MANILA, Philippines – Miss Angola Leila Lopes, a business student from the town of Benguela in her home country, was crowned Miss Universe yesterday after dazzling a panel of judges with her beauty and impressing them with her brain.
The Philippines’ bet, Shamcey Supsup, flashed her beauty and wit en route to a third runner-up finish, the best ever for a Filipina since Miriam Quiambao placed 1st runner-up in the 1999 Miss Universe beauty pageant.
Lopes, 25, laughed and smiled as she hugged runner-up Miss Ukraine Olesia
Stefanko, then felt a crown placed carefully on her head at the pageant held in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Earlier in the contest, Lopes had been asked by Lea Salonga what she might change about her physical characteristics if she could, but Lopes said she was satisfied with who she was.
“I consider myself a woman endowed with inner beauty,” she told the judges and the audience. “I have acquired many wonderful principles from my family, and I plan to follow those through the rest of my life.”
Lopes was the 60th winner of the prestigious annual pageant watched by millions of people around the world.
Miss Angola wore a bright bikini then paraded around the stage with poise in a form-fitting evening gown colored in gold and silver sequins and feathers.
In fan voting, Lopes tallied only a 3.6 score for the swimsuit but earned a 7.2 for her evening gown. Fan voting, however, did not count in the final tallies from nine judges.
The panelists, who ranged from race car driver Helio Castroneves to actress Vivica A. Fox, journalist Connie Chung and internationalsinging sensation Salonga, scored the women on each contest, narrowing from a group of 16 down to a final five that included women from China, the Philippines and the home country, Brazil. In all, 89 women competed for the title.
Supsup was among the early favorites and it did not come as a surprise when her name was called in the semifinals, and later in the top five.
“I feel so happy and fulfilled. I feel like a winner. I just want our people to be proud of me. I have no crown but I’m wearing my crown in my heart. I did my part already and I hope they’re (the Filipino people) happy for me,” said the 25-year-old beauty titlist.
Shamcey displayed poise and character in the three-week long competition, and the Filipinos at home were expecting her to come home with the proverbial bacon.
Fox asked Supsup if she was willing to change her religion to marry the person she loves.
Supsup’s reply: “If I have to change my religious beliefs, I would not marry the person that I love. Because the first person that I love is God, who created me.
“I have my faith and my principles, and this is what makes me who I am. If the person loves me, he’ll love my God, too.”
In General Santos City, Shamcey’s father Timoteo said he was elated over his only child’s victory.
Supsup graduated magna cum laude at the University of the Philippines and last year was the topnotcher of the board exams for architecture.
P-Noy elated over Shamcey’s accomplishment
President Aquino expressed elation over the success of Supsup, saying she indeed is not just beauty but brains as well.
“That was the personal comment of the President. And he congratulated her. He said she is indeed beauty and brains,” presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda told Palace reporters in a briefing.
Lacierda said there was no disappointment on the part of the President even if Supsup didn’t make it to the top, because placing third runner-up is already an accomplishment.
“We welcome her, the entire Filipino people are very proud of her accomplishment,” he said.
In a press statement, Malacañang said the “humility, intellect, and grace that you (Supsup) exhibited during the competition embodied the spirit of the true Filipina.”
“In our eyes, that is the true victory today – that the world stood witness to and found an appreciation for the ideals, values, and beauty that has long characterized our nation,” Lacierda said.
“May this triumph serve as a way for other nations to come to appreciate not just the beauty of our people, but that of our country. On behalf of the Filipino people, we are proud of you; and we see even greater things ahead for you,” he added.
Vice President Jejomar Binay also congratulated Supsup, saying her feat “adds to our national pride and her victory serves to solidify our status as a beautiful country rich in natural resources and populated by hospitable, beautiful and intelligent people.”
Binay also took pride that the beauty queen was a product of the Makati Science High School and UP, which he said were both close to his heart. – Delon Porcalla, Jose Rodel Clapano, philstar.com