THOUGHTS OF MISS UNIVERSE

2023



THE PRETHOUGHTS








THE RESULTS (November 19, 2023)


Sheynnis Palacios of Nicaragua is Miss Universe 2023!


It's the first win for the land of lakes and volcanoes, Nicaragua! It's also a first win for Central America (even though Panama's Justine Pasek inherited the 2002 Miss Universe crown when Russia's Oxana Fedorova was dethroned). Our new Miss Universe, Sheynnis Palacios also has the same last name as Miss Universe 1986-Venezuela's Barbara Palacios so Vega is now no longer the only last name to be repeated among Miss Universe winners (Dominican Republic's Amelia Vega in 2003 and Colombia's Paulina Vega in 2014). Sheynnis is the 7th former Miss World contestant to win Miss Universe (succeeding Lebanon's Georgina Rizk in 1971, Holland's Angela Visser in 1989, Namibia's Michelle McLean in 1992, Botswana's Mpule Kwelagobe in 1999, Philippines' Catriona Gray in 2018 and Mexico's Andrea Meza in 2020). Sheynnis made the top 40 at Miss World 2021/22 but not the top 13. This is also first time that a new country has won since Angola's Leila Lopes in 2011. Sheynnis was born on May 31, 2000 in Managua, Nicaragua making her the youngest of the reigning Miss Universe winners defeating Miss Universe 2021-India's Harnaaz Sandhu who was also born in 2000 but on March 3. She studied at the Universidad Centroamericana and pursued a degree in mass communication. At the same time, she also played varsity volleyball for the university. She was also the 2016 Miss Teen Nicaragua winner and placed in the top 10 of the Miss Teen Universe 2017 pageant held in her country.
The land of the eternal smile, El Salvador was a gracious host country for the second time after hosting in 1975 and even president Nayib Bukele gave a speech during the pageant but this pageant came together very nicely. It was not announced during the telecast who won the online vote. Some special awards were also handed out which included Miss Congeniality won by Spain's Athenea Perez who was most deserving considering the hardship she had to endure being the first Miss Spain of color. The Spirit of Carnival Award was won by Philippines' Michelle Marquez Dee. It's interesting to note that Europe only had two delegates place (Portugal and Spain) and these were the same European countries that placed last year!!! How did I do with my predictions? Well, I picked 13 of the top 20 plus 2 alternates (Peru and Namibia) and 1 honorable mention (Cameroon). 4 of the semifinalists missed my list and they were: Nepal (who was in my next tier) as well as Chile, Jamaica and Portugal. Chile and Jamaica were literally my next two delegates below my next tier as I knew Jamaica is a doctor who received flack for accidentally saying 'she puts herself before others' during her national pageant then corrected herself. Chile and Portugal were suspected by others so there weren't really any jaw-dropping surprises this year as it could have gone many ways. Interviews were held before the preliminary swimsuit and gown competitions so usually this leads to more surprises than expected and interview was rumored to count for 50% of the preliminary interview score whereas swimsuit and gown each counted for 25% of the preliminary score. Commendations are in order for Cameroon and Pakistan earning their first placements ever and with Pakistan's debut delegate too! The 7 ladies in my list that didn't place were: Mexico (next year's host country but there were forces working against her even though Melissa made top 4 at the famous Miss Earth 2018 pageant as she was the last Mexican to be crowned under the directorship of former Miss Universe, Lupita Jones but the franchise has been given to a new director, Cynthia de la Vega who was originally dethroned as Miss World Mexico for 2011 under Lupita's tenure so a lot of hmmmm's here as Lupita has also been vocal about not accepting trans delegates when the owner of Miss Universe, Khun Anne is trans. Lupita was even seen leaving the venue when Mexico didn't place.), Dominican Republic (who previously dated Marc Anthony who is currently married to Nadia Ferreira who was a finals judge so there were clearly forces working against her), Curaçao, France, Zimbabwe, Panama and Trinidad & Tobago. Also, did you notice that I had Nicaragua 10th in my list just like the winners of 2022, 2019 and 2017?? I think I have a new lucky spot!
I will say that it was interesting to see anomaly delegates actually place this time rather than getting the special segment treatment as we have seen many times before. One of the mothers (Colombia rather than Guatemala) placed as did one of the trans delegates (Portugal rather than Netherlands) and one of the burkini wearing contestants (Pakistan rather than Bahrain) placed and we also had the body positivity candidate (Nepal) place so there were a lot of historical firsts in this pageant so the Miss Universe is headed to an interesting future with the age limit being lifted for 2024 so we shall see if we can find a new record for the oldest Miss Universe contestant!! The age limit was 28 but we saw a 30-year-old (Bulgaria) and a 29-year-old (Latvia-delayed one year due to Covid) compete for 2023 so exceptions were made for these ladies.
Mexico was officially announced as the host country for 2024 as I previously mentioned in earlier prethoughts as it is rumored that Venezuela originally put down a $6 million non-refundable deposit only to bail likely due to elections in 2024 so plan B was Mexico and we saw the announcement come from Raul Rocha Cantu who has been working closely with Khun Anne on the Miss Universe spa line. 2024 will be the fifth time that Mexico hosts Miss Universe succeeding 1978, 1989, 1993 and 2007. The last two were major boo-fests particularly targeting then Miss USAs Kenya Moore and Rachel Smith who became targets of poor sports when the Mexican delegates didn't place as high as they did. Let's hope the booing doesn't happen again in 2024. Paula Shugart opted to leave her position as MUO president to pursue other endeavors like writing a book describing a rich history with the Miss Universe Organization since 2001 succeeding Maureen Reidy so I'm sure Paula has many tales to tell and I'm sure she remembers the boo-fest that 2007 turned into so she is leaving just in time. I actually thought 2024 would be Paula's last pageant before retirement but maybe 2024's venue had something to do with this but actually, she said she wants to work with her husband in his cannabis business as she advocates for its use to prevent various ailments.


ACTUAL TOP 20:

MY PREDICTIONS:

Winner=Nicaragua-Sheynnis Palacios

Winner=Thailand-Anntonia Porsild*

1st Runner Up=Thailand-Anntonia Porsild

1st Runner Up=Puerto Rico-Karla Guilfu*

2nd Runner Up=Australia-Moraya Wilson

2nd Runner Up=South Africa-Bryoni Govender*

FINALISTS (alpha'l):

FINALISTS:

Colombia-Camila Avella

Mexico-Melissa Flores

Puerto Rico-Karla Guilfu

Venezuela-Diana Silva*

SEMIFINALISTS (alpha'l):

SEMIFINALISTS:

El Salvador-Isabella Garcia-Manzo

Dominican Republic-Mariana Downing

Peru-Camila Escribens

Australia-Moraya Wilson*

Philippines-Michelle Marquez Dee

Curaçao-Kim Rossen

Spain-Athenea Perez

Colombia-Camila Avella*

Venezuela-Diana Silva

Nicaragua-Sheynnis Palacios*

QUARTERFINALISTS (alpha'l):

QUARTERFINALISTS:

Cameroon-Issie Princesse

India-Shweta Sharda*

Chile-Celeste Viel

Philippines-Michelle Marquez Dee*

India-Shweta Sharda

USA-Noelia Voigt*

Jamaica-Jordanne Levy

Spain-Athenea Perez*

Namibia-Jameela Uiras

France-Diane Leyre

Nepal-Jane Dipika Garrett

Zimbabwe-Brooke Bruk-Jackson

Pakistan-Erica Robin

Panama-Natasha Vargas

Portugal-Marina Machete

Pakistan-Erica Robin*

South Africa-Bryoni Govender

El Salvador-Isabella Garcia-Manzo*

USA-Noelia Voigt

Trinidad & Tobago-Faith Gillezeau

 

ALTERNATES: Great Britain, Peru*, Argentina, Ireland, Namibia*

 

HONORABLE MENTIONS: Italy, Cameroon*, Brazil, Ecuador, Germany

* = made actual top 20










My full commentary on Miss Universe 2023 will be posted on November 26.





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THE PREDICTIONS (November 17, 2023)



Who will win the new Mouawad Force for Good Miss Universe crown in El Salvador?? The big night is November 18 on Roku and Telemundo and the Miss Universe Youtube channel.

Hosting this year are: Miss Universe 2012-USA's Olivia Culpo, Maria Menounos-Miss Massachusetts Teen USA 1996 and Jeannie Mai-Jenkins and serving as color commentators are: Miss Universe 2018-Philippines' Catriona Gray and Zuri Hall.


This year's judges are as follows. For both preliminaries and finals, six ladies serve as judges: Iris Mittenaere-Miss Universe 2016, Janelle Commissiong-Miss Universe 1977, Halima Aden-semifinalist at Miss Minnesota USA 2017 and judge at Miss USA 2017, Denise White-Miss Oregon USA 1994, Dr. Connie Mariano and Giselle Blondet. For just finals are: Carson Kressley, Mario Bautista, Sweta Patel, Avani Gregg and Paraguay's Nadia Ferreira who was 1st runner up at Miss Universe 2021 and is currently married to Marc Anthony who once dated this year's delegate for the Dominican Republic, Mariana Downing. Hmmm.... is this a good or bad thing for Mariana??? We'll know soon! Carson and Mario will be the two male judges on the panel this year.

84 delegates are expected to compete for the 72nd Miss Universe crown (like last year). China's Jia Qi did not make it in time as she had trouble getting a visa in time and she was crowned so late so she will observe the pageant in El Salvador but will compete in the 2024 Miss Universe pageant instead of this year so she now has lots of time to train. Finland's delegate also fell ill prior to preliminaries but she recovered in time. The preliminaries were held on November 15 and the national costume competition was on November 16. With the exception of Bahrain and Pakistan's delegates who wore smock-like outfits, there were a variety of swimsuits but I was happy to see some with a more normal panty-cut like the one Nicaragua wore.

During the preliminaries, the 10 finalists for the Voice for Change competition were announced in alphabetical order: Angola, Brazil, Chile, Lebanon, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Singapore, South Africa, Ukraine and Zimbabwe. The top 3 will be awarded during the final competition on November 18. I noticed in the preliminaries some of the girls performing Miss Grand International-isms like pointing to the camera/audience and some frenetic scarf/cape whipping (see Bahrain in swimsuit) and even the Voice for Change competition seems to bear resemblance to the Beauty With A Purpose competitions at Miss World so these pageants somehow seem to be becoming each other inadvertently. As for the preliminaries, it was interesting to see the sudden change with the first group of girls from Albania to Chile had transparent capes but then Colombia and everyone after had no cape! I think for preliminaries it was probably better to not have the capes. I assume these capes will return for finals but they aren't really necessary. The music needed to be more high energy too like it was before Guyana's swimsuit performance when the music got much slower.

The preliminary swimsuit and gown competition was originally supposed to be shown as a paid livestream on Livebash but of course, it crashed. Preliminaries are a big deal so luckily they had a plan B and showed it on youtube:


National Costume Show:


We also learned that Paula Shugart will be retiring as president of the Miss Universe organization after the 2023 pageant. Paula has been MUO president since 2001 after taking over from Maureen Reidy. I thought Paula's retirement would be after the 2024 pageant but, hey, what's one year? Now, the question is will CEO Amy Emmerich be replacing Paula or will Khun Anne make some executive changes?
In terms of format, it is a top 20 this year with the 20th delegate being the winner of the online vote and the top 20 will compete in swimsuits then being cut to the top 10 competing in evening gowns before being cut to a top 5 for an interview round and then the top 3 for the final word. Even with the new ownership of Khun Anne, I still expect to see an emphasis on interview/stories/accomplishments this year so we shall see how this affects this year's placements and as always, surprises are to be expected so I have studied each delegate and the preliminary swimsuit and evening gown competitions as well as pictures and various videos and posts on social media so I tried to take all of this into account along with some of my background knowledge when making my list and took a few risks knowing there are normally surprises and my list is never right anyway and I know for sure that this one isn't but I try! Without further ado, here are my predictions for Miss Universe 2022/23.


TOM'S FINAL PREDICTIONS FOR MISS UNIVERSE 2023


Winner=Thailand-Anntonia Porsild

Anntonia delivered in the preliminaries just having the overall right, respectable look and she has always been one to watch since she has already won another major international title, Miss Supranational 2019 and many people are wondering if she can pull off the impossible and capture the Miss Universe title as well. She was born to a Danish father and Thai mother in New Delhi, India in 1996. Coincidentally, another Indian, Lara Dutta had also won an international title (Miss Intercontinental 1997) prior to winning Miss Universe 2000 so is Anntonia following in Lara's footsteps?? Apart from her home country, Anntonia has studied in Vietnam and Spain and is pursuing her bachelor's degree in public relations, advertising, and applied communication so she is already a citizen of the world. Some think there might be a conflict of interest if she holds two international titles but I would be beyond shocked if they didn't place her due to that. With the owner, JKN Global Group's Khun Anne also being Thai, I imagine this will only fuel the charge to crown Anntonia. Thailand surprisingly missed the semifinals last year but are they about to come back strong and win their third Miss Universe crown when Thai Winner Takes It All? Thailand's two previous Miss Universe winners are Apasra Hongsakula (1965) and Porntip Nakhirunkanok (1988).

1st Runner Up=Puerto Rico-Karla Guilfu Acevedo

Karla simply has it all. An amazing body with an excellent overall look combined with strong presence and eloquent speaking skills. Her gown fit her body so well and she actually made this one-piece swimsuit look great. The shining star of the Caribbean sends us yet another shining star with Karla who has previously represented Puerto Rico at Miss Supranational 2021 finishing as 1st runner up at that pageant so there are now big expectations of her at Miss Universe as she is going against a Supranational winner in Thailand's delegate so we could see a domination of Supranational delegates this year at Miss Universe. I call them my Supra Troupras! Lights are gonna find them! Karla is the chief executive officer and director of Comencemos a Sanar which advocates for education, community work and social justice. She also has a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Puerto Rico has won the crown a whopping 5 times (1970, 1985, 1993, 2001, 2006) and they have placed in the top 10 every year since 2018 so will Karla keep the streak going and bring yet another Miss Universe crown to the Boricuas??

2nd Runner Up=South Africa-Bryoni Govender

Bryoni is one of this year's strongest speakers as is expected of South Africans typically. I think the judging panel will take a liking to striking Bryoni. Mandela's rainbow nation has crowned delegates of Indian descent before like Kerishnie Naiker (1998) and Bryoni is the latest to add to the list. In a very competitive pageant with previous contestants, the official Miss South Africa crown actually went to Natasha Joubert who already represented South Africa for 2020 but going unplaced at Miss Universe 2020. Natasha was originally 2nd runner up at Miss South Africa 2020 but that winner Shudufhadzo Musida was sent to Miss World instead. Since women are not permitted to compete twice for the Miss Universe crown, Natasha opted to not compete internationally but runner-up Bryoni was sent instead and she is a worthy achieved candidate as she holds a law degree and is an attorney. Bryoni is an outstanding beauty who has the power to take it all even if she was a runner-up nationally but will being a runner-up to an unplaced delegate at Miss Universe like Natasha affect her? It shouldn't as we have seen many Miss Universes that have experienced losses prior to their big win. South Africa has been very strong in recent years winning 3 Miss Universe crowns thanks to Margaret Gardiner in 1978, Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters in 2017 and Zozibini Tunzi in 2019 so Bryoni is absolutely one to watch.

FINALISTS:

Mexico-Melissa Flores

Melissa delivered in preliminaries with her great long, lean body and this stunning red gown that has proven to be a lucky color for Mexicans considering that two of their three winners wore red gowns when they won. Melissa previously competed in the popular class of Miss Earth 2018 which has seen a number of cross-over delegates to Miss Universe including Colombia's Valeria Ayos who also made the top 4 at Miss Earth 2018 like Melissa and Valeria made top 5 at Miss Universe 2021. The 2022 Miss Universe class also saw other Miss Earth 2018 participants like Philippines' Celeste Cortesi (top 8 at Miss Earth 2018 but unplaced at Miss Universe 2022) and Portugal's Telma Madeira (top 8 at Miss Earth 2018 and top 16 at Miss Universe 2022) but this will be another showdown with Venezuela's Diana Silva who also made the top 8 at Miss Earth 2018 but is competing for Miss Universe 2023 so Melissa and Diana will meet again on another international stage. Will the results be similar or completely different?? I say the results will be similar which is why I've placed her here as I'm quite impressed with her overall in terms of body, styling, public speaking ability and presentation. Mexico might also be hosting Miss Universe 2024 so a win for them would add that much more encouragement so will Melissa be able to capture a fourth Miss Universe crown for the land where the optimism lives in their hearts after their wins in 1991, 2010 and 2020?

Venezuela-Diana Silva

Diana delivered in preliminaries and dare I say, has the body of the competition. Despite a bit of controversy with the selection process as Miss Venezuela when some of the judges claimed they chose the delegate from La Guaira only to be told there was a separate panel of judges also watching the Venezuelan contestants behind the scenes. Despite this, Diana is a favorite and could very well capture this pageant powerhouse nation's eighth Miss Universe crown. Still, many people seem unsure due to the controversy surrounding her win and Venezuela allegedly bailing from hosting the 2024 Miss Universe pageant. Diana has also previously competed at Miss Earth 2018 like this year's Mexican delegate with Diana placing in the top 8 there but she fainted and could not continue in the competition. Now, Diana has the chance to get the highly revered prize of Miss Universe 2023. Miss Earth 2018 also boasted other success stories at Miss Universe like: Colombia's Valeria Ayos who would place in the top 5 of Miss Universe 2021 and Portugal's Telma Madeira who would place as a semifinalist in Miss Universe 2022 but the Philippines' Celeste Cortesi went unplaced at Miss Universe 2022 despite placing in the top 8 at Miss Earth 2018. I also realized that Philippines went unplaced in 2022 in a year with a half-Filipina Miss USA so since Miss USA is half-Venezuelan this year, does it mean that Venezuela doesn't place??? My friend Wassim also pointed out something interesting: In 2020, he noticed a pattern that possibly pointed to a Venezuelan exclusion last year as they failed to place in 2004, 2006, 2010, 2016 and 2020, so with the intervals being 2-4-6-4 years, we get 2 as a logical continuation of the sequence, and thus 2022 as the next non placement but Amanda Dudamel nearly won last year, so maybe the dreaded exclusion will happen this year instead? My friend Hernan pointed out several patterns supporting a win for Venezuela this year as outlined in my first round prethoughts and he even found another: There have been 6 instances where a country placed as 1st runner up but then won the next year (1954, 1972, 1982, 2006, 2007, and 2019) so could 2023 be next? There are lots of forces working for and against Diana so I'm very interested to see what actually ends up happening here! I placed her as my 4th runner up as she may not interview as well as the others but we'll see what happens!

