Miss Universe crowns first Nicaraguan winner, Philippine bet Michelle Dee reaches Top 10

Twenty-three-year-old model and communications graduate, Sheynnis Palacios, made history on 18 November night (19 November in the Philippines) by clinching Nicaragua’s first Miss Universe crown.

She was proclaimed winner of the 72nd iteration of the international beauty pageant, besting 83 other contestants, at the José Adolfo Pineda Arena in San Salvador, El Salvador.

During the finals night, 27-year-old Danish-Thai model and entrepreneur Anntonia Porsild, representing Thailand, was declared first runner-up, while 22-year-old sports coach and model Moraya Wilson from Australia emerged as second runner-up.

Miss Universe 2022 R’Bonney Gabriel from the United States crowned Palacios.

Meanwhile, