Miss Universe favorites emerge in preliminaries
Patricia Esteves, Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) - January 27, 2017 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The 65th Miss Universe pageant heated up last night as contestants from 86 nations put their best foot forward during preliminary competition that determined the candidates who will advance to the finals.

Several candidates emerged as favorites after the swimsuit and evening gown portions at the jampacked SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.

Host delegate Maxine Medina displayed her home-court advantage, getting the loudest cheers from pageant-crazy Filipinos.

As most delegates opted for silver gowns, she stood out in an emerald green gown by local designer Rhett Eala.

Miss Sierra Leone Hawa Kamara, the first contestant from her African nation, also received loud applause and cheers from the Filipino crowd fond of supporting underdogs in competitions.

Miss Brazil Raissa Santana, first black representative of her country in the pageant, also stood out with her glittery silver gown.

Miss Colombia Andrea Tovar, a 23-year-old model and volleyball player, showed why she was a top contender with her ramp skills.

Miss Thailand Chalita Suansane, an exotic beauty, was also a crowd favorite with a huge delegation from the neighboring country cheering her on.

The other standouts were Miss Spain Noelia Freire, Miss USA Deshauna Barber, Miss Dominican Republic Rosalba Abreu, Miss Indonesia Kezia Warouw and Miss Venezuela Mariam Habach.

A panel of six judges chosen by the Miss Universe Organization scored each delegate during the two rounds – Puerto Rican Miss Universe 1993 Dayanara Torres, Japanese Miss Universe 2007 Riyo Mori, former model Cynthia Bailey, former journalist and international marketing director Rob Goldstone, People’s Choice Awards president Fred Nelson and women empowerment activist Francine LeFrak.

The Top 12 candidates will be announced during the live pageant on Monday, Jan.30, to be held in the same venue.

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