After more than a year delay due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Miss Universe competition was finally held on May 16 at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Fla.
Taking home the ultimate crown this year was Miss Mexico Andrea Meza who wowed the selection community with her beauty and brains.
During the final statement round, Miss Mexico was asked to address the topic of changing beauty standards. “We live in a society that more and more is more advanced and as we have advanced as a society, we have advanced with stereotypes,” she shared via translator. “Nowadays, beauty is not only the way we look. For me, beauty radiates not only in our spirits, but in our hearts and the way we conduct ourselves. Never permit someone to tell you that you are not valuable.”
And just minutes before, Miss Mexico also faced the final question round where she was asked to share how she would have handled the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I believe there is not a perfect way to handle this hard situation such as COVID-19,” she explained. “However, I believe that what I would have done was create the lockdown even before everything was that big because we lost so many lives and we cannot afford that. We have to take care of our people. That’s why I would have taken care of them since the beginning.”
Before the show, Paula M. Shugart, who serves as the president of the Miss Universe Organization, addressed the pandemic and how the pageant was staying safe. In a statement, she explained, “We have spent months planning and preparing safety precautions to develop this edition of Miss Universe—one that will be memorable, special and totally innovative.”
Beauty queens from 74 countries and territories competed in tonight’s pageant, however just 21 contestants advanced to the final round. After first competing in the swimsuit contest, which you can see photos from here, 10 moved on to the evening gown competition. Five contestants were selected to participate in the question and answer round.
The last time the Miss Universe pageant was held was in 2019, when Miss South Africa, aka Zozibini Tunzi, took home the ultimate prize. Miss Puerto Rico Madison Anderson was the first runner-up and Miss Mexico Sofía Aragón was the second runner-up.
At the time, Zozibini really impressed the judges with her answer to the question, “What is the most important thing we should be teaching girls today?”
She replied, “I think the most important thing we should be teaching young girls today is leadership. It’s something that has been lacking in young girls and women for a very long time. Not because we don’t want to, but because what society has labelled women to be. I think we are the most powerful beings in the world.”
Of passing the torch to her successor, Zozibini said in a statement, “I always knew that my reign as Miss Universe would be unlike any other. While it was nothing like what I had imagined my year to be, this year has opened doors for me I could never have imagined. I am so grateful for the opportunity to connect virtually with people all over the world and elevate the causes I care most about.”
Similarly, Miss Mexico was crowned Miss Universe on Sunday in Florida, after fellow contestant Miss Myanmar used her stage time to draw attention to the bloody military coup in her country.
Sunday night marked the Miss Universe competition’s return to television, after the pageant was cancelled in 2020 for the first time due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Andrea Meza, 26, finished first ahead of the Brazilian and Peruvian finalists in a flashy televised event, hosted by American actor Mario Lopez and television personality Olivia Culpo.
Miss Universe 2021 airs Sunday night at 8 p.m. on FYI.