’ which helps children living near a dump in Iloilo city which combines feeding and reading. Rabiya is a Cum Laude graduate of physical therapy and works with the Department of Education on projects like National Reading Month and AHA Learning Center. An interesting factoid about Rabiya is that she has a hidden talent of knowing how to rap. She grew up listening to Eminem and it helped her speak faster and more clearly! Of course, it would feel so empty without her in the semifinals! The Philippines recently also had a franchise change as prior to this year, the Philippines sent the winner of the Binibining Pilipinas pageant which was run by former Miss Colombia, Stella Marquez who won Miss International 1960 after placing as a semifinalist at Miss Universe 1960 and the Binibining Pilipinas pageant used to crown most of the winners for various international pageants but there is a new Miss Universe Philippines pageant and Rabiya is the first winner under the new franchise. Philippines Indonesia Thailand The Philippines have four Miss Universe winners. The first was Gloria Diaz in 1969 and then 4 years later in 1973, Margarita Moran captured the crown then 42 years later in 2015, Pia Wurtzbach won and then 3 years later in 2018, Catriona Gray won so since the gap between Gloria and Margarita was four years then the gap between Pia and Catriona was three years, does that mean that Rabiya wins two years after Catriona?? Or does that mean we have to wait 42 years from 2018 until 2060 and then the Philippines wins Miss Universe 2060 and 2062?? Another one of this year’s frontrunners for the fan vote would be Thailand’s Amanda Obdam. Similarly to last year’s Thai representative, Paweensuda Drouin, Amanda also has a white Canadian father and a Thai mother and even attended Canada’s University of Toronto studying business administration. Rumor has it that Amanda will have approximately 150 outfits with her during a stay of only two weeks in Florida!! Talk about overpacking!! It must be nice to have that many sponsors though! Will it all pay off or is someone about to be humbled? Amanda has also been making news for being fired from being a mental health ambassador for Thailand after an October post on social media criticizing violence against Thai people after police had used a water cannon and tear gas on a group of unarmed protesters. Apparently, it was said that the title was revoked to avoid confusion among the public but perhaps the post was deemed too political. Then, there was an instance when after showing her planned Siamese fighting fish national costume, the delegate from Laos in the recently concluded Miss Grand International pageant (which was won by Abena Appiah who represented the USA at that pageant but previously went unplaced representing Ghana at Miss Universe 2014) decided to also wear a similar fish costume but there is no rule that two different contestants in two different pageants can’t both have a fish theme to their national costume! As that hilarious song by Housemaid featuring Kim says, “There are two things in the world that smell like fish… and one of them is fish...” Thailand has won the Miss Universe crown two times thanks to Apasra Hongsakula in 1965 and Porntip Nakhirunkanok in 1988 and the golden kingdom has a five-year streak in the semifinals placing in the top 10 every year since 2015 and Amanda obviously hopes to keep the streak going and she could very well get that chance and her chances could be helped if she wins the fan vote. Finally, Indonesia is another fan vote contender as they have won the national costume competition vote before so they could also do it. Indonesia has never won the crown but has enjoyed recent success placing in the top 10 last year and amongst the semifinals every year since 2013, excluding 2017. Ayu Maulida was sashed by the reigning Miss Universe, Zozibini Tunzi, upon winning the Puteri Indonesia title in March 2020 right before the Covid pandemic became a worldwide issue and Ayu prides herself in her Muslim faith and she comes from a royal background and also holds multiple other titles of distinction including being an Indonesian People's Consultative Assembly Ambassador, National Head of Communication of the Indonesian COVID-19 Response Acceleration Task Force and she is also a fashion model since age 14. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Law graduating from Airlangga University in 2019. Ayu also won the 2019 Face of Asia competition after winning the preliminary Face of Indonesia contest. These very impressive achievements are bound to make Ayu a standout in this year’s competition so can Ayu keep up Indonesia’s recent success rate and could Ayu possibly be the first Miss Universe for the emerald of Southeast Asia??