SEMIFINALISTS:

Dominican Republic-Mariana Jimenez

So, a few things caused Mariana to drop a bit on my list. One being that Paraguay's Nadia Ferreira who was 1st runner up to Miss Universe 2021 is currently married to Marc Anthony who once dated Mariana in 2017 and I'm not sure if this will help or hurt Mariana. Also, preliminaries were messy for Mariana as she didn't appear to go to the right spots missing camera cues to stop and pose like the rest of the delegates did so she may reflect a lack of ability to take direction so now I'm a bit iffy but I'm still putting her in my list. Mariana has a British father and a Dominican mother and is a Wilhelmina model. Osmel Sousa who was responsible for much of Venezuela's success in the pageant world was even present at her crowning. The Dominican Republic has been coming on strong in recent years with last year's delegate placing 2nd runner up and they won the crown once back in 2003 thanks to Amelia Vega. Will Mariana be able to capture another Miss Universe crown for the island that hosted Miss Universe 1977 whose winner, Janelle Commissiong happens to be a judge?

Australia-Moraya Wilson

Moraya has an amazing body and she is very athletic being a sports coach who holds a Bachelor of Business Marketing Degree from RMIT University in Melbourne. Her gown was very much like something we've seen Australian delegates wear before but sometimes it is best to go with the safe option and I also think she speaks very well and confidently particularly when it comes to sports. My conflict here is the recent news that broke that revealed her property developer parents went bankrupt owing tens of millions of dollars and there have been calls for Moraya to step down as she was named as a director of 10 companies owing thousands in tax but she denies all knowledge of these businesses. Her father, Anton Wilson, has been banned by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) from managing corporations until 2027, with his multiple failed companies owing creditors more than $45 million. Meanwhile, his ex-wife Melinda Wilson was in March last year disqualified from managing corporations for five years, with debts of $39 million. Will Moraya be perceived as trouble and not place? Or will Khun Anne empathize having also lived in Australia and also experiencing bankruptcy?? The land down under has captured the Miss Universe crown twice thanks to Kerry Wells in 1972 and Jennifer Hawkins in 2004 and with Australia placing last year so will Moraya keep the streak going and possibly get the Aussies another Miss Universe crown??

Curacao-Kim Rossen

Kim is also an athlete and advocates for female sports to get the same recognition as male sports. Kim absolutely has one of the best bodies of the competition and she does carry herself with exceptional poise and grace. At times, she reminds me of Venezuela's Jictzad Vina who went unplaced at Miss Universe 2006 possibly due to her muscular body. Kim spoke very well in her Voice for Change video and I like her style so she is among my top 10. The sunny island of Curaçao has been wowing us in recent years coming off a top 5 placement last year thanks to Gabriëla Dos Santos. Kim Rossen is tall and athletic so she has a very good chance of matching or even surpassing Gabriela's achievement. Curaçao is hungry for that Miss Universe crown and they have come so close when they got a 1st runner up placement in 1968 thanks to Annemarie Braafheid and they also finished 4th in 1997 thanks to Verna Vasquez who actually won the preliminaries that year. Will Kim be the chosen one and capture that elusive crown for the unique blend of cultures, Curaçao??

Colombia-Camila Avella

Being a journalist/TV host, Camila expresses herself very well and professionally and has a great overall look and strong presence and I was impressed with her in preliminaries in terms of body and carriage and her gown does look like a gown we've seen the Colombian delegate wear many times before but hey, if it works, it works! I deem her worthy of a placement but I question if she will end up getting the special segment treatment being an anomaly delegate and we have seen this many times before. We all know that as of 2023, women who are married and/or have children are permitted to compete for Miss Universe and the world's finest coffee land sent us Camila who is the next mother and wife (after Guatemala's delegate) to compete for the Miss Universe crown. At age 28, Camila has a daughter named Amelia which she shares with her husband, Nassif Kamle. Camila previously tried to compete for the original Miss Colombia title in 2018 representing Casanare but was disqualified due to already having a manager promoting her because if she was elected, the manager would be in control. Camila has now been granted this opportunity to compete for Miss Universe and she will make the most of it as she is already being deemed a top contender. My friend Hernan points out some patterns that may point to a Colombian win as they placed 2nd runner up at Miss Grand International 2023, then 1st runner up at Miss International 2023 so is the next step a win at Miss Universe 2023?? Also, recent international pageants have crowned countries bordering Colombia such as Miss Supranational crowning Ecuador, Miss Grand International crowning Peru and Miss International crowning Venezuela so since Colombia touches these 3 countries, does it mean Colombia wins Miss Universe?? Colombia has won Miss Universe twice thanks to Luz Marina Zuluaga in 1958 and Paulina Vega for 2014 so will Camila be deemed job-ready to travel the world as Miss Universe and be away from her young daughter?

Nicaragua-Sheynnis Palacios

Sheynnis has long been a favorite and she delivered in preliminaries and had much crowd support as well. I'm concerned about the size of her implants though and her English may not be as strong but I can see her doing very well. The land of lakes and volcanoes has never won the Miss Universe crown and they last placed in 2020 when Ana Marcelo made the top 21. Sheynnis has experience in pageantry being Miss Teen Nicaragua 2016 placing among the top 10 for Miss Teen Universe 2017 and Miss World Nicaragua 2020 placing among the top 40 at Miss World 2021/22. Sheynnis is also athletic being a volleyball player and has a degree in mass communications.

QUARTERFINALISTS:

India-Shweta Sharda

At first, I thought her being a dancer might work against her as we have seen cases in recent years where aspirations in the entertainment industry seem to be frowned upon but dancers move well on stage and Shweta has a great body and in the pictures I've seen of the delegates in El Salvador, Shweta seems to have this life-of-the-party spirit always laughing and seems to be charming so I think this will translate into a strong interview as she has that likeability factor despite a few prominent facial features so I'm giving her a spot in my list after all. I also loved when she whipped the scarf-like extensions of her gown over her arms showing us that she definitely has the moves! This year, India overtook China as the most populated country in the world and Harnaaz Sandhu just won the crown for India in 2021 and two more Miss Universe crowns were won by Sushmita Sen in 1994 and Lara Dutta in 2000.

Philippines-Michelle Marquez Dee

Apart from the fact that Michelle could easily win the online vote to get into the semifinals, Michelle was more serene in the preliminaries and she has fans supporting her in El Salvador of course so I think she's in. Michelle is an advocate for autism acceptance, inclusivity and empowerment. The pearl of the Orient seas missed the semifinals for 2022 breaking the longest running streak in Miss Universe semifinals since they placed every year since 2010 prior to the broken streak so now the longest semifinal streak belongs to the USA placing every year since 2011 and even winning the crown last year with R'Bonney Gabriel who is half-Filipina. Could Philippines go the way of Brazil whose long running streak was broken in 2021 and they went even a second year missing the semifinals? Michelle is determined to bring the Philippines back in a big way. This pageant obsessed nation has captured the Miss Universe crown four times thanks to Gloria Diaz in 1969, Margarita Moran in 1973, Pia Wurtzbach in 2015 and Catriona Gray in 2018. Michelle supports her country's autism society and wants to create awareness and educate others on mental health and she also supports LGBTQ+ rights as she herself revealed her bisexuality in May 2023. Michelle is the daughter of Miss International 1979, Philippines' Melanie Marquez and Michelle also previously competed at Miss World 2019 placing among the top 12 there so Michelle has much pressure on her to bring the Philippines back in the game. Will she do it?

USA-Noelia Voigt

The first Noelia, the angels did say... Hey folks, Christmas is coming! And what better gift could there be than a Miss Universe crown?? Noelia did well in preliminaries showing off that great body and her rich red gown with hypnotic bust was indeed mesmerizing. Noelia has a Venezuelan mother and her father, Jack Voigt played professional baseball as an outfielder in the 90s. Representing Utah after a hop from Alabama, Noelia captured her nation's coveted crown and has demonstrated great speaking skills yet she has the pressure of representing the country of the reigning Miss Universe. The only country to win Miss Universe two years in a row was Venezuela in 2008 and 2009 so can a Venezuelan like Noelia do it for the land of the free and the home of the brave? As I mentioned in my Miss USA prethoughts, I know she speaks well but she is more on the petite side so I say chances of pulling off the successive win are slim so this where I ended up placing her on my list.

Spain-Athenea Perez

Of the Europeans, I feel like Athenea had the strongest presentation skills as expected. I loved her twirl in gown even if the gown itself was somewhat ho-hum. I got major Denny Mendez vibes from Athenea when she won her national title. Denny Mendez was the first black Miss Italy and finished 5th at Miss Universe 1997 despite being one of the favorites. Now, Athenea is the first black Miss Spain whose mother is from Equatorial Guinea and although she has received hate messages on social media due to her race, many Spaniards are very proud of her and she has potential to capture a second Miss Universe crown for the land of flamenco after Amparo Munoz captured their first Miss Universe crown in 1974. Amparo was quietly dethroned after punching her chaperone (her father was a boxer, you know) and so Amparo didn't return to crown her successor in 1975 in El Salvador which happens to also be hosting this year's Miss Universe pageant so would a win for Spain this year be a full circle moment???

France-Diane Leyre

Another preliminary letdown among the Europeans was France's contender, Diane who really does have a glimmering personality but I was hoping to see a much better gown than this. I think she will shine in interviews though so I'm keeping her among my top 20. Diane originally won Miss France 2022 but we saw her runner-up Martinique's Floriane Bascou at Miss Universe 2022 instead but we have seen a lot of this flip-flopping of French delegates before so this is nothing new. Diane already has media experience serving as a co-host on the Europe 2 daily morning show Le Morning sans filtre, with Guillaume Genton and Fabien Delettres. Diane now has her opportunity to capture a third Miss Universe crown for the land of the Eiffel Tower. France won two Miss Universe crowns (1953 and 2016) and they last placed in 2021 and is 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 after preliminaries but before finals).

Zimbabwe-Brooke Bruk-Jackson

Brooke was decent in preliminaries but I just feel like she has potential to be a surprise. Being a visible minority in her country stirred some controversy but she was born in Zimbabwe's capital city of Harare. After watching her Voice for Change video, I can easily see why she won. She is incredibly well-spoken and poised and spoke about the need to teach financial literacy. Zimbabwe's only Miss Universe semifinalist was the fabulous Corrinne Crewe who finished 8th at Miss Universe 2000. Brooke is a beauty therapist, model and beauty queen from Harare and she has also studied in England and South Africa. I'm just fascinated by Brooke and I really want to see her in the mix and see if she can even capture her country's first Miss Universe crown.

Panama-Natasha Vargas

I think Natasha did everything right but I'm wondering why she's not winning a lot of universal approval. Is she too much of a Latinabot type where she seems more mechanical and not real? I think Natasha is placement worthy. I have heard hints of English from her, even though she spoke Spanish in her Voice for Change video discussing Routes of Hope which is a program providing assistance to migrants and refugees in her country. You can see that she's a journalist as her public speaking and presentation skills are on point. Panama inherited the crown in 2002 when the original winner, Russia's Oxana Fedorova stepped down and Panama's Justine Pasek as 1st runner up assumed the title of Miss Universe. Panama has also hosted the Miss Universe pageant in 1986 and 2003. In fact, Natasha reminds me a lot of the 1986 Miss Universe winner, Venezuela's Barbara Palacios Teyde. Will Natasha who has previous experience in previous pageants and has travelled throughout Europe be able to get the tropical isthmus their first outright Miss Universe win? Panama last placed in 2021.

Pakistan-Erica Robin

Erica won over a lot of hearts after preliminaries and became a favorite so I thought about it and decided to fit her in my list. Her hooded/scarved gown with the crystal bindhi was a breathtaking standout and her wearing the smock burkini rather than a swimsuit should jive well with preliminary judge, Halima Aden who did the same at Miss Minnesota USA 2017. Despite Erica's gorgeous face, I will say I still find her more on the petite side and I saw her answer a question online and there were a lot of prominent uuummm's in it which makes me question her speaking ability so I'm hoping someone pointed that out to her but then I remember a lot of um's coming from Miss El Salvador 1995, Eleonora Carrillo who actually won the finals interview competition so I'm thinking Erica will get a pass so I'm fitting her in my list. Erica is Pakistan's very first delegate for Miss Universe but some men in Pakistan's government have voiced that they don't approve of Pakistan's participation in Miss Universe. Erica is a minority Christian in a predominantly Muslim country. Pakistan is the world's 5th most populated country and it is quite rare for a debuting country to win Miss Universe but it has happened with of course, the first Miss Universe in 1952, Finland's Armi Kuusela but it also happened in 1958 with Colombia's Luz Marina Zuluaga and in 1999 with Botswana's Mpule Kwelagobe but I say Erica gets a first placement.

El Salvador-Isabella Garcia-Manzo

Isabella's shimmery gold chain gown with cut-outs on the sides of the bodice reminded me of the gown Puerto Rico's Zuleyka Rivera wore when she won Miss Universe 2006. Isabella was also very poised and confident but seemed friendly simultaneously and I think the gentleman of the Americas has been a gracious host and I can see them being rewarded with a placement so I gave her a spot in my top 20 even if this delegate didn't submit a Voice for Change video. Will Isabella pull off the rare feat of winning the Miss Universe crown in her own country? This feat has happened 8 times. 7 of the 9 Miss USAs that went on to win Miss Universe won on home turf (1954, 1956, 1960, 1967, 1997, 2012 and 2022) but the 2 Miss USA's that didn't win on home soil were Shawn Weatherly in 1980 who won the Miss Universe crown in Seoul, Korea and Chelsi Smith in 1995 who won Miss Universe in Windhoek, Namibia. Also, Puerto Rico's Denise Quinones won in her home country in 2001. El Salvador has never won the crown but they did place as 1st runner up back in 1955 but they haven't placed since 1996 with the gorgeous Milena Mayorga so will the land of the eternal smile come back in their home country in a big way??

Trinidad & Tobago-Faith Gillezeau

I'm taking a little gamble here since Miss Universe 1977-Trinidad's Janelle Commissiong is a prelim judge so I'm thinking Trinidad can pull off two placements in a row after placing last year. Faith's Voice for Change video had her talking about combatting lifestyle related diseases like diabetes. The oh-so-beautiful twin islands want us to have faith in Faith! Of course, she speaks well which is typically expected of Trinis and she has a sweet look but maybe a bit small-bodied but I think she will get a pass. Faith is a pharmacist and national squash athlete. Trinidad & Tobago has captured the Miss Universe crown twice thanks to Janelle Commissiong (the first black Miss Universe) in 1977 as well as Wendy Fitzwilliam in 1998.

ALTERNATES:

Great Britain-Jessica Page

Jessica is very fresh-faced. I was hoping for a better gown as this one seems too child-pageant and her body is just okay. I was hoping to see a Voice for Change video from Jessica but sadly there was none but I have seen other videos and she does speak very well which should be expected coming from an accomplished young lady like Jessica Page who is a 27-year-old businesswoman from Liverpool, holding a degree in marketing and events management from the University of Chester and is currently working as a creative director for a dessert brand in addition to being a freelance marketing manager and owner of a social media agency Social Hype. Being experienced and ambitious should help Jessica excel in interview and the land of the Union Jack has never won the crown and they last placed in 2021 so can Jessica do it?

Peru-Camila Escribens

Camila has a story about her athletic career ending after having to be hospitalized for 11 years. Peru placed last year and has had sporadic successes recently but they have had to wait the longest for a repeat win since 1957 was the one time that they claimed the crown thanks to Gladys Zender. Camila was born in Lima, Peru but lives in Fresno, California. She represented the Peruvian community in the United States as Miss Peru USA at the national pageant of Miss Peru 2019 where she finished as 1st runner up and she was sent to compete in Miss Grand International 2019 where she placed among the top 10 so will Camila's experience and fluency in English propel her to the semifinals and possibly get a second Miss Universe crown for the land of the Incas? I just get a lower energy from her causing me to place her here and she seems more on the waifish side and this gown is quite similar to the one worn by their 2020 rep.

Argentina-Yamile Luján Dajud

Based on what I'm seeing from others, Yamile seems to have fallen out of favor. I'm not really sure why as she is a great overall candidate and she looks like the Venezuelan prototype but I question if this look is still in fashion with the modern methods of judging. Her chin is a bit prominent but I think she could easily place. I saw a video online that Yamile was upset that Argentinians weren't showing her enough support and this might be due to the fact that she competed for Miss Colombia in 2021 placing as 4th runner up to Valentina Espinosa and all of the ladies that ranked above Yamile at Miss Colombia all did very well at their respective international pageants so one would think this would make Yamile one to watch. Yamile is also well-travelled and multilingual so will Yamile use these skills to her advantage and capture her nation's second Miss Universe crown? Her Voice for Change video discussed combatting peer pressure amongst teenagers and her English was actually quite good and she expresses herself well. The land of tango and Evita Peron last placed for 2020 and they won their only Miss Universe crown back in 1962 thanks to Norma Nolan.

Ireland-Aishah Akorede

The emerald isle sends us their second black delegate after Fionnghuala (Fig) O'Reilly in 2019 and she was a standout due to being a visible minority delegate but I just needed to see more power here but she could place. The land of shamrocks and leprechauns' highest placement was two 2nd runner up placements, first in 1963 thanks to Marlene McKeown then in 1983 thanks to Roberta Brown.

Namibia-Jameela Uiras

Jameela was a surprise during preliminaries. She does speak well but she looks way better with her hair slicked back so she could be up there but I saw her stumble a bit with her gown with a slit that was almost too wide that she kept stepping on the side of the dress and had to hold it in place so we'll see how she does. The smile of Africa, Namibia won the crown once back in 1992 thanks to Michelle McLean but they have not placed since 2003.

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Italy-Carmen Panepinto Zayati

Carmen advocates for promoting women in STEM and she is actually quite intelligent and tall but perhaps facially not as strong so I ended up putting her as an honorable mention but I would not be surprised to see her place and women in STEM seems to right in step with the modern era of pageantry. The land of culture, pasta and fashion has never won the crown but they have two 1st runners-up, Daniela Bianchi in 1960 and Roberta Capua in 1987 but they haven't placed since 2014.

