By Jill Alphonso
WILL it be another Asian face for Miss Universe this year?
After all, Ms Riyo Mori, a vivacious dance instructor from Japan, took the crown last year in Mexico City. Ms Honey Lee from Korea also came in as third runner-up, while Ms Puja Gupta from India made it to the top 10.
Now, a field of 80 fresh contestants from around the world are in Vietnam where they will compete for this year's title on July 14 in Na Trang, Vietnam.
The bevy of beauties have landed in the south-east Asian country last Friday and have already taken part in the costume competition.
But the question on pundits' minds: Will Asians make it to the top? Already, speculation is rife on online forums about whether this year's Asian contestants can equal last year's.
India's Simran Kaur Mundi is proving a hot favourite, thanks to online postings of her bathing suit shot.
South Korea's Sun Lee is also getting strong support, as can be evidenced from comments on a YouTube video on the Asian contestants.
Aside from Singapore's own Ms Shenise Wong, other regional contestants include Ms Nguyen Thuy Lam (Vietnam), Ms Levy Li Su Lin (Miss Malaysia), Ms Jennifer Barrientos (Philippines), Ms Wei Ziya (China), Ms Gavintra Photijak (Thailand) and Ms Mima Hiroko (Japan).
Media observers say that the rise of the Asian beauty could be due to the growing economic clout of the continent, particularly China and India.
As the markets grow, there is a call for more exotic beauty even in the Western world.
Ms Hiroko, a 21-year-old university student from Tokushima, said in an interview posted on Japanese website JapanSugoi that she was encouraged to take part by Japan's Ms Mori win last year.
Meanwhile, Ms Mundi from India is confident of her chances of winning and giving the competition an Indian face.
"Indians have the potential to rule the world, we need to go ahead and prove just that. And I will come back with the crown," the 22-year-old from Mumbai told pageant community blog magazine OPMB.
|(Clockwise from top left) Miss Vietname Nguyen Thuy Lam, Miss Singapore Shenise Wong, Miss India Simran Kaur Mundi, Miss Malaysia Levy Li Su Lin and Miss Korea Sun Lee soak up the rays in Ho Chi Minh City.
Miss Universe 2008 will be shown on Channel 5 on July 14 at 10pm.
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