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Work, fan favorites! The early standouts of Miss Universe 2021

By Paul Rubio Published Nov 29, 2021 2:54 pm

The Miss Universe season is finally upon us, and this could only mean one thing: all around the world (but mostly in Latin America, Thailand, and especially here in the Philippines), pageant enthusiasts are now collectively girding their loins for the veritable deluge of beauty, elegance, and glamour that we all expect—nay, demand—from what many consider to be THE premier international beauty pageant.

The 80 or so gorgeous women who will vie for the crown have started making their way to the resort city of Eilat in the southern tip of Israel, which is set to host the 70th edition of the pageant this coming December 13 (Philippine time). As early as now, with the competition not even officially starting yet, several of these women are beginning to generate buzz—check out any Miss Universe-related hashtag on Instagram and Facebook, and you are bound to see throngs upon throngs of fans ardently throwing their support behind their favorite candidates.

While early buzz is not always an indication that they are going to do well in the competition, being a fan favorite certainly never hurt anybody, and it could make a world of difference in giving the ladies a boost of confidence as they compete.

Now, let us present to you a list of 12 of the buzziest women among the 2021 Miss Universe candidates. We hope to see these queens turn it up throughout the competition, and we are excited to see who among the ladies not mentioned here will emerge as frontrunners when the competition goes into full swing.

But remember: nothing in pageantry is set in stone until the final girl has walked into center stage on the finals. Anything can happen—and this is especially true here, with many things still up in the air in this very unpredictable edition of Miss Universe, more so now in light of very recent strict travel restrictions that the Israeli government has decided to enforce to stem the newly discovered Omicron variant of COVID-19. 

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Valeria Ayos, COLOMBIA

From the moment the Miss Universe Colombia crown was placed on her head last October, 27-year-old model and television presenter Valeria Ayos immediately registered on every pageant fan’s radar.

She has an innate magnetism; with her exotic good looks, statuesque-yet-voluptuous frame, and dusky complexion; she is the very epitome of belleza Colombiana. And based on her performance in the Miss Universe Colombia final, she is also an excellent communicator, which may very well be her edge in the competition. She is also no stranger to excelling in international pageantry—she represented Colombia in Miss Earth 2018 where she was crowned Miss Earth-Water.

We can see her taking it all the way to the top come coronation night.

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Clémence Botino, FRANCE

France’s Clémence Botino has an easy charm that we have found ourselves really drawn to, but this 24-year-old stunner from the French territory of Guadeloupe has proven that she will not coast on her cool-Parisienne-meets-Caribbean-hottie charms alone. She is adept in both French and English, and she has a master’s degree in Art History from the prestigious Sorbonne University in Paris. We can’t wait to see how she does in the competition. 

Michelle Marie Colón, PUERTO RICO

At 21, Puerto Rico’s bet Michelle Marie Colón is one of the youngest candidates in our list of early standouts. But make no mistake, her youth only makes everything else about her so much more impressive. Not only is she an incredibly stunning six-footer, but she has also proven her mettle in social leadership, having founded her own non-profit which aims to empower little girls in hopes that they become great leaders of the future. We all know that social advocacies and charity work are integral to being Miss Universe, and Michelle’s more than ready to take that head-on.

Kedist Deltour, BELGIUM

24-year-old Kedist Deltour of Belgium is one of the strongest in this edition’s batch of European candidates. Apart from being drop-dead gorgeous, she has a very compelling story that is sure to endear her to many people. She was born and was raised under difficult conditions in Ethiopia, and at the age of 10, a Belgian couple adopted her and her two siblings. Her story went viral recently when she journeyed back to Ethiopia to reconnect with her birth father. It was an emotional moment from a woman who has beaten all the odds that were thrown at her and managed to succeed. We can't help but root for her, and we expect great things from her during the competition. 

Nadia Ferreira, PARAGUAY 

Many pageant pundits consider Paraguay’s Nadia Ferreira to be the one to beat this year, and it’s not hard to see why: this 22-year-old has one of the most stunning faces in the competition, and on top of that she has an extensive background in modeling (She is currently signed to Wilhelmina Models and has walked in numerous fashion shows in London, Paris, and New York). If she nails the interviews and gives a performance at the coronation night with the same level of polish that she has exhibited thus far, then the chances of her bringing home Paraguay's very first Miss Universe title are really very high indeed. 

