Thai hopeful Rida in spotlight at Miss Universe

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The 16 semi-finalists for the title of Miss Universe 2012 will be revealed Thursday morning when the annual pageant is broadcast from the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada at 10am Thailand time.

The 16 women will be chosen from 89 contestants who have competed in three categories in recent days: swimsuit, evening gown and interview. The two-hour telecast will end with Miss Universe 2011, Leila Lopes of Angola, crowning her successor.

Among the hopefuls is highly regarded Miss Thailand Universe, Nutpimon Farida Waller aka Nutpimon Natthayalak, aka Rida of Krabi.

In past years, every contestant would publish her vital statistics – Rida is 5-foot-8 (172.7cm) and 32-23-36 – but some countries’ Miss Universe pageants think this is unnecessary or even worse.

Results should be known around midday Thursday.

(Trivia: Miss Universe 1965 was the shortest woman to win the contest. Apasra Hongsakula was 1.63m, or 5-foot-4.)

Nutpimon, 18, is a Thai-Austrian beauty (Thai mother), raised in the South.

British bookmakers rate her in the middle of the pack with a 66-to-1 chance, behind Miss USA (10-to-1), Miss South Africa and Miss Ecuador.

Overall, Asians at the pageant believe that this is their year, with the strongest lineup ever from the continent. Miss Thailand is rated highly, but so are Miss Indonesia, Maria Selena; Miss Sri Lanka, Sabrina Herft and the candidate that is expected to receive the loudest cheers from the audience, Miss Philippines, Janine Tugonon.

(Trivia: The first time an overseas Thai was chosen as Miss Thailand Universe was also the most successful. Porntip Nakhirunkanok became the country’s second Miss Universe in 1988 even though she was raised in the US and spoke almost no Thai.)

After Miss China won the rival Miss World title in 2012, this year’s Miss China Universe, Diana Xu Judan, hoped to become her country’s first Miss Universe ever. Of course she only has to beat Miss Thailand and 87 others.

Judges include singer CeeLo Green, baseball player Pablo Sandoval, TV reality stars Scott Disick, Lisa Vanderpump, Brad Goreski, Chef Masaharu Morimoto and former 2010 Miss Universe Ximena Navarrete of Mexico.

Nigel Barker, photographer and host of “The Face,” three-time US Olympic beach volleyball gold medallist Kerri Walsh Jennings and actor Diego Boneta round out the judging panel, which will be headed by pageant owner Donald Trump.

Grammy-award winning group Train and Australian singer Tim Omaji (Timomatic) are scheduled to perform at the show.

The pageant will be hosted by Jeannie Mai of Style Network’s “How Do I Look?”; Andy Cohen host of Bravo’s “Watch What Happens Live”, and E! News network’s Giuliana Rancic.

The pageant began as a local bathing beauty competition spearheaded by Catalina Swimwear in Long Beach, Califiornia and is now an international annual tradition.

The contest has evolved into a year-round international organisation that claims to advance and support opportunities for these young women.

Mr Trump and others involved in the competition claim it awards women who are savvy, goal-oriented and aware. Women supposedly compete with the hope of advancing their careers, personal and humanitarian goals.