Miss Myanmar uses Miss Universe to draw attention to coup
Mexico's Andrea Meza wins the crown, S'pore's Bernadette Belle Ong takes stage and slams racist violence
WASHINGTON: Miss Mexico was crowned Miss Universe on Sunday night in Florida, after fellow contestant Miss Myanmar used her stage time to draw attention to the bloody military coup in her country.
It marked the international competition's return to television, after the pageant was cancelled last year for the first time due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Miss Andrea Meza, 26, finished first ahead of the Brazilian and Peruvian finalists in a flashy televised event, hosted by US personalities Mario Lopez and Olivia Culpo.
Former Miss Universe contestants Cheslie Kryst, Paulina Vega and Demi-Leigh Tebow (who won the title in 2017) served as analysts and commentators, and a panel of eight women determined the winner.
Dressed in a sparkling red evening gown, Miss Meza tearfully walked the catwalk as Miss Universe for the first time before rushing back for a group hug with the other competitors.
Miss Meza beat more than 70 contestants from around the globe in the 69th instalment of Miss Universe, which was held at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida.
In the days leading up to the final competition, Myanmar's Thuzar Wint Lwin, who got into the top 21, made waves when she used her time in the spotlight to call attention to the military coup in her country.
"Our people are dying and being shot by the military every day," she said during her biographical video, which showed photos of her taking part in the anti-coup protests.
"Therefore I would like to urge everyone to speak out about Myanmar. As Miss Universe Myanmar since the coup, I have been speaking out as much as I can."
She also won the award for best national costume.
During that competition segment last Thursday, she wore an outfit beaded in traditional Burmese patterns and based on the ethnic costume of her Chin people from north-western Myanmar and held up a sign that said "Pray for Myanmar".
Myanmar has been in unrest since Feb 1, when the army ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
At least 796 people have been killed by security forces since then, according to a local monitoring group, while nearly 4,000 people are behind bars.
Singapore's Bernadette Belle Ong - who did not make the top 21 - also used the national costume portion to make a political statement.
Dressed in a glittering red bodysuit and matching thigh-high boots, she turned around to reveal her cape - in the colours of the Singapore flag - which was painted with the words "Stop Asian Hate".
"What is this platform for if I can't use it to send a strong message of resistance against prejudice and violence?" she wrote on Instagram alongside pictures of her outfit.
The US in particular has seen a surge in anti-Asian violence in the past year, which activists have blamed on former president Donald Trump's rhetoric, especially his repeated description of Covid-19 as the "China virus". - AFP, REUTERS