The Rainbow Connection

South AfricaSouth AfricaSomeday we’ll find it… “We going to Hollywood??!!” Well, not THAT Hollywood… Natasha Joubert who is representing Mandela’s rainbow nation of South Africa has double the pressure on her this year. Natasha is representing the country of the reigning Miss Universe, Zozibini Tunzi, which gives Natasha the opportunity to make South Africa the second country to win two years in a row after Venezuela did it in 2008 and 2009. Natasha also has the chance to make South Africa the first country to place in the top 2 for four years in a row which has never been done before! Colombia was 1st runner up three years in a row from 1992 to 1994 then Venezuela won in 1996 followed by two 1st runner up placements in 1997 and 1998. South Africa won in 2017, was 1st runner up in 2018 and then won again in 2019 so wouldn’t it be exciting if Natasha was to, at least, place in the top two making South Africa the first country to place in the top 2 four years in a row?? Natasha does have the ability to do it as she is one of this year’s strongest competitors with her outstanding appearance and strong speaking skills for which South Africans have become well-known. South Africa has enjoyed much recent success winning Miss World 2014 thanks to Rolene Strauss, Miss Universe 2017 thanks to Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters, Miss Universe 2019 thanks to Zozibini Tunzi with a 1st runner up placement in 2018 thanks to Tamaryn Green. South Africa’s first of three Miss Universe winners was Margaret Gardiner back in 1978. Interestingly enough, Natasha actually placed as the 2nd runner up at the Miss South Africa 2020 competition but was designated the representative for Miss Universe as South Africa’s actual winner Limpopo’s Shudufhadzo Musida will be sent to Miss World 2021 in December and 1st runner up Thato Mosehle will compete at Miss Supranational 2021. I was personally hoping to see Jordan van der Vyver take the South African crown but Natasha is a formidable candidate who will surely do the rainbow nation proud. Natasha is an accomplished, achieved woman who has an emotional story as her father passed away when she was a teenager. Natasha studied at the Boston City Campus and Business College where she received a Bachelor of Commerce degree in Marketing Management in 2020. She also worked as a public relations officer for a law firm, and as an entrepreneur as she is the founder and owner of a fashion design company called Natalia Jefferys. Natasha also previously represented South Africa at the 2016 Miss Globe competition finishing as 4th runner up that year. Now, Natasha will compete on the Miss Universe stage with a strong chance of taking it all. All of us under her spell, we know that it’s probably magic…



Down Under…The Height Requirement

Australia-Maria ThattilThis year’s representative of the land down under is Maria Thattil and for the second year in a row, Australia is being represented by a woman of Indian descent succeeding Priya Serrao in 2019. Maria’s parents immigrated from India to Australia and Maria’s father hails from God’s own country, Kerala, where some of the world’s most brilliant and beautiful people are found and Maria’s mother hails from Kolkata. Maria is no ordinary candidate and she is competing for the Miss Universe crown to change the narrative with the ambition of being the shortest Miss Universe in history. Standing at approximately 1.6 meters tall (5’2.5”) which is around the average height for women, Maria is this year’s shortest contestant and although there is no height requirement at the Miss Universe pageant, it is generally an unspoken rule that contestants normally be above 5’6” and some national pageants even have the requirement that contestants be at least 5’6” since the perception is that taller is better since taller contestants normally have longer legs and that long, lean frame is traditionally perceived as ideal compared to a stumpy, short frame which is why shorter contestants normally do not fare well in the swimsuit competition. This presents a conundrum as Maria is easily one of this year’s best speakers and with more recent years being focused on interview skills, Maria may have enough facial beauty and charm and can talk her way into the semifinals. Maria has launched an Instagram empowerment series called ‘Mind With Me’ with the goal of instilling confidence in people encouraging them to live their best lives and she wanted to create a safe environment where people could discuss current events and encourage being comfortable in their own skin and positive mental health while combating racism, sexism and bullying. The top 3 of Miss Universe 1982: Italy's Cinzia Fiordeponti, Canada's Karen Baldwin and Guam's Patty Chong Kerkos Maria also wants to challenge the fashion industry due to its lack of representation of shorter models and women of certain skin tones as she has recalled subtle micro-aggressions such as walking into a cosmetic store and being told that they don’t carry any make-up for her skin tone. This sounds very Pretty Woman-esque, no?? Maria now works with Ulta3 skincare brand as the face of a national beauty campaign to promote different ethnicities and body types. With the ambition to become an accredited life coach, Maria graduated with a psychology degree with Honours, and then with a Master’s degree in Management with First Class Honours, and was even nominated for a scholarship to Harvard University and she is one of this year’s oldest contestants at age 28 which indicates that she has the maturity to handle the job of Miss Universe.
It is rare to see shorter contestants make the top 5 but Maria’s situation reminds me very much of Patty Chong Kerkos, Miss Guam 1982 who also stood at approximately 5’2” but defeating all odds, Patty won the 1982 Miss Universe semifinal interview and swimsuit competitions! Patty impressed the judges that much that the impact of her strong interview seemed to carry over into the swimsuit portion of the competition. As the night went on, Patty would place 4th in the evening gown competition but it was still looking like she could pull off the win but Patty would end up finishing as 1st runner up to Canada’s Karen Baldwin who stood at 5’10” and would capture the 1982 Miss Universe crown. No other year has had such a dramatic height difference between the winner and the runner-up. Back then, the 2nd runner up, Italy’s Cinzia Fiordeponti notably stated to the press that she believed that Guam didn’t merit a 1st runner up placement and felt that she should have ranked above her but didn’t object to Canada’s win. Guam hasn’t made the semifinals since then. In the early years, winners of the 1950s normally stood at more expected heights for women. For example, the first Miss Universe, Finland’s Armi Kuusela in 1952 stood at 5’5” and you might even remember India’s Celina Jaitley in 2001 looking noticeably shorter than the rest of the top 5 in 2001 despite wearing very high platform shoes.
Australia has won the Miss Universe crown twice thanks to Kerry Anne Wells in 1972 and Jennifer Hawkins in 2004 and they last placed in 2018 after enjoying a strong streak placing 7 out of 8 years from 2008 to 2015 so will petite Maria bring the land down under over the top??



