Written by R. Galvez [@the4ofustraveling]

Graphics by Michael Ralph Montaño [@michaelralphmontejo]

If you are Miss Universe fan and you are feeling apprehensive about the upcoming Miss Universe pageant, then you are not alone. Next year, a new era for the pageant will unveil right before our very eyes. Will it bring Miss Universe to a new level or the other way around? What will be the guiding principle of the new owners that will eventually determine on who will walk away with the new crown?

As the contestants are heading for the United States to avoid post holidays rush, our panel of beauty experts were asked to pick 20 contestants who they think will be the strong contenders for the title. Aided by the official photos plus several videos of the contestants online, they came up with this list:

1. Miss Colombia María Fernanda Aristizábal – the opportunity to represent her country at Miss Universe had eluded MaFe and now she’s back with sheer determination to bring home Colombia’s third Miss Universe title. One thing that makes her stand out is that she is down to earth yet confident. Indeed she has a fire within her. Vast majority of beauty experts agree that MaFe is a very strong candidate and given the history of Colombia at the pageant, she could – at the very least – land at the Top 5.

2. Miss Puerto Rico Ashley Cariño – Always well spoken and her intellect is unmissable, she is the epitome of a modern and independent woman. Puerto Rico has already 5 crowns and would gladly receive its 6th this year.

3. Miss Thailand Anna Sueangam-iam – It is interesting to see Anna evolve ever since she won the Miss Universe Thailand crown. She is comfortable on who she is accepting her flaws while highlighting her strengths. For example, she is not a native English speaker but she does not hesitate in expressing her thoughts using the English language when the need arises. Ever beautiful, her aura is fresh and fierce and there is no doubt she is a Top 5 material and a serious contender for the crown.

4. Miss Jamaica Toshami Calvin – Jamaica is yet to win a Miss Universe crown and that is something perplexing considering that the country is very strong at Miss World. Nevertheless, Jamaica had several near misses with crown and at times some beauty analysts think they should have won back in say, 2010 and in 2016. This year, Toshami, whose regal and towering presence is always eye-catching, hopes to become the first for her country.

5. Miss Philippines Celeste Cortesi – There is no question that Celeste tops the list of major beauty pageant websites and blogs. She checks all the boxes but the question is: is she the kind of beauty that the new Miss Universe wants? Sure, her organization mastered the recipe of the pageant especially under the IMG era where two of the country’s crowns were won. But it’s the new era now and while her beauty, poise and elegance are all commendable, she may have to hurdle a brand new challenge.

6. Miss Curacao Gabriëla Dos Santos – Sophisticated is the one word that can best describe Gabriëla Dos Santos. Don’t ever underestimate her tiny country for it can punch above its weight. Gabriëla is currently an emerging favorite but she could slowly rise on the ladder as the competition progresses.

7. Miss Spain Alicia Faubel – Such a bubbly personality can sway the judges nod once the Miss Universe competition officially opens. Keep an eye on Alicia for she can easily topple those frontrunners.

8. Miss Venezuela Amanda Dudamel – Venezuela is Venezuela. While their cloak of invincibility is no longer available, Amanda is making sure that the Venezuelan sash remains a threat.

9. Miss Guatemala Ivana Batchelor – She is another emerging frontrunner so watch out for her. It is very evident that she is well trained and very experience.

10. Miss Peru Alessia Rovegno – Lithe and statuesque, her beauty commands adoration not only from her home country but from around the world. She’s a Miss Universe material indeed!
11. Miss Italy Virginia Stablum
12. Miss Portugal Telma Madeira
13. Miss Vietnam Nguyen Thi Ngoc Chau
14. Miss Costa Rica Fernanda Rodriguez
15. Miss USA R’Bonney Gabriel
16. Miss South Africa Ndavi Nokeri
17. Miss Trinidad and Tobago Tya Jané Ramey
18. Miss Bahrain Evlin Khalifa
19. Miss Chile Sofia Depassier
20. Miss Mexico Irma Mirand