NASSAU, Bahamas -- Miss Venezuela was the fairest of them all once again, winning the 2009 Miss Universe crown for the second year straight and the sixth time since the pageant's creation.
Dressed in a flowing red gown, 18-year-old Stefania Fernandez
hugged the runner-up from the Dominican Republic and danced in joy
as her victory was announced Sunday.
The crown briefly fell to the floor as it passed from one
Venezuelan beauty to the next.
But Fernandez said there was time for outgoing Miss Universe
Dayana Mendoza to whisper in her ear that she must have worked hard
for Venezuela to win consecutive crowns.
"What do we Venezuelans have?" Fernandez, an international
relations student, told reporters after the pageant. "That we are
The other top-five finalists were runner-up Ada Aimee de la
Cruz, followed by Miss Kosovo, Droga Ganusha; Miss Australia,
Rachael Finch; and Miss Puerto Rico, Mayra Matos Perez.
During a question-and-answer segment with the five top
finalists, Fernandez said she believed women have overcome
obstacles such as hitting the proverbial glass ceiling.
"I feel we have reached the level that men are at," she said.
When asked later how she thought beauty contests promoted
equality between men and women, Fernandez said they provided
"We have quite a following worldwide," she said. "We are
models to follow."
The new Miss Universe is from the city of Merida in the west of
a beauty-obsessed South American country where hard-fought pageants
are something of a national sport, with contestants widely
dissected by the public and the media.
Fernandez said she did not know whether Venezuelan President
Hugo Chavez would receive her. He did not meet with Mendoza when
she won and made no public statements at the time.
But Fernandez said he might change his mind.
"We'll see, because we are making history," she said.
The top 15 Miss Universe finalists appeared in bathing suits
before the final 10 were chosen for the evening gown segment.
Pageant co-owner Donald Trump told reporters, "I think this is
the most beautiful group of women I've ever seen."
The televised event included musical performances by Flo Rida,
Heidi Montag, David Guetta and Kelly Rowland.
Montag gave her first live performance, singing "Body
Language" from her debut album.
Fans cheered on the blond star of MTV's "The Hills," although
NBC, which broadcast the event in the Bahamas live, blocked out
more than half of her performance as they introduced the 15
"It's my first performance live and it's in front of a billion
eyes," Montag said.
The on-stage hosts were Billy Bush, co-anchor of " Access
Hollywood," and Claudia Jordan, a former Miss Rhode Island USA who
has appeared on several TV shows. Judges included actor Dean Cain
and supermodel Valeria Mazza.
Miss China, Wang Jingyao, was named Miss Congeniality and Miss
Thailand, Chutima Durongdej, won Miss Photogenic.
Many contestants have suffered from dehydration in recent weeks,
and Jewel Selver, Miss Turks and Caicos, went home Saturday to
recuperate, said Esther Swan, Miss Universe spokeswoman.
Venezuela Wins Miss Universe Crown Again
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