For all intents and purposes, the role of every national director at Miss Universe is to ensure their respective countries bring home the coveted crown. And now, with only a few weeks to go until the next pageant on January 14, the competition is heating up by the day.
Online voting is open for Miss Universe 2022, giving fans the chance to send their favourite contestant into the semifinals. Official photos of 86 contestants have already been uploaded to the Miss Universe website and the contestant with the highest number of fan votes will automatically qualify for a spot in the semifinals of the live pageant, to be held in New Orleans.
Close to 90 delegates are set to take part in the pageant, with the final number of contestants to be announced closer to the start of the event.
With the stakes getting higher, The National asked a few national directors to pick other competitors, besides their own country's, that they think have a good shot at winning the title. The winner will be crowned by reigning Miss Universe 2021 Harnaaz Sandhu from India at the event.
"I might be biased but, of course, I love Miss Universe Philippines Celeste Cortesi as she's from my home country," says Josh Yugen, the national director for Miss Universe Bahrain. "The reality is Filipinos are one of the strongest, if not the most vigorous, in the pageant industry.
"I also love Miss Universe Colombia Maria Fernanda Aristizabal. I think she has the grace and power to be the next Miss Universe and, most importantly, she lives through her purpose to help others."
Keno Manzur, the national director for Miss Universe Chile, also has his bets on Aristizabal.
"I would choose Miss Colombia because I think she has the necessary qualities to make the Miss Universe brand grow. Maria is beautiful, friendly, charismatic, super committed to her country and her preparation and above all, she is very humble and approachable."
For Nevin Rupear, the national director for Mauritius and Seychelles, it's Miss Universe Peru Alessia Rovegno.
"I think she has a universal face, she seems to be very focused and driven. When I look at her, I love her aura, she emits a very bright and kind energy," says Rupear.
"Alessia has international exposure to fashion and she is also the face of a major fashion brand which works with her to raise awareness against breast cancer. She learned to be independent at an early age and has been involved with a few charity organisations. I also admire the Miss universe Peru national director Jessica Newton. I think she does an amazing job and her title-holders have been performing well internationally.
"There is a saying that a Miss Universe always walks out of the crowd. Let’s see who wins the coveted crown on January 14. I wish all the ladies competing to be kind and supportive to each other, and to enjoy every single minute. Best of luck to all of the delegates and may the most deserving one win."
Miss Universe 2022, the contest's 71st event, was earlier postponed to January. While this effectively extends Sandhu's reign, it also means two Miss Universe contests will likely be held next year, one later in the year to crown the 2023 winner.