The finale of the Miss Universe pageant is Wednesday evening. The preliminary round took place on Thursday; it wasn’t televised but was streamed live on the internet. You can watch it here if so inclined. The pageant’s National Costume event was last night; some consider it a rather odd feature of the Miss Universe pageant, but you can watch that, too, on the Miss Universe site. With the finale only days away, betting is in full swing. You can check out the odds here.
The current favorite, at around 6 to 1, is Miss South Africa, Melinda Bam. Miss Bam, a published author and a professional painter, among other things, is definitely a strong contender:
Second place is a three-way tie among Miss Czech Republic, Miss USA and Miss Venezuela at 10-1. I like Miss USA a lot, but of the three I think Miss Venezuela has the best shot. Miss Czech Republic:
Miss USA, Olivia Culpo:
And Miss Venezuela, Irene Esser, during the swimsuit portion of the preliminary round:
At 14 to 1 are Miss Australia, Miss Mexico and Miss Puerto Rico. I personally think Miss Australia, Renae Ayris, may be the best bet to win the pageant:
And Miss Puerto Rico. The pageant says that since winning her title, she has mailed more than 1,000 pairs of shoes to the less fortunate. So she may be the Imelda Marcos of pageantry:
One thing you will notice is that all of the favorites, with the possible exception of Miss South Africa, represent traditional pageant powers. As such, they tend to play it safe by aspiring to be Victoria’s Secret models, wanting to improve the environment, and hoping to meet Nelson Mandela. You aren’t likely to find the quirkier contestants, like Miss Cyprus, who likes to watch documentaries about ancient philosophers, or Miss Singapore, who works for Deloitte and “enjoys building financial models and writing reports,” among the finalists. Although I am happy to see that personal favorite Miss Finland, who was trained in close combat fighting as a member of the Finnish Defence Forces and is now studying at the Estonian Business School, isn’t too far down the chart at 25 to 1. Here she is, Sara Chafak, during the preliminary round:
One of the nice things about beauty pageants is that upsets are common. The field this year is very deep, as you will see if you check out the pageant site, so it is entirely possible that the winner will not come from among those pictured here.