In a contest tainted by protests, a banned dress; a floor tumble and the withdrawal of one beauty queen on the grounds of the pageant degrades women, a Miss Japan was for the second time ever, crowned Miss Universe 2007 Monday night.Mori, 20, the 56th and second Japan winner of the title, was given her $US250,000 diamond-and-pearl crown by last year’s winner, Zuleyka Rivera of Puerto Rico, watched by a live audience of 10,000 and some 600 million television viewers worldwide.
Miss USA Rachel Smith, who slipped and fell to the floor during the evening gown competition and was jeered by the Mexican audience during the interview phase because as what they saw as US unfriendliness towards illegal immegrants, was the contest’s fourth runner-up.
Miss Sweden, Isabel Lestapier Winqvist, unexpectedly pulled out of the event because of complaints in her country that it degrades women.
On top of all the other controversey, Miss Mexico was made to change her outfit for the regional dress contest after her original dress, decorated with brutal images of rebels in a 1920s religious uprising being hanged or shot, drew accusations of poor taste.
Mori nervously grabbed the hands of first runner-up, Natalia Guimaraes of Brazil, just before the winner was announced. She was trembling in awe as the diamond-and pearl-studded crown was placed on her head.
The daughter of a dance school manager, Mori said her grandmother told her as a child that she wanted her to be Miss Japan before she turned 20.
“From the very beginning, I entered the competition with high hopes and an unswerving determination to make this dream a reality,” she said in a pre-competition interview.
Also finishing in the top five were second runner-up Ly Jonaitis of Venezuela and third runner-up Honey Lee of Korea.
The 15 finalists from a field of 77 contestants were announced early in Monday’s show. They were picked last week during preliminary judging in the contest’s swimsuit, evening gown and interview categories, but their names were not announced until Monday, allowing all 77 to be introduced to the television audience.
Hours before the pageant began, dozens of protesters held a mock ceremony in downtown Mexico City that featured “Miss Marijuana,” “Miss Sexual Health” and “Miss Human Rights” and other candidates with obscenities written across their sashes. The group yelled “Neither ugly nor beautiful, should a woman be considered an object!”
Pageant organizers say the Miss Universe contest carefully selects women who are intelligent, well-mannered and cultured.
The winner travels the world for a year on behalf of charities and pageant sponsors..