MISS UNIVERSE Miss Universe 2018: Catriona Gray’s chances and other top picks

To watch the live coronation of Miss Philippines winning Miss Universe has always been on my bucket list. On December 17, 2018, the likelihood of this happening is very real. It would be the Philippines’ 4th Miss Universe crown after Pia Wurztbach’s win in 2015. The first two happened in a span of 4 years (Gloria Diaz in 1969 and Margie Moran in 1973). If it happens, we’ll bridge the gap even closer.

Miss Universe Philippines 2018 Catriona Gray, arrived in Bangkok, Thailand as the unanimous heavy favorite from pageant fans around the world. Her emerald green Thai-inspired outfit and videos of the airport arrival pandemonium hyped up her status to unprecendented heights. (WATCH: Catriona Gray talks music, dreams in Miss Universe intro video)

No other Philippine beauty queen has been able to showcase the richness of Philippine textiles and design the way she has. I say this because her outfits were not only proudly Philippine made, but each of the elements evoked things uniquely Filipino.

Thanks to social media, Catriona’s looks are well documented to inspire future queens to showcase the richness of our heritage. (IN PHOTOS: PH culture, textiles takes spotlight in Catriona Gray’s Miss Universe outfits)

During the Preliminary Competition on December 13,2018 at the Impact Arena, Bangkok, her much guarded “Lava Walk” and evening gown were revealed in the most fabulous way. She set the bar so high for herself that even for seasoned pageant observers, it was a bit nerve wracking on how she would sustain this. On prelims night, she not not sustained but surpassed those expectations delivering a performance that is unrivalled.

From her opening Sherri Hill introduction, it was evident that there definitely were more than Filipinos rooting for Catriona. Judging from the flags that people were carrying , there was a huge Filipino contingent who came to support Catriona. This will only get even bigger and stronger on the Finals night.

During the swimsuit competition, Catriona stepped onto the runway with power wrapped in charisma. She’s perfected the fierce yet friendly and fun persona. She sashayed down the runway with that invisible fan causing the swooshing of the hair and the wind blown look. Many thought that swimsuit would be her waterloo but she delivered – the fuschia Sirivannari swimsuit was the perfect style for Catriona.

ON FIRE. Catriona Gray walks on stage during the preliminary competition. Photo from Miss Universe Organization

ON FIRE. Catriona Gray walks on stage during the preliminary competition. Photo from Miss Universe Organization

And then there was the most awaited secret in pageant land. After teasing Filipino pageant fans with his cryptic posts, Mak Tumang’s “Ibong Adarna” inspired, Swarovski crytal embellished, leg baring, show stopping gown shimmered on stage. Her styling was clean and strong.

It solidified Catriona’s position in the pageant as the one to beat. 

IBONG ADARNA. Catriona Gray models her 'Ibong Adarna' inspired gown by Mak Tumang. Photo from Miss Universe Organization

IBONG ADARNA. Catriona Gray models her ‘Ibong Adarna’ inspired gown by Mak Tumang. Photo from Miss Universe Organization

From a pageant, business, and marketing perspective, Catriona Gray is the rightful winner of Miss Universe 2018. She brings so much to the organization. In terms of business, she will be a highly sought after endorser, brand ambassador, and model.

She will rake in huge business for the Miss Universe Organization.

But above all, she embodies all that empowered woman who is confidently beautiful with a heart. Her beauty transcends boundaries and regional ideals of beauty. She has proven her determination to rise above her past worldly challenges and claim the Universe.

The Continental Divide

I’m typically wary of the continental grouping and wild card slot selection because it’s unfair to the very strong regions where some more deserving candidates are eliminated and gives way to less deserving candidates who are in weaker regions.

This year, I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that we will secure one of the 5 Asia/Africa slots. Again, I do not undertstand why Asia and Africa would be grouped together. Each one should have its own grouping.

I also think that the the America’s should be split into North America and South America. There are so many wasted candidates from these regions because of the continental groupings.

This list is largely based on what was seen on stage, bios, and any previous video clips I may have seen of interviews. The closed door preliminary interviews, which was conducted first, significantly influence the succeeding scores. If the judges fall in love with a contestant during the preliminary interviews, they will more likely score them favorably during the swimsuit and evening gown segments.

This a huge variable that can completely skew the Top 20 finalists.

Having said that, I do not want to call it a prediction but these are my best bets list:

Asia and Africa

  • Philippines – Catriona Gray
  • South Africa – Tamaryn Green
  • Australia – Francesca Hung,
  • Kenya – Wabaiya Kariuki
  • Nigeria – Lopez Aramide

Wild card possibilities for Asia and Africa

  • Vietnam – H’Hen Nie
  • Kenya – Wabaiya Kariuki
  • Nepal – Manita Devkota
  • Thailand – Sophida Kanchanarin
  • Japan – Yuumi Kato
  • India – Nehal Chudasama
Tamaryn Green, Miss South Africa 2018

Tamaryn Green, Miss South Africa 2018

Francesca Hung, Miss Australia 2018

Francesca Hung, Miss Australia 2018

Wabaiya Kariuki, Miss Kenya 2018

Wabaiya Kariuki, Miss Kenya 2018

Aramide Lopez, Miss Nigeria 2018

Aramide Lopez, Miss Nigeria 2018

This is an extremely unfair grouping. It is unclear if there are given slots for Asia and Africa separately or if they are treated as one. Can all 5 be for either Asia or Africa? There are lots of deserving countries in this region and I am afraid some will be sacrificed for less deserving candidates from other regions. I would really like to see Nepal make it into the semifinals.

Nigeria was the revelation in this region. She was divine on stage and totally deserves to be in the semifinals. If the host country was not Thailand, I don’t think I would even be considering Sophida. But I hear that she is a very lovely person and that might help her get in.

South Africa’s Tamaryn Green looked phenomenal in her white gown. I personally love the flowy chiffons versus the nude/gold/silver fully crystallized, fringed gowns that dominated the Miss Universe stage.

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Tamaryn Green, Miss South Africa 2018 in her evening gown.

Tamaryn Green, Miss South Africa 2018 in her evening gown.

Sophida Kanchanarin, Miss Thailand 2018 in her evening gown.

Sophida Kanchanarin, Miss Thailand 2018 in her evening gown.

Europe

  • Albania – Trejsi Sejdini
  • Spain – Angela Ponce
  • Great Britain – Dee-Ann Kentish-Rogers
  • Bulgaria – Gabriela Topalova
  • Russia – Yulia Polyachikhina

Wild card possibilities:

  • Croatia – Mia Pojatina
  • Belgium – Zoë Brunet 
Trejsi Sejdini, Miss Albania 2018

Trejsi Sejdini, Miss Albania 2018

Angela Ponce, Miss Spain 2018

Angela Ponce, Miss Spain 2018

Gabriela Topalova, Miss Bulgaria 2018

Gabriela Topalova, Miss Bulgaria 2018

Yulia Polyachikhina, Miss Russia 2018

Yulia Polyachikhina, Miss Russia 2018

I feel that this region has too many allotments. If the actual scores are to be considered, I don’t think this region will perform well. They benefit from the continental system the most.

Spain’s Angela Ponce is my hands down favorite from Europe deserving of a spot. Everytime she was on stage, I was thinking that it was such a historic moment. It is already a victory in itself.

Angela Ponce, Miss Spain 2018 during the evening gown competition.

Angela Ponce, Miss Spain 2018 during the evening gown competition.

Great Britain had amazing stage presence and charisma. Albania was a riot on stage. She had this amazing presence that borders drag queen which I absolutely love. She played with the audience although I am not sure if this was appreciated by the judges.

The other Europeans, I only selected because they have 5 slots.

Dee-Ann Kentish-Rogers, Miss Great Britain 2018.

Dee-Ann Kentish-Rogers, Miss Great Britain 2018.

Americas

  • Puerto Rico – Kiara Ortega
  • Venezuela – Sthefany Gutiérrez
  • Canada – Marta Magdalena Stepien
  • Mexico – Andrea Toscano
  • Curacao – Akisha Albert

Wild Card Possibilities

  • Jamaica – Emily Sara-Claire Maddison
  • El Salvador – Marisela De Montecristo
  • Ecuador – Virginia Limongi
  • Peru – Romino Lozano
  • USA – Sarah Rose Summers
Marta Magdalena Stepien, Miss Canada

Marta Magdalena Stepien, Miss Canada

Kiara Ortega, Miss Puerto Rico 2018

Kiara Ortega, Miss Puerto Rico 2018

Andrea Toscano, Miss Mexico 2018

Andrea Toscano, Miss Mexico 2018

Sthefany Gutierrez, Miss Venezuela 2018

Sthefany Gutierrez, Miss Venezuela 2018

Another region that will greatly suffer from the continetal quota system is the Americas. There are simply too many amazing women in this category.

Topping the list is Canada’s Marta Magdalena Stepien. Her beauty is very memorable and her stage presence is strong. Puerto Rico and Venezuela are the powerhouse countries that always deliver when it counts.

A none sash factor country is Curacao but totally deserves a slot in the semifinals. I am hoping that El Salvador’s Marisela de Montecristo makes it into the semifinals. She has been consistently beautiful and charming throughout the competition. As for USA’s Sarah Rose Summers, the only thing going for her is the USA sash. I feel there are so many other more deserving candidates than USA.

Mexico’s Andrea Toscano is one of the most beautiful faces in the pageant. But she wore a disastrous red evening gown that was beyond unflattering. I hope that doesn’t hurt her chances.

Marisela De Montecristo, Miss El Salvador 2018

Marisela De Montecristo, Miss El Salvador 2018

Wild Cards

This is the tough part of the list. Who will be the lucky ladies advancing to the semifinals?

  • Vietnam – H’Hen Nie
  • Nepal – Manita Devkota
  • Thailand – Sophida Kanchanarin
  • El Salvador – Marisela De Montecristo
  • Japan – Yuumi Kato
  • India – Nehal Chudasama
H'Hen Nie, Miss Vietnam 2018

H’Hen Nie, Miss Vietnam 2018

Manita Devkota, Miss Nepal 2018

Manita Devkota, Miss Nepal 2018

Sophida Kanchanarin, Miss Thailand 2018

Sophida Kanchanarin, Miss Thailand 2018

Yuumi Kato, Miss Japan 2018

Yuumi Kato, Miss Japan 2018

Nehal Chudasama, Miss India 2018

Nehal Chudasama, Miss India 2018

Marisela De Montecristo, Miss El Salvador 2018

Marisela De Montecristo, Miss El Salvador 2018

Aside from these, expect countries not mentioned in my list to pop up out of nowhere. These would be the ones who were most charming and gave the best impression during the preliminary interviews.

The Philippines’ Catriona Gray leads way ahead of the pack. From a pageant and business perspective, she would be the smart choice for the Miss Universe Organization.

But as we all know too well, pageants can be very unpredictable. The ones who could be possible spoilers are Canada, South Africa, Puerto Rico or Nigeria.

It won’t be long until we find out who the next Miss Universe will be. – Rappler.com


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