Cameroon-Issie Princesse

I really wanted to put this Princesse higher in my list as she actually has a stunning face and great smile but the body's a bit wide and this gown needed to be better. She could still place but I just don't feel as strongly about her as I once did.

Brazil-Maria Brechane

I'm seeing Maria on other lists. Maria used sign language in her Voice for Change video and she talked about inclusion particularly for members of the deaf community and she did make the top 10 for the Voice for Change competition but I've given her honorable mention status just because I think the new franchise holders of Brazil may have fallen out of favor largely due to Julia Gama who wasn't invited to crown her successor and Julia was the last to place for Brazil when she was 1st runner up for 2020 after which the land of the Samba broke their long-running streak in the semifinals after placing every year since they hosted the pageant in 2011. Maria is trilingual and studies journalism. Brazil has won two Miss Universe crowns thanks to Ieda Maria Vargas in 1963 and Martha Vasconcellos in 1968.

Ecuador-Delary Stoffers

At first, I didn't realize how tall this girl is but then my friend Wassim reminds me that her father is Dutch which boasts the tallest people in the world. She spoke Spanish in her Voice for Change video discussing children with type 1 diabetes. Delary is a Business Administration student and she is also an animal rights activist. The land where the hemispheres meet has never won and they last placed in 2013 when they pulled off their highest placement ever when Constanza Baez placed as 2nd runner up. She did well in preliminaries but I'm not sure there's enough substance here so I kept her as an honorable mention.

Germany-Helena Bleicher

I was surprised at the amount of applause she got during preliminaries but Helena is actually a great candidate with long legs and her bold red gown matching with her lipstick and earrings made me take notice of her. Helena's Voice for Change video discussed ending child poverty. She has previous international pageant experience as she represented Germany at the Miss Aura International 2022 pageant in Turkey where she placed in the Top 10. Oh yes, then there's that whole thing about Khun Anne fathering children using the donated eggs of a German woman. The land of Bach and Beethoven hasn't placed since 2002 and they won their only Miss Universe crown back in 1961.

NEXT TIER:

Other delegates just missing my list falling in my next tier are the following delegates:

Nigeria-She is tall but she stumbled quite a bit in her gown and could be stronger facially but she does speak well and her Voice for Change also discussed educating women about financial independence but she didn't make the top 10 finalists there but she has a decent pageant history placing in the top 15 at Miss World 2017 and winning a top model award. I just didn't have room in my list so this is where she ended up.

Lebanon-Also a great overall candidate and quite stunning and well-spoken when talking about the decline of education rates in her country. Bodywise, I wasn't get the impression that she would place so I placed her here.

Poland-A decent candidate who speaks and presents well. I like her but I just am not getting the impression that she will place.

Guatemala-The other mother with children (aside from Colombia's delegate) but I just don't think she quite has the right body type but I know she speaks well but she went unplaced at Miss Grand International 2013 so I just don't see it happening for her.

Costa Rica-Lisbeth is so pretty but I just think her body type and the bleached blonde hair is going to keep her out.

Slovakia-She's still saying Slovak Republic though! I like Kinga and think she would make a good Queena and she does have a great body and overall look so I think she is worthy but may not have as powerful speaking skills but we'll see.

Honduras-Zuheilyn did impress in preliminaries but this country has a weak sash as they haven't placed since 1955 but could that turn around this year when a nearby country is hosting?

Canada-Madison is a decent overall candidate but I just feel like others are stronger this year.

Bahrain-Her frenetic scarf whipping while wearing the smock/burkini was a highlight of the preliminaries. Wildly fierce!

Nepal-As I mentioned in my second round prethoughts, this is not the first full-figured delegate to compete for Miss Universe and as predicted, she was loudly applauded for her bravery similarly to Miss Turks and Caicos 2000, Clintina Gibbs so will Jane be able to parlay her popularity into a placement??






So there you have it! Another year with another list! How did I do? Who are the surprises? Well, we shall soon know the truth!

Of course, tell everyone to watch Miss Universe 2023 - November 18 on Roku/Telemundo/Miss Universe youtube channel!



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SECOND ROUND PRETHOUGHTS (November 11, 2023)




Reigning Miss Universe, R'Bonney Gabriel models the four swimsuit styles the 2023 contestants will choose from this year from the new collection “Off the Runaway” designed by Rubin Singer.
The metallics are nice but they should have a bikini option without the granny panty. Ugh.



Thailand, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Spain and Netherlands in photoshoot for MUBA cosmetics



The ladies are having a fabulous time experiencing El Salvador during this once in a lifetime opportunity to compete for Miss Universe and they have been doing lots of fun activities, attending special events and even doing touristy things like seeing the beautiful sights that the gentleman of the Americas has to offer!




























We can clearly see why El Salvador is the land of the eternal smile!!!



On a more serious note: On November 9, news broke that JKN Global Group (Khun Anne's company that bought Miss Universe) just filed for bankruptcy but fear not, Miss Universe will proceed as planned. We discussed this in my first round prethoughts that JKN Global Group bought the rights to the Miss Universe pageant back in 2022 for $20 million U.S. JKN Global Group announced to the Thai Stock Exchange that it has filed for bankruptcy to resolve a liquidity problem after it missed a deadline to repay bonds worth around $12 million U.S. The company's board of directors will be submitting a business rehabilitation plan to Thailand's bankruptcy court, with operations continuing under that rehabilitation plan.

A reminder that there is a paid livestream this year for preliminaries and the national costume show available at https://missuniverse.livebash.com
Preliminaries are on November 15 at 5pm Pacific Time and the National Costume show is on Nov 16 at 6pm Pacific Time.
I'm going to post my final predictions for Miss Universe 2023 on November 17 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. I'm not sure if there's a format change yet. Last year had a top 16 with 1 of them being the winner of the online vote. Miss USA and Miss Teen USA had a top 20 though so for now, I'll have a top 20 with alternates, honorable mentions and next tier delegates but it might be a top 16 again. (Update on Nov 12: Some delegates are posting that it is a top 20 in swimsuit then cut to top 10 in gown, top 5 for judge's questions and top 3 final answer.)
85 delegates are competing for Miss Universe 2023 in El Salvador.

We will all witness the magic unfold on November 18 on Roku and Telemundo when the 72nd Miss Universe pageant broadcasts live from the José Adolfo Pineda Arena in San Salvador, El Salvador. The 1975 Miss Universe pageant was also hosted by El Salvador. This year's hosts are all female and they are the same as the hosts from last year's Miss Universe pageant. The hosts are: Olivia Culpo-Miss Universe 2012 who also co-hosted the 2020 Miss Universe pageant and Jeannie Mai-Jenkins who has served as color commentator for past Miss Universe and Miss USA pageants. Color commentators this year will be Catriona Gray-Miss Universe 2018 and Zuri Hall who has hosted the past two Miss USA pageants. This year, they have added an additional host, Maria Menounos-Miss Massachusetts Teen USA 1996 who was 13th place at Miss Teen USA 1996 (so close to making top 10!!) but all of us remember how Maria stood out even then joking that she was going to be on national TV 'in a bikini, Mom!' Maria also has a very distinctive laugh so I wonder if we'll hear it in El Salvador and she has been featured in entertainment reporting roles and hosting talk shows so I'm looking forward to see what she brings to the mix.

Albania-Endi Demneri

Check out this fabulous hooded gown that Endi wore at a meet and greet event in El Salvador! Her Voice for Change video featured her discussing endometriosis. I just don't think this delegate is quite on the same level as the others overall and is more of a model type so she is not among my picks currently. Albania has never won the crown and their last placement was in 2019 when they made the top 20.


Angola-Ana Barbara Da Silva Coimbra

Ana Barbara's Voice for Change video talked about combatting poverty, malnutrition and levels of education in her country during this inflationary time. She spoke well and has potential to be a surprise. Overall, I don't sense a placement coming this year but we'll see how she does in preliminaries. Angola won their only Miss Universe crown in 2011 thanks to Leila Lopes and this was also the last time Angola placed.


Argentina-Yamile Luján Dajud

This is a great overall candidate and she looks like the Venezuelan prototype but I question if this look is still in fashion with the modern methods of judging but I do have her in my top 20 at the moment. Her Voice for Change video discussed combatting peer pressure amongst teenagers and her English was actually quite good and she expresses herself well. The land of tango and Evita Peron last placed for 2020 and they won their only Miss Universe crown back in 1962 thanks to Norma Nolan. Yamile has previously competed for the original Miss Colombia crown in 2021 placing as 4th runner up to Valentina Espinosa and all of the ladies that ranked above Yamile at Miss Colombia all did very well at their respective international pageants so this makes Yamile one to watch. Yamile is also well-travelled and multilingual so will Yamile use these skills to her advantage and capture her nation's second Miss Universe crown?


Aruba-Karol Croes

Karol's Voice for Change video discussed that she was a child of divorced parents and she talked about how divorce affects children so it was a touching video. I consider her more of a next tier delegate at this point. The one happy island has yet to capture the Miss Universe crown but they have come close with a 1st runner up finish in 1996 thanks to Taryn Mansell and a 4th runner up finish in 1974 with Maureen Vieira and they last placed in 2021.


Australia-Moraya Wilson

Moraya is very athletic being a sports coach who holds a Bachelor of Business Marketing Degree from RMIT University in Melbourne. Her Voice for Change video naturally discussed the benefits of participating in sports and she is a great overall candidate with a great, athletic body so she is among my top 20 at the moment. However, news recently broke that revealed her property developer parents went bankrupt owing tens of millions of dollars and there have been calls for Moraya to step down as she was named as a director of 10 companies owing thousands in tax but she denies all knowledge of these businesses. Her father, Anton Wilson, has been banned by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) from managing corporations until 2027, with his multiple failed companies owing creditors more than $45 million. Meanwhile, his ex-wife Melinda Wilson was in March last year disqualified from managing corporations for five years, with debts of $39 million. Yikes. Will Moraya be perceived as trouble and not place? The land down under has captured the Miss Universe crown twice thanks to Kerry Wells in 1972 and Jennifer Hawkins in 2004 and with Australia placing last year so will Moraya keep the streak going and possibly get the Aussies another Miss Universe crown??


Bahamas-Melissa Ingraham

It looks like they've done away with this THE Bahamas business... The archipelago of nearly 700 coral islands, around 30 of which are inhabited located in the West Atlantic Ocean actually placed for the first time in history in 2021 finishing among the top 10 and they also hosted the 2009 Miss Universe pageant. Melissa is an environmental scientist currently pursuing her Master's of Science in Climate Change at Maynooth University in Ireland and naturally, her Voice for Change video discussed the impacts of climate change. Currently, I don't foresee a placement for this delegate.


Bahrain-Lujane Yacoub

Lujane's Voice for Change video discussed the importance of community centers after she learned she had a learning disability. She speaks well but in terms of the overall, she looks rather petite body-wise and therefore, I don't have her among my picks currently. Bahrain is fairly new to the pageant scene and they have yet to place but they have been sending very notable contestants as last year's delegate was a favorite.


Belgium-Emilie Vansteenkiste

Her Voice for Change discussed psychological counselling access for all and it looked quite basic so the general consensus is that this delegate will not place. Belgium did place in 2018 but the diamond capital of Europe has never won the Miss Universe crown but they have placed in the top 6 in 1981 and 1992.


Bolivia-Estefany Rivero

Estefany's Voice for Change video discusses recognition of indigenous groups in Bolivia and preserving the environment. She also spoke in Spanish. Estefany is an architect and interior decorator. I don't foresee a placement for this delegate. The country where the Amazon and the Andes meet had their last two placements when the Miss Universe pageant was held in Los Angeles (in 2006 and 1990).


Brazil-Maria Brechane

Maria used sign language in her Voice for Change video and she talked about inclusion particularly for members of the deaf community. I'm leaning towards honorable mention status for this delegate just because I think the new franchise holders of Brazil may have fallen out of favor largely due to Julia Gama who wasn't invited to crown her successor and Julia was the last to place for Brazil when she was 1st runner up for 2020 after which the land of the Samba broke their long-running streak in the semifinals after placing every year since they hosted the pageant in 2011. Maria is trilingual and studies journalism. Brazil has won two Miss Universe crowns thanks to Ieda Maria Vargas in 1963 and Martha Vasconcellos in 1968.


British Virgin Islands-Ashellica Fahie

Her Voice for Change video had a very religious tone to it which also has fallen out of favor in recent years. Nature's little secret has never placed in the history of Miss Universe and that isn't expected to change this year.


Bulgaria-Yuliia Pavlikova

Since she was crowned so late, Yuliia doesn't have a Voice for Change video. This one was an interesting story as she was the last delegate to be crowned on October 27 but another girl, Alexandra Stoyanova managed to trick the Miss Universe organization into saying she won after posting that she won on social media and they even temporarily uploaded her picture! The real Bulgarian franchise holders then exposed this trickster and the real winner of the pageant was Yuliia Pavlikova so this was an interesting mess. Yuliia was born in Crimea to a Bulgarian father and a Ukrainian mother and is this year's oldest candidate at age 30 (they aren't disqualifying her since the news is already out that the age limit is being eliminated for 2024 even though the age limit for 2023 should technically be 28). Yuliia already represented her country at Miss Grand International 2022 representing Crimea and at Miss Earth 2021 as Miss Bulgaria going unplaced at both so the expectation is that she won't place at Universe so the land of roses probably won't get their first Miss Universe placement this year.


Cambodia-Sotima John

Cambodia's fairly new to the Miss Universe world and she has no Voice for Change video so I'm not expecting this delegate to place.


Cameroon-Ndoun Issie Marie Princesse

Keep your eye on this Princesse because she could be a potential surprise. Her Voice for Change video had her discussing with sincerity promoting health and well-being for all. Issie comes across as well-educated and expresses herself well and she has a great smile as well. Her genuineness is refreshing and her overall look is actually quite good so even though the land of Bebe Zahara Benet has yet to place at Miss Universe, I have seen outstanding gowns on their past delegates so I'll be watching her closely in preliminaries as I have her as an alternate presently with a chance of advancing into my list after preliminaries as I need to get a better look at her body.


Canada-Madison Kvaltin

Her Voice for Change video was simply Madison sitting (when she said she stands here before you) and talking about her struggles with overcoming an eating disorder and mental health. The true north strong and free sends us Madison this year who hails from Manitoulin Island, Ontario. She does speak well and I did call her win of the Canadian crown but I feel like the competition is quite strong so I have her as an honorable mention currently. Madison is also quite experienced in Canadian pageantry even placing as last year's national runner-up to Amelia Tu who did place among the top 16 last year and Madison competed at Miss International 2022 placing among the top 8 there so we'll see how she does.


Cayman Islands-Ileann Powery

Her Voice for Change video had her discussing combatting bullying. The crystal blue waters and the white coral beaches of the Cayman Islands have never placed and that isn't expected to change this year.


Chile-Celeste Viel

Her Voice for Change video had Celeste discussing her 3 adopted siblings being a child of immigrant parents and supporting unaccompanied children crossing the Mexico/U.S. border. Celeste was born in Chile but lives in the U.S. and is a public relations student at Florida International University in Miami. She is also a legacy delegate as Celeste is the daughter of Miss Chile World 1992, Paula Maite Caballero who went unplaced at Miss World 1992. Chile won its only crown in 1987 thanks to Cecilia Bolocco but they haven't placed since 2004. Celeste is a decent overall candidate but I have her in my next tier presently.


China-Jia Qi

This is one of the later delegates to arrive due to being crowned late (October 22) so she doesn't have a Voice for Change video. Jia Qi is athletic and runs track and field so she does have a great body and overall look and she looks to be a good speaker but she doesn't appear to be fluent in English which is more of a job requirement and her country might not be in the best light presently so I say she goes unplaced but China has surprised us before. The land of the great wall has never won the crown but their best finish was as 2nd runner up in 2002 which was technically elevated to 1st runner up when the original 2002 Miss Universe winner was dethroned and they last placed in 2017.


Colombia-Maria Camila Avella Montañez

Camila's Voice for Change video was really great discussing children that feel unwanted are experiencing problems later in life like getting into crime and/or drug and substance abuse. Being a journalist/TV host, Camila expresses herself very well and professionally and has a great overall look and strong presence so I have her in my top 20 currently as I deem her worthy of a placement but I question if she will end up getting the special segment treatment being an anomaly delegate and we have seen this many times before. We all know that as of 2023, women who are married and/or have children are permitted to compete for Miss Universe and the world's finest coffee land sent us Camila who is the next mother and wife (after Guatemala's delegate) to compete for the Miss Universe crown. At age 28, Camila has a daughter named Amelia which she shares with her husband, Nassif Kamle. Camila previously tried to compete for the original Miss Colombia title in 2018 representing Casanare but was disqualified due to already having a manager promoting her because if she was elected, the manager would be in control. Camila has now been granted this opportunity to compete for Miss Universe and she will make the most of it as she is already being deemed a top contender. My friend Hernan points out some patterns that may point to a Colombian win as they placed 2nd runner up at Miss Grand International 2023, then 1st runner up at Miss International 2023 so is the next step a win at Miss Universe 2023?? Also, recent international pageants have crowned countries bordering Colombia such as Miss Supranational crowning Ecuador, Miss Grand International crowning Peru and Miss International crowning Venezuela so since Colombia touches these 3 countries, does it mean Colombia wins Miss Universe?? Colombia has won Miss Universe twice thanks to Luz Marina Zuluaga in 1958 and Paulina Vega for 2014 so will Camila be deemed job-ready to travel the world as Miss Universe and be away from her young daughter?


Costa Rica-Lisbeth Valverde

Lisbeth spoke Spanish in her Voice for Change video talking about being a special education teacher working with people with disabilities. She is a great candidate and Lisbeth is very pretty but more on the petite side meaning stumpy legs and the bleached-blonde look may not jive with modern judging panels so I say she doesn't place but she is in close proximity to the host country of El Salvador so she should have significant crowd support. The land of peace and brotherhood has never won the Miss Universe crown nor have they made the top 5 but they have made the top 10 as recently as 2020 thanks to Ivonne Cerdas.


Croatia-Andrea Erjavec

Andrea is an educator pursuing a degree from the University of Zagreb as she indicated in her Voice for Change video. She is a decent candidate but I don't feel strongly enough about her getting a placement so she's not in my list at the moment. The greatest treasure of middle Europe, Croatia has placed four times as a semifinalist (2009, 2012, 2017 and 2019) but has never won the crown.


Curaçao-Kim Rossen

Kim's Voice for Change video discussed how female sports are not viewed or respected in the same way as male sports and she would like to see this change. I wish she kept her hair curly but there's no denying she has an incredible body but will we see her go the Jictzad Vina route and perhaps be perceived as too muscular? I like her style and the way she speaks so I have her among my top 20 currently. The sunny island of Curaçao has been wowing us in recent years coming off a top 5 placement last year thanks to Gabriëla Dos Santos. Kim Rossen is tall and athletic so she has a very good chance of matching or even surpassing Gabriela's achievement. Curaçao is hungry for that Miss Universe crown and they have come so close when they got a 1st runner up placement in 1968 thanks to Annemarie Braafheid and they also finished 4th in 1997 thanks to Verna Vasquez who actually won the preliminaries that year. Will Kim be the chosen one and capture that elusive crown for the unique blend of cultures, Curaçao??


Czech Republic-Vanesa Švédová

Vanesa's Voice for Change video discussed mental health for children and she's a decent candidate overall but for some reason, the Czech delegates tend to get ignored so they need to amplify their personalities more so I say a non-placement for now. 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-Nikoline Uhrenholt Hansen

Her Voice for Change video discussed promoting younger people connecting more with lonely seniors. She's a decent candidate but I don't foresee a placement. The birthplace of the little mermaid has never won the Miss Universe crown but they have placed as 1st runner up in 1963 thanks to Aino Korwa but they haven't placed since 2007.


Dominican Republic-Mariana Downing

Mariana's Voice for Change video discussed war and its impacts on children. The land where your heart flames to the rhythms of merengue sends us a very notable delegate with Mariana this year who has a British father and is a Wilhelmina model and actress who once dated singer Marc Anthony in 2017 and he notably was once married to Puerto Rico's Dayanara Torres-Miss Universe 1993 as well as Jennifer Lopez and most recently to Paraguay's Nadia Ferreira who was 1st runner up at Miss Universe 2021 and Nadia recently gave birth to their son. Osmel Sousa who was responsible for much of Venezuela's success in the pageant world was even present at her crowning so all these elements combined with her model body and carriage and great speaking ability tell me that she is a contender so she is still among my top 5 currently. The Dominican Republic has been coming on strong in recent years with last year's delegate placing 2nd runner up and they won the crown once back in 2003 thanks to Amelia Vega. Will Mariana be able to capture another Miss Universe crown for the island that hosted Miss Universe 1977?


Ecuador-Delary Stoffers

I didn't realize how tall this girl is! She spoke Spanish in her Voice for Change video discussing children with type 1 diabetes. Delary is a Business Administration student and she is also an animal rights activist. The land where the hemispheres meet has never won and they last placed in 2013 when they pulled off their highest placement ever when Constanza Baez placed as 2nd runner up. There's possibilities here so I have her as an honorable mention at the moment.


Egypt-Mohra Tantawy

Her Voice for Change video showed her working with the Philippines' Red Cross providing humanitarian aid to those suffering after natural disasters. The land of ancient wonders and modern progress sends us Mohra who previously represented Egypt at Miss Intercontinental 2022 but went unplaced. She holds a bachelor's degree in business marketing. Egypt has never placed in the history of Miss Universe and I also don't foresee a placement for this delegate.


El Salvador-Isabella Garcia-Manzo

The gentleman of the Americas has been a gracious host and I can see them being rewarded with a placement so I have her among my top 20 currently even if this delegate didn't submit a Voice for Change video. This year's host delegate is Isabella Garcia-Manzo who hails from the capital of the gentleman of the Americas, El Salvador. Will Isabella pull off the rare feat of winning the Miss Universe crown in her own country? This feat has happened 8 times. 7 of the 9 Miss USAs that went on to win Miss Universe won on home turf (1954, 1956, 1960, 1967, 1997, 2012 and 2022) but the 2 Miss USA's that didn't win on home soil were Shawn Weatherly in 1980 who won the Miss Universe crown in Seoul, Korea and Chelsi Smith in 1995 who won Miss Universe in Windhoek, Namibia. Also, Puerto Rico's Denise Quinones won in her home country in 2001. El Salvador has never won the crown but they did place as 1st runner up back in 1955 but they haven't placed since 1996 with the gorgeous Milena Mayorga so will the land of the eternal smile come back in their home country in a big way??


Equatorial Guinea-Diana Hinestrosa

This delegate didn't submit a Voice for Change video. Diana has a degree in Economic Sciences and is currently studying to get a master's degree in Psychology. Equatorial Guinea has never placed and that is not expected to change this year.


Finland-Paula Joukanen

The land where tolerance and northern lights shine bright hasn't placed since 1996 when Lola Odusoga claimed the 2nd runner up position but they do have two Miss Universe crowns thanks to the very first Miss Universe winner, Armi Kuusela in 1952 and Anne Marie Pohtamo in 1975 who won her crown in El Salvador which happens to be hosting again in 2023 but history won't be repeating itself as this delegate is not expected to place. Her Voice for Change video discussed human rights and starting a charity campaign to collect funds for refugees.


France-Diane Leyre

Diane's Voice for Change video seemed more real where she discussed embracing diversity of the people around you and she does have a certain charisma so I have her in my top 10 currently. Diane originally won Miss France 2022 but we saw her runner-up Martinique's Floriane Bascou at Miss Universe 2022 instead but we have seen a lot of this flip-flopping of French delegates before so this is nothing new. Diane already has media experience serving as a co-host on the Europe 2 daily morning show Le Morning sans filtre, with Guillaume Genton and Fabien Delettres. Diane now has her opportunity to capture a third Miss Universe crown for the land of the Eiffel Tower. France won two Miss Universe crowns (1953 and 2016) and they last placed in 2021 and is 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 after preliminaries but before finals).


Germany-Helena Bleicher

Helena's Voice for Change video discussed ending child poverty. She has previous international pageant experience as she represented Germany at the Miss Aura International 2022 pageant in Turkey where she placed in the Top 10. The land of Bach and Beethoven hasn't placed since 2002 and they won their only Miss Universe crown back in 1961. She's decent but I don't have her among my picks at the moment.


Great Britain-Jessica Page

I was hoping to see a Voice for Change video from Jessica but sadly there was none but I have seen other videos and she does speak very well which should be expected coming from an accomplished young lady like Jessica Page who is a 27-year-old businesswoman from Liverpool, holding a degree in marketing and events management from the University of Chester and is currently working as a creative director for a dessert brand in addition to being a freelance marketing manager and owner of a social media agency Social Hype. Being experienced and ambitious should help Jessica excel in interview so I have her in my top 20 presently but I'm unsure of the body/height so I'll be watching her closely in preliminaries. The land of the Union Jack has never won the crown and they last placed in 2021 so can Jessica do it?


Greece-Marielia Zaloumi

The birthplace of the Olympic spirit has not placed since 2005 but they did win the crown back in 1964 thanks to Corinna Tsopei. This delegate was crowned late and does not have a Voice for Change video but I'm not expecting a placement for this delegate.


Guatemala-Michelle Cohn

Michelle's Voice for Change video had her discussing deaf women and promoting inclusivity in the workplace and how she employs disabled women to work in her clothing company. Michelle was the first mother chosen to compete for Miss Universe 2023! This is thanks to the new rule change for 2023 allowing women with children to compete. 28-year-old Michelle is married to Andres Matheu and they have a young son and daughter. She previously competed for the Miss Grand International 2013 crown but went unplaced. I have her as a next tier delegate at the moment as I do think she speaks well but may not necessarily have the right body type. The heart of the Mundo Maya has never won the Miss Universe crown and they last placed in 2010 with Jessica Scheel.


Guyana-Lisa Narine

Her Voice for Change video discussed her platform Nurture New which provides life skills to young people and single parents. I think there's a bit of a lack of polish here but I do like her look so I'm thinking she will be in my next tier but I'll be keeping an eye on her in preliminaries. Lisa has a diploma in business and marketing management and is currently pursuing her bachelor's degree in international relations at the University of Guyana. Can she earn a first Miss Universe placement for her country?


Honduras-Zuheilyn Clemente

Her Voice for Change video discussed eliminating world hunger. If you can believe it, Honduras has had to wait the longest for a repeat semifinalist as they haven't placed since 1955 which was the one and only time that they placed. I don't foresee a placement for this delegate.


Hungary-Tünde Blága

Her Voice for Change video was simple and promoted peace. The land of the blue Danube last placed in 2018 with their best placement being among the top 10 in 2012 but they have yet to capture the crown. This delegate is not expected to place.


Iceland-Lilja Síf Pétursdóttir

The land of ice and fire last placed in 2019 thanks to Birta Abiba Þórhallsdóttir and they have never won the crown but they came close in 1962 when Anna Geirsdottir finished as 1st runner up. This delegate didn't submit a Voice for Change video but I don't foresee a placement for this delegate.


India-Shweta Sharda

Shweta's Voice for Change video discussed making bold, unconventional career choices as Shweta is a professional dancer and choreographer from Chandigarh representing the country that, this year, recently overtook China as the most populated in the world. India has a streak in the semifinals since 2019 and they are known for sending delegates with strong interview skills and Shweta has spunk and seems to be charming with her fellow delegates and being a dancer knows how to move gracefully on stage and aims to keep the streak going but I can't help but wonder if aspirations in the entertainment industry are still frowned upon and if some facial features are a bit prominent so I have her as an alternate at the moment but we'll see if preliminaries change things. Harnaaz Sandhu just won the crown for India in 2021 and two more Miss Universe crowns were won by Sushmita Sen in 1994 and Lara Dutta in 2000.


Indonesia-Fabiënne Fionnuala Nicole Groeneveld

Fabienne's Voice for Change discussed access to quality education and she does speak well but I think in light of the controversy of Khun Anne giving her friend, Poppy Capella the Indonesian franchise only to have contestants make allegations of sexual harassment from staff, Indonesia might need to take a step back this year so I'm leaning towards a non-placement. The 4th most populated country in the world has never won the crown but their best placement was in 2018 when Frederika Cull who is half-Australian made the top 10 and they had a strong streak placing every year (except 2017) from 2013 to 2020. Fabienne also has experience competing at Miss Global 2018 where she made top 20 but not top 11.


Ireland-Aishah Akorede

Aishah's Voice for Change video discussed period poverty and discussed the need for menstrual health education and she did speak excellently in her Irish accent. The emerald isle sends us their second black delegate after Fionnghuala (Fig) O'Reilly in 2019 and I think her uniqueness will make her a standout so I currently have her in my top 20. The land of shamrocks and leprechauns' highest placement was two 2nd runner up placements, first in 1963 thanks to Marlene McKeown then in 1983 thanks to Roberta Brown.


Italy-Carmen Panepinto Zayati

Carmen's Voice for Change video discussed promoting women in STEM and she is actually quite intelligent and tall but perhaps facially not as strong so I have her as an alternate for the time being but she could move up after preliminaries. The land of culture, pasta and fashion sends us Carmen this year who is fluent in English. Italy has never won the crown but they have two 1st runners-up, Daniela Bianchi in 1960 and Roberta Capua in 1987 but they haven't placed since 2014.


Jamaica-Jordanne Lauren Levy

Jordanne's Voice for Change video discussed combatting teen pregnancy. The island that moves to the beat of reggae has yet to win the Miss Universe crown but they have a series of runner-up placements with their best being in 2010 as 1st runner-up thanks to Yendi Phillips and they last placed in 2020. Jordanne is a medical intern on her way to becoming a doctor and I'm sure we all remember that Washington's delegate placed at Miss USA putting 'Dr.' in front of her name so will the same thing happen to Jordanne? My friend Wassim points out that Jordanne's win was questioned as she was given a second opportunity to answer a question during the pageant that she won making people believe that she was a preselected winner so now, I'm conflicted. She does seem a bit soft-spoken so right now, I'm leaning towards honorable mention status for her but we'll see after preliminaries.


Japan-Rio Miyazaki

Rio didn't submit a Voice for Change video and says she can't live without cheerleading so yeah, she's a no. She seems to have a familiar name that is close to a combination of two former successful Japanese delegates (Miyako Miyazaki who was 4th runner up in 2003 who led Japan's charge to triumph in 2007 with Riyo Mori's win) but maybe that's more of a jinx? Japan claimed the Miss Universe crown twice in 1959 and 2007 and last placed in 2021.


Kazakhstan-Tomiris Zair

This delegate also didn't submit a Voice for Change video. Kazakhstan has never placed at Miss Universe and that isn't expected to change this year.


Korea-Soyun Kim

Her Voice for Change video was simple and you could tell she was reading a prompter but she talked about empowering single mothers. Korea last placed in 2007 and has never won the crown but they did place as high as 1st runner up in 1988 during the year that they hosted the Olympics thanks to Yunjung Chang and Seoul also hosted the Miss Universe pageant in 1980. This delegate is not expected to place.


Kosovo-Arbesa Rrahmani

Kosovo last placed in 2012 and has never won the crown. Arbesa did not submit a Voice for Change video and is more of a model type solely and is not expected to place.


Laos-Papao Phaimany Lathsabunthao

Anyone else go PA-POW! when you read her name?? Just me?? Okay... Laos got their country's first ever placement last year for 2022 thanks to Payengxa Lor so will Papao ride those coattails and get a second consecutive placement for Laos? Not likely but her Voice for Change video was decent encouraging women in the workplace teaching handicraft work.


Latvia-Kate Alexeeva

Originally, Kate was supposed to compete in Miss Universe 2022 but she tested positive for Covid at the time so she could not compete but now Kate will get her chance and compete for Miss Universe 2023 instead. This makes her the second oldest delegate competing at age 29 after Bulgaria's delegate but exceptions are being made this year for these two since the age limit was 28 but news is already out that the age limit is being eliminated for 2024 so whatevs... I see she decided to go brunette instead of blonde which probably was the wrong move or maybe it was the right move these days... Her simple Voice for Change video discussed helping victims of domestic violence. Latvia has never won the crown but they have placed in the top 10 once back in 2005 thanks to Ieva Kokorevica. I'm not expecting this delegate to place.


Lebanon-Maya Aboul Hosn

Maya's Voice for Change video was actually quite good discussing the need to address declining education rates. The land of the cedars won the Miss Universe crown once back in 1971 and they haven't placed since 1973. Rima Fakih-Miss USA 2010 is directing Lebanon so she appears to have advised Maya quite well. Right now, I have her in my next tier but I'm only realizing now just how stunning she is so there is a strong chance she could move up after preliminaries.


Malaysia-Serena Lee

One of Khun Anne's friends, Poppy Capella was supposed to be the new director for both Indonesia and Malaysia but after their Indonesian pageant, there were allegations by some of the Indonesian contestants of sexual harassment by the staff resulting in Poppy losing the franchise and Serena was selected as Malaysia's representative in a private event and it looked like for a while she wasn't in the official roster but she was permitted last minute and was among the later arrivals this year. Serena is pursuing a Certificate in Legal Practice and aspires to be a lawyer. Despite sending some strong contestants in the past, Malaysia has only placed once in Miss Universe history when Josephine Wong placed as a semifinalist way back in 1970. Chances of this delegate placing are slim so she is not among my picks presently.


Malta-Ella Portelli

Ella's Voice for Change video discusses prevention of discrimination against LGBTQ+ members. A 25-year-old interior designer who works in the gaming industry, Ella looks like a promising delegate for the heart of the Mediterranean. Malta has never placed in Miss Universe history and Ella is a decent candidate but I'm leaning towards a non-placement for now.


Mauritius-Tatiana Beauharnais

She's a police constable so that could be a point of interest but the peaceful island of paradise has never placed and that is not expected to change this year.


Mexico-Melissa Flores

Melissa's Voice for Change video discussed combatting dating violence. She previously competed in the popular class of Miss Earth 2018 which has seen a number of cross-over delegates to Miss Universe including Colombia's Valeria Ayos who also made the top 4 at Miss Earth 2018 like Melissa and Valeria made top 5 at Miss Universe 2021. The 2022 Miss Universe class also saw other Miss Earth 2018 participants like Philippines' Celeste Cortesi (top 8 at Miss Earth 2018 but unplaced at Miss Universe 2022) and Portugal's Telma Madeira (top 8 at Miss Earth 2018 and top 16 at Miss Universe 2022) but this will be another showdown with Venezuela's Diana Silva who also made the top 8 at Miss Earth 2018 but is competing for Miss Universe 2023 so Melissa and Diana will meet again on another international stage. Will the results be similar or completely different?? I say the results will be similar as I have Melissa in my top 5 as I'm quite impressed with her overall in terms of body, styling, public speaking ability and presentation. Mexico might also be hosting Miss Universe 2024 so a win for them would add that much more encouragement so will Melissa be able to capture a fourth Miss Universe crown for the land where the optimism lives in their hearts after their wins in 1991, 2010 and 2020?


Mongolia-Namuunzul Batmagnai

Mongolia returns after not competing since 2019 but this country has never placed and I don't think that will change this year.


Myanmar-Amara Bo

Amara's Voice for Change video was interesting. She was surrounded by babies and talked in her language about how many girls aren't being educated and are forced into marriage and bear children at young ages. Myanmar has placed once which was for 2020 thanks to Thuzar Wint Lwin and she is not in my list at the moment but that could change after preliminaries.


Namibia-Jameela Uiras

Jameela's Voice for Change video talked about combatting youth unemployment. The smile of Africa, Namibia won the crown once back in 1992 thanks to Michelle McLean but they have not placed since 2003. She speaks well but in terms of body and overall look, she is not expected to place.


Nepal-Jane Dipika Garrett

Her Voice for Change video had Jane talk about a suicide attempt last year after overdosing on pills after enduring bullying and suffering from PCOS and mental health issues and she recreated being on a hospital bed for the video but survived after hearing a higher power tell her that her tough journey had a purpose. The question is does this anomaly body-positivity delegate get a placement similarly to Canada's 2016 delegate or does she not place, get a special segment or possibly get one of the Voice for Change awards? I'm leaning towards the latter but we have been surprised before so we'll see what happens. You have to admire her bravery though similarly to Miss Turks and Caicos 2000, Clintina Gibbs who was cheered for loudly during the 2000 Miss Universe preliminary swimsuit competition despite being noticeably more full-figured than the rest of the contestants. Nepal has only placed once in 2018 and Jane is a nurse and speaks well and is Nepalese-American having lived in Washington, District of Columbia, USA.


Netherlands-Rikkie Valerie Kollé

Rikkie's Voice for Change video discussed combatting bullying due to being a trans-woman. Ever since transgendered delegates were able to enter the Miss Universe pageant thanks to Jenna Talackova who placed among the top 12 at Miss Universe Canada 2012, we are now seeing the second openly transgendered delegate compete at Miss Universe with the Netherlands' bet, Rikkie Valerie Kollé. The first transgendered delegate to make it to the Miss Universe stage was Spain's Angela Ponce who went unplaced in 2018. Will Rikkie win more favor with the new owner of Miss Universe, Khun Anne, also being transgendered? We shall see but Rikkie's participation is making news worldwide due to some supporters and some detractors. The Netherlands won the Miss Universe crown in 1989 thanks to Holland's own Angela Visser but they haven't placed since 2014 when they made the top 5. Rikkie does have a great body and speaks well but my concern is the teeth so I say she doesn't place and gets the special segment treatment or maybe not as Nevada's 2021 Miss USA delegate didn't get a segment so we'll see.


Nicaragua-Sheynnis Palacios

Sheynnis' Voice for Change video had her discussing raising awareness of anxiety disorders and promoting positive mental health. She was also likely reading a script in English as I heard some mispronounced words but there's no denying she's a favorite. Sheynnis is among my top 10 currently as she is impressive overall. I'm concerned about the size of her implants though and her English may not be as strong but I can see her doing very well. The land of lakes and volcanoes has never won the Miss Universe crown and they last placed in 2020 when Ana Marcelo made the top 21. Sheynnis has experience in pageantry being Miss Teen Nicaragua 2016 placing among the top 10 for Miss Teen Universe 2017 and Miss World Nicaragua 2020 placing among the top 40 at Miss World 2021/22. Sheynnis is also athletic being a volleyball player and has a degree in mass communications.


Nigeria-Ugochi Mitchel Ihezue

Mitchel's Voice for Change video was great discussing the need for women to be educated and have financial independence. Nigeria is among the most populated countries in the world but they have only placed twice in Miss Universe history which were in 2001 with Agbani Darego who finished 7th at Miss Universe but would go on to win the Miss World 2001 title later that year and in 2019, Olutosin Araromi made the semifinals. Mitchel previously competed at Miss World 2017 winning a top model award (she's very tall) and placing in the top 15 that year so right now, I have her as an honorable mention but we'll see if she can convince me to place her higher after preliminaries.


Norway-Julie Marie Tollefsen

Julie's Voice for Change video was about sustainable fashion and concern for the environment (reminds me of R'Bonney Gabriel's platform). The land of the fjords, mountains and the midnight sun has captured the Miss Universe crown once back in 1990 thanks to Mona Grudt but they haven't placed since 2005. This delegate is not expected to place.


Pakistan-Erica Robin

Erica's Voice for Change video was decent addressing how women are more repressed in her society but she sounded a bit soft-spoken and I think she's more on the petite side so I have her in my next tier at the moment. Erica is Pakistan's very first delegate for Miss Universe but some men in Pakistan's government don't approve of Pakistan's participation in Miss Universe. Erica is a minority Christian in a predominantly Muslim country. She is a fashion model and education advocate. Pakistan is the world's 5th most populated country and it is quite rare for a debuting country to win Miss Universe but it has happened with of course, the first Miss Universe in 1952, Finland's Armi Kuusela but it also happened in 1958 with Colombia's Luz Marina Zuluaga and in 1999 with Botswana's Mpule Kwelagobe.


Panama-Natasha Vargas

Natasha spoke Spanish in her Voice for Change video discussing Routes of Hope which is a program providing assistance to migrants and refugees in her country. You can see that she's a journalist as her public speaking and presentation skills are on point so she is among my top 20 currently. Panama inherited the crown in 2002 when the original winner, Russia's Oxana Fedorova stepped down and Panama's Justine Pasek as 1st runner up assumed the title of Miss Universe. Panama has also hosted the Miss Universe pageant in 1986 and 2003. In fact, Natasha reminds me a lot of the 1986 Miss Universe winner, Venezuela's Barbara Palacios Teyde. Will Natasha who has previous experience in previous pageants and has travelled throughout Europe be able to get the tropical isthmus their first outright Miss Universe win? Panama last placed in 2021.


Paraguay-Elicena Andrada

Elicena's Voice for Change video discussed combatting human trafficking. Paraguay has never won the Miss Universe crown but they last placed as 1st runner up in 2021 thanks to Nadia Ferreira who recently had a child with Marc Anthony who also performed during the 2002 Miss Universe pageant and judged in 2001 and he also fathered children for Miss Universe 1993-Dayanara Torres and Jennifer Lopez. Elicena is a decent candidate but she is not among my picks at the moment.


Peru-Camila Escribens

Camila's Voice for Change video (Lower that eyebrow!) discussed her athletic career ending after having to be hospitalized for 11 years. Peru placed last year and has had sporadic successes recently but they have had to wait the longest for a repeat win since 1957 was the one time that they claimed the crown thanks to Gladys Zender. Camila was born in Lima, Peru but lives in Fresno, California. She represented the Peruvian community in the United States as Miss Peru USA at the national pageant of Miss Peru 2019 where she finished as 1st runner up and she was sent to compete in Miss Grand International 2019 where she placed among the top 10 so will Camila's experience and fluency in English propel her to the semifinals and possibly get a second Miss Universe crown for the land of the Incas? Right now, she is among my top 20 so we'll see if she stays there after preliminaries.


Philippines-Michelle Marquez Dee

Michelle's Voice for Change video discussed autism acceptance, inclusivity and empowerment. The pearl of the Orient seas missed the semifinals for 2022 breaking the longest running streak in Miss Universe semifinals since they placed every year since 2010 prior to the broken streak so now the longest semifinal streak belongs to the USA placing every year since 2011 and even winning the crown last year with R'Bonney Gabriel who is half-Filipina. Here we have Michelle who is determined to bring the Philippines back in a big way. This pageant obsessed nation has captured the Miss Universe crown four times thanks to Gloria Diaz in 1969, Margarita Moran in 1973, Pia Wurtzbach in 2015 and Catriona Gray in 2018. Michelle supports her country's autism society and wants to create awareness and educate others on mental health and she also supports LGBTQ+ rights as she herself revealed her bisexuality in May 2023. Michelle is the daughter of Miss International 1979, Philippines' Melanie Marquez and Michelle also previously competed at Miss World 2019 placing among the top 12 there so Michelle has much pressure on her to bring the Philippines back in the game. I have her as an alternate at the moment but there is a high chance that she could win the online vote and it is looking that way based on the Voice for Change votes so we'll see if she can do it.


Poland-Angelika Jurkowianiec

I actually really liked her Voice for Change video where Angelika talks about being a medical analyst and that we all have the power within us to be a force for good. The land of Chopin sends us lovely Angelika this year and Poland is coming off a Miss World win last year with a titleholder that will have a 2 year reign so will their recent success transfer over to the Miss Universe stage this time?? Poland pulled off a surprise placement in 2018 and they have never won the crown but have placed as 3rd runner up twice (1986 and 1989). I think she might be more on the small-bodied side so I have her as an alternate currently but we'll see if that changes after preliminaries.


Portugal-Marina Machete

Marina's Voice for Change video had her discussing being an advocate for equal access and opportunities for minorities. Along with the Netherlands' delegate, Marina will be one of two transgendered delegates competing this year for Miss Universe 2023. The first transgendered delegate to make it to the Miss Universe stage was Spain's Angela Ponce in 2018 going unplaced. Portugal has never won the crown but has placed in the top 10 in 2011 and also placed among the semifinalists for 2019 and 2022. I'm also thinking this delegate will get the special segment treatment so she is not among my picks presently.


Puerto Rico-Karla Inelisse Guilfú Acevedo

Karla's Voice for Change video discussed suicide prevention and it was impactful and presented well. The shining star of the Caribbean sends us yet another shining star with Karla who has previously represented Puerto Rico at Miss Supranational 2021 finishing as 1st runner up at that pageant so there are now big expectations of her at Miss Universe as she is going against a Supranational winner in Thailand's delegate so we could see a domination of Supranational delegates this year at Miss Universe. Karla is the chief executive officer and director of Comencemos a Sanar which advocates for education, community work and social justice. She also has a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Puerto Rico has won the crown a whopping 5 times (1970, 1985, 1993, 2001, 2006) and they have placed in the top 10 every year since 2018 so will Karla keep the streak going and bring yet another Miss Universe crown to the Boricuas?? I still have Karla among my top 5 as she has the body, overall look, strong presence and excellent speaking ability and she could very well take it all.


Russia-Margarita Golubeva

Sigh... if only this beauty could represent another country... Russia won the Miss Universe title once back in 2002 but that winner (Oxana Fedorova) was let go and they have not placed since 2012. Margarita was previously 1st runner-up at the Miss Europe 2023 pageant held this past March in Lebanon but I'm not foreseeing a Miss Universe placement for this delegate and we all know why.


Saint Lucia-Earlyca Frederick

Saint Lucia has never placed in the history of Miss Universe and I'm not expecting that to change this year and she has no Voice for Change video. Earlyca is a teacher and was born and raised in Morne Sion, Choiseul, Saint Lucia and has extensive pageantry experience in her country.


Singapore-Priyanka Annuncia

Priyanka's Voice for Change video talked about her efforts to combat human trafficking. The land of racial harmony has placed three times in Miss Universe history (1983, 1987 and 2021) but they were all semifinalist positions. Priyanka has previously competed in Miss Supranational 2018 going unplaced but winning the congeniality award but I'm not expecting this delegate to place.


Slovakia-Kinga Puhova

Kinga's Voice for Change video spoke about breast cancer awareness. It looks like we are changing the name Slovak Republic to Slovakia this year. Slovak Republic placed only once which was in 1994 so will lovely Kinga be the Queena?? I think many of the European delegates need to work on having a louder presence but Kinga is gorgeous with great legs but just needs to make more of an impact so I'm thinking she will be in my next tier.


South Africa-Bryoni Govender

Bryoni's Voice for Change video was impactful talking about how a woman is murdered in South Africa every 4 hours and we need to fight for gender equality and she certainly demonstrated those incredible speaking skills for which South Africans are well known. Mandela's rainbow nation has crowned delegates of Indian descent before like Kerishnie Naiker (1998) and Bryoni is the latest to add to the list. In a very competitive pageant with previous contestants, the official Miss South Africa crown actually went to Natasha Joubert who already represented South Africa for 2020 but going unplaced at Miss Universe 2020. Natasha was originally 2nd runner up at Miss South Africa 2020 but that winner Shudufhadzo Musida was sent to Miss World instead. Since women are not permitted to compete twice for the Miss Universe crown, Natasha opted to not compete internationally but runner-up Bryoni was sent instead and she is a worthy achieved candidate as she holds a law degree and is an attorney. Bryoni is an outstanding beauty who has the power to take it all even if she was a runner-up nationally. South Africa has been very strong in recent years winning 3 Miss Universe crowns thanks to Margaret Gardiner in 1978, Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters in 2017 and Zozibini Tunzi in 2019 so Bryoni is absolutely one to watch and she remains in my top 5.


Spain-Athenea Perez

Athenea's Voice for Change video was very nice with her speaking English discussing combatting gender-based violence. I feel love for Athenea as she is one of my favorites and is definitely one to watch as I'm getting major major Denny Mendez vibes from her. Denny Mendez was the first black Miss Italy and finished 5th at Miss Universe 1997 despite being one of the favorites. Now, we have the first black Miss Spain with the sensational Athenea whose mother is from Equatorial Guinea and although she has received hate messages on social media due to her race, many Spaniards are very proud of her and she has potential to capture a second Miss Universe crown for the land of flamenco after Amparo Munoz captured their first Miss Universe crown in 1974. Amparo was quietly dethroned after punching her chaperone (her father was a boxer, you know) and so Amparo didn't return to crown her successor in 1975 in El Salvador which happens to also be hosting this year's Miss Universe pageant so would a win for Spain this year be a full circle moment??? Athenea is currently among my top 10.


Switzerland-Lorena Santen

Lorena's Voice for Change video discussed self check-ups for prevention of breast cancer. Lorena's genuineness is refreshing but she doesn't seem to be as bold so I'm thinking she will be in my next tier but we'll see after preliminaries. Lorena works for a bank and hails from Aargau and she earned her bachelor’s degree in business economics from the ZHAW School of Management and Law. The land of the Alps and great chocolates last placed in 2013 and they have never won the crown but their best placement was in 2006 when Lauriane Gilliéron placed as 2nd runner up.


Thailand-Anntonia Porsild

Anntonia's Voice for Change video had her discussing combatting gender inequality and poverty and I know she's prepared to answer any question so she is still my winner. She has always been one to watch since she has already won another major international title, Miss Supranational 2019 and many people are wondering if she can pull off the impossible and capture the Miss Universe title as well. She was born to a Danish father and Thai mother in New Delhi, India in 1996. Apart from her home country, Anntonia has studied in Vietnam and Spain and is pursuing her bachelor's degree in public relations, advertising, and applied communication so she is already a citizen of the world. Some think there might be a conflict of interest if she holds two international titles but I would be beyond shocked if they didn't place her due to that. Thailand surprisingly missed the semifinals last year but are they about to come back strong and win their third Miss Universe crown when Thai Winner Takes It All? Thailand's two Miss Universe winners are Apasra Hongsakula (1965) and Porntip Nakhirunkanok (1988).


Trinidad & Tobago-Faith Gillezeau

Faith's Voice for Change video had her talking about combatting lifestyle related diseases like diabetes. The oh-so-beautiful twin islands want us to have faith in Faith! Of course, she speaks well which is typically expected of Trinis and she has a sweet look but maybe a bit small-bodied so right now, I have her in my next tier but she could move up after preliminaries. Faith is a pharmacist and national squash athlete. Of course, Trinidad & Tobago placed in the semifinals last year and they have captured the Miss Universe crown twice thanks to Janelle Commissiong (the first black Miss Universe) in 1977 as well as Wendy Fitzwilliam in 1998.


Ukraine-Angelina Usanova

Due to the ongoing battle in her country, Angelina Usanova has been appointed to represent the breadbasket of Europe at Miss Universe. Of course, this came up in her Voice for Change video but she emphasized finding the peace within amidst a world of war, disease and recession. Ukraine has never won the crown but they have come close a few times with their best placement being 1st runner up in 2011 but Ukraine hasn't placed since 2014 when they placed as 2nd runner up. She is a next tier delegate for me at the moment as I think she probably won't place similarly to last year's Ukrainian delegate.


USA-Noelia Voigt

Noelia's Voice for Change video discussed using her voice for good, discussing immigration, educating youth about dating violence, and her anti-bullying book 'Maddie the Brave.' Noelia has a Venezuelan mother and her father, Jack Voigt played professional baseball as an outfielder in the 90s. Representing Utah after a hop from Alabama, Noelia captured her nation's coveted crown and has demonstrated great speaking skills yet she has the pressure of representing the country of the reigning Miss Universe. The only country to win Miss Universe two years in a row was Venezuela in 2008 and 2009 so can a Venezuelan like Noelia do it for the land of the free and the home of the brave? As I mentioned in my Miss USA prethoughts, I know she speaks well but she is more on the petite side so I say chances of pulling off the successive win are slim but I do have her in my top 10.


Venezuela-Diana Silva

Diana's Voice for Change video did feature Diana speaking in English about combatting teen pregnancies and I appreciate her efforts. The top of South America has chosen Diana to represent them this year despite a bit of controversy with the selection process when some of the judges claimed they chose the delegate from La Guaira only to be told there was a separate panel of judges also watching the Venezuelan contestants behind the scenes. Despite this, Diana is a favorite and could very well capture this pageant powerhouse nation's eighth Miss Universe crown. I have her in my top 10. Her body's incredible but a lot of people seem unsure due to the controversy surrounding her win and Venezuela allegedly bailing from hosting next year. Diana has also previously competed at Miss Earth 2018 placing in the top 8 there but she fainted and could not continue in the competition. Now, Diana has the chance to get the highly revered prize of Miss Universe 2023. Miss Earth 2018 also boasted other success stories at Miss Universe like: Colombia's Valeria Ayos who would place in the top 5 of Miss Universe 2021 and Portugal's Telma Madeira who would place as a semifinalist in Miss Universe 2022 but the Philippines' Celeste Cortesi went unplaced at Miss Universe 2022 despite placing in the top 8 at Miss Earth 2018 (Oooh, I just realized that Philippines went unplaced in 2022 in a year with a half-Filipina Miss USA so since Miss USA is half-Venezuelan this year, does it mean that Venezuela doesn't place???). Venezuela has placed in 13 of the last 16 Miss Universe pageants missing the semifinals only in 2010, 2016 and 2020 last winning the crown in 2013 and even placed as 1st runner up last year. My friend Hernan pointed out several patterns supporting a win for Venezuela this year as outlined in my first round prethoughts and he even found another: There have been 6 instances where a country placed as 1st runner up but then won the next year (1954, 1972, 1982, 2006, 2007, and 2019) so could 2023 be next? There are lots of forces working for and against Diana so I'm very interested to see what actually ends up happening here!


Vietnam-Quynh Hoa Bui

Quynh Hoa's Voice for Change video showed her speaking in Vietnamese about the W-Project which aims to educate women about sexual and reproductive health. Vietnam has yet to win the crown but they have been making waves in recent years with a four year streak running from 2018 to 2021 which was broken in 2022. The 2018 rep, H'Hen Nie made the top 5 giving Vietnam its best placement so far. You probably saw some online posts from Vietnamese people also claiming this win was predetermined similarly to the accusations in Venezuela and Jamaica. This delegate is not among my picks regardless.


Zimbabwe-Brooke Bruk-Jackson

Brooke being a visible minority in her country stirred some controversy but after watching her Voice for Change video, I can easily see why she won. She is incredibly well-spoken and poised and spoke about the need to teach financial literacy. Zimbabwe's only Miss Universe semifinalist was the fabulous Corrinne Crewe who finished 8th at Miss Universe 2000. Brooke is a beauty therapist, model and beauty queen from Harare and she has also studied in England and South Africa. I have Brooke in my top 20 currently as I'm actually very intrigued by her and I really want to see her in the mix and see if she can even capture her country's first Miss Universe crown.