The Wizard of Osmel


We’re off to see...the czar of beauty, Osmel Sousa himself… He’ll get you, my pretty! You might remember Osmel as the man considered responsible for Venezuela’s international success in pageantry thanks to his strict training and he was the notable former director of Miss Venezuela for decades up until 2018 when it was thought that he would be retiring. Well, Osmel ended up picking up the franchises to choose the representatives at Miss Universe for the countries of Argentina and Uruguay starting in 2019 and Venezuela’s most recent Miss Universe, Gabriela Isler, who captured the crown in 2013 became the director for the Venezuelan franchise. Osmel has teased on social media in early April that he has picked up yet another franchise but is keeping us guessing as to which country it will be! This year, Venezuela is being represented by Mariangel Villasmil who hails from Zulia and she studies psychology but she is also a certified pastry chef who owns a bakery shop called Slainte Cakes in Maracaibo which employs local women. Venezuela-Mariangel VillasmilArgentina-Alina Luz Akselrad Venezuela had been hit hard economically even prior to the Covid pandemic and even during a national power outage that lasted 7 days, she was able to keep the business running and fulfilled every order by using a small power generator to keep the ovens running. Prior to competing for the Venezuelan crown, Mariangel lived an entire year without her right breast due to a complicated surgical operation… Similarly to other competitions which pre-tape different top contenders being crowned as the winner prior to the airing of the actual finale when it is learned who actually won, Mariangel watched herself being crowned the Venezuelan queen on TV at home alone without her family due to the pandemic. Even though Osmel is no longer training the Venezuelan delegates, his impact from his previous years seem to carry through to the current teams for that country as Mariangel certainly looks styled to perfection and with her fluency in English after living one year in New York City, Mariangel is showing up ready for the job and she is expected to carry on the tradition of strong Venezuelan competitors. Venezuela has captured seven Miss Universe crowns: Maritza Sayalero (1979), Irene Saez (1981), Barbara Palacios Teyde (1986), Alicia Machado (1996), Dayana Mendoza (2008), Stefania Fernandez (2009) and Gabriela Isler (2013) so is it finally time for Venezuela to match the USA and win 8 Miss Universe crowns and will Mariangel be the one to do it?? Since Osmel is not training the Venezuelan delegate, we will now focus on a delegate he is training, Argentina’s Alina Luz Akselrad. Alina is also impeccably styled and with her amazing body, Alina is sure to be one of the standouts in the swimsuit competition and she is also very warm-hearted and comes across as genuine and sincere. She is certainly accomplished also as she has certificates in persuasive writing and children’s rights from Harvard University and has even published her own book offering guidance and empowerment to young women. She actively volunteers and is involved in philanthropic work and advocates for cancer prevention after seeing her own mother beat the disease and Alina even hosts a radio show with her mother, “Mundo de Reinas” and also co-hosts a TV show about fashion trends and pageant news and she previously won the title of Miss Sudamérica 2017. Argentina hasn’t won the crown since 1962 when Norma Nolan captured the coveted title but their success rate in recent years isn’t that great as they haven’t placed since 2014 so will the Wizard of Osmel turn the hourglass around and help bring the land of Evita some success similar to that of Venezuela??



