In what will go down as a historical ‘Miss Universe’ pageant held in Sao Paulo, Brazil 25 year-old LEILA LOPES of Angola beat out 88 other beauties from around the world to capture the ‘Miss Universe 2011’ crown and title. She is the fourth African, and only second Black African to win the prestigious title in the pageant’s 60-year history. Two former ‘Miss Universe’ winners from Africa – Margaret Gardiner ‘Miss South Africa’ (1978) and Michelle McLean ‘Miss Namibia’ (1992) were both white. Mpule Kwelegobe of Botswana, who was the last Black woman to win the title in 1999 and the only other Black woman from Africa to become ‘Miss Universe.’ Leila Lopes was certainly the dark horse as she moved through the judging process, exhibiting a simple charm, intelligence and grace, topped only by her stunning beauty. The dazzling African beauty was the crowds’ favorite as was obvious from the deafening roar and applause that greeted her with each appearance. The audience response intensified with each appearance and reached a crescendo when she was interrupted while answering the crucial final question.
POSITIVE FINAL ANSWER
If you could change one of your physical characters what would it be and why? In her native language with the aid of an interpreter, the lovely Leila calmly responded: “Thank God I’m very satisfied with the way God created me and I wouldn’t change a thing. I consider myself a woman endowed with inner beauty. I have acquired many wonderful principles from my family and I intend to follow these for the rest of my life.” Wearing a stunning cream, fitted strapless gown featuring a leg-revealing slit and festooned with crystal stones and soft yellow feather accents, Leila eased into the winners circle, crushing the competition. Receiving special awards were: `Miss Panama’ Sheldry Saeza for ‘Best National Costume.’ ‘Miss Sweden’ Ronnia Fornstedt won the ‘Miss Photogenic’ award and Nikolina Loncar ‘Miss Montenegro’ received the ‘Miss Congeniality’ award which was voted for by all of the contestants.
The Royal court of Queens were rounded out by Olesay Stefanko ‘Miss Ukraine’ coming in second place and Pricilla Machado ‘Miss Brazil’ placed third. Shamcey Supsup ‘Miss Philippines’ and Zi Lin Luo ‘Miss China’ two of the pageants major favorites, placed fourth and fifth place respectively in the final round of competition. Rounding out the top sixteen beauties who made the final cut after a quick elimination were: Sheldry Saez ‘Miss Panama,’ Johana Salado Lopez ‘Miss Costa Rica,’ Vivianna Ortiz `Miss Puerto Rico,’ Vanessa Goncalves ‘Miss Venezuela;’ Catalina Robayo ‘Miss Colombia,’ Kelly Weekers ‘Miss Netherlands,’ Aferdita Dreshaj ‘Miss Kosovo,’ Sherry Lee- Brigs ‘Miss Australia,’ Laury Thilleman ‘Miss France,’ Laura Concalves ‘Miss Portugal’ and Alyssa Campanella `Miss USA.’
The new `Miss Universe’ was born in Benguela, Angola. After graduating high school she pursued studies in Business Management in the United Kingdom. While living there, she entered the ‘Miss Angola UK’ pageant aimed at Angolan citizens or women of Angolan heritage living in the United Kingdom. She won that title which enabled her to participate in the `Miss Angola Universe’ pageant in her homeland. Leila won the special ‘Miss Photogenic’ award and the coveted ‘Miss Angola Universe’ title, which brought her to the ‘Miss Universe’ pageant. Leila has worked as a professional model and wants to be a successful businesswoman in the future.
ONLY ONE BLACK JUDGE
The two hour televised pageant was hosted by Natalie Morales of NBC Today Show and Andy Cohen of Bravo’s `Watch What Happens Life.’ The live telecast was entwined by performances by Brazilian singers Claudia Leitte and Bebel Gilberto. There were samba dancers, caparearo performers and Brazilian Carnival costumes in full effect. The 89 contestants first appeared in an introductory segment wearing colorful dresses by Sheri Hill. After the elimination, the top 16 appeared in swimsuits before the final 10 announcements; then came the evening gown competition. After the final question & answer segment, the runners-up and new Queen were announced to the enthusiastic audience and the millions of television viewers. The celebrity panel of final night judges were; News anchor Connie Chung, champion racing car driver Helio Castroneve, actress Vivica A. Fox, Farouk Hair Systems Founder/ Owner Farouk Shami, ‘Miss Universe 2003’ Amelia Vega from the Dominican Republic, top Brazilian model Isabelli Fontana, actress and singer from ‘Miss Saigon’ Lea Salonge, businesswoman, philanthropist and star on ‘The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills’ Adrienne Maloof and Dept. Secretary General of the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association of Football Italo Zani.
Ximena Navaratte the out-going ‘Miss Universe’ crowned her successor amidst tears, smiles, cheers and confetti. Ximena thanked the Miss Universe Organization family, whom she worked with during her year’s reign on several promotional efforts for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, HIV/AIDS education, research and legislation as well as several other global charities involving underprivileged children. The new ‘Miss Universe’ immediately moves into the Trump apartment in New York City, joining roommate ‘Miss USA’ and ‘Miss Teen USA’ where she’s embark on a whirlwind of activities which will takes her all over the world, supporting several charitable organizations.
By Walter Greene | Published in Profiles98 Summer Issue 8 2011