Andrea Meza, the 26 year-old Miss Mexico was crowned Miss Universe on Sunday in Florida, beating Brazilian and Peruvian finalists.
She becomes the third Mexican woman in history to win the contest.
Meza, who has a degree in software engineering, addressed the topic of changing beauty standards during the final statement round, saying that “as we have advanced as a society, we have advanced with stereotypes”.
“Nowadays, beauty is not only the way we look. For me, beauty radiates not only in our spirits, but in our hearts and the way we conduct ourselves. Never permit someone to tell you that you are not valuable,” the 26-year-old said.
But the contestant who stole the spotlight was Miss Myanmar, who used her stage time to draw attention to the bloody military coup in her country.
After the pageant was cancelled last year because of COVID-19, Sunday’s event marked its return to television.
It was hosted by American actor Mario Lopez and television personality Olivia Culpo.
Former Miss Universe contestants Cheslie Kryst, Paulina Vega and Demi-Leigh Tebow (who won the title in 2017) served as competition analysts and commentators, and a panel of eight women determined the winner.
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 & Casino in Hollywood, Florida.
The first runner up was Miss Universe Brazil, Julia Gama.
According to her contestant biography, the 27-year-old is an actor, entrepreneur and motivational speaker “who is passionate about life and diverse cultures”.
She also studied chemical engineering and has a degree in drama arts.
Second runner-up was Peru’s Janick Maceta, 27 years old.
She works at the iconic New York studio The Manhattan Centre as an audio engineer, and has for the past three years contributed to music, film and TV productions, working alongside the likes of Jennifer Lopez, Akon and Tony Bennet and Lady Gaga.
In the days leading up to the final competition, Miss Myanmar Thuzar Wint Lwin, who made the top 21, made waves when she used her time in the spotlight to bring attention to the 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.”
She also won the award for best national costume: during that competition segment on Thursday, she wore an outfit beaded in traditional Burmese patterns and held up a sign that said, “Pray for Myanmar.”
Myanmar has been in an uproar since February 1, when the army ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.