By Alex Y. Vergara
Good news! Philippine bet Maxine Medina is almost in everyone’s top 15 list of likely frontrunners in the ongoing Miss Universe pageant. Many observers have even predicted a back-to-back win for the Philippines.
But this good news is somewhat tempered by the fact that alongside Medina in most pre-pageant predictions are equally fierce rivals for the crown like Colombia’s Andrea Tovar, Brazil’s Raissa Santana, Australia’s Caris Tivel, Turkey’s Tansu Cakir, France’s Iris Mittenaere, and even Indonesia’s Kezia Warouw. Lately, USA’s Deshauna Barber, Thailand’s Chalita Suansane, Mexico’s Kristal Silva, the Netherlands’ Zoey Ivory, and Argentina’s Estefania Bernal are also gaining traction among pageant fans.
To the casual observer, it’s probably too early to tell who the frontrunners are in Miss Universe, which the Philippines is hosting for the third time this Jan. 30. After all, the delegates have only landed, and have yet to make an official public appearance as of this writing.
But hardcore “beau con” (that’s beauty contest to the uninitiated) fans could hardly be called casual. For almost a year now, they have been making regular predictions, which they post on YouTube and in various pageant sites, on who they think are the likely frontrunners in Miss Universe, including their rankings.
They revise these rankings regularly, as soon as they see a new winner from any of the local pageants worthy of a place in their respective Top 15. Even before delegates started arriving last week, pageant sites like Missossology, Global Beauties, and Pageantology 101 have come up with their respective pre-arrival “hot picks.” And guess what. Medina is on everybody’s list! Missossology even placed her at number one.
These rankings are likely to change soon, as pageant fans get to further scrutinize the delegates up close in the coming days. In the meantime, we asked talent manager and pageant guru Jonas Gaffud, Arnold Mercado, and Bessie Besana who their pre-pageant favorites are apart, of course, from Medina.
All of them belong to Aces and Queens, which is responsible for training most of the country’s beauty queens, including Medina, Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach, and Miss International 2016 Kylie Verzosa, before competing in their respective global beauty pageants. To Gaffud and company, these are the girls who could thwart Medina’s quest for a back-to-back victory.
“I’d go for Colombia because she’s very polished,” said Gaffud. “Miss USA is also a strong delegate because she’s empowered, powerful, and intelligent. Dark horse for me is Netherlands. She has a beautiful face. I’m sure there will be plenty of surprises as we draw closer to the finals.”
“My choices are almost the same as Mama J’s (Jonas),” said Mercado, a.k.a. Mama Ru. “I also like Kosovo and, of course, Brazil. She has a very strong presence. Ang lakas ng dating. For me, Indonesia is a dark horse.”
“I find Australia beautiful because I saw her when she first came here last December,” said Besana, a full-time fashion designer. “I admire Thailand’s guts. Like when she arrived a few days ago, she was wearing a version of the barong. She or her handlers really thought about it. I’m sure she has more tricks up her sleeve. I haven’t seen Brazil yet in person, but I also like her beauty. I also like Colombia. I’ve met Deshauna Barber, Miss USA. I think she’s very beautiful and smart. She will go far.”