A 23-year-old dental student from France won the Miss Universe crown Monday in the annual pageant in the Philippines, burying her face in her hands in shock and joy.
Iris Mittenaere from the city of Lille in northern France was visibly overwhelmed as the outgoing winner from the Philippines, Pia Wurtzbach, crowned her and the crowd erupted in cheers and applause at the packed Mall of Asia Arena by Manila Bay.
Miss Haiti, Raquel Pelissier, a 25-year-old survivor of the devastating 2010 earthquake that destroyed her hometown, was named first runner up while Miss Colombia, 23-year-old, Andrea Tovar, was second runner up.
"I think France and Europe really need a Miss Universe," Mittenaere said in a post-pageant news conference when asked how her countrymen would receive her victory, the second for a French woman in more than 60 years.
The annual beauty contest has not been as popular among the French compared to other countries, she said, adding that was likely to change as the "French people will love it now and every year they will be watching Miss Universe."
"I'm very proud to bring this crown in Europe," she said, at one point touching her diamond- and blue sappahire-encrusted crown.
Pellissier said her surviving Haiti's quake that officials in her country estimated to have killed more than 300,000 people and displaced more than 1.5 million others and her pageant success underscores her rise from adversity because she "chose to be a very positive person and learned a great lesson from it."
"If I am here today, it is because I am living my dreams," said Pelissier, who is taking a Master's degree in Optometry research.
As he closed the ceremony, American comedian host Steve Harvey declared: "I got it right," referring in jest to his mistaken announcement of Miss Colombia as the winner in the last pageant in Las Vegas more than a year ago. He was roundly criticized for the embarrassing error.
Eighty-six candidates vied in the pageant, which was formerly owned by Donald Trump.
"One thing I learned in life, when you make a mistake, you gotta keep on moving forward man, that's all," Harvey said, adding he had surgery done on his eyes so that "when we get to the end and the card comes up, we'll get it right this year."
A smiling Wurtzbach, who was called to the stage to give her farewell remarks as the outgoing winner, thanked him for making her the most popular Miss Universe. Harvey, laughing, thanked her for making him the most famous Miss Universe emcee ever.
Judges initially selected a dozen candidates with a 13th picked through online voting joined in by 100 million people worldwide, reflecting the pageant's wide reach.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte was invited but did not show up after holding a midnight news conference where he expressed outrage over the involvement of anti-drug police in the kidnapping of a South Korean businessman, who was reportedly strangled to death at the main police camp in metropolitan Manila last October then cremated, his ashes allegedly flushed down a toilet bowl.