Olivia Culpo, a 20-year-old Rhode Island native, beat 88 other beauty queens from around the world to be crowned as Miss Universe 2012 in a gala ceremony in the Planet Hollywood casino on the Las Vegas Strip to take the title from outgoing champion Leila Lopes of Angola.
Culpo’s coronation ends a long losing spell for the U.S. in the competition co-owned by Donald Trump and NBC. An American had not won the Miss Universe title since Brook Lee won in 1997.
Miss Philippines, Janine Tugonon, came in second, while Miss Venezuela, Irene Sofia Esser Quintero, placed third. All the contestants spent the past two weeks in Sin City, where they posed in hardhats at a hotel groundbreaking, took a painting lesson, and pranked hotel guests by hiding in their rooms.
“It’s such an honor to be representing the USA in an international beauty contest in spite of all the tragedy that’s happened in this country lately,” she said. “I really hope that this this will raise everybody’s spirits a little.”
India’s Shilpa Singh made it to the top 16 spot but failed to progress further.
As Miss Universe, Culpo will receive an undisclosed salary, a wardrobe fit for a queen, a limitless supply of beauty products, and a luxury apartment in New York City.