MEGA lists down 15 contenders that have each shown their determination, grit, and compassion in this thrilling lead-up to Miss Universe 2023
The world of beauty pageants has certainly undergone a profound transformation in recent times. No longer confined to highlighting mere appearances and glamorous attires, these contests have evolved into celebrating women of substance who dedicate themselves to empowering and enlightening society in their distinctive ways. True enough, the contestants of the 72nd Miss Universe undoubtedly embody the essence of these changes, showcasing how platforms like pageantry serve as catalysts for their personal, meaningful causes.
With the imminent coronation night on November 18 in El Salvador, the challenge of predicting the ultimate winner intensifies. Listed in no particular order, MEGA presents its lineup of strong contenders competing for the Miss Universe 2023 crown.
Camila Avella, Colombia
Starting our roster is Colombia’s pride, Camila Avella, a woman who etched her name in history as her nation’s first representative who already has her own family. More than just being a wife, a mother, and a journalist, Camila stands as the global ambassador for the Yo Vivo en El Amor foundation. The said project works on reshaping the world through love-centered education, embracing both children and adults. Since her crowning moment, the beauty queen has harnessed her influence to echo the essential themes of love and awareness, resonating with audiences far and wide.
Shweta Sharda, India
Next on our list is Shweta Sharda of India who grooved her way into the entertainment industry as a dancer. Just as she has a number of genres she can dance to, there is also a range of advocacies that she promotes. These include mental health, gender equality, and accessible education. In our world today, we definitely need a voice who pushes for meeting the basic needs and rights of an individual.
Mariana Downing, Dominican Republic
“Intelligence builds a legacy.” These were the powerful words of the Dominican Republic’s representative, Mariana Downing, in her national competition. Her passion for knowledge shines brightly as she studies political science, philosophy, and leadership at Harvard University. Her ultimate goal? To contribute to global peace efforts and raise awareness about cancer and other diseases. Mariana also mentioned on her MU profile that she finds her happiness in connecting with other women, sharing her story, and inspiring those who may have lost hope—qualities that define a true Miss Universe.
Jordanne Lauren Levy, Jamaica
A dedicated champion for the rights of others, Jordanne Lauren Levy is another woman who caught our attention. As a medical doctor, she emphasizes the importance of making quality healthcare available to all Jamaicans, regardless of their financial status. Beyond her work in health education, she’s also driving the ‘Be-You-Tiful Campaign’ to empower young women to overcome personal and societal hurdles. With her transformative efforts, could she be Jamaica’s first Miss Universe?
Melissa Flores, Mexico
The 25-year-old beauty queen’s previous title as Miss Earth – Fire in 2018 is only fitting for her passion to use pageantry as a platform to speak out against violence. Even before the competition, Melissa has been keen on fighting violence with her own project called “Don’t Limit Me,” emphasizing on the occurrence of violence in relationships. With her degree in psychology, Mexico’s candidate truly proves that her beauty and brains can make a change as the next Miss Universe.
Rikkie Valerie Kollé, Netherlands
Rikkie Valerie Kollé is another candidate from this strong batch who made history by becoming the first trans woman to be crowned Miss Netherlands 2023, and the second transgender woman to compete at Miss Universe. Now, on a bigger stage, Rikkie is determined to be a powerful voice and role model for the queer community. Despite facing hate comments about her gender identity, she remains undeterred, using the negativity as fuel to showcase why her presence on the Universe stage is more significant today than ever.
Sheynnis Palacios, Nicaragua
Since her teen years, Nicaragua’s contender Sheynnis Palacios already knows the grace and grit that make a woman a true queen. From placing in the Top 10 of Teen Universe in 2016 to her Top 40 finish in Miss World 2021, could she be ready to conquer the universe this time? Equipped with her skills from her Mass Communication degree and her experience in pageantry, we have a strong contender in our midst with Sheynnis.
Michelle Dee, Philippines
A woman who needs no introduction, the Philippines’ Michelle Dee swiftly solidified her status as an unstoppable force this year. Beyond her beauty, eloquence, and style, Michelle stands as a beacon of empowerment, advocating tirelessly for autism awareness, LGBT rights, and mental health. These causes are deeply rooted in her personal journey, shaping her identity even before she entered her first pageant. Her current lead in online voting is a testament to her ability to unite people, a quality essential for our next Miss Universe.
Diane Leyre, France
France’s very own Diane Leyre is another woman to keep an eye on this year. Beyond her stunning looks, she exudes empowerment and inspiration in her own unique way. Since last year, Diane has taken on the role of co-host for a daily morning show on Europe 2, making her the first Miss France to venture into the field of media during her reign. Interestingly, she’s open about her struggle with public speaking, but she’s transformed it into a means to motivate others through her talk show. The last time France won the Miss Universe title was in 2016, when Pia Wurtzbach crowned Iris Mittenaere in the Philippines. Is Diane the one to bring the coveted crown back to her homeland?
Karla Guilfú Acevedo, Puerto Rico
In the Miss Universe 2023 race, Karla Guilfú Acevedo proudly represents Puerto Rico as a symbol of strength and determination. With a psychology degree, Karla’s passion is to make mental health accessible to all, not just the privileged few. She’s also the force behind Let’s Begin to Heal, a non-profit organization that’s making a positive impact and contributions to the mental health sector in her country through education, social justice, and community support. If Karla clinches the title this year, it will mark the sixth Miss Universe win for the country.
Margarita Golubeva, Russia
Since the tender age of five, Margarita Golubeva has been serenading the crowds through her talent in singing. This time around, she is empowering others with her voice by joining platforms such as pageants to instigate change. Will her admirable ability to juggle two professions—customs service and singing—prove her strength and readiness to lead? We will soon find out.
Bryoni Natalie Govender, South Africa
South Africa has emerged as a powerhouse in Miss Universe, and this year, with Bryoni Natalie Govender leading the charge, they show no signs of slowing down. Armed with a law degree, she became an attorney during her national pageant. Bryoni’s passion shines through in her advocacy for women’s empowerment, especially when she spearheaded mentorship programs and partnered with corporations for business and leadership courses, job training, and skills development for women in her country. If she wins the crown, we can only imagine the incredible things she will achieve.
Anntonia Porsild, Thailand
Anntonia Porsild from Thailand is undeniably one of the boldest contenders this year. Despite her previous Miss Supranational win in 2019, she ventured into the pageant scene once more, earning the chance to represent her country again. What sets this queen apart is not just her beauty, but also her heart. Anntonia founded the Little Steps Project in 2015, a nonprofit organization dedicated to giving back to local communities in Thailand. Her story reminds us that taking risks and giving back can go hand in hand, making her a true inspiration for everyone.
Camila Escribens, Peru
Strong, resilient, and determined are only a few ways to describe Peru’s Camila Escribens. From her feat as a junior Olympic medalist, she has also represented her country at the Miss Grand International and the Miss Supranational tilts in 2019 and 2021, respectively. However, in the latter competition, she needed to withdraw due to health reasons. Yet, a true queen like Camila is unstoppable. Now carrying her own story and advocacies such as parasports and rare diseases awareness, Peru may just take home the crown after 66 years.
Diana Silva, Venezuela
Last but not least, we bring the spotlight to Diana Silva. A nation with a remarkable track record of seven Miss Universe wins, Venezuela’s choice of Diana is no surprise. Besides her work as a flight attendant and model, she is also a dedicated environmentalist. In fact, she competed alongside Miss Universe Philippines 2022 Celeste Cortesi at Miss Earth 2018. In a time when our world faces pressing environmental challenges, seeing a queen like Diana feels both meaningful and promising, making us eagerly anticipate the positive changes she will bring through her influence and platform.
Featured Image: ANNTONIA PORSILD and MICHELLE DEE (via Instagram)
Text: JAYMAR AQUINO and CHLARINE GIANAN