In a historic moment during the 2023 Miss Universe competition in San Salvador, El Salvador, Miss Spain Athenea Paulinha Pérez emerged as the winner of the Miss Congeniality title, a recognition bestowed by fellow delegates for embodying kindness, positivity, and enthusiasm. Pérez, who made history as the first woman of color to hold the title of Miss Spain, charmed not only with her grace but also with her commitment to diversity and inclusivity.
In a heartfelt speech, Pérez expressed that her focus during the competition was on forging connections and friendships, admitting that her biggest fear was forgetting it was a competition amidst the camaraderie. The newly crowned Miss Congeniality shared her mission to champion diversity, emphasizing her collaboration with children’s villages, particularly those with immigrant mothers and single-parent households, drawing from her personal experience as the child of a single immigrant mother.
Throughout the competition, Pérez showcased various stunning looks, paying homage to Spain’s traditions in a flamenco-inspired dress with dramatic ruffles and choosing a sparkling gold evening gown with sequins and cutouts. Her swimsuit round featured a bikini designed by Rubin Singer, the collaborator for the Miss Universe Organization’s first merchandise line, and the opening number saw her in a blue one-shoulder cocktail dress by Clarisse Designs.
The 2023 Miss Universe pageant marked a significant milestone as the most inclusive and diverse in its 72-year history. Notable breakthroughs included Miss Portugal Marina Machete and Miss Netherlands Rikkie Kollé, both transgender representatives, breaking barriers in their respective countries. Miss Guatemala Michelle Cohn and Miss Colombia Camila Avella debuted as the first married competitors, while Miss Nepal Jane Dipika Garrett became the first plus-size delegate, and Miss Pakistan Erica Robin made history by wearing a burkini during the swimsuit round.
The pageant’s modern transformation, initiated by transgender businesswoman Anne Jakkaphong Jakrajutatip, who acquired the Miss Universe Organization, promised a “transformational leadership” to enhance the pageant’s heritage.
Miss Nicaragua Sheynnis Palacios clinched the title of Miss Universe 2023, with Miss Australia Moraya Wilson as the first runner-up and Miss Thailand Anntonia Porsild rounding out the top three. The crown, crafted by Mouawad, was presented to Palacios by the reigning Miss Universe 2022, R’Bonney Gabriel of the USA, in a dazzling coronation ceremony.
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