So there you have my second round prethoughts! Will we see placements or special segments or nothing for the anomaly delegates: Colombia and Guatemala (the married mothers with children), Nepal (the body positivity candidate) and Netherlands and Portugal (the transgendered delegates)? Could they even be the top 5??? We'll know the truth soon!
A reminder that there is a paid livestream this year for preliminaries and the national costume show available at https://missuniverse.livebash.com
Preliminaries are on November 15 at 5pm Pacific Time and the National Costume show is on Nov 16 at 6pm Pacific Time.
Again, I will post my final predictions on November 17 after analyzing preliminaries and then the truth will be unveiled on November 18 at 4 p.m. Pacific Standard Time on Roku and Telemundo live from the land of the eternal smile, El Salvador!



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FIRST ROUND PRETHOUGHTS (November 4, 2023)



Who will succeed Miss Universe 2022, USA's R'Bonney Gabriel and be crowned MMXXIIISS UNIVERSE otherwise known as Miss Universe 2023?

Find out November 18 at 7 p.m. EST on the Roku Channel and Telemundo

This year's special performer is John Legend who also performed during the 2010 Miss Universe pageant evening gown competition.

There is a new 'Voice for Change' competition this year in collaboration with Mouawad, CI Talks and the Miss Universe organization for which some but not all of this year's delegates were encouraged to submit a video discussing their social impact initiatives and it will also give you an idea of how these delegates interview and there is an online vote where you can vote your favorite video but there is also a selection committee for this and the judges are: Andrea Meza-Miss Universe 2020, Cemrenaz Turhan-Miss Turkey 2021, Paweensuda (Fahsai) Drouin-Miss Thailand 2019, Gabriëla Dos Santos-Miss Curaçao 2022, Janick Maceta Del Castillo-Miss Peru 2020, Mia Mamede-Miss Brazil 2022, Jonathan Levav, Leonard Schlesinger, Nadia Ali, Pas Pascal Gerken, Sameera Shah and the fan votes. They will announce the 10 Silver Finalists of Voice for Change during the preliminaries on November 15 and the 3 Gold Winners will be announced during the finals on November 18 together with the fan voting of the Miss Universe Voice For Change competition.
The videos can be viewed and voted for at: https://v.citalks.com/vfc/entries

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


The delegate from Guatemala arrives in El Salvador.


The delegates from USA and India depart for San Salvador, El Salvador.


The delegates from Philippines and Puerto Rico depart for San Salvador, El Salvador.


The delegates from Thailand and Russia depart for San Salvador, El Salvador.


The delegates from Australia and Guyana depart for San Salvador, El Salvador.


The delegates from Nepal and Jamaica depart for San Salvador, El Salvador.





Khun Anne The Barbarian!


Khun Anne with Nayib Bukele Jr2023 marks the first year that the Miss Universe pageant is officially under the new ownership of wealthy Thai trans-woman, Jakkaphong “Anne” Jakratutatip (affectionately known as Khun Anne) born on February 17, 1979. Anne is the Chief Executive Officer of her company, JKN Global Group. Anne is short for Andrew which was Jakkaphong’s English name when living in Australia building her empire starting with finding a niche market to have English nature programs translated to Thai and making them available in the Thai television market. According to Forbes magazine, Khun Anne is the third richest transgendered person in the world, with an estimated net worth of US$210 million (6.37 billion baht) in 2020. Anne is also a long-time Miss Universe fan who stepped up to purchase the Miss Universe Organization for $20 million U.S. from the previous owner, IMG. This also technically marks the first time that the Miss Universe pageant will be female-owned although Khun Anne was born male in 1979 and later transitioned to female after fathering a son and a daughter using donated eggs from a German woman. The announcement of JKN ownership was made official on October 25, 2022 and an Extravaganza reunion to celebrate the new ownership was held on November 7, 2022 featuring several former Miss Universe titleholders but this was close to the upcoming date of Miss Universe 2022 actually held earlier this year on January 14, 2023 so 2022 was the 4th leap year after the Miss Universe pageants for 2014, 2016 and 2020 which were all held in the following year. It looks like we are now on track to catching up so there shouldn’t be any more leap years with postdated pageants for a long time but we never know what the future holds! There was some assistance from previous owner, IMG for the 2022/23 Miss Universe pageant but Khun Anne did make an appearance with those now famous words, “Hellooooo, Universe!” succeeded by some very distinctive screams and the world met Khun Anne. In some parts of the world, she has also been dubbed Tia Anne (Aunt Anne) and we started learning more about this character. The Miss USA and Miss Teen USA pageants were once under the Miss Universe organization umbrella but that changed for 2021 when Miss USA 2008-Texas’ Crystle Stewart’s Miss Brand took ownership of those two pageants only to have some controversy develop involving some allegations that the 2022 delegates felt that they were wasting their time competing when it felt like the cards were stacked in the favor of Texas’ R’Bonney Gabriel who did indeed win Miss USA 2022 but an investigation was conducted which resulted in no wrongdoing found and R’Bonney later silenced her critics when she went on to win Miss Universe 2022 as well. Apart from that, there were also allegations of Crystle’s husband Max acting inappropriately with some of the contestants resulting in him not being involved with the 2022 pageants and this troubled tenure led Crystle to give up directorship and the 2023 Miss USA and Miss Teen USA pageants were given to Laylah Rose Loiczly who ran the pageants successfully without any major issues. Laylah was able to secure a better channel (the CW) to broadcast Miss USA but the Miss Universe pageant has a three year deal with the Roku channel (a streaming service which seems to differentiate the U.S. and Canada frustratingly) and Telemundo for the Spanish version from 2022 to 2024 but many were hoping that Khun Anne would be able to get Miss Universe back on a major network like the previous ones that aired it like CBS until 2003 when NBC aired it and then FOX aired it as of 2015 to 2019 and 2021 (A smaller channel called fyi aired 2020). I guess we’ll see if a major U.S. network will pick up Miss Universe for 2025. Khun Anne seems set on turning Miss Universe into a brand and new products are being developed like the Miss Universe beverage and a skincare line and spa in addition to branded items like clothes, handbags and cosmetics and some of these items will start making appearances worldwide at various trade shows in 2024 so we shall see if Khun Anne can make the Miss Universe brand successful and if these items will sell. Khun Anne also started demanding winners and not runners-up to be sent to Miss Universe which caused some pageants to create separate pageants to choose delegates for Miss Universe and Miss World and various other international pageants. It has long been the case for one country to hold one large national pageant and choose to send their winner to Miss Universe or Miss World or another pageant like Miss International. But I call her Khun Anne the Barbarian due largely to the dramatic shift in franchises and national directors that occurred this year and has become more of a thing in recent years. There were a lot of loyal pageants and directors that sent their winners to Miss Universe but in 2023, they introduced a bidding process for the franchise holders and some lost their franchise only to be outbid and have the franchise given to someone else and this even led to some problems along the way. Khun Anne with Poppy CapellaKhun Anne with Olivia Quido and Raul Rocha Cantu For example, Indonesia’s Miss Universe representative has long been selected for 30 years through the Puteri Indonesia pageant which has long invited reigning Miss Universe and Miss World titleholders to attend their pageant and that was rewarded in recent years with a string of placements for Indonesia only for this year to have the franchise abruptly taken away and given to one of Khun Anne’s friends, Poppy Capella who is a singer and actress and she was also awarded the franchise for Malaysia but after Indonesia’s Fabienne Nicole Groeneveld was chosen the winner, there were allegations from six contestants of the 2023 Miss Universe Indonesia pageant who filed complaints with police, accusing local organizers of asking them to strip to their underwear for "body checks" for scars or cellulite, in a room with about two dozen people present, including men. Five of the contestants said they were then photographed topless. Poppy denied all knowledge of this. The Miss Universe organization posted on X (formerly Twitter), "In light of what we have learned took place at Miss Universe Indonesia, it has become clear that this franchise has not lived up to our brand standards and ethics.” The organization also said it would be cancelling this year's Miss Universe Malaysia as the Indonesian franchisee, Poppy also held the license for the pageant but it said it would make arrangements for the Indonesia 2023 title holder, Fabienne to compete in the 2023 Miss Universe pageant so while Fabienne is listed as an official delegate, there was word of a Malaysian delegate being selected in a private event by the name of Serena Lee but she appears to not be listed as an official delegate so perhaps Malaysia will not be participating this year as a result of the controversy (this has since changed and Serena has been permitted to compete representing Malaysia) and it appears Kyrgyzstan has dropped out after we saw three different delegates chosen but the most recent winner seemed unprepared sponsorship-wise to go so it’s looking like 85 contestants are expected this year assuming no other dropouts. Many other franchise holders from the previous year also withdrew in protest of the bidding process including the former director of Mauritius, Nevin who has been a friend of mine since I started this website in 1998. One of the most shocking franchise changes was that of Mexico which has been directed by Mexico’s first Miss Universe, Lupita Jones who won the title in 1991 and has been running the Nuestra Belleza Mexico pageant since 1994/95 which later changed to Mexicana Universal in 2018. However, Lupita has voiced her disapproval of transgendered delegates competing to represent Mexico at Miss Universe which obviously doesn’t meet the approval of the new transgendered owner of Miss Universe, Khun Anne so other directors that don’t get with the times and comply with the rules had best watch out. As of 2024, Mexico’s franchise to select their representative for Miss Universe has been awarded to Raul Rocha Cantu with directorship from Miss World Mexico 2010, Cynthia De La Vega. Raul has been assisting Anne with the Miss Universe spa line and has been seen in other countries like Venezuela trying to negotiate potential host countries for future Miss Universe pageants and he was instrumental in negotiating TV Azteca to broadcast Miss Universe in Mexico. There is a rumor circulating that Venezuela was supposed to host the 2024 Miss Universe pageant and they even put down a six-million dollar non-refundable deposit only to have Venezuelan government officials bail due to 2024 being an election year in Venezuela supposedly. Earlier this year, Khun Anne teased that the 2024 host country would be a Latin country that has won Miss Universe more than once which led people to speculate that it was either Venezuela, Mexico, Puerto Rico or Colombia but it looks like she couldn’t outright reveal the country because of the uncertainties. It is looking like Mexico may be the 2024 Miss Universe host country to save face and hold Khun Anne’s words true but we remember what a boo-fest 1993 and 2007 were particularly targeting the representatives of the USA those years (Kenya Moore and Rachel Smith) and each of those years were under different ownerships so we shall see how 2024 goes under Khun Anne’s ownership but Paula Shugart is still president and I know she remembers 2007 but business comes first and all this speculation could be entirely wrong and there may probably be a special announcement during the 2023 pageant announcing the true 2024 venue if the deal is secured like we saw for El Salvador and their president, Nayib Bukele appeared during the 2022 Miss Universe pageant securing 2023 being hosted in El Salvador. In September, stock in Khun Anne's JKN Global Group, which owns Miss Universe, recently plunged significantly after the content distribution and airtime media buying company announced it could not fully pay 609 million Thai baht worth of debentures due on September 1, the first lot of its seven tranches of debentures worth 3.36 billion Thai baht. This is causing some to think that the company could go bankrupt but it looks like Khun Anne believes they should recover by the end of the year but JKN stock has been going down ever since but many stocks appear to have taken a hit this year. Also, the ticket prices for those attending the pageant in El Salvador are the most expensive they have ever been. The cheapest seats are $500 U.S. each with the next step up being $1000 U.S. for VIP seats and $2000 platinum seats which are already sold out! I’m sure there are seats reserved for the delegates’ directors and family/friends. There’s a lot of uncertainty and we don’t even know if JKN will be able to sustain Miss Universe so could we see yet another ownership change in the near future?



They’ve Got New Rules, They Count ‘Em!

Khun AnneOne… don’t pick up the phone! ‘Cause it might be Khun Anne saying, ‘Helloooo…’ Just when we thought the changes would stop with the inclusion of women who are married and/or have children for 2023, some big news broke on September 12, 2023. The reigning Miss Universe, R'Bonney Gabriel announced on social media that starting with the 2024 season, there is no longer an age limit so now ALL adult women (be they single, married, with or without children and transwomen) can all compete for their Miss USA state titles or their national titles to get to Miss Universe. 28 years of age used to be the limit but women are delaying getting married and having children to compete in pageants and now they don't even have to do that! Is it business or is it progress/inclusion? Numbers of entrants for state pageants have dwindled in recent years so by removing the age limit and allowing women who have been married and/or have children to compete, this will increase the number of entrants. An interesting example here is that Miss District of Columbia Teen USA 2021 only had two contestants and yet the winner, Hannah Gilliard went on to be 1st runner up at Miss Teen USA 2021! A lot of people take issue with the fact that married women are now allowed to compete for the title of “Miss” Universe particularly when there are already Mrs. and Ms. Pageants that exist but none of them are anywhere near as popular as Miss Universe so now, women who aged out long ago and thought the chance eluded them now have a chance to pursue their dream and compete for their national titles and after winning that, possibly win Miss Universe! The race is now on to see who will be the new oldest woman to win Miss Universe defeating the current record held by Miss Universe 2022, R’Bonney Gabriel who won her title at the age of 28 years, 9 months and 3 weeks and it was R’Bonney herself who suggested lifting the age limit during the round of judges’ questions at Miss Universe 2022. Mara Martin asked R’Bonney, "Miss Universe recently made an inclusive change allowing mothers and married women to compete this year. What’s another change you’d like to see and why?" R’Bonney answered, "For me, I would like to see an age increase because I am 28 years old and that is the oldest age to compete and I think it’s a beautiful thing. My favorite quote is, “If not now, then when?” because as a woman, I believe age does not define us. It’s not tomorrow, it’s not yesterday, but it’s now. The time is now that you can go after what you want." The age limit was only recently upped from 26 to 27 in 2013 and to 28 in 2018 and as of 2024, the age limit is gone so now, I’m wondering if we will see some of those legends that aged out years ago return to compete for their state or national titles. Miss Universe delegates have to be at least 18 years of age but interestingly enough, 3 of the Miss Universe winners of the 50s, Finland’s Armi Kuusela in 1952, France’s Christiane Martel in 1953 and Peru’s Gladys Zender in 1957 were all 17 years old when they won their respective Miss Universe titles. During the early years of Miss Universe, married women could compete. This year’s married delegates are far from the first married women to compete at Miss Universe. In fact, Miss India 1952, Indrani Rahman was married with a child when she competed for Miss Universe 1952 without incident but going unplaced but the rules changed shortly after and this caused controversy with Miss USA 1957, Leona Gage when it was discovered after she won that she had been married twice and had two young sons at age 18 (she also lied about her age claiming she was 21) which led to her disqualification after Miss Universe preliminaries where she made the top 15 but was not permitted to compete in finals marking 1957 as the only year that USA did not compete through to the finals and USA’s top 15 spot was given to the 16th place delegate, Argentina’s Monica Lamas. With the 2023 rule already in place to allow married women with children to compete, we have two contestants already for 2023 that fall under this category and they are the delegates from Guatemala and Colombia so let’s meet them now. Guatemala’s Melanie Michelle Cohn Beck was the first married delegate to win her national title to compete at Miss Universe 2023. Michelle is 28 years old and is married to Andres Matheu and the couple has a 6 year old son, Luca and a 2 year old daughter, Bella. Michelle was born in Guatemala City and she has an English father and a Guatemalan mother, is a graduate of Galileo University earning a degree in public image and media. She also works as a model and television presenter and also does philanthropic work through her beach clothing line venture. Guatemala's Michelle Cohn with son Luca and daughter BellaColombia's Camila Avella with daughter Amelia and husband Nassif KamleMichelle has international pageant experience already as she competed for Miss Grand International 2013 representing Guatemala but going unplaced and she would later compete in a smaller pageant called Miss America Latina del Mundo where she would finish as 3rd runner up. The heart of the Mundo Maya has never captured the Miss Universe crown and they haven’t placed since 2010 when Jessica Scheel made the top 10. Will Michelle make her family extra proud and capture a first Miss Universe crown for Guatemala? The second married woman to compete for Miss Universe 2023 is Colombia’s María Camila Avella Montañez. Camila is 28 years of age and is married to Nassif Kamle and they have a 2 year old daughter, Amelia. Camila did have a rocky road to the crown though as she was originally supposed to compete for Miss Colombia back in 2018 but the board of directors opted to cancel her participation due to her having a manager which they perceived as troublesome since the manager would have control had she won Miss Colombia and they also said she had professional photographs taken which were apparently against their rules and she was not permitted to compete so this is a case where the rules may have been somewhat excessively strict similarly to what saw Miss Florida USA 2017, Genesis Davila dethroned for allegedly hiring outside professional makeup artists only for her to come back and win Miss Florida USA 2018 and go on to make the top 5 at Miss USA 2018. Now, we have Camila who has a chance to capture another Miss Universe crown for the land of passions and emeralds. Colombia made the top 10 last year and has won Miss Universe 1958 thanks to Luz Marina Zuluaga and for 2014 thanks to Paulina Vega so is it time again?
Will one or each of these ladies even place? Or will they be given the special segment treatment as we have seen many times before where their differences are highlighted in a special segment during the telecast? We know that being Miss Universe is a full-time job which requires travel which would be especially difficult for a mother of young children so I am truly interested to see if any of these ladies actually do place. It’s interesting to note that the Miss World pageant CEO, Julia Morley who recently turned 84 years old recently stated that Miss World entrant requirements are not changing and they have kept their age limit from 17-27 years of age and they are not accepting women who have been married or mothers or transgendered delegates. The Miss World pageant technically started in 1951 with a small pageant featuring only European and North American contestants but Miss Universe started in 1952 with representation from all continents excluding Antarctica of course. Covid has affected the consistency of the Miss World pageant and there was no Miss World pageant in 2020 and 2021. There was one in 2022 though. Miss World 2023 was supposed to be held in India in December but that too was postponed to March 2, 2024 so Miss World will now have missed 2020, 2021 and 2023 and their upcoming pageant in 2024 will be their 71st pageant whereas Miss Universe 2023 will be Miss Universe’s 72nd pageant so they will have surpassed Miss World after that pageant is held on November 18!



