Miss Columbia makes history

The last time Colombia won the Miss Universe crown was in 1958, when Miss Luz Marina Zuluaga scored the title.

On Sunday night, some 57 years later, the country's new pride and joy, Miss Paulina Vega, was crowned Miss Universe, beating out contenders from the US, Ukraine, Jamaica and the Netherlands.

The 22-year-old model and business student triumphed over 87 other women from around the world, and is only the second beauty queen from Colombia to take home the prize, AFP reported.

Miss Vega accepted her sash and crown in Florida, US, from reigning Miss Universe, Venezuelan Gabriela Isler.

London-born Miss Vega dedicated her title to Colombia and all her supporters.

"We are proud, this is a triumph, not only personal, but for all those 47 million Colombians who were dreaming with me and were part of this whole process," she told reporters after the win.

Controversy emerged earlier in the contest when Miss Israel took a selfie with Miss Lebanon.

It was posted on Instagram. It irritated Lebanon, which is technically at war with Israel.

Beauty pageants like Miss Universe embody global politics, where contestants are expected to model the cultural sensibilities of their nations.

But thanks to social media, slips in decorum which previously went unnoticed now have the potential to spiral out of control, CNN reported.

In 2006, a picture of Miss Lebanon and Miss Israel together landed on the Miss Universe press page, stirring panic among the women and their handlers.

This was in the middle of the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war.

The organisation was able to remove the photo before anyone noticed, Miss Universe Organisation President Paula M Shugart said.


But today, because of social media, it is a "whole new ball game", she said.

Ms Maya Berry, executive director of the Arab American Institute in Washington, said it is unfortunate that politics enters into things like this.

She said: "It shouldn't be this way but when conditions are so bad and you have two countries at war with each other, everything becomes political.

"That's what happens with social media - it's the tendency of a hashtag to be more meaningful than (the) substance of what actually took place. It's a significant burden to place on women in their 20s."

The Miss Universe contest started out in 1952 as a local "bathing beauty" competition organised by a swimwear company in California, US.

Today, the competition is more than a beauty pageant and contestants compete with the hope of advancing their careers, and personal and humanitarian goals.

This article was first published on Jan 27, 2015.
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