South Africa wins Miss U; Philippines settles for costume prize
(Agence France-Presse) - December 10, 2019 - 12:00am

ATLANTA – Miss South Africa was crowned Miss Universe on Sunday in Atlanta after a lavish ceremony filled with glitter and heartfelt speeches about female empowerment.

Zozibini Tunzi, 26, finished first ahead of the Puerto Rican and Mexican finalists in a flashy televised event hosted by American comic turned TV personality Steve Harvey.

Television personalities Vanessa Lachey and Olivia Culpo served as backstage commentators, and a panel of seven women determined the winner.

Tunzi earned cheers during her closing speech, a new segment of the competition, in which she talked about wanting to empower young women to feel confident.

“I grew up in a world where a woman who looks like me, with my kind of skin and my kind of hair, was never considered to be beautiful,” she said.

“I think that it is time that that stops today,” she said to thunderous

applause.

Tunzi beat more than 90 contestants from around the globe in the 68th instalment of Miss Universe, which was held in Atlanta’s Tyler Perry Studios.

The two favorites ahead of the competition, Miss Thailand Paweensuda Saetan-Drouin and Miss Philippines Gazini Ganados, did not make it to the final 10.

Miss Malaysia Shweta Sekhon was shown on camera receiving the award for Best National Costume, although host Harvey had announced Miss Philippines as the winner.

Miss Universe later issued a tweet clarifying that “pageant host Steve Harvey had it right when he announced that Miss Philippines Gazini Ganados is the winner of #MissUniverse2019 National Costume Competition.”

Her costume, inspired by the Philippine Eagle, was created by Cary Santiago, who also did Ganados’ gown for the evening gown competition.

This is the second time the Philippines won the award. The first was in 1994 when Charlene Gonzales wore a Bagobo-inspired costumed designed by the late Pitoy Moreno.

The Philippines’ Catriona Gray, who presented Tunzi with the crown, took home the Miss Universe crown in 2018.

Although she did not make the finals, Miss Myanmar Swe Zin Htet made waves last week when she came out as the competition’s first openly gay contestant.

“I have that platform that, if I say that I’m a lesbian, it will have a big

impact on the LGBTQ community back in Burma,” Htet told People magazine, using her country’s historic name.

Homosexuality is illegal in the southeast Asian country and is punishable by up to life in prison.

In 2018, the competition also featured Miss Spain Angela Ponce, who blazed a trail as Miss Universe’s first transgender contestant.

But the pageant has had a controversial past. Multiple contestants have alleged that US President Donald Trump would regularly enter the competitors’

changing room while he owned the organization from 1996 to 2015.

Additionally, Miss Universe continues to host the swimsuit competition, which has drawn criticism for objectifying the contestants, although that part

of the pageant was not televised.

In a related development, ANC reported that the Miss Universe Philippines (MUP) will be the new organization handling the franchise.

“The Miss Universe Organization is thrilled to announce its partnership with the Miss Universe Philippines Organization – a fresh team that will lead the country towards its continued quest to share the beauty and grace of the Filipino to the rest of the world,” a post on the MUP Facebook page read.

MUP is headed by former beauty queen Shamcey Supsup.

MUP took the opportunity to thank the Araneta Group and Binibining Pilipinas Charities Inc., which handled the Miss Universe franchise in the Philippines for over 50 years.

Praises ?Despite failing to bag a back-to-back win for the Philippines, Ganados earned praises from Malacañang, which commended her for showcasing Filipina beauty on the international stage. ?“The Palace lauds Miss Philippines Gazini Ganados for representing our country well in the Miss Universe pageant in Atlanta, Georgia, USA,” presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said in a statement. ?Panelo said Ganados’ experience in joining the beauty tilt should add to her development as a beauty queen. – Alexis Romero

MISS SOUTH AFRICA MISS UNIVERSE
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