Australian-Born Contestant Wins Miss Universe
Australian-born model Catriona Gray of the Philippines has been named winner of the Miss Universe 2018 competition in Bangkok.
She bested contestants from 93 other countries to claim the prize.
The 24-year-old Gray wore a sparkling red dress she said is inspired by a volcano in the Philippines as she was handed the crown to the delight of a roaring crowd that generally favoured Southeast Asian contestants.
She said she wore red because "when I was 13 my mom said she had a dream that I would win Miss Universe in a red dress." She said her mom cried when they saw each other after she won the competition.
Gray edged out first runner-up Tamaryn Green of South Africa and third-place Sthefany Gutierrez of Venezuela. She succeeds Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters of South Africa.
The office of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte was quick to congratulate the winner. Gray, who was born in Cairns to a Scottish-born Australian father and a Filipino mother, is the fourth Filipina to be named Miss Universe.
"Ms. Gray truly made the entire Philippines proud when she sashayed on the global stage and showcased the genuine qualities defining a Filipina beauty: confidence, grace, intelligence and strength in the face of tough challenges," Duterte said in a statement from the presidential palace.
"In her success, Miss Philippines has shown to the world that women in our country have the ability to turn dreams into reality through passion, diligence, determination and hard work."
An early round of questioning touched on the issue of drugs, where Duterte's aggressive war on drugs has taken thousands of lives, many in what critics charge were extrajudicial executions.
Asked what she thought about legalising marijuana, Gray said: "I'm for it being used for medical use, but not so for recreational use. Because I think if people will argue, then what about alcohol and cigarettes? Everything is good but in moderation."
This year's Miss Universe competition included the first-ever transgender contestant, Miss Spain Angela Ponce.
She said in a video presentation that it was not important for her to win but was more important for her "to be here."
One of the few controversies of this year's contest involved Miss United States Sarah Rose Summers seeming to mock contestants from Cambodia and Vietnam over their English language skills. Summers apologised.
The finale was again hosted by Steve Harvey who infamously announced the wrong winner in the 2015 contest.
Harvey joked briefly about the incident in exchanges with contestants and said "You all can't let that go" and "I'm still here."
The theme of the 67th Miss Universe pageant was "Empowered Women" and was judged by seven women including former pageant winners, businesswomen, and a fashion designer.
The contestants spent nearly a month in Thailand to compete in preliminary rounds wearing elaborate national costumes, visit famous tourist sites and even met the country's prime minister.