Miss Earth 2008: Karla Paula Henry, PHILIPPINES
Miss Air: Miriam Odemba, TANZANIA
Miss Water: Abigail Elizalde, MEXICO
Miss Fire: Tatiane Alves,
TOP 8 FINALISTS:
COLOMBIA, Mariana Rodríguez
SPAIN, Adriana Reverón
SWITZERLAND, Nasanin Nuri
VENEZUELA, Daniela Torrealba
TOP 16 SEMI-FINALISTS:
CZECH REPUBLIC, Hana Svobodová
KOREA, Seo Seol-hee
NIGERIA, Uko Ezinne
POLAND, Karolina Filipkowska
ROMANIA, Ruxandra Popa
RUSSIA, Anna Mezentseva
THAILAND, Piyaporn Deejing
USA, Jana Murrell
Miss Photogenic – Miss Philippines
Best in National Costume – Miss Panama
Best in Swimsuit – Miss Mexico
Miss Talent – Miss Australia
Best in Long Gown – Miss Venezuela
Miss Friendship – Ecuador
* Miss Earth 2008 – The Final Question and Answer Portion – This is why Miss Philippines won!
Screencaps from the coronation night:
Here’s an extensive review of Miss Earth 2008 by pageant expert Joseph Vitug. A good read:
CONCLUSION OF JOSEPH VITUG’S ANALYSIS ON MISS EARTH 2008
This year’s batch of 16 semifinalists is clearly a stronger bunch than last year’s—no jaw-dropping out-of-left-field choices like last year’s Miss Lebanon, and even if I didn’t place Miss Korea in my “bubbling under” forecast list, her selection was not totally shocking for me. For more casual fans and pundits, they might be shocked over a few others, but I can easily explain why they are actually worthy. Anyway, though I expected the likes of Bhutan, England, Kosovo, Peru, and South Africa to make it, I’m very satisfied with the final selection. What about much-touted favorite Miss Greece? I expected her non-inclusion because of her weak communication skills (not necessarily because of a language barrier) and blasé attitude, on top of the fact she was not as trim as she was at Star Hellas (although she’s still relatively trim compared to the rest of humanity). I just only hope the pre-judging panel become more open minded about blondes next time, because again there is an absence of a blonde contender in this list. Let’s start with:
POLAND – Karolina Filipowska. I listed her first simply because the swimsuit flattered her least—she looked bloated in it. Such a shame as she’s a worthwhile, pretty, and otherwise in-shape contender (or maybe she enjoyed the food a bit that explains the apparent weight gain). At least she recovered Poland’s powerhouse streak in this pageant.
THAILAND – Piyaporn Deejing. Everyone swore by her great looks and that was her ticket to make the final cut. Too bad she doesn’t have the stage charisma of her predecessors to advance beyond that.
CZECH REPUBLIC – Hana Svobodoba. This country sustained the Grand Slam semifinals streak with this comely contender. She was trim enough to compete with the best out there, though she doesn’t have the stage energy of the other semifinalists.
KOREA – Seo Seol-Hee. She’s very cute, and she does deliver the goods live on stage and has a bit more charisma in person than photographs suggest.
U S A – Jana Murrell. One must have to hand it that this lady is a polished complete package even if pundits and fans argue that there are prettier choices out there. But unfortunately, her thick thighs were a key obstacle that prevented her from advancing beyond the swimsuit round, because she would easily nail the next round with her communication skills and commitment to the cause.
NIGERIA – Ezinne Uko. I was expecting South Africa’s Matapa Maila to take the expected 2nd African slot after Miss Tanzania. But in hindsight, this lady actually delivered a more distinctive polished, dignified presence that she took over the slot instead—that presence was especially in full force when one witnessed the evening gown competition last November 3. Of course in a wealth of gorgeous Africans in this year’s batch, one wishes more slots opened for Matapa et al.
RUSSIA – Anna Mezentseva. Most pageant fans and pundits (including myself) are not totally into her face, and the heavy makeup she often sports just doesn’t really help matters. But I do know based on the press presentation that her communication skills are actually strong, and her presence in person (and onstage) is actually top notch. She likewise showcased those strong stage chops and impeccably elegant bearing during the swimsuit round, so it’s likely she missed making the next round by little.
