Miss Universe 2009 Stefania Fernandez says it's clear in her mind who'll replace her as the world's top beauty queen.
"I have my five favorites but I can't tell you. I'll tell you August 24," one day after the Miss Universe pageant, Fernandez said yesterday. "It's a secret."
But when asked whether she thought the competition was close or clear, Fernandez said: "It's clear."
Fernandez, of Venezuela, won last year at age 18. It was Venezuela's second straight and sixth overall win since the pageant started in 1952.
Fernandez said at a gathering of more than 20 Latina contenders that Hispanic women are always a threat to win because they work hard to prepare for the competition and look good.
She said in Venezuela, girls prepare for Miss Universe by taking classes to learn English, public speaking and how to properly put on makeup.
Each of 83 contestants won their national competition to make the global Miss Universe pageant. The two-hour pageant co-owned by NBC and Donald Trump is scheduled for 23 August at the Mandalay Bay Events Center, hosted by rocker Bret Michaels and NBC news correspondent Natalie Morales.
Contestants will compete in swimsuit, evening gown and interview competitions, with the broadcast distributed to roughly 190 countries.
Miss Great Britain Tara Vaitiere Hoyos said she thinks the competition will come down to someone making an unexpected run the night of the show.
"I think this year, it's extremely close. You could think you have your top 15, but there's some people that will shine in different areas that will definitely surprise you," the 20-year-old said. "With nerves and everything in dresses — just little different factors included — I don't think you can know until the final day."
Hoyos said late nights, pageant officials and issues back home can take their toll on competitors, so the girls have to lean on one another to make it through the one-of-a-kind experience.
Miss Haiti Sarodj Bertin said she thinks the competition is tough because the field is made up of women who have already proven themselves.
"It's a very hard competition. All the girls are so different, but all of them shine in their way," said Bertin, 23. "I believe that if they're already here in Las Vegas, it's because they have what they need to be a queen."