Hosted by Miss Universe 2019 Zozibini Tunzi and Nick Teplitz, the Miss Universe 2020 national costume show started at 8:00 p.m. ET on May 13, 2021. For an hour, 74 candidates showcased their respective national costumes.
For me, an effective national costume does not only accurately and effectively speaks about the candidate’s country. It should also allow the candidate to shine and stand out.
A bad national costume is something that outperforms the candidate wearing it. The costume can be beautiful by itself but if it erases the beauty of the wearer, then it does not serve its purpose.
This happens when designers overdo the costume. Sometimes, there is so much going on with the costume it is hard to find the face of the woman wearing it.
After all, it is a beauty pageant, not a competition among the designers. Ideally, the costume demands attention while allowing the face and the body of the wearer as the centerpiece.
It is also possible to fail in the national costume show despite having a great combination of a costume and a candidate. This happens when the candidate does not feel or look comfortable walking on stage with the costume.
So kudos to the designers who manage to create big, flamboyant costumes that are not too heavy. And kudos to the candidates for making it look easy to walk around such intricate costumes.
I am glad to see that very few of the 74 Miss Universe 2020 candidates fall under the category of bad national costumes. It is the 69th edition of the biggest beauty pageant on earth and it appears that almost all countries participating have already perfected it.
Here are my 20 favorite Miss Universe 2020 candidates in national costumes. I did not want to call it my favorite Miss Universe 2020 national costumes because again, it is a beauty pageant, not a designing competition.
#20. Ayu Maulida, 23, Indonesia
It was a daring costume. Maulida did a good job looking beautiful despite wearing an unconventional costume.
#19. Miqueal-Symone Williams, 23, Jamaica
Williams looked like a walking beautiful flower. The costume was a little too much but she managed to make it work.
#18. Bianca Lorena Tirsin, 22, Romania
Tirsin kept it simple but fierce. She is just naturally gorgeous she probably can pull off any costume.
#17. Cristiana Silva, 19, Portugal
Silva did one of the better reveals of the evening. She looked cute, as well.
#16. Carmen Jaramillo, 25, Panama
Jaramillo’s costume was intricate but she did not look awkward. Instead, she moved gracefully and elegantly.
#15. Nadia Sayers, 26, Ireland
Sayers’ costume was simple but it allowed her to stand out. She had a graceful flow and her wings were alive.
#14. Elísabet Hulda Snorradóttir, 21, Iceland
The design of Snorradóttir’s costume was simple but effective. It allowed her to walk comfortably and beautifully.
#13. Adline Castelino, 22, India
Castelino combined simplicity with elegance. She looked like a queen without even trying.
#12. Reth Sarita, 25, Cambodia
The costume made Sarita look like a queen, making the other contestants sub-queens. She would have been on top of this list had she walked a little faster.
#11. Thuzar Wint Lwin, 21, Myanmar
Although Thuzar’s original costume was lost in shipping, she was able to showcase a simple but powerful dress. She just walked with humility and captured our hearts with her message, “Pray for Myanmar.” I personally am not a big fan of adding texts to national costumes but this is an exception. I felt her sincerity and I don’t think she included that message just because she was told to do so.
#10. Asya Branch, 22, United States
Branch’s costume was one of the dresses with the best design and the best reveal that night. She matched it with her excellent walk.
#9. Mariangel Villasmil Arteaga, 24, Venezuela
Villasmil was one of the few candidates who already looked like a queen that evening. Her costume was average but she made it look outstanding through her elegance and confidence.
#8. Amandine Petit, 23, France
Petit’s costume was simple, almost a little too simple, but she made it work. She still managed to demand attention with her fierce walk.
#7. Ivonne Cerdas, 27, Costa Rica
Cerdas blended perfectly with the flower dress. She even moved like the dress was an extension of her body.
#6. Jeanette Akua, 27, Great Britain
The colors and the design of the costume made Akua shine. The costume moved like a part of her body because of the excellent design and her excellent walk.
#5. Bernadette Belle Ong, 26, Singapore
For me, adding texts to a national costume is corny but this is another exception. Ong should teach her fellow candidates how to walk the runway. She did a masterclass on how to do the rare combination of sexiness and advocacy by showing her beautiful legs and her beautiful message, “Stop Asian hate.”
#4. Park Ha Ri, 24, South Korea
Wearing the Korean traditional dress hanbok in a national costume show can be tricky because it is naturally stiff and it does not really show the wearer’s curves. Park overcame this challenge through her strong walk. (For me, she and Ong had the strongest walks that evening.) She made the hanbok flowy and brought it to life in a way pageant fans have never seen before.
#3. Laura Olascuaga, 25, Colombia
Olascuaga was lucky to have the perfect example of a flamboyant costume that did not steal the wearer’s spotlight that night. But it was not just the costume’s great design. It was also her perfect mixture of sweetness and fierceness.
#2. Janick Maceta del Castillo, 26, Peru
Del Castillo’s wings were very much alive! I believe it was because of the costume’s excellent design and her excellent modelling skills. She showed zero awkwardness, she was oozing with confidence and her facial beauty was possibly number one that evening.
#1. Nguyen Tran Khanh Van, 25, Vietnam
Nguyen’s cocoon costume gave her the best reveal of this edition. From the time she came out of the shell to the time she walked the runway, she naturally (and probably unconsciously) showed both vulnerability and strength. It is like listening to Mariah Carey singing with both high notes and low notes and high volume and low volume.
On the other hand, these are the candidates who I think did well but could have done better:
Francisca Luhong James, 25, Malaysia
The idea was promising. James should surprise the audience with two costumes. But the execution was poor. It took too much time for her to reveal her second look. The assistants carrying her “house” were a distraction. She should have brought a simple “house” that she could carry by herself, which she did not need to reverse. It would have been outstanding if she hid and came out of the house in 3 seconds revealing a second look.
Shabree Lanesha Frett, 24, British Virgin Islands
Frett was given a beautiful, flowy flamingo dress but she looked uncomfortable and stiff while walking with it. Had she walked like a ramp model, she would have been on top.
Angèle Kossinda, 28, of Cameroon
The idea to have Kossinda wear a lion costume is promising. However, she looked awkward walking with it and her own beauty disappeared as the costume stole all the attention.
Amanda Petri, 24, Denmark
There was just too much going on with Petri’s costume. It hid her facial beauty.
Chelsea Tayui, 25, Ghana
Tayui looked stiff and awkward. It was possibly because of the stiff and awkward costume.
Viviana Vizzini, 27, Italy
It was a good costume but the wings looked dead. Vizzini’s costume looked heavy based on how she moved. It looked like the weight of the costume was limiting her movement.
Natasha Joubert, 22, South Africa
Joubert wore a very good costume but she did not look happy. I believe she was happy but her face and movement showed otherwise.
Amanda Obdam, 27, Thailand
Obdam also had a very good costume but she did not look comfortable. It looked like she was a little embarrassed by it. Her movements were too choreographed and not organic.