ROMANIA – Ruxandra Popa. I’m glad rumors that this lady failed to make the cut were not true. You just cannot discount her classically beautiful features and solid communication skills. She also has strong enough polished stage chops and a lean, trim figure during the swimsuit round that should be worthy to be taken to the next round. In my opinion, I would rather have her advance over, say, Miss Venezuela, but the final judging panel just does not favor her as much. After the pageant, OPMB presented video footage of her expressing disappointment over her showing and over some incidents in some pageant activities—some might argue poor sportsmanship, but she said it graciously enough and was just simply being a bit blunt and honest, like most European contestants would tend to be. She still remained one of my personal favorites.
With the exception of one contender, the Top Eight finalists were the expected favorites among sponsors, insiders, and several pageant fans and pundits (though some were not necessarily my choices, personally). That one exception actually turns out to be an extremely pleasant surprise choice for this group, as she turned out to be worthy of belonging in this hallowed group (and arguably deserving of garnering an element, in my reckoning). That exception likewise belonged to the same country that also provided a pleasant surprise in the Top Eight last year with her strong interview and distinctive hairdo. Without further ado, let us begin with:
SPAIN – Adriana Reveron. What happened to the lady most pageant fans and pundits (including myself) tagged as the one to win it all? Why was she shut out of an element? Two things occurred that contributed to the surprise upset: the video and the evening gown presentation. In her video profile interview, though she has stated that she was willing to do whatever the responsibilities required of a Miss Earth winner, she did not state any specific action she had already done for the environmental cause or even a more specific expression of her environmental sentiments or her own country’s environmental concerns, unlike the other finalists. Hence, the judges probably perceived that she is not really as committed to the cause espoused by this pageant. Then, during the evening gown competition, she was tentative descending down the steps of the stage, and that relatively listless presentation cost her dearly.
VENEZUELA – Maria Daniela Torrealba. I would’ve listed this lady first, if it weren’t for Adriana’s relatively weak evening gown performance. Her video interview likewise didn’t express any concrete commitment to the environmental cause, except to state that though her country is an oil-producing nation, they relatively emitted little pollution. Her sentiments about this pageant tend to lean more towards learning other cultures. She performed strongly wearing the same gown that garnered the Best in Evening Gown award, helping her edge out Adriana. I personally would’ve wanted Ruxandra to take her slot, but she was highly favored by insiders, judges, and sponsors all throughout the three weeks of this pageant—I tend to tag this more as a Pavlovian response to her country’s name and pageant reputation. At least, this country’s finals streak was sustained (though the “elemental” streak was broken).
COLOMBIA – Mariana Rodriguez Merchan. Her video interview shows her expressing a strong concern about air pollution, and how we must take urgent action to educate people especially since our planet is our only home. She also sported the same lime green gown she wore during the preliminary evening gown competition, but unfortunately she couldn’t do the “Taliana Twirl”*1 carrying a bouquet of flowers handed to her by her “little brother”, and maybe that cost her an element.
*1 Named after Miss Universe 2008 1st runner-up Taliana Vargas’s memorable twirl during the evening gown competition.
SWITZERLAND – Nasanin Nuri. Last year, Stephanie Gossweiler provided a pleasant surprise with strong interview skills and her distinctive bobbed hairdo, bringing forth the Swiss breakthrough in this pageant by finishing in the Top Eight. Nasanin is arguably more gorgeous, more polished, more buffed, and more articulate than Stephanie, so on one hand it is not supposedly surprising that she sustained the streak. But she wasn’t mentioned as much as all the other perceived favorites during the activities leading to the finals as everyone was concerned that her relatively petite height might drown her out, and that the furthest she would go would be the Top 16. But I suppose the prejudging panel could not overlook her striking good looks, trim and well-proportioned figure, solid stage presence, strong communication skills, and charming personality, and during the semifinal swimsuit round, those balanced proportions and a livelier than usual stage presentation helped her edge out the more favored Miss Romania into this hallowed group. In her video interview, she expressed a simple sentiment delivered in a sweet and charming manner—saving the environment starts from home, and every action counts, even in our interpersonal conduct (she specifically mentioned that if there is violence at home, it is unlikely that the people perpetrating that violence would care for the planet). And even if she wore the same lovely sequined low-cut white gown for the finals, she gave a little twist by tying her hair up. I think she probably only missed an “element” slot by little, and to be blunt, I would probably wanted her in the Top 4 in lieu of Miss Mexico.