Trans-formational Leaders

2023 will also mark the first year that Miss Universe has two transgendered delegates who will be competing in the same year and they are the representatives of the Netherlands and Portugal. Transgendered contestants started being accepted in 2012 when Vancouver’s Jenna Talackova started it all by entering the Miss Universe Canada 2012 competition only to be denied entry originally due to being openly transgendered which was not permitted at the time but Jenna fought back with the assistance of prominent lawyer, Gloria Allred and the rules were changed. Jenna who had fully transitioned from a male named Walter to a female named Jenna and even showed that her passport marked her as female was now allowed to compete for the Canadian title and she made the top 12 but not the top 5 of the 2012 Miss Universe Canada pageant won by Sahar Biniaz of Vancouver who was later replaced by her runner-up, Adwoa Yamoah who went unplaced at Miss Universe 2012. Miss Universe 2022-R'Bonney Gabriel with Netherlands' Rikkie KollePortugal's Marina Machete is crowned by Telma MadeiraIt would take a few years but in 2018, the first transgendered contestant would be crowned by Spain represented by Angela Ponce that year and Angela would also go unplaced at Miss Universe 2018 but would get a special segment during the telecast highlighting her story. Miss USA 2021 would see its first transgendered delegate with Nevada’s Kataluna Enriquez who also went unplaced. Now, here we are in 2023 with the Miss Universe pageant being fully owned by a transwoman, Khun Anne and we have not one, but TWO openly transgendered Miss Universe contestants this year so let’s meet them. The Netherlands sends us Rikkie Valerie Kollé who first began modelling making the top 4 on season 11 of Holland's Next Top Model in 2018. In 2019, Rikkie was among the finalists of the Netherlands’ edition of the Elite Model Look contest. Of Indo-Dutch descent, Rikkie was born on April 6, 2001 to supportive parents that encouraged her transition. Also, Rikkie wants to raise awareness of social media haters after receiving numerous negative messages and even death threats on social media after winning her national title but she chooses instead to focus on the positive and supporting remarks that she receives on social media and she wants to be a role model particularly to young people in the trans community and she says it’s important to be there and have someone to inspire them or to refer to because it was more difficult for her when she was a child. With the support of her parents, Rikkie started puberty-blocking treatment at age 12 and started hormone replacement therapy at age 16. Her full transition occurred in January 2023 at age 21 giving her the feeling that she was now a complete woman and she found it liberating. It was a long, arduous journey for little Rik to grow into Rikkie but she wants people to realize that we are all just human beings and deems it unnecessary to put ourselves in boxes in this new era.
Portugal’s Marina Machete was born October 1, 1995 in Lisbon and is fluent in Portuguese and English. In 2018, Marina started working as a flight attendant and is proud to be the first trans-woman to compete for the Portuguese title. Like the Netherlands’ delegate, Marina also received both praise and backlash on social media. Marina posted on Instagram, “Just like the universe, your possibilities in life are limitless...So don’t limit yourself to any dream that you have.” Marina is also rising above the haters and with her participation, the 2023 Miss Universe pageant will be the first to have two transgendered contestants. The Netherlands has captured the crown once in 1989 thanks to Holland’s Angela Visser and they last placed in 2014 placing among the top 5 so will Rikkie claim a spot in the semifinals and possibly get another Miss Universe crown for the land of tulips and windmills? Portugal has never won the crown but they did place among the semifinalists last year so will that momentum keep Portugal going strong and could Marina get the Miss Universe crown for the land of explorers? Or will they get the special segment treatment or not at all? We’ll soon find out what the future holds for these “trans”formational leaders!



I Can Buy Myself Flores

Mexico-Melissa Flores3 Mexican Miss Universes - Lupita Jones, Andrea Meza, Ximena NavarreteMelissa Flores represents the land where the optimism lives in their hearts, Mexico! Melissa is 25 years old and hails from the state of Michoacan and is said to have a smile that lights up a room. As a child with two older brothers, she was more of a tomboy playing with toy cars and aspiring to be an astronaut but due to her height, her family suggested she try modelling and competing in pageants and she grew fond of pageantry after competing and ties it to her career as a psychologist since she has always had an interest in helping others and performing charity work. She says that pageants gave her a voice and helped make the connection between her career and pageants.
Of course, Melissa is no stranger to the pageant scene as she has previously competed in that famous class of Miss Earth 2018 where Melissa placed as 3rd runner up earning the Miss Earth-Fire title. I call the Miss Earth 2018 a famous class because several other members in the top 8 of that class have competed and are competing for Miss Universe! The first crossover delegate was Colombia’s Valeria Ayos who was 2nd runner up at Miss Earth 2018 earning the Miss Earth-Water title and Valeria would go on to compete for the 2021 Miss Universe pageant placing in the top 5 there as well so does this mean that Mexico’s Melissa Flores will experience similar success at Miss Universe?? Melissa is the last Mexican delegate to be selected under the directorship of Mexico's first Miss Universe, Lupita Jones, who captured the Miss Universe crown in 1991, after winning the Señorita Mexico title back in September 1990. She started directing in 1994, changing the name of the pageant to Nuestra Belleza Mexico. Her first queen was Luz Maria Zetina, who went unplaced at Miss Universe 1995. The title would change to Mexicana Universal in 2018 and two more Mexican Miss Universes have been crowned under Lupita’s tenure, Ximena Navarrete in 2010 and Andrea Meza for 2020 who advised Melissa to simply be herself when competing for Miss Universe and to not try to imitate anyone else. Could Melissa follow in these ladies’ footsteps and capture yet another Miss Universe crown for the land of the Mariachi?? Another thing that might work in Melissa’s favor is that John Legend is the special performer this year and he also performed during Miss Universe 2010 which was won by the Mexican delegate so could it happen again?? However, as of 2024, the new director will be Cynthia De La Vega who originally won the Miss World Mexico title in 2010 under Lupita’s Nuestra Belleza Mexico pageant but Cynthia was dethroned for not fulfilling her duties resulting in Gabriela Palacio representing Mexico at Miss World 2011 and going unplaced. The Mexican franchise will now be under the ownership of Raul Rocha Cantu who is assisting Khun Anne with the Miss Universe spa line and looks to be helping her negotiate deals with potential host countries. Other contestants from the famous top 8 of Miss Earth 2018 include Portugal’s Telma Madeira who also made the semifinals of Miss Universe 2022, Philippines’ Celeste Cortesi who went unplaced at Miss Universe 2022 and joining Melissa this year in competing for the 2023 Miss Universe title is Venezuela’s Diana Silva who is the subject of the next article.



Silva for the Gold?

Venezuela-Diana SilvaWill Diana Silva get the gold, otherwise known as the Miss Universe crown? The selection of the Silva Belle, Diana Silva as Miss Venezuela occurred in 2022 in a controversial pageant. After the 2022 Miss Venezuela pageant concluded, some of the judges from the panel also started posting on social media that they actually chose the representative of La Guaira, Andrea Romero, who ended up finishing in 4th place, to win the Miss Venezuela crown with Delta Amacuro's Daniela Malavé who finished in 3rd place as Diana's runner-up. One of the judges was Miss Venezuela 1975, Maritza Pineda who went unplaced at Miss Universe 1975 and Maritza posted on social media shortly after the pageant expressing her anger and frustration with the results and that the rest of the panel of judges actually chose La Guaira to win Miss Venezuela. Venezuela's Diana Silva will compete for Miss Universe 2023Maritza recounted that before the coronation, she left the Poliedro de Caracas to avoid traffic and ran into another finals judge, Ángel Sánchez. Both then met with the general manager of Miss Venezuela, Nina Sicilia, and asked her what had happened. Maritza said Nina told them that there is another jury apart from them made up of 20 people from the Miss Venezuela Organization watching the contestants behind the scenes. Maritza said she was told that supposedly this other jury consists of the beauty committee, artists, make-up artists, designers, etc. but then Maritza said if they had a jury already selected, why put another jury in front of the screen? She said they should just make the selection and send the girl they want and don't make the show jury waste time as she felt it seemed disrespectful. Of course, this kind of judging is nothing new in pageantry. Many contracts that contestants sign have clauses that allow this kind of behind the scenes judging to occur and often when a favorite doesn't place, it's often due to this reason. The Miss Venezuela Organization headed by Miss Universe 2013-Venezuela's Gabriela Isler took over directorship of Miss Venezuela in 2018 (there's that year again!) from Osmel Sousa, who had been directing it for decades. Osmel was supposed to retire but he then started directing Argentina and Uruguay. While watching Miss Venezuela, I actually thought Diana Silva was the right choice based on overall appearance and on-stage carriage and presence whereas La Guaira's representative had a bit of an awkward walk. I think the Miss Venezuela Organization members knew this and went ahead and chose her anyway despite what the show's judges thought. An inVENstigation occurred and there was no wrongdoing found and Diana will be competing for Miss Universe. We remember cases similar to this like at Miss USA 2012 when the Pennsylvanian delegate says she heard the Floridian delegate say she saw a list quoting the exact order the top 5 of Miss USA 2012 leading the Pennsylvanian delegate to believe the results were predetermined and there were similar accusations for Miss USA 2022 as well but after an investigation occurred, there was again no wrongdoing found. The winners of both Miss USA 2012 and 2022 would go on to win Miss Universe as well interestingly enough so will this type of controversy help Diana Silva and will she be the new Miss Universe?? Diana previously competed at Miss Earth 2018 placing in the top 8 but she fainted backstage during the pageant and some speculate that she might have made the top 4 but wasn’t given a top 4 position due to the faint so a win at Miss Universe would certainly be a redemption of sorts for Diana. My friend Hernan likes to point out historical patterns and he finds several pointing to a win for Venezuela this year and one of them was that Diana’s win wasn’t exactly deemed fair similarly to the Miss USA wins of Olivia Culpo and R’Bonney Gabriel. Another pattern is that USA has crowned Venezuelan Miss Universes many times before as happened in 1981 with USA’s Shawn Weatherly crowning Venezuela’s Irene Saez, 1996 with USA’s Chelsi Smith crowning Venezuela’s Alicia Machado and 2013 with USA’s Olivia Culpo crowning Venezuela’s Gabriela Isler so will the pattern continue since the reigning Miss Universe is USA’s R’Bonney Gabriel, will she crown Venezuela’s Diana Silva as the new Miss Universe?? (Note that Miss World also has seen the American winner crown a Venezuelan winner more than once as well in 1991 and 2011.) Another pattern is that there is also a recent 10 year gap between wins which benefited Mexico winning for 2010 and 2020 and USA winning for 2012 and 2022 so since Venezuela won in 2013, does it mean a win for 2023? Hernan also points out that Venezuela didn’t place in 2010, 2011 got top 16, 2012 got a top 3 spot as 2nd runner up and won in 2013 so the same pattern may apply here since Venezuela didn’t place in 2020, got top 16 in 2021, got a top 3 spot as 1st runner up, so does that pattern also point to Venezuela as winner for 2023? Hernan also feels that Gabriela Isler's final answer in 2013 wasn’t that impactful to really win the crown and found it evasive so it may parallel Diana Silva's speaking ability. He also says Venezuela has done well in years that end in 3, like winning in 2013 after being 2nd runner up in 1993, 1st runner up in 2003 so is that a good sign for 2023 or does it mean something else? He says Venezuela also does very well when the pageant is held in November such as Ivian Sarcos winning Miss World 2011 in the month of November and also Gabriela Isler winning Miss Universe 2013 in the month of November and 4 of 9 Venezuelan Miss International winners for 2018-Mariem Velazco, 2015-Edymar Martinez, 2010-Elizabeth Mosquera and 2006-Daniela Di Giacomo all won in the month of November. Diana Silva is a passenger cabin crew member who graduated from the Caracas Air aeronautical instruction center. She studies advertising and is proud of her ecological work that she has been performing since 2018 in the Caracas botanical garden hoping to recover green areas, collecting organic waste and plant various plants. There was talk of Venezuela bidding to host the 2024 Miss Universe pageant then bailing and the fact that Khun Anne originally had to come to Diana’s defense as a rightful and deserving winner of her national title in the first place are causing some to question if she will even place. The fact remains that Venezuela has captured the Miss Universe crown seven times in the years of 1979, 1981, 1986, 1996, 2008, 2009 and 2013 so is there a Silva lining here and is the gateway of South America about to capture an eighth Miss Universe crown with Diana??



Welcoming You To Marc Anthony’s Harem

“Sing for me a song of life's visage. Sing for me a tune of love's mirage.” A little nod here to one of my favorite albums of all time, Sarah Brightman’s ‘Harem’ but we’re going to talk about a different singer now. Dominican Republic's Mariana Downing with Marc AnthonyDominican Republic's Mariana Downing with Marc AnthonyAs we all know, singer Marc Anthony appears to have a penchant for pageant queens and notably beautiful women and a member of his so-called harem would be this year’s representative of the Dominican Republic, Mariana Downing. Mariana is a model of Dominican descent on her mother’s side and British descent on her father’s side and hailing from Los Angeles, California. She was signed to Wilhelmina models in Miami which is a highly recognized modelling agency. Even the noted Czar of beauty, Osmel Sousa was on hand at the Miss Dominican Republic pageant to assist in her crowning and Osmel was instrumental in Venezuela’s success in international pageantry from the 1980s to 2010s. Marc Anthony and Shannon De Lima had just recently finalized their divorce in 2017 and that was when Marc Anthony moved on to Mariana. This was despite a 27-year age difference and even Marc Anthony’s oldest daughter, Ariana, whom he shares with ex Debbie Rosado, is older than Mariana! Let’s have a look at Marc Anthony’s dating timeline, shall we? Debbie Rosado was a police officer from Puerto Rico. The couple began their romance in 1993 and their daughter, Ariana was born in 1994 but the couple split two months after Ariana was born. After dating Dominican actress Claudette Lima from 1996 to 1998 and actress Mira Sorvino in 1998, Marc would come to meet Miss Universe 1993-Puerto Rico’s Dayanara Torres through friends at a Puerto Rican nightclub in 1998. The two wed in May 2000 when he surprised Dayanara by chartering two private jets and whisking her away to Las Vegas for an impromptu midnight ceremony with only 15 guests and their son Cristian was born on February 5, 2001 (clearly a honeymoon baby!). Then both Dayanara and Marc were judges for the 2001 Miss Universe pageant in May 2001 held in Puerto Rico and won by Puerto Rico’s delegate, Denise Quinones so ‘twas the making of a complete night for Puerto Rico and Ricky Martin even performed! Then, the following year, the 2002 Miss Universe pageant was also held in Puerto Rico in May 2002 featuring Marc Anthony as the special performer with Dayanara in the audience and he expressed his love for her after his performance but in July 2002, things got rocky and the couple separated only to reunite and have a lavish and elaborate religious second wedding on December 2, 2002 and another son, Ryan was born to Dayanara and Marc on August 16, 2003 but the two would separate again in 2004. And then came J-Lo (who Marc had previously dated in 1998 and both of whom happen to be New Yorkers of Puerto Rican descent). Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony unexpectedly shocked the world when they announced their engagement in March 2004 and wed on June 5, 2004. After many rumors, their twins Max and Emme were born on February 22, 2008 but J-Lo and Marc would amicably split in 2014. Marc’s third marriage would be to Shannon de Lima who appeared in Marc’s life after his divorce from Jennifer Lopez. The paparazzi were responsible for making the world aware of their relationship but they separated for some months and reunited and wed on November 2014. Marc got a tattoo of the Statue of Liberty in honor of new wife, Shannon who he said made him feel free but they would divorce in 2016. He would then have a brief romance with Chloe Green, who is the heir of the famous retailer, Topshop. Then, it was in 2017 that Marc started dating our reigning Miss Dominican Republic, Mariana Downing and the two met over dinner in Miami. Marc and Mariana confirmed their romance at the Maestro Cares Gala red carpet in 2017 but the couple soon split and in 2018, Marc Anthony would date Italian model Raffaella Modugno and dedicated a song to her during his 2018 San Diego concert. Soon after he was smitten by yet another Miss Universe contestant, Paraguay’s Nadia Ferreira who was 1st runner up to Miss Universe 2021, India’s Harnaaz Sandhu on December 13, 2021 in Eilat, Israel. Nadia was easily one of the favorites that year and she actually originally met Marc back in 2016 when Nadia (then aged 16) attended a Jennifer Lopez concert and they took a photo together after the show. Nadia would rise to stardom on the Miss Universe stage and in 2022, their paths crossed again at the Maestro Cares Foundation, co-founded by Marc Anthony. On March 8, 2022, various videos started circulating of the couple kissing in a Greek restaurant in Mexico City confirming the dating rumors. They confirmed their engagement on May 12, 2022 with the couple celebrating with a lavish party in Miami. After eight months of engagement, Marc and Nadia tied the knot on January 28, 2023 and are currently happily married. Nadia gave birth to their son, Marco Antonio Jr. on June 18, 2023 (not exactly a honeymoon baby this time…) but that’s where we are now! Whoa! That’s a lot of notable people that have dated Marc Anthmoney, I mean Marc Anthony!

Now the question remains, is there a pattern here with one member of Marc Anthony’s harem being a Miss Universe winner (Puerto Rico’s Dayanara Torres in 1993) and with another being a Miss Universe 1st runner up (Paraguay’s Nadia Ferreira in 2021), then does this mean that by default in the line of succession that Dominican Republic’s Mariana Downing will be 2nd runner up in 2023?? Or could she take it all??? Mariana’s participation in Miss Universe just made this year’s competition that much more interesting and she appears to be one of the key players this year so we shall see if she can bring a second Miss Universe crown to her nation of the Dominican Republic after Amelia Vega won their first crown in 2003. The Dominican Republic has hosted the Miss Universe pageant back in 1977 and they did place as 2nd runner up last year thanks to Andreina Martinez and her unmistakable presence.



