LAS VEGAS - Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters, representing South Africa, was crowned Miss Universe during the pageant Sunday in Las Vegas, according to The Associated Press, USA Today and other media outlets.
The runner-up was Miss Colombia, Laura Gonzalez. The second runner-up was Miss Jamaica, Davina Bennett. Miss Thailand, Maria Poonlertlarp, and Miss Venezuela, Keysi Sayago, rounded out the top five.
Nel-Peters accepted the crown from last year’s winner, Iris Mittenaere from France. Ninety-two women participated in the competition, the most contestants in the history of the pageant.
The 22-year-old Nel-Peters, who recently earned a business management degree, won a yearlong salary, a luxury apartment in New York City for the duration of her reign and more prizes. During the show, Nel-Peters shared the story of being abducted by car-jackers on the night she was crowned Miss South Africa, and how she channeled the trauma into running self-defense programs for young women in her country.
The U.S. representative, Kara McCullough, of Washington, D.C., made the top 10, along with representatives of the Philippines, Canada, Spain and Brazil.
During the interview portion of the event, McCullough turned the tables on host Steve Harvey. “I know that you are a (scientist with the) U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission with a degree in chemistry,” Harvey said, introducing McCullough. “I can’t read the rest of that question because I don’t know what none of that is.”
“Actually, I want to give you a pop quiz,” she said. “Do you know where radium is on the periodic table?
“Radium is actually one of my favorite elements because it was founded by the mother of radio chemistry, Marie Curie,” she said. “And as a radio chemist, I advocate for so many children in S.T.E.M. (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) and women in leadership positions and that’s the mission of a Miss Universe.”