MISS Grand USA Evelyn Abena Appiah was crowned as Miss Grand International 2020 in a live final show at the Show DC Hall in Bangkok last Saturday, succeeding Venezuela’s Valentina Figuera, who won in her home country in 2019.
The pageant, owned by Thai impresario Nawat Itsaragrisil, was sidelined last year by the COVID-19 pandemic and re-directed its advocacy to fight the invisible war against the deadly coronavirus.
Appiah, 28, who is a native of Ghana and migrated to the US to focus on her career as a model and music therapist, bested the field of 63 contestants, who went into the obligatory 14 days in quarantine upon arriving in Bangkok before pageant activities began.
Named as first runner-up was Miss Grand Philippines Samantha Mae Bernardo, 28, who was handpicked by Binibining Pilipinas to compete in the pageant. Bernardo was one of the official candidates of the ongoing national pageant, on her third try after her second runner-up finish in 2018 and 2019, when she was plucked out of the roster after reigning Binibining Pilipinas Grand International Andrea Abesamis was unable to compete due to age restrictions.
The 63 delegates were shortlisted to 20 semifinalists who competed in swimsuits. After being trimmed down to 10, they delivered their speeches about the pageant’s mission and paraded in evening gowns. They were finally narrowed down further to 5 finalists that included Brazil’s Lala Guedes, Guatemala’s Ivana Bachelor, Indonesia’s Aurra Kharishma, Bernardo and Appiah. They all answered the common question of choosing between shutting down the economy or keeping it open and take risks during the pandemic.
After Brazil’s Lala Guedes and Indonesia’s Aurra Kharishma were named as 4th runner-up and 3rd runner-up, respectively, the last three ladies standing were asked a second question after the host announced that a 3-way tie ensued. They were asked, “To whom will you give the last dose of vaccine available: to a 15-year-old or a 70-year-old?”
Drawing from personal experience, Bernardo said: “My heart goes to the senior citizen because my mom is turning senior citizen and I’ve experienced the loss of my dad four years ago and I cannot afford to lose my mom. My heart goes to them because they’re the most vulnerable during this time. A fifteen-year-old has the stamina to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and with proper exercise and healthy living, they can live with it…”
Appiah’s answer: “I would choose to give it to the 16-year-old, only because I believe the children are the future. They are going to make the world a better place. They are the ones that are gonna set an example for the future generation…and because I want the 16-year-old to have a better future.”
Bachelor also chose the 15-year-old, and was eventually declared as 2nd runner-up.
Interestingly, Appiah and Bernardo obtained their pageant training from Kagandahang Flores (KF) boot camp headed by Rodgil Flores.
Appiah had previously trained with KF when she represented Ghana in Miss Earth 2019 in Manila and made it to the top 20. Because of the pandemic, she trained virtually with KF anew for Miss Grand International.
Bernardo, a native of Palawan, meanwhile, had always trained with KF in her pageant journeys from Miss World Philippines 2013 and her Bb. Pilipinas stints from 2018-2020.
The Binibining Pilipinas Charities Inc. (BPCI), the franchise holder of Miss Grand International, issued this statement: “BPCI congratulates Samantha Bernardo for her remarkable 1st runner-up finish at the Miss Grand International pageant. She delivered an impressive and memorable performance that made her stood out throughout her month-long stay in Thailand, giving the organization and the whole country a new source of joy and pride in these trying times. We are truly proud of you, Sam!”
Flores also congratulated Bernardo on social media: “We hurdled all the challenges brought about by the pandemic, and the 20-day preparation, with all its ups and downs, was all worth it! Everything happened with Divine guidance with the huge trust and support of BPCI headed by Mrs. Stella Araneta, Wilbert Tolentino and of course, Team Philippines! This was 3 years in the making and we are very proud to be a part of your journey and how it culminated tonight.”