Now, let’s talk about the elemental queens. A piquant note about this year: the Top Four changed their gowns from what they wore on November 3 at Casino Filipino Parañaque, which worked to their advantage for most part because for three of them, those were better gowns (for the one exception, the finals gown was almost as good as the Casino Filipino gown). The four who failed to advance wore the same gowns. The choice of the Top Two also invites parallelisms of pageants past—one pageant fan noted key coincidences with Miss Universe 1999, and I also noticed one key similarity with Miss World 2003. I’ll discuss those parallelisms in depth a little later. Let’s start with…
MISS EARTH-FIRE: BRAZIL – Tatiane Alves. It’s been long overdue for this country to make the final cut—since Priscilla Meirelles’s victory four years ago, they missed the semifinals even if they fielded top-notch, noteworthy contenders. It’s a great thing this lady did everything right that she brought forth the Brazilian comeback—she has a polished stage presence, has a sexy, buffed figure (which I believe should’ve been awarded Best in Swimsuit in lieu of the actual winner), and she expressed the correct sentiments about our environment. In her video interview, she mentioned being involved in two projects educating children about our environment. Although I preferred her white brightly sequined gown last November 3, the yellow gown laden with sequins forming a sunray pattern emanating from her right hip she sported for the finals was a well-designed gown nevertheless. In answering the final question (about what they would say to US President-Elect Barack Obama about the state of our environment), she spoke (with the help of co-host Priscilla Meirelles as translator—oh, we miss that eloquent, petite Portuguese translator from the earlier editions of this pageant) about taking care of national patrimony and to understand the environment is part of that patrimony. I don’t know if her use of a relative highfalutin word like “patrimony” (which simply means property or assets) may have cost her a higher position, because it was actually an otherwise decent answer. But then again, maybe the judges deemed that all four finalists gave good answers, it’s just a matter of who expressed it the best…
MISS EARTH-WATER: MEXICO – Abigail Elizalde. A few pageant fans compared Abigail’s face to that of Miss Universe 2001 1st runner-up Evelina Papantoniou from Greece. I do see the resemblance—if Evelina has a less sexy, less babelicious, but still pretty sister. She just doesn’t have Evelina’s supermodel charisma, in my reckoning, and I don’t find her figure flawless to be worthy of a Best in Swimsuit award. To her credit, though, she does have solid stage chops, and no one could miss her statuesque 6’1” height. In her video interview, she talked about concerns about deforestation and air pollution, especially about how air pollution is damaging health, and she talked about the efforts of the Mexican government to solve the pollution problem with a national day for tree-planting with the goal of planting a tree for every person in Mexico (about 106 million people). She wore a red midriff-baring evening gown with floral accents for the finals (a few crisscrossing straps away from becoming a gown-kini), an improvement over her busy multilayered chiffon baby blue gown worn at Casino Filipino. For the final question, she praised Obama’s win as a wonderful opportunity for change and that she will tell Obama that we are all together in this planet, and so we have to work together to save this planet. It’s a decent, though generic answer, and to be frank, I preferred Miss Brazil’s answer better. But, like Miss Venezuela, she was highly favored by insiders, so her higher showing was expected.