I Bless The Reigns Down In South Africa

South Africa's Bryoni GovenderSouth Africa's Kerishnie NaikerThis year’s South African representative, Bryoni Govender is of Indian descent so I thought we would take a moment to honor the first phenomenal Miss South Africa of Indian descent, Kerishnie Naiker. I’m sure we all remember Kerishnie’s impactful performances at Miss Universe 1998 and Miss World 1998 making the top 10 in both pageants. Kerishnie wowed audiences internationally with her stunning, exotic looks and a fabulous head of luxurious, long, curly hair to enhance her beauty even more.
For this article, I wanted to focus more on Kerishnie’s win at the 1997 Miss South Africa pageant. Representing Kwa-Zulu Natal, Kerishnie dazzled the audience when she appeared before them during her introduction drawing loud cheers and applause as she was clearly a crowd favorite. For some reason, I often visualize Kerishnie as looking like Queen Vashti described in the Bible in the book of Esther as being so incredibly beautiful that King Ahasuerus wanted her to come in before his banquet guests wearing her royal crown simply so everyone could gaze at Queen Vashti’s beauty. Miss South Africa 1997 was a tremendously produced pageant broadcasted on SABC1 and there was a special number set to the song “The Sun Always Shines on TV” by A-ha where Kerishnie was surrounded by the silhouettes of six male dancers dancing on a red sunset background and the sun lifted to reveal Kerishnie behind it on a flight of stairs with a lighting change to a blazing yellow set as she displayed seductive power moves throughout the performance and it was almost like the dancers were worshipping her as if she was the sun commanding their every move. It was magical and Kerishnie was breathtaking!

Kerishnie also won the reader’s choice and the photogenic award at Miss South Africa 1997. When it was down to the final five, Kerishnie selected judge Anneline Kriel-Bacon (who inherited the title of Miss World 1974) who asked her, “If you become Miss South Africa, what quality would you aim to impress on the youth of South Africa?” Kerishnie answered, “That would have to be… I would try to instill in them motivation. I think that that would be a life-long skill. That is something that they take with them throughout their lives and I think with motivation, they can only make progress. I would try and instill in youth today that with motivation, they can aim for goals and strive for perfection and I think that with motivation, they could never go wrong. Thank you.” With that, Kerishnie would clinch the 1997 Miss South Africa crown to thunderous applause and then it was time to share Kerishnie’s beauty with the world as she went on to international competitions.
South Africa's Kerishnie NaikerDuring the 1998 Miss Universe pageant, Kerishnie was first to be called into the top 10 and her evening gown presentation was among the best in history. To the sounds of K-Ci & Jojo performing their hit ‘All My Life’ in front of the Hawaiian audience, the spotlight shone on Kerishnie as the first of the top 10 and everyone was instantly mesmerized particularly by the long velvet attachments that she held up with her arms the whole time showing off incredible strength in addition to her beauty. I’m sure this was inspired by the gown performance of Miss USA 1998-Shawnae Jebbia of Massachusetts who won her title similarly beautifully displaying a scarf covering her forearms. The 1998 Miss Universe special commentators, Ali Landry-Miss USA 1996 and Julie Moran-America’s Junior Miss 1980 upon seeing Kerishnie in her gown were in awe. Ali said, “Wow, Julie, look at this!” Julie said, “This is… this is a stunning gown! She’s so exotic to me.” Ali said, “With the velvet…the combination of the velvet and the beading. Do you know what, I wish she would have put her hair down because I saw…” Julie said, “Oh, we love her hair!” and Ali said, “It’s gorgeous! So long and so beautiful but she…Oh my goodness! Look at the back!” Julie said, “But maybe with this evening gown, she made the right choice.” Ali agreed saying, “That’s right. It would have been too much.” Kerishnie would have to settle for an 8th place finish at Miss Universe 1998 although I had actually predicted her to be 1st runner up to the eventual winner, Trinidad & Tobago’s Wendy Fitzwilliam and coincidentally, Wendy and Kerishnie were roommates while competing for Miss Universe in Hawaii! Wendy commented that her roommate didn’t know how many cents made a dollar since they use a different currency, the rand in South Africa and it was mind-blowing to her! Kerishnie went on later that year to compete in the 1998 Miss World pageant in the Seychelles. She humorously tapped her head in disbelief but with a smile on her face upon hearing the 1998 Miss World host, Ronan Keating mispronounce her last name Naiker to almost sound like Knicker! Ronan asked her how she was and Kerishnie replied, “Very good evening! I’m ecstatic! Thank you very much!” Ronan asked that he heard she liked TV presenting and if that was correct. Kerishnie replied, “Very much so! I currently present two programs back home. A magazine program as well as a cultural event and I’m about to present a health program as well considering that health is my passion. (Kerishnie was studying to be a pharmacist at the time.) Ronan quipped that maybe she would be hosting like him one day which prompted a sweet giggle from Kerishnie. All of the top 10 for Miss World 1998 had to show a picture of a fellow delegate and she chose the host delegate from Seychelles saying, “Yes, this is none other than a very popular choice, it’s Miss Seychelles again! (audience in Seychelles erupts in applause) I have to say that she has been the perfect host. She really has. She has taken such a keen interest in all the girls here and I think most importantly, is that she’s a genuine person who displays a very cheerful disposition at all times.” Kerishnie would do a little better this time around getting a top 5 spot at Miss World 1998 but not the top 3 lamentably.
That almost became a Shrine article! Now that we have taken a moment to admire Kerishnie, let us focus on the next woman of Indian descent to represent South Africa at Miss Universe, Bryoni Natalie Govender.

This year’s Miss South Africa pageant had a rather unusual curiosity this year as they permitted Natasha Joubert to compete for the crown. And you ask, but didn’t Natasha already compete for Miss Universe 2020 being a heavy favorite but going unplaced?? You’re right! But…Natasha didn’t actually win Miss South Africa 2020. That honor went to Limpopo’s Shudufhadzo (Shudu) Musida but notably, Zozibini Tunzi won Miss South Africa 2019 and of course, Miss Universe 2019 as well. However, the decision was made that Shudu would be assigned to represent South Africa at Miss World 2020 which was postponed due to Covid and held in March 2022 where she made the top 40. Shudu’s 1st runner up was Thato Mosehle who was assigned to compete in Miss Supranational 2021 where she finished as 2nd runner up and Natasha was Shudu’s 2nd runner up and was assigned to represent South Africa at Miss Universe 2020 going unplaced so Natasha didn’t actually win Miss South Africa 2020 but she wanted the honor of holding that prestigious title and tried again for 2023 and won! This presented a conundrum but Natasha, having already competed for Miss Universe which someone can only do once (this rule has never changed), opted to not compete for any international title and stay as Miss South Africa 2023 and perform the duties associated with that. As a result, Bryoni Govender as Natasha’s 1st runner up was assigned to represent South Africa at Miss Universe! Khun Anne did mention wanting only winners of national pageants to compete at Miss Universe but this was obviously a unique circumstance and the exception was made for Bryoni to compete and she is absolutely a contender. We all know how well-spoken South African delegates have consistently been over the years and I had predicted South Africa to win Miss Universe 2005 and 2007 but interestingly, they ended up winning 2017 and 2019 also two years apart like my prediction! Oh, why do they tease 12 years later??

Bryoni was born on July 27, 1997 (the year Kerishnie won Miss South Africa) to parents of Indian descent in Kempton Park, Gauteng, South Africa. She is a qualified lawyer who is working as a trainee associate awaiting admission to become an attorney. She also described Miss World 1994, India’s Aishwarya Rai (who won her title in South Africa) as a role model for her. Bryoni had previously placed among the top 12 when competing in the 2018 Miss South Africa competition won by Tamaryn Green who was 1st runner up to Miss Universe 2018, Catriona Gray of the Philippines. South Africa has captured three Miss Universe crowns thanks to Margaret Gardiner in 1978, Demi-Leigh Nel Peters in 2017 and Zozibini Tunzi in 2019 so South Africa has performed very well in recent years so could Bryoni capture yet another crown for forever Mandela’s rainbow nation?



But If You’re Thinkin’ About My Pageant Contestants,
It Don’t Matter If You’re Black Or White


There are some visible minority delegates representing their countries this year but they are all outstanding speakers and top contenders so let’s meet some of them now. First, we have Zimbabwe returning to the Miss Universe pageant after not having competed since 2001. This year, Zimbabwe is being represented by a Caucasian woman, Brooke Bruk-Jackson. Zimbabwe’s population is 99% black and some people took issue with the fact that a white, blonde woman was chosen to represent them but Brooke was born and raised in Zimbabwe’s capital city of Harare and has every right to represent her country and she is very poised and eloquent when she speaks and she is currently in my list as one to watch. I’m not finding much information on her father though but I did hear her say in an interview that her father is taller than her and Brooke stands just below 6 feet tall. ZimbabweIrelandBrooke’s face does look like she might have some black ancestry but her mother, Tracey Evans Bruk-Jackson is Caucasian so it’s possible she could be multiracial similarly to Zimbabwe’s only Miss Universe semifinalist, Corrinne Crewe who finished 8th at Miss Universe 2000 and was also among my top 10 picks that year. Brooke won the Miss Universe Zimbabwe pageant on her first try! In fact, it was her first pageant ever! She attended the British Academy of Fashion Design in London before taking a job as a Beauty Therapist in Cape Town, South Africa. She signed with Boss Models South Africa in late 2022, before deciding to enter the Miss Zimbabwe competition this year. Brooke looks forward to showing love and serving the people of Zimbabwe and she wants to be an example of grace, understanding and inspiration to the youth of Zimbabwe, to instill the spirit of ‘ubuntu’(humanity to others) and know that together we are strong and anything in life is possible. Of course, African countries have had Caucasian representatives before and three of the most notable even won the Miss Universe crown and they are South Africa’s Margaret Gardiner in 1978, South Africa’s Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters in 2017 and Namibia’s Michelle McLean in 1992 and Brooke actually reminds me a lot of Michelle for some reason so Brooke Bruk-Jackson with her distinctive name could very well follow in Michelle’s footsteps so can Brooke bring the coveted Miss Universe crown to the land where the waterfalls stand out and wildlife thrives?
Another delegate who is a visible minority and a top contender representing her country is Ireland’s Aishah Akorede who was born in Leixlip, Ireland on October 17, 1999 and she is of Nigerian descent. Aishah will be the second black woman to represent Ireland after Fionnghuala (Fig) O’Reilly who competed for Miss Universe 2019 and she was my prediction to win seeing how accomplished she was but she mysteriously went unplaced. Ireland has never won the Miss Universe crown but their best placements were twice as 2nd runner up in 1963 with Marlene McKeown and 1983 with Roberta Brown and they last placed in 2018. Now, the emerald isle sends us Aishah who holds a Master’s degree of Law in International Corporate Governance with a Degree Plus Employability Award from Queen's University and is pursuing a Chartered Governance qualification program. Aishah speaks very well also and she has a great opportunity to wow the judges in interview so will Aishah be able to use her lucky charms and bring a first Miss Universe crown to the land shamrocks and leprechauns? The next article will focus on another visible minority delegate, Athenea Perez of Spain.



Lord, Have Murcia

SpainHailing from the merciful city of Murcia, Spain’s Athenea Paulinha Pérez Nsué is the first dark-skinned delegate to represent her country at Miss Universe. Athenea’s mother is from Equatorial Guinea and her father is Spanish. She studied marketing and advertising and previously went unplaced at Miss World Spain ten years ago at age 17 but she came back strong at Miss Universe Spain 2023 to win the title only to have her reign tarnished by hateful posts on social media to which Athenea replied, "I'm very sad. I was shocked. I've lived here all my life. I was born here. I'm from Churra and half muleña because of my father. It strikes me that this is happening in a society with so many cultures, which for me means wealth. I love my city and I'm proud to be from Murcia." Athenea happens to be born on May 6 in the year 1996 and only a few months later on September 7, 1996, Italy crowned their first dark-skinned Miss Universe delegate, Denny Mendez who was one of my Shrine honorees and easily one of the favorites for the 1997 Miss Universe crown. Denny MendezBrad Pitt with Denny Mendez Like Athenea, Denny received both positive and negative comments from her countrymen based on her race. Denny placed 4th in the Miss Universe 1997 preliminary competition and was asked by host George Hamilton about how as a black woman, she caused huge controversy in her country and it must have not been easy and how she survived. Denny replied through her translator in Italian, "I'm very happy to be here. I'm very glad because I know that we are not here representing colors." It was funny how Denny waved in the interpreter because she started with the phrase giving her time to think and she said "Go ahead" to the interpreter in Italian. After the translation was given, Denny continued in saying, "And I have nothing to envy of other Miss Italy’s because this is a door that I have opened and that will continue to open even more." The interpreter knew what to do and she ended her interview with, "And to those people who call me negro, I say, 'It doesn't bother me.'" I also clearly heard a ‘no no no’ in there but the translator cleaned it up to ‘it doesn’t bother me’ and the crowd roared with applause and Denny would get the second highest score in each competition: interview (behind USA who eventually won), swimsuit (won by Curacao) and evening gown (also won by Curacao). During the swimsuit competition, Denny showed off her fabulous long legs and curly hair combined with supreme confidence while during the evening gown competition, her coloring blended so magnificently with the sunset backdrop that she was like art in motion in her black gown with white stripes on the jeweled bodice. Denny was now 2nd overall behind Curaçao's Verna Vasquez advancing into the top 6 where Denny would have to answer a judge's question and she picked the question of Monique Pillard (who entered some really unusual scores that night and Monique passed away in 2018 at age 81 just one day shy of what would have been her 82nd birthday). Monique’s question was, "How would winning the Miss Universe title help you with your career goals?" The interpreter translated as Denny responded saying, "Obviously, it would help me to put an end to the matter that we discussed earlier. It would be a victory upon a victory. That's what it would be." No real career goals mentioned in that answer hence Denny would have to settle for a 5th place finish at Miss Universe 1997. Will a similar fate befall Athenea Perez or could she even go all the way and capture a second Miss Universe crown for the land of the sun, rich in culture and beauty? Spain won the crown once in 1974 thanks to the late Amparo Munoz (Did you notice both Athenea and Amparo both have names that start with A and end with Z?? Is it a sign???) Amparo was quietly dethroned after punching her chaperone (her father was a boxer, you know) and so Amparo didn't return to crown her successor in 1975 in El Salvador which happens to also be hosting this year's Miss Universe pageant so would a win for Spain this year be a full circle moment?? Spain did make the semifinals last year so they’ve got the momentum going so let’s see if the Lord will have Murcia and allow Athenea’s story and fierce modelling skills from all her rhythmic gymnastics training to get her the crown.



Thai Winner Takes It All? / Supra Troupra

‘The loser's standing small, beside the victory. That's her destiny.’
ThailandPuerto Rico So we have two very significant cross-over delegates competing this year and those would be the delegates of Thailand and Puerto Rico. Thailand’s Anntonia Porsild appears to be this year’s frontrunner with good reason because she has already won an international pageant title. Anntonia won the Miss Supranational title in 2019. The Miss Supranational pageant is one of the newer international pageants. It is Polish-based and it started in 2009 and even has a Mister competition as well! The Supranational pageants have been praised as well-produced incorporating dancing and other entertaining elements. There are other international pageants too apart from American-based Miss Universe, like the other original pageants, British-based Miss World, Japanese-based Miss International and years later, we started getting Philippines-based Miss Earth, Thai-based Miss Grand International and there are others like Miss Globe and Miss Galaxy also. Anntonia’s participation in Miss Universe is a rare case where a winner of an international pageant goes on to try to win another one. The only other year where this has happened was the year 2000 where the Miss Universe winner, India’s Lara Dutta had previously won the Dutch-owned Miss Intercontinental pageant in 1997 and oddly enough, one of Lara’s competitors at Miss Universe 2000 was the reigning Miss Intercontinental 2000, Germany’s Sabrina Schepmann who went unplaced at Miss Universe 2000. The general consensus amongst pageant followers is that Anntonia is about to replicate Lara’s feat and win the Miss Universe crown and I have to say that I agree as the Miss Thailand competition was incredibly fierce with her competition being Praveenar (Veena) Singh Thakral who was 2nd runner up and Kirana Jasmine (Jazzy) Chewter who was 1st runner up and it certainly doesn’t hurt that the new owner of Miss Universe, Khun Anne is Thai so it makes sense, no? Anntonia is fluent in English and Thai, born to a Danish father, Morten Porsild and a Thai mother, Tanradee (Nee) Porsild and has lived in several countries around the world. She studied at the International School Ho Chi Minh City in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. She then studied public relations and communications at EU Business School in Barcelona, Spain in 2017, before transitioning to Stamford International University in 2018. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication Arts from Stamford International University in 2022 and plans on pursuing her MBA after her reign as she has a full scholarship so Anntonia already has extensive experience travelling the world. Thailand has won two Miss Universe crowns thanks to Apasra Hongsakula in 1965 and Porntip Nakhirunkanok in 1988 so will Anntonia capture a third Miss Universe crown for the golden kingdom of Thailand? But Anntonia isn’t the only high placer at Miss Supranational to compete for the 2023 Miss Universe crown. Puerto Rico’s Karla Guilfu was 1st runner up at Miss Supranational 2021 and she is going to give Anntonia some stiff competition. Karla’s Voice for Change video had her discussing suicide prevention with the motto that it’s okay to not be okay and Karla carries on the great tradition of Puerto Rican delegates having incredible overall looks, bodies and commanding stage presence. Puerto Rico has placed in the top 10 every year since 2018 and Karla is expected to keep this streak going but will she get the win this time? The shining star of the Caribbean has been coming on strong in recent years and they have captured the Miss Universe crown five times (1970, 1985, 1993, 2001 and 2006) with their first winner, Marisol Malaret passing away earlier this year so a win for Puerto Rico this year would be that much more special so it is going to be very interesting to see how the 2023 Miss Universe pageant goes.
Will Thai Winner Take It All? Will they lay all their love on us??? Should I go on and on and on???? Are these two Supranational super troupers (or supra troupras, lights are gonna find them!) about to replicate their Miss Supranational placements at Miss Universe? Will they take a chance on them??? Currently, I’m thinking Abba-solutely!!!





So as of November 4, Tom’s tentative top 5 for Miss Universe 2023 are:
1. Thailand
2. Puerto Rico
3. Dominican Republic
4. Mexico
5. South Africa

Will my top 5 change over the coming weeks or will they stay the same? I will post a second round of prethoughts on November 11 where I will comment on all of the delegates. There is a paid livestream this year for preliminaries and the national costume show available at https://missuniverse.livebash.com
Preliminaries are on November 15 at 5pm Pacific Time and the National Costume show is on Nov 16 at 6pm Pacific Time.
After viewing the preliminary swimsuit and gown competitions which are being held on November 15, my final predictions for Miss Universe 2023 will be posted on November 17.



Of course, tell everyone to watch Miss Universe 2023! The big night is November 18 at 7 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on the Roku Channel and Telemundo networks.


 

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