To paraphrase Prince, Miss Universe pageant winners are the most beautiful girls in the world, and the reasons why God made girls. They come from all over the world, but beauty knows no boundaries, and they are winners wherever they may be.
Here is a list of the Miss Universe winners for the past ten years.
10 Amelia Vega, Dominican Republic – 2003
She was the first Miss Dominican Republic to ever be crowned Miss Universe. She was only 18 years old when she won, making her the youngest winner since 1994. Her mother once represented the country in the Miss World beauty pageant. Amelia Vega was also adjudged the Best in National Costume in the contest held in Panama City in Panama. After her reign, she became a singer and a reality television show host. She is now married to Al Horford, a fellow Dominican who is professional basketball player for the Atlanta Hawks in the National Basketball Association. Vega also owns two Miami boutiques called Essence by Amelia Vega.
9 Jennifer Hawkins, Australia – 2004
Jennifer Hawkins was a dance choreographer who specialized in hip-hop and ballet before she was cast as Miss Australia. She learned Spanish before participating in the Miss Universe contest because the pageant was going to be held in Quito in Ecuador. Hawkins is also known for a wardrobe malfunction while doing a fashion show at Westfield Miranda, a shopping center in Australia. She then worked as a host for a travel show. Recently, she hosted Make Me a Supermodel, before moving to another network where she will be hosting Australia’s Next Top Model.
8 Natalia Glebova, Canada – 2005
She was born in Russia before her family moved to Canada when she was 13 years old. She worked as a model and as a motivational speaker for grade school kids and high school students. She has a Bachelor of Commerce degree in Information Technology Management and Marketing from the Ryerson University in Toronto. She was once married to Thai tennis star Paradorn Srichaphan. Glebova also participated in The Amazing Race Asia 3, where she represented Thailand.
7 Zuleyka Rivera, Puerto Rico – 2006
She once placed second in the Miss Teen Puerto Rico contest. She then won the Miss Puerto Rico contest, before becoming one of the youngest women ever crowned Miss Universe when she was only 18. She was the first Puerto Rican who has mixed heritage features to win the contest. She then appeared in some telenovelas in her native country. She is now with Jose Juan Barea, a Puerto Rican who plays for the Minnesota Timberwolves in the National Basketball Association.
6 Riyo Mori, Japan – 2007
Riyo Mori actually spent a lot of her childhood years in Canada. She once studied at the Quinte Ballet School of Canada, and she graduated from the Centennial Secondary School in Belleville in Ontario. Her Grade 11 was completed at the Mount Douglas Secondary School in Victoria in British Columbia. She represented Japan, however, in the Miss Universe pageant in 2007 held in Mexico. Mori had the distinction of having the highest score in the swimsuit competition. She also appeared in the MTV reality show called Pageant Place.
5 Dayana Mendoza, Venezuela – 2008
Dayana Mendoza comes from the traditional beauty pageant powerhouse of Venezuela. She attributes her poise under pressure to her experience as a kidnap victim. She was a finalist in the Elite Model Look International in 2001, and she thereafter signed with the Elite Model Management. She has worked for companies like Max Mara, Versace, Roberto Cavalli and other noted fashion designers.
4 Stefania Fernandez, Venezuela – 2009
Venezuela scored back-to-back wins when Stefania Fernandez was crowned Miss Universe in 2009. She had also won Miss Elegance, Best Body and Best Face in the same pageant. She is known for her advocacy of raising the awareness of the public to the AIDS disease. She is also known for her political stand, initially supporting the communist government of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, before famously defying Chavez’s order to change the country’s flag from seven stars to eight. Fernandez had unveiled a flag with only seven stars during the Miss Universe pageant of 2010 just as she was making her final catwalk.
3 Ximena Navarrete, Mexico – 2010
Ximena Navarrete was first awarded the title of Nuestra Belleza Jalisco and Nuestra Belleza Mexico in 2009, before she went on to bag the Miss Universe crown in 2010. She used to model in her native Guadalajara, and was on her way to a degree in Nutrition at the Valle de Atemajac University, before the lure of the beauty contests caught her attention. She was the second Mexican to be given the title. Navarrete is an advocate of children’s rights, being actively involved in Children International, a humanitarian organization based in the United States that helps over 12,000 children in Guadalajara alone.
2 Leila Lopes, Angola – 2011
Leila Lopes was a business management major at the University Campus Suffolk in Ipswich in England when she decided to join the Miss Angola UK contest in 2010. She won, which gave her the opportunity to compete in the Miss Angola competition. She won that one as well, which gave her the chance to represent her native country in the Miss Universe pageant in 2011. Lopes also won, thus becoming the first representative of Angola to ever win the crown. She was also the fourth African to hold the title. She is also actively involved in health issues, as she is in the forefront of AIDS and HIV awareness even as she struggles to fight the discrimination that people afflicted with the disease face everyday.
1 Olivia Culpo, United States – 2012
Culpo is a native of Rhode Island who went on to win the Miss Universe crown in 2012. She was the first winner from the United States in 15 years, and the eighth American all in all. She is studying at the Boston University.