Now, before we discuss the Top Two finalists, let us delve a bit in-depth regarding the coincidences about this pair and the Top Two in Miss Universe 1999. To wit:
· The Top Two is composed of an African and a Filipina;
· The 2nd placer is named Miriam;
· The African finalist sported a gold ballgown;
· The Filipina finalist sported a figure-hugging gown;
· The African gave her country’s best showing in a Grand Slam pageant so far;
· The winner was decided on who gave the best, most clearly articulated answer;
· Most pageant fans and pundits regard the runner-up as better-looking than the winner; and
· The choice of winner and finalists reflect the aesthetic values of the host country.*2
*2 What I mean by this is that if one notices the choice of finalists at Miss Universe 1999, the preponderance of black contestants in the Top 10 reflects the taste of the Trinidadians towards people of their own color, the way we Filipinos favor fairer skinned brunette contestants on our end, though in both cases we could appreciate superbly gorgeous contenders of any color.
I also mentioned one key similarity with the results of Miss World 2003. What was that? The Top Two were also roommates, as Canada’s Nazanin Afshin-Jam and Ireland’s Rosanna Davison were roommates back at that aforementioned pageant.
MISS EARTH-AIR: TANZANIA – Miriam Odemba. It is a given that this gracious and drop-dead-gorgeous lady was a shoo-in for a finalist slot and on track for an element. But I was a bit concerned from what I heard on her interview on OPMB as I thought that she might have some problems articulating her thoughts clearly. But the video interview dispelled that, as she expressed her sentiments crystal clearly, talking about being involved in programs educating the youth about the environment and involved in programs keeping both her city and country clean, and how the current environmental issue in her country is deforestation. She wore an elegant gold ballgown for the finals, and like Miss Universe 2008 Dayana Mendoza, she reined in her excessive gestures to make an indelibly elegant impact. For the final question, Miriam answered that she’ll stress to President-Elect Obama about global warming and climate change being the biggest problem facing our planet, and that we need leaders like him to inspire and educate the youth about taking care of our environment, and that government efforts can help make the difference. She expressed it a tad long-windedly with pauses to collect her thoughts, but she gave a strong answer worthy of this kind of finish.
MISS EARTH 2008: PHILIPPINES – Karla Paula Henry. There are two key important qualities that are consistent for this lady—she has superb stage chops and superb communication skills. And those qualities were the factors that led to our country’s first victory in this pageant. Yes, Spain, Brazil, and Tanzania may have better figures than this lady in the swimsuit round, but you cannot deny the way Karla strutted in that otherwise unflattering swimsuit that she is worthy of advancing to the Top Eight. She then pulled away for the lead as she clearly articulated in her video interview about going around public schools teaching about the environment as she cites that lack of knowledge about environmental concerns is a key issue in our country, and she strutted with aplomb clad in a yellow-green evening gown with a sexy high middle slit laden with rainbow-colored beads and sequins along the bodice. Of course, her superb communication skills came into play again for the final question, as she answered that she will tell Obama to include environmental education as part of the curriculum as such knowledge is essential these days and that is the key to ensure our future survival. She used the shopworn cliché “I believe the children are our future” but gave a fresh new context to that line that added to the brilliance of her answer. As such in my reckoning she won the title fairly and squarely, even if pageant fans and pundits would say that her first runner-up is way more gorgeous.
Some have also noted the resemblance between Karla and her predecessor, Canada’s Jessica Trisko, and there is also the added coincidence of Karla actually being half-Canadian (the way Jessica is half-Filipina). I dare argue that Karla is like Jessica’s shorter, but more attractive (yes I know some fans and pundits would beg to differ), sleekly polished and glamorous relative. Though some might think that the hometown decision left a bad taste in the mouth, as I mentioned it is not as dubious as, say Miss Universe 2001 in Bayamon, Puerto Rico (I still feel Venezuela’s Eva Ekvall was woefully underscored, and would be better pleased if Greece’s Evelina Papantoniou won instead of Puerto Rico’s Denise Quiñones).
I appreciated the streamlined format of this year’s pageant and feel that the format could be employed effectively for years to come. I also believe despite objections from some pageant fans and pundits, the right winner was chosen, and her commitment to the cause is unquestionable. Hopefully as time wears on other countries can overcome their own sentiments over the results and continue to support this pageant and sustain its path towards growth.