Wednesday, January 16, 2013

UNPLACED – The Wallflowers of Miss Universe


“…I never surrendered and I think that is very important don’t surrender what you have and just go ahead and take hold of what you want..” – Cynthia Olavarria, Miss Universe 2005 1st Runner-up.

Despite the existence of other big pageants, Miss Universe is still the grandest and most exciting beauty pageant in the world. Since its inception in 1952, it has been the objective of every participating country to get its representative to place in the semifinals and get a chance to compete for the crown during the finals. International prestige, honor and worldwide recognition which could be a platform into a lucrative career are just several reasons why the world’s “Beauty Superbowl” is still relevant in many countries.

Many countries have been successful more than once in winning the crown, others just have to contend themselves with runner-ups. Still, some were able to perform good enough for a semifinal slot. Whether their placement is recent or far back in history, these countries have already proven that at least once, their delegate is “one of the most beautiful in the world”.

Not all countries are just as lucky. Whereas some of us pageant fans are busy griping about the last time our delegate placed or won, we forget that some countries are still dreaming, wishing and hoping for their first placement in Miss Universe.
Let’s get to know the countries that remain unplaced and yet are still actively competing. They are the wallflowers of Miss Universe:

Guyana
Debut: 1956

This British territory is one of the few countries in the Caribbean that’s not an island and the only South American Nation with English as its national language. At one time enjoying one of the region’s highest literacy rates at 90%, this nation has never experienced success in pageantry, especially in Miss Universe. Since it debuted in 1956, it has never placed.
The only time that a Miss Universe delegate from Guyana was in the spotlight was in the 2012 edition when Ruqyyah Boyer slipped and fell during the evening gown preliminaries. The pageant pundits took notice of how the Guyana delegate gracefully got up and resumed her walk; with some immediately placing her in their predictions list, hoping somehow that she have the same fate like Miss Universe 1999 1st runner-up Miriam Quiambao who also slipped during the evening gown preliminaries but it was not the case for poor Ruqayyah. On finals night Guyana was not called as one of the top 16 semifinalists.
It is interesting to note that despite its continuing misfortune in Miss Universe, Guyana already experienced euphoria in its rival pageant, Miss World. Stunning Shakira Baksh placed 3rd in 1968 and is still considered by many as the most beautiful Miss World 2nd runner-up. Ms. Baksh was able to parlay her pageant success into a mainstream movie career marriage to Michael Caine, one of Britain’s most loved actors. With the renewed yearly participation of Guyana, there is hope that one day a goddess will rise, as stunning as Shakira and as resilient and elegant as Ruqayya.

Bahamas
Debut: 1963

A country made up of a group of islands in the Caribbean, The Bahamas were the site of Columbus' first landfall in the New World in 1492. Being surrounded by water, it does not have an army or an air force, but a full navy equipped to defend its shores. A top tourist attraction, in terms of GDP it is the 3rd richest country in the Americas, next to the United States and Canada. However, when it comes to beauty titles, especially Miss Universe, for all its enthusiastic participation since 1963 it has gotten nothing.
The year that Bahamas first felt hope that it will place was in the 1982 edition when the beautiful Ava Marilyn Burke became Miss Photogenic and was being predicted to get the first placement for the country. It turned out to be a false alarm. When it hosted the 2009 event, there was expectation everywhere that the host delegate, Kiara Sherman would advance to the top 15. She was prepared, and confident, but not as beautiful as Ava. It turned out that hosting the event will not be enough to guarantee a placement.

I don’t believe that Bahamian girls are not beautiful enough. Maybe they should reassess their selection process, and make bold adjustments that would entice better contestants. 2012’s Celeste Marshall is a good example of a very promising delegate and I wouldn’t mind if she placed, and if Bahamas gets contestants with the same or better beauty, determination and skills, they will get their placement very soon.