Urugay

UruguayYulia Lemigova-Miss USSR 1991The other country Osmel Sousa is directing is Uruguay being represented by Tania (Lola) de Los Santos Bicco who is one of the few openly LGBTQ+ contestants to come out prior to compete for the Miss Universe crown. In November 2019, Myanmar’s, Swe Zin Htet declared that she was a lesbian just one month prior to competing for Miss Universe 2019 becoming the first openly lesbian woman to compete in a Miss Universe competition. Prior to this, Yulia Lemigova, Miss USSR 1991 and 2nd runner up to 1991 Miss Universe title, came out years after competing and even became the spouse of tennis star, Martina Navratilova. Additionally, Patricia Yurena Rodríguez of Spain who was 1st runner up at the 2013 Miss Universe competition came out but did not do so until after competing for the Miss Universe title. Spain also had Sofia del Prado who made the top 10 of Miss Universe 2017 who also came out post-competition and the land of flamenco even has Miss Universe’s first openly transgendered contestant, Angela Ponce who competed for the 2018 title going unplaced that year. Lola studied in the field of Human Resources and is working as a community manager in Paysandú and she has competed for various other pageant titles previously. Growing up, Lola was bullied and volunteers for various anti-bullying organizations. She loves skateboarding and skating and is presently learning to surf. While Spain 2018 and Myanmar 2019 didn’t place, there is still the opportunity for the first openly LGBTQ+ delegate to actually place among the semifinals so will Lola be the first to do so? Uruguay has never won the Miss Universe crown. In fact, placements for the land of the Gauchos are quite rare with their most recent being in 1985 when Andrea Lopez placed as 4th runner up. Will Lola be able to do it?



Free Britainy

Great BritainGreat Britain We won’t be talking about conservatorships here but rather about Great Britain’s delegate, Jeanette Akua. Of South African and Ghanaian descent, Jeanette Akua is passionate about music and education and holds a Master’s degree in International Economic Policy and Analysis. Currently working as a business development manager at a leading economic consultancy, Jeanette speaks at global conferences, addressing CEOs and world leaders. Perhaps even more impressive is that Jeanette defeated some power-players who were also competing for this year’s Great Britain title including: Sophie Moulds who previously represented Wales placing as 1st runner up at Miss World 2012, Amy Meisak who placed among the top 16 at Miss Earth 2015 representing Scotland and later competed for Miss Grand International 2017 and England’s Stephanie Hill who placed as 2nd runner up at Miss World 2017. The fact that she defeated two Miss World runners-up immediately makes Jeanette one to watch as her compelling story must have put her over the top of some strong contenders. Similarly to the story of Miss Universe 2017, South Africa’s Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters, Jeanette and a friend of hers were kidnapped by thugs when she was handing out flyers in Johannesburg at age 18 but they were released when a ransom was paid. After being rejected for South African Idols, Jeanette relocated to London, England and then competed in the X Factor UK in 2013 and placed as a top 10 finalist and has written and released her own music with over a million streams. With her singing talent, perhaps Jeanette Akua could have a similar type of win as Jamaica’s Toni-Ann Singh who won Miss World 2019 after winning that pageant’s talent competition performing her own rendition of Whitney Houston’s hit, “I Have Nothing.” Jeanette’s most recent single is called “You Will See Me Fly” and here is the video for that song.



