Throughout the pageant’s long history to date, the only country to achieve a back-to-back win is Venezuela. In 2008, Dayana Mendoza was the heavy favorite by pageant fans from all over the world. She beat 79 countries in Vietnam and became the 5th Venezuelan to win Miss Universe. Her spectacular performance in the evening gown competition and her irresistible charm made her the runaway winner.
The following year, Nassau, Bahamas hosted Miss Universe 2009 where Stefania Fernandez of Venezuela competed. She wasn’t the frontrunner and many pageant observers felt she paled in comparison to Dayana’s effervescent energy.
Stefania kept advancing to the next round until it was just down to her and Dominican Republic’s Ada de la Cruz, who was the major frontrunner and a pageant veteran. As history unfolded, Miss Venezuela became the first country to win back-to-back titles. Dayana and Stefania hugged and jumped celebrating this milestone, cementing Venezuela as the top country in Miss Universe.
However, there were 3 near successes in the past.
In 1994, Sushmita Sen was the first Indian to win the Miss Universe crown in Manila. It was her intelligence and elegance that captivated the audience. Her interviews became the benchmark for the succeeding years in Miss Universe.
Namibia hosted the pageant in 1995 where India’s representative, Manpreet Brar had the task of achieving what would have been the first ever consecutive wins. Manpreet performed spectacularly in the interview rounds and showed her intelligence was unmatched that year. Unfortunately, she became first runner-up to Chelsi Smith of the USA.
In 1996, Venezuela was enjoying a 13-year placement streak that included a win in 1986 (Barbara Palacios Teyde). Alicia Machado, a model from Maracay, was the perfect candidate. Even though she easily won the Miss Universe crown, her reign would not be as easy. Her weight gain during her reign drew flack from Miss Universe owner, Donald Trump. Twenty years later, the issue was scrutinized again during the 2016 US presidential elections.
Miami Beach, Florida hosted the 1997 Miss Universe pageant. Miss Venezuela 1997, Marena Bencomo, was tall, blonde and beautiful, but she lacked the spark and energy of Alicia Machado. In the end, she was no match for Miss USA’s (Brook Lee) wit and had to settle for 1st runner-up.
It’s interesting to note that the US was the country that prevented what would have been the consecutive wins for India in 1995 and Venezuela in 1997.
Colombia finally won its 2nd Miss Universe crown after waiting for almost 57 years. Paulina Vega of Barranquilla, Colombia, was one of the crowd favorites and beat 87 contestants to win. She was the first to wear the Diamond International Crown (DIC) of Miss Universe, the same crown worn by Miss Universe 2015, Pia Wurtzbach.
Latina stunner Ariadna Gutierrez of Sincelejo, Colombia was the perfect candidate to achieve that elusive back-to-back win. It was a very real possibility. For several minutes, it was – until Steve Harvey made the shocking on-air correction witnessed by millions, where the Philippine representative was declared Miss Universe 2015.
The Philippine pageant scene has never been more successful than in recent years. So, winning back-to-back in Miss Universe has become a real possibility. Maxine Medina, Miss Universe Philippines 2016, believes she can win the fourth Miss Universe crown for our country.
This article originally appeared in Rappler.
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