The exquisite Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada on Sunday hosted the 66th edition of the Miss Universe pageant. A total of 92 participants from around the world were vying against each other for the coveted crown, which was ultimately won by the gorgeous Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters from the Western Cape in South Africa.
Miss Nel-Peters is a graduate in Business Management. After being crowned Miss Universe, Nel-Peters said she drew inspiration and courage from her disabled half-sister. She shrugged off stiff competition from contestants hailing from Columbia and Jamaica who came in second and third positions respectively.
By scooping the biggest modelling prize, the world has to offer, Nel-Peters joined an illustrious ‘group’. She became the second contestant from South Africa to be crowned Miss Universe. She joined Margaret Gardiner another South African who won the crown in 1978.
Only two contestants from Africa made the final 16 cut, Miss SA, and Miss Ghana.
The first princess from Columbia, Laura Gonzalez, is an actress while the second princess from Jamaica, Davina Bennett, is a social worker working with deaf students. Currently, she is also working on a new sign language mobile application.
Of the 92 participants at this year’s Miss Universe pageant, only three were first-timers. These hail from Nepal, Laos, and Cambodia.
In her acceptance speech, Nel-Peters said that she resonates deeply with everything Miss Universe stands for. This includes empowering women world over regardless of social status. During her reign as Miss SA, Nel-Peters initiated the Unbreakable Campaign, which has been a huge success in the rainbow nation. The campaign has empowered thousands of girls and young women in South Africa through imparting them with skills in coping with difficult situations such as toxic relationships, robberies, muggings, and hijackings. Already, she has conducted six workshops around the country and expects to conduct more internationally.
Anel Botha, a South African designer, dressed Nel-Peters. She wore a sheer flesh-toned, long-sleeved hand beaded dress inspired by the constellations and consisting of 50 000 hand-placed Swarovski crystals. It took a team of eight over a 168-hour period to complete the dress.
Iris Mittinaere, the outgoing Miss Universe from France crowned Nel-Peters to a din of cheers and squeals. Actor, author and TV personality, Steve Harvey, for the third year running was the host alongside Iris Mittinaere. His first foray into Miss Universe in 2015 ended rather uncomfortably after he made a huge blunder of announcing the wrong winner.
Pop star, Rachel Platten, and Grammy Award winner, Fergie, provided musical entertainment throughout Sunday’ show. Entrepreneur and model, Ashley Graham was the backstage host. The panel of judges consisted of the following Wendy Fitzwilliam, Pia Wurtzbach, Megan Olivi, Jay Manuel, Lele Pons, and Ross Matthews.
Accompanying Nel-Peters to Las Vegas, Nevada was Bennie and Elzabe Peters, her father and stepmother and Anne-Marie and Johan Steenkamp, her mother and stepfather.