Miss Mexico was crowned Miss Universe on Sunday in Florida after other contestant Miss Myanmar used her stage time to draw attention to the bloody military coup in her country.
Sunday evening marked the return of the Miss Universe pageant on television, as the contest was canceled in 2020 for the first time due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Andrea Meza, 26, finished first ahead of the Brazilian and Peruvian finalists in a brilliant television event, 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 analysts and commentators on the contest, and a panel of eight women determined the winner.
Dressed in a sparkling red evening gown, Tearful Meza walked the catwalk as Miss Universe for the first time, before rushing again for a group hug with the other contestants.
Meza defeated more than 70 contestants from around the world in the 69th part of Miss Universe, which was held at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida.
In the days leading up to the final competition, Myanmar Miss Thuzar Wint Lwin, who made the top 21, made waves when she used her time in the spotlight to bring the coup’s attention to her country.
“Our people are dying and being shot by the military every day,” she said during her biographical video, which showed her photos taking part in anti-coup protests. “Therefore, I would like to urge everyone to talk about Myanmar.”
She also won the award for best national costume: during that competitive segment on Thursday, she wore a beaded dress in traditional Burmese patterns and held up a sign that read, “Pray for Myanmar.”
Myanmar has been in turmoil since February 1, when the military ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
Dressed in a glittering red body and thigh-high boots, she turned to reveal her cape – in the colors of the Singapore flag – painted with the words “Stop Asian Hate”.
“What is this platform for if I can not use it to send a strong message of resistance to prejudice and violence?” she wrote on Instagram alongside photos of her dress.
The United States in particular has seen an increase in anti-Asian violence over the past year, which activists have blamed on former President Donald Trump rhetoric, particularly his repeated description of Covid-19 as “China’s virus.”
The competition has also drawn criticism in the past for objectifying contestants.
In recent years, the competition has shifted the image, focusing more on the empowerment and activism of women.