Great Britain has never won the Miss Universe crown but its individual nations of England, Scotland, and Wales have all placed as runners-up multiple times and Dee-Ann Kentish Rogers earned their most recent placement among the top 20 in 2018 so will Jeanette’s powerful story and talent get her the coveted Miss Universe crown? Jeanette’s going to keep on dancing ‘till the world ends… which in this Covid-infested world seems more and more like a reality each day… but will she finally be able to capture the Miss Universe crown for the land of the Union Jack?



From Start to Finnish

FinlandFinland This year’s Finnish delegate is Viivi Altonen who is a scuba-diving teacher and model from Tampere, Finland. She also studies social psychology and anthropology due to her fascination with the human mind and social behaviors. Truly a citizen of the world, Viivi has also travelled extensively visiting over thirty countries and she has even lived in four countries which are: Finland, Switzerland, Mozambique and India where she even appeared in Bollywood films and was treated like a movie star! As a scuba diving instructor, Viivi even had a frightening encounter with a shark in the waters of Mozambique. Viivi’s international travels have dramatically improved her ability to speak English and she now speaks it fluently in addition to her mother tongue of Finnish along with some basic Swedish and German and her experiences have brought about an ever increasing awareness of the significant inequalities between genders all around the world, even in her home country Finland which is universally considered one of the most equal countries in the world. As a result, Viivi was motivated to volunteer for the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women and launch her #SheCan campaign to encourage discourse about equal rights and to empower young women to work towards their dreams regardless of their identity, life experiences or socioeconomic background. She wants to spread the message that everything is possible if you believe in yourself and she also lives this message herself.
Even though Finland has captured the Miss Universe crown twice thanks to the very first Miss Universe, Armi Kuusela in 1952 and Anne Marie Pohtamo in 1975, Finland surprisingly has not placed since 1996 when Lola Odusoga placed as 2nd runner up. Viivi has started the race to the crown so we’ll see if she crosses the Finnish line and gets a third Miss Universe title for the land where tolerance and northern lights shine bright! Can she do it? Well, #SheCan!!



We Gon’ Have Chili in Chilly Chilé, Chile

Chile-Daniela NicolasWhew chile, I’s gettin’ hungry… One of this year’s most photogenic contestants would have to be the beautiful Daniela Nicolas of the land of the Andes, Chile. Daniela Nicolas is an actress, professional makeup artist and a journalism and sign-language student. She has acted in four television sitcoms so Daniela is quite well-known in her country. In 2019, Daniela journeyed to Boston, Massachusetts in order to study English and she is currently working on completing her training in business and retail. The top 5 of Miss Universe 1987 In 2015, she had a life-changing experience after having been diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder called undifferentiated connective tissue disease. She managed to conjure up the strength to overcome the disease and she actively volunteers and supports other people with this condition, particularly children who are diagnosed. Daniela is passionate about social work and she considers one of her main passions as the ability to use her position and powerful presence in various forms of media to contribute to positively influencing society to become more understanding and inclusive.
Chile has captured the Miss Universe crown once back in 1987 when Cecilia Bolocco Fonck charmed her way to the title. Cecilia has achieved much stardom in her nation since her reign and she was briefly married to Michael Young who hosted the Miss Teen USA pageants for 1983, 1984, 1986 and 1987 as you might remember but that marriage was annulled and then later Cecilia wed former Argentinian president, Carlos Menem and they had one son, Maximo. Chile’s success rate at Miss Universe is somewhat sporadic as they haven’t placed since 2004 so will Daniela be able to bring Chile back in a mountainous way?





So as of May 2, Tom’s tentative top 5 for Miss Universe 2020/21 are:
1. Canada
2. South Africa
3. Mexico
4. Venezuela
5. Argentina

Will my top 5 change over the coming weeks or will they stay the same? I will post a second round of prethoughts on May 10 where I will comment on all of the delegates and then after viewing the national costume competition on May 13 at 8 p.m. Eastern Standard Time followed by the highly anticipated Preliminary swimsuit and gown competitions which are being held on May 14 at 7 p.m. Eastern Standard Time and can be viewed on the Miss Universe youtube channel, my final predictions for Miss Universe 2020/21 will be posted on the morning of May 16.



Of course, tell everyone to watch Miss Universe 2020/21! The big night is May 16 at 7 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on fyi and Telemundo networks.


 

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Some photos courtesy Miss Universe L.P., LLLP