Nicaraguan Sheynnis Palacios was crowned on Saturday as the most beautiful woman in the world at the 72nd edition of the Miss Universe pageant, held this year in San Salvador, which for the first time included married contestants, plus size women, and two transgender women.
Flanked by Thai Anntonia Porsild as first runner-up, the 23-year-old Palacios received the crown and sash from her predecessor, American R’Bonney Gabriel. This is the first time Nicaragua has won the contest, in which Australian Moraya Wilson was named second runner-up.
Palacios, who considers humility and gratitude for the little things as her main qualities, triumphed among 84 contestants who spent a week in preliminary competitions in swimsuits, evening gowns and traditional outfits.
The Nicaraguan representative emphasized in the final question from the jury the importance of equal pay so that women can “work in any area. “There is no limit for women,” she said.
Each participant paraded under audience applause on a stage set up in the newly renovated Adolfo Pineda National Gymnasium in the west of the Salvadoran capital.
During the gala, attended by the President of El Salvador, Nayib Bukele, organizers announced that next year’s edition will take place in Mexico.
A mother in the top 5
Colombian Maria Camila Avella, 28, became the first mother in the history of the contest to make the top five finalists. Avella, who has a daughter, was especially concerned about preventing child abuse and teenage pregnancy.
In addition to the Colombian, Michelle Cohn of Guatemala was the other mother who participated in the beauty contest, in an attempt by the organization to make the contest more inclusive.
Making it to the top 20 were the representative of Portugal, transgender woman Marina Machete; and Nepal’s contestant Jane Garret, the first plus size candidate in Miss Universe. In addition to Machete, a second transgender woman also participated, the representative of the Netherlands, Rikkie Valerie Kolle.
On November 9, while the contestants were preparing, the company that owns the Miss Universe brand, belonging to media mogul and transgender rights advocate Anne Jakapong Jakrajutatip, filed for bankruptcy.
This is the second time El Salvador has hosted a Miss Universe pageant. The first time was in 1975.
“El Salvador has changed forever and we have shown it once again,” said Bukele, referring to the effects of his crackdown on gangs, which previously terrorized entire cities and communities across the country.
Bukele’s security policy is hugely popular in the country and has as its spearhead an state of exception that allows detentions without judicial orders, questioned by human rights groups.
“Thank you for choosing to be part of the rebirth of El Salvador, but this is just the beginning,” said the president, who will seek re-election in February.
Shortly before the contest, some 300 people, relatives of those detained under the state of exception, demonstrated in San Salvador to denounce the contest as a “makeup” to cover human rights violations.
Under the state of exception, authorities have arrested more than 73,000 alleged gang members. More than 7,000 innocents have been released.