By ASSOCIATED PRESS
A 20-year-old Boston University sophomore and a self-described 'cellist-nerd' brought the Miss Universe crown back to the United States for the first time in more than a decade when she won the televised contest on Wednesday.
Olivia Culpo beat 88 other beauty queens to take the title from Leila Lopes of Angola during the two-hour competition at the Planet Hollywood casino on the Las Vegas Strip.
Culpo wore a tight navy blue mini-dress with a sequined bodice as she walked on stage for the competition's opening number.
Later in the night, she strutted in a purple and blue bikini, and donned a wintery red velvet gown with a plunging neckline. Culpo's coronation ends a long losing spell for the U.S. in the competition co-owned by Donald Trump and NBC.
An American had not won the right to be called Miss Universe since Brook Lee won the title in 1997.
Culpo was good enough during preliminary competitions to be chosen as one of 16 semifinalists who moved on to compete in the pageant's finale.
Her bid lasted through swimsuit, evening wear, and interview competitions that saw cuts after each round. She won over the judges, even after tripping slightly during the evening gown competition. Telecasters pointed it out but also noted her poised recovery.
She told the Today show on Thursday that with the heels and gown she was wearing it was inevitable she tripped and was lucky not to 'fall flat on her face'.
She also said that in her new role as Miss Universe, she would be using her ability to travel internationally to raise awareness of HIV/Aids.
Minutes before Miss Culpo was crowned on Wednesday night, she was asked whether she had she had ever done something she regretted.
'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,' she 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.'
Miss Philippines, Janine Tugonon, came in second, while Miss Venezuela, Irene Sofia Esser Quintero, placed third.
All the contestants spent the past two weeks in Sin City, where they posed in hardhats at a hotel groundbreaking, took a painting lesson, and played pranks on hotel guests by hiding in their rooms.
The pageant started as a local revue in Long Beach, California, organized by Catalina Swimwear.
It is not affiliated with the Miss America pageant and unlike that contest, does not include a talent section.
Contestants in the pageant cannot have been married or have children. They must be younger than 27 and older than 18 by February 1 of the competition year.
As Miss Universe, Culpo will receive an undisclosed salary, a wardrobe fit for a queen, a limitless supply of beauty products, and a luxury apartment in New York City.