Iris Mittenaere, a 23-year-old dental student from France won the Miss Universe crown Monday in the 65th annual pageant held in Manila, the Philippines.
The model beat 85 other beauties to take the title from Pia Wurtzbach of the Philippines at the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila.
Miss Haiti, Raquel Pelissier, 25, came in the second, while Miss Colombia Andrea Tovar, 23, was placed the third. The Nigerian representative, Unoaku Anyadike, winner of the 2015 edition of the Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria (MBGN) pageant, did not make the cut.
Mittenaere from the small town of Lille in northern France said in reply to a final question from pageant host Steve Harvey that she would be honoured if she just landed among the three finalists, but was visibly stunned when she was announced the winner among the field of 86 contestants.
She was speechless and put her hands on her face as the outgoing winner from the Philippines, Pia Wurtzbach, crowned her.
The crowd erupted in cheers and applause at the packed Mall of Asia Arena by Manila Bay.
In her profile, she said she would “advocate for dental and oral hygiene” if she takes home the crown.
In the final question to the top three finalists, the candidate were asked to cite a failure in their life and explain what they learned from the debacle.
“I’ve failed several times in my life,” Mittenaere said without elaborating but added that “when you fail, you have to be elevated and you have to try again and keep going … I have failed before but for me this is the great first opportunity.”
Miss Haiti, 25 year-old Raquel Pelissier, the runner-up was a survivor of the devastating 2010 earthquake that destroyed her hometown.
“I survived the earthquake,” Pelissier said in reply to the same question, citing the quake the Haiti government estimated to have killed more than 300,000 people and displaced more than 1.5 million others.
“I felt I was failing myself because I was not living my dreams … But I chose to be a very positive person, and learned a great lesson from it because if I am here today, it is because I am living my dreams.”
As he closed the ceremony, the American comedian host declared: “This is Steve Harvey, 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 that sparked an uproar.
*With reports by AP and Xinhua