By Christie D'Zurilla
10:15 AM PST, December 20, 2012
So excited was Olivia Culpo, Miss USA, to be crowned Miss Universe 2012 on Wednesday night, she almost took off on her victory walk without that beautiful crown on her head.
Fortunately, a reassuring touch from Miss Universe 2011, Leila Lopes, was all it took to rein in the new reigning pageant queen, who then presented herself to the Las Vegas audience with all appropriate sparkle in place.
"I think that in spite of all the tragedy that has happened in this country lately, it's an honor to be able to uplift the country," Culpo said backstage, referencing the shootings in Newtown, Conn. "I really hope that this will raise everybody's spirits a little."
Culpo, who represented Rhode Island in the Miss USA pageant in June, is a cellist and sophomore at Boston University. She's the middle child of five, and according to the New York Daily News surprised her family by entering the Miss Rhode Island pageant in the first place, not getting serious about her pageant looks and diet until after she'd won that one.
“We didn’t know a thing about pageants,” father Peter Culpo told the Daily News.
Turns out those siblings helped her bag the crown, as she mentioned them in her answer to the dreaded final question that contestants must answer when they get down to the final five. Judge Ximena Navarrete, Miss Universe 2010 from Mexico, asked Olivia to share something she'd done that she'd never do again.
"I’d like to start off by saying that every experience no matter what it is, good or bad, you'll learn from it. That’s just life," Culpo said. "But something I've done I've regretted is probably picking on my siblings growing up, because you appreciate them so much more as you grow older. ... But I don't regret it!"
Rounding out the final five were fourth runner-up Miss Brazil, Gabriela Markus; third runner-up Miss Australia, Renae Ayris; second runner-up Miss Venezuela, Irene Sofiá Esser Quintero; and first runner-up Miss Philippines, Janine Tugonon, who would take over for Culpo in the event she's not able to fulfill her year of Miss Universe duties.
Culpo will travel the world advocating for HIV/AIDS prevention.
Miss Kosovo, Diana Avdiu, was named most photogenic; Miss Guatemala Laura Godoy Calle won Miss Congeniality; and the award for best national costume went to Miss China, Ji Dan Xu.
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