Miss Universe Preview #2: An Embarrassment of Riches [Updated]

The Miss Universe pageant is in full swing. My initial preview was just four days ago, but since then a profusion of photos has appeared that confirm my impression that this is one of the strongest beauty pageant fields ever. Between now and the contest finale a week from Sunday, I may need to do a post every day just to keep up.

In my initial post I featured some of the early betting favorites–Misses India, Indonesia and Vietnam–along with a couple of personal favorites, Sweden and Dominican Republic. This will be an all-new group. Let’s start alphabetically with Miss Angola, Whitney Shikongo. In recent years, Angola has become a pageant powerhouse:

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Next, Miss Argentina, Claudia Barrionuevo, one of my favorites:

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Miss Austria, Amina Dagi, has an interesting history. You might infer from her name that her family is not native to Austria; like a lot of pageant contestants, she is a transplant. The pageant site tells us:

Amina Dagi grew up in North Caucasus, Russia. At the age of 8, Amina’s family had to leave her hometown due to severe political issues. With nothing but a backpack, they fled to Austria, starting a new life in a completely different culture.

What was going on in North Caucasus twelve years ago? That was the Chechen insurgency. Since the pageant site also tells us that Miss Dagi “spent her teenage years in a parish house with a priest,” it appears that her family was driven out by Islamic rebels. Here is Miss Dagi:

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Already you can see the problem with the alphabetical approach. If we keep going, this could be a really long post. So let’s switch gears: earlier this week, the Miss Universe pageant held its annual National Costumes show. “National costumes” have gotten increasingly bizarre through the years. Here, for example, is Miss Singapore*:

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On the other hand, it is, after all, the Miss Universe pageant, so how bad can it be? Miss Panama:


What next? Returning to the alphabet, here is Miss Belgium, Annelies Törös:


Miss Belgium is actually Hungarian, and the pageant site tells us that she “makes homemade sushi every week.” Typical of the wonderful world we live in.

Everyone knows that Colombia is the home of beautiful women; this post from 2004 remains one of my favorites. This year’s Miss Colombia is Ariadna Gutierrez Arévalo:

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We have barely dented the Cs, and could go on and on. For now, just two more. First, Miss Israel, Abigail Alfatov–I think we are looking at some Russian heritage here. Miss Alfatov serves in the Israeli Air Force and is the Israeli fencing champion, a skill that may come in handy these days:

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Finally, Miss Ireland, Joanna Cooper, who is from County Kerry. (What is it with Irish counties? Everyone thinks they sound romantic. I come from Codington County, South Dakota, but somehow that isn’t the same.) Miss Cooper is a professional gymnast and, at 5′ 5″, is one of the shortest Miss Universe contestants. Some of us think that is a good thing:

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That is enough for tonight. It will require frequent posts over the next nine days to keep up with one of the most formidable group of pageant contestants ever assembled!

UPDATE: The pageant site identified the subject of that photo as Miss Singapore, but as a reader pointed out, that is incorrect. I think it might be Miss Ghana. Since you asked, here is the actual Miss Singapore, Lisa White:

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