Beatrice Luigi Gomez, PHILIPPINES

Our very own Beatrice Luigi Gomez is gunning for the Philippines’ 12th consecutive placement as a semifinalist; and based on what we've seen from her in the nationals, it looks like she has all that and more in the bag. This 26-year-old Cebuana beauty radiates an intoxicating blend of strength, fierceness, and elegance that we have a hunch will take her very far in the competition. She is one of the most interesting women in this group of contenders—she is a community development worker and a Philippine Navy reservist who also happens to be bisexual. Her presence in Miss Universe is sure to facilitate an important conversation about representation, and it is our hope that she will become an inspiration to young queer people all over the world to pursue their ambitions however unconventional they may seem. 

Débora Hallal, MEXICO

A back-to-back Miss Universe victory has only happened once (Venezuela won the crown in 2008 and 2009), but Mexico’s bet Débora Hallal is certainly looking like she’s more than up for the challenge. A television presenter, this 25-year-old stunner has ample experience speaking in front of the camera in both Spanish and English. She competed in the Mexicana Universal pageant in 2020 wherein she was a heavy favorite to win the crown. She was neck and neck in all parts of the competition with the eventual winner Andrea Meza, who we all know went on to win the Miss Universe 2020 crown. Many Mexican pageant fans were thrilled when she was appointed as Miss Universe Mexico 2021, and we are, too—she is bound to make the competition very interesting.

Luiseth Materán, VENEZUELA

We all know that wearing the Venezuela sash alone is reason enough to call a girl a Miss Universe frontrunner, but 25-year-old Luiseth Materán more than lives up to the sash factor. A fan favorite who finished in the top 5 in the 2020 edition of Miss Venezuela, Luiseth hits all the marks—astonishing looks, intelligence, and a killer pasarela. She is more than worthy of representing pageant powerhouse Venezuela, and she will for sure make waves in the Miss Universe competition.

Lalela Mswane, SOUTH AFRICA

The Miss South Africa organization has seemingly cracked the Miss Universe code: in just the last four years alone, they have finished twice on top and once as first runner-up. And their frankly inexplicable omission in the semifinals of the 69th edition earlier this year should not inspire anyone to count them out just yet, considering that their representative, 24-year-old Lalela Mswane, is yet again one of the strongest contenders coming into the competition. A model and ballerina who recently graduated from university with a law degree, she wowed everyone at every step of the Miss SA competition. Articulate, poised, elegant, and of course, gorgeous: she is a queen worthy of following the footsteps of the exceptional South Africans who shone at Miss Universe before her. 

Nguyễn Huỳnh Kim Duyên, VIETNAM

Vietnam had a good run at Miss Universe 2018 (their representative made it to the top 5), and this is a feat they could very well repeat this year with their bet, Nguyễn Huỳnh Kim Duyên. The 26-year-old model and Business Administration degree holder cuts a very striking figure on the runway with her classic good looks, statuesque frame, and innate confidence. Her infectious personality that is sure to make everyone root for her doesn’t hurt either. 

Harnaaz Sandhu, INDIA

India is due for a Miss Universe comeback, and 21-year old actress Harnaaz Sandhu may very well be who clinches it for them. With the face of a straight-up goddess and the grace of a queen, she is a clear scene-stealer from the moment she was crowned Miss Universe India; and the fact that she is an exceptionally eloquent speaker to boot just raises our hopes for a good placement for her. 

Anchilee Scott-Kemmis, THAILAND

Thailand is another country that is long overdue for a Miss Universe victory, and they have been inching their way to the top over the last several years with a good showing of exceptional candidates, and this year’s Miss Universe Thailand, Anchilee Scott-Kemmis is certainly no exception. This 22-year-old six-foot-tall model doesn’t fit the typical beauty queen mold: as an ardent proponent for body positivity, she has shown that one does not need to conform to the long-held punishing beauty standards to bag a crown. She’s articulate, quirky, and refreshing. A win for her could signal a new age for pageantry, and that is something that would be very exciting to witness.