Within hours of the Miss Universe pageant held in Manila, Miss Canada Siera Bearchell sent out a tweet.
“Regardless of the outcome, I am so proud,” Bearchell said on Twitter.
The 23-year-old Bearchell, a law student from Saskatchewan, did not get the crown, but she was among the Top 9 finalists.
Miss France Iris Mittenaere was crowned Miss Universe.
The Top 9 that moved to the next round were Mittenaere, Bearchell, Deshauna Barber of the U.S., Chalita Suansane of Thailand, Kristal Silva of Mexico, Mary Were of Kenya, Andrea Tovar of Colombia, Raquel Pelissier of Haiti, and Philippines’ own Maxine Medina.
On Monday (January 23), Mittenaere, the doll-faced dentistry student from France, was crowned as the 65th Miss Universe.
The 24-year-old earned the title after beating 85 other candidates in a grand production staged before a sold-out crowd at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
Mittenaere received the Miss Universe Crown from now former Miss Universe Pia Wurtzbach of the Philippines.
The Philippines’ hosting of the annual tilt cost $14 million, but the government expects huge returns from tourism.
“I am very surprised. You know, I am always touching the crown and saying ‘Oh my God, I have a crown on my head.’ It was a big surprise, every step was a big surprise and I wanted to cry at every step. I am very proud and I feel blessed, really blessed,” gushed the new Miss Universe at her very first news conference shortly after the coronation.
Besides winning the crown, Mittenaere was hailed for ending France’s 64-year drought in the pageant after Christiane Martel’s 1953 win. Moreover, Mittenaere is also the first beauty queen to win Miss Universe from Europe since 2000.
For these two records alone, Miss Universe 2016 is excited to go home with the good news.
“I think France and Europe really need [to win]Miss Universe because it has been a long time since we won,” Mittenaere admitted. “Actually a lot of French people love beauty pageants but they don’t really know Miss Universe because our country never wins. But this year, a lot of people from my country, and I think from Europe too, will love Miss Universe more. I am very proud to bring this crown to Europe.”
A native of Lille, France, Mittenaere—admittedly not the strongest contender according to pageant experts who predicted Southeast Asian and Latin American beauties to dominate this year—first caught the judges’ attention during her strong performance on the Preliminary Competition in the same venue.
Her performance in the preliminary swimsuit and long gown competitions landed her a spot in the Top 13 finalists—the eleventh candidate to be called—along with Miss Kenya Scarlet Were, Miss Indonesia Kezia Warow, Miss USA Deshauna Barber, Miss Mexico Kristal Silva, Miss Peru Valeria Piazza, Miss Panama Kety Drennan, Miss Colombia Andrea Tovar, Philippines’ Medina, Miss Canada Siera Bearchell and Miss Brazil Raissa Santana, Miss Haiti Raquel Pelissier and online voting winner Miss Thailand Chalita Suansane.
As scores were reset, Mittenaere strutted confidently in her chosen Yamamaya swimsuit and proceeded to the Top 9, together with Misses USA, Thailand, France, Mexico, Kenya, Colombia, Canada, Haiti and Philippines.
She advanced further to the Top 6—leaving behind eliminated candidates from the U.S., Canada and Mexico—to face the first round of Question and Answer.
Mittenaere 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.
Mittenaere was speechless and put her hands on her face as the outgoing winner from the Philippines, Pia Wurtzbach, crowned her as 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, Raquel Pelissier, a 25-year-old survivor of the devastating 2010 earthquake that destroyed her hometown, was named first runner-up while Miss Colombia, 23-year-old, Andrea Tovar, was second runner-up.
“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.