South Africa’s Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters has been crowned Miss Universe 2017.
The 22-year-old beat out close competition from runners-up Miss Colombia Laura Gonzalez and Miss Jamaica Davina Bennett to claim the coveted crown at a star-studded event at The AXIS theatre in the Planet Hollywood casino-resort in Las Vegas.
A total of 92 women from across the world competed in this year’s event, the most ever seen in the history of the pageant, with Nepal, Laos and Cambodia putting forward representatives for the very first time.
Nel-Peters staked her claim for the crown after a thought-provoking questions and answers section, in which she spoke openly about equal pay being one of the most important issues facing women in the workplace today.
“In some places, women get paid 75 percent of what men earn for doing the same job, working the same hours, and I do not believe that is right,” she said. “I think we should have equal work for equal pay for women all over the world.”
Hailing from the coastal community of Sedgefield in the Western Cape province of South Africa, Nel-Peters had already won plenty of plaudits for developing a self-defence training programme for women, after being robbed at gunpoint just a few weeks on from being crown Miss South Africa.
She’s only the second South African to win Miss Universe and the first since Margaret Gardiner took the crown back in 1978.
Nel-Peters will now be whisked away to New York where she will live in a luxury apartment for the next year, earning a salary while serving as Miss Universe at a series of events scheduled over the course of the next 12 months.
Steve Harvey returned as host of the Miss Universe awards and continued to make light of the infamous incident from the 2015 edition of the pageant, where he read out the wrong name as winner.
Speaking at this year’s event, he admitted he was “grateful for the Oscars” and the gaffe that saw the wrong name read out as the winner for best picture at the Hollywood ceremony.