Mauritius
Debut: 1975

This beautiful island nation in the Indian Ocean has recently received acclaim as the World’s Best Beach at the World Travel Awards in January 2012. Mauritius has also one of the highest rates of returning tourism visitors in the world. It’s surprising that a country of acclaimed natural beauty has not received appreciation for the beauty of its women, especially in the biggest beauty pageant of all, the Miss Universe.
Inspired by her success in Miss World 1975 (top 10), Marielle Tse-Sik-Sun competed in the 1976 edition in Hong Kong. However, as the other countries in this list would realize, success in Miss World, won’t always mean success in Miss Universe. With many ethnicities coexisting with each other, it’s not hard to find a beautiful girl, however, training and preparation is key. They would have to be in tune with the current trends in Miss Universe pageantry and revamp their selection process or else go the way of the dodo.

Antigua and Barbuda
Debut: 1977

Antigua and Barbuda is a twin-island nation lying between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. The country is nicknamed "Land of 365 Beaches" due to the many pristine beaches surrounding the islands. However, its track record is Miss Universe has been so far, nil.
Beautiful singer Shermaine Jeremy first made waves in Miss World 2004 as Miss Talent and Top 15 semifinalist. Propelled by her achievement, she went to sunny Thailand to compete in the 2005 edition. Her ebony beauty and presentation skills impressed pageant experts and after the preliminaries, she was in many prediction lists (I love her gown by the way; it’s sexy and speaks about her and her home country). Her exclusion might be explained by the competitive batch of beauties that year; however, if they have to get a representative black beauty, in my opinion she would’ve been a better choice than her fellow Miss World alumna, Magdalene Walcott.

British Virgin Islands
Debut: 1977

This British overseas territory is located in the Caribbean to the east of Puerto Rico. It’s ironic that the official currency of the British Virgin Islands has been the US dollar since 1959, a currency also used by the United States Virgin Islands.
Since its debut, this haven for professional sailing enthusiasts has been sending below par delegates. I hope someone proves me wrong, but I haven’t seen a delegate from this country that has been seen as contender. 2010’s Josefina Nunez is better than her predecessors, but they seriously must raise their standards or change their approach. Some girls are beautiful but fear the entire pageant ritual. Seeing the proceedings and eventual result for 2013, in my opinion, casting calls to their most beautiful girls is worth a try. Or else be content with their girl finishing last. Delia Jon Baptiste finished last in Miss Universe 1994 (yes, those days they release the prelim standings days after the coronation night, I saw it myself on TV).

St. Lucia
Debut: 1977

St. Lucia is a sovereign island country in the eastern Caribbean Sea on the boundary with the Atlantic Ocean. Also known as the "Helen of the West Indies" for its natural beauty the island has been sending delegates to the Miss Universe which, so far has been ending up as clappers.
On a positive note, St. Lucia has already found some ground in Miss World. In the 2010 edition, the refreshing face of Aiasha Gustave was loved by the judges that she went as far as Top 7. With the current trend of Miss Universe choosing sweet, natural beauties, if Aisha chooses to compete she may have a chance, given the right support.

Cayman Islands
Debut: 1980

This British Overseas Territory located in the western Caribbean Sea is a major world offshore financial centre. No direct taxation is imposed on residents and Cayman Islands companies. Since 1980 it has been trying its luck in Miss Universe, but, so far with no success.
Maureen Theresa Lewis surprised everyone by entering the top 10 at Miss World’s 1982 edition. It’s also not a secret that Victoria’s Secret Angel Selita Ebanks calls this island country home. So far their best Miss Universe delegate, in my opinion who has given an overall presentation worthy of a semifinal slot is 2009’s Nicosia Lawson. This ebony beauty’s knockout body, sensuous catwalk and overall presentation got the interest of pageant experts who put her as the dark horse in their prediction list (sorry Lindsay fans her prelim pasarella was just weird). A semifinal finish in Miss Universe is not impossible for this country. If they produced a Miss Word semifinalist and a Victoria’s Secret Angel, pretty soon, a Miss Universe stunner, with the right direction, is not a distant reality.

Egypt
Debut: 1987

Who doesn’t know Egypt, it’s glorious history, its colossal pyramids and it’s legendary ruler Cleopatra known not just for her intelligence but her beauty as well? Like their Arab counterparts, Egyptian women have a distinct beauty, a legacy of the many ethnicities which have come and gone when it was once a great empire.

Miss World 1954 Antigone Costanda is an example of such exquisite beauty. Merriam George represented Egyptian beauty by finishing top 8 during Miss Earth 2006. However, no Egyptian beauty has ever succeeded in entering the semifinals of Miss Universe. One noteworthy Miss Egypt, however, gave a commendable presentation in the 2009 edition. Pageant veteran Elham Wagdi has joined 3 major pageants (Miss Universe 2009, Miss International 2006 and Miss Earth 2005) and were unplaced in all. The weird coincidence is that the eventual winners from those editions were all Venezuelans (Fernandez, di Giacomo and Braun). In the throes of political reform, they haven’t sent a delegate in 2012, but, with such a great beauty tradition, we still cannot count them out.

Bulgaria
Debut: 1991

This country in Southeastern Europe is bordered by several countries and since ancient times has been the crossroads of many civilizations. Their scholars claim that the number of archaeological sites is the third-largest in Europe after Italy and Greece. During its socialist republic days it has gained more acclaim as a sporting nation, notably in rhythmic gymnastics. As a new democracy, it started sending delegates to Miss Universe in 1991. It’s 2013 and they still haven’t sent a delegate who has entered the semifinals.
In 1995, they found some comfort when Evgenia Kalkandzhieva finished top 10 in Miss World. Although they are still to find their luck in Miss Universe, it’s good to note that there are two accomplished beauty queens who have Bulgarian heritage:
Just my suggestion, if Bulgaria is really serious in getting a Miss Universe placement, a more rigid screening and training process, and opening their selection to expats around the world may give them more competitive girls to choose from.

Romania
Debut: 1991

Also a former socialist republic and located at the intersection of Central and Southeastern Europe, bordering on the Black Sea, this gymnastics superpower produced sports icon Nadia Comaneci who was the first to get a perfect 10 score. However, their performance in Miss Universe has never been close to a perfect ten.
In the 2006 edition, Miss World judges favored Eastern European beauties and the beautiful Ioana Boitor finished 2nd to the delegate from Czech Republic. Personally, I think Ioana is by far superior to the winner and would’ve made a great queen as well. Beauties like Ioana are not scarce in this country and with the proper selection process and support, a Miss Universe semifinal finish is not far behind.

Zambia
Debut: 1995

Zambia is a landlocked country in Southern Africa, where, approximately 87% of the population is Christian. The official language is English, which is used to conduct official business and is the medium of instruction in schools. Sending of delegates to Miss Universe since 1995 has been unsuccessful to this African country. No Zambian beauty has been a semifinalist.
Coming from a continent which has already produced 4 Miss Universes (Gardiner, McLean, Kwelagobe and Lopes), 3 Miss Worlds (Coelen, Kriel and Darego), and 1 Miss Earth (Omkakwe), a semifinalist (in any pageant) from Zambia is not impossible. Knowing she is well-supported gives a delegate an added boost of confidence and might make that difference from semifinalist to clapper. Although she was unplaced in all the Big 4 pageants (Miss World 2003, Miss International 2004, Miss Universe 2005 and Miss Earth 2005) she competed in, Cynthia Kanema’s determination and commitment to represent Zambian women is admirable and Is just what the next Zambia might need to perform better.

These countries still deserve respect, for their participation ensures the survival of Miss Universe. What is important is that their respective beauty headquarters learn from what did not work in the past, observe the countries which are currently performing well, and work to get the girl which would best represent them and get that semifinal slot, or if destiny permits, that crown. After all, winning beauty pageants is mostly hard work. Beauty could get you as far as an advantage, but from there, all would have to come from hard work.

If a wallflower acknowledges and fixes what makes her unattractive, eventually some guy would get up and ask her to dance.

Thank you for reading.

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