New Miss Universe Will Focus on Self-Defense

Latest winner is from South Africa
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 27, 2017 12:21 AM CST
South African Is New Miss Universe
Contestants stand on stage at the Miss Universe pageant Sunday, Nov. 26, 2017, in Las Vegas.   (AP Photo/John Locher)

Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters, who represented South Africa, won the Miss Universe crown Sunday. The 22-year-old, who wants to use her reign to champion HIV/AIDS and self-defense causes, was crowned at the AXIS theater at Planet Hollywood on the Las Vegas Strip, the AP reports. "HIV/AIDS is a very big problem in my country South Africa, so I hope to stand as an advocate for that," she said to reporters after the event. She is the second woman from her country to earn the crown. The runner-up was Miss Colombia Laura Gonzalez, while the second runner-up was Miss Jamaica Davina Bennett.

Nel-Peters is from the coastal South African community of Sedgefield in the Western Cape province. She helped develop a program to train women in self-defense in various situations after she was robbed at gunpoint a month after she was crowned Miss South Africa. Steve Harvey returned as the show's host despite botching the 2015 Miss Universe crowning. On Sunday, he poked fun at his mistake throughout the night. Harvey told the audience he is "grateful for the Oscars," referring to the best-picture flub at this year's Academy Awards. This year's edition of the decades-old pageant had a record 92 participants, included the first-ever representatives from Cambodia, Laos, and Nepal.

(More Miss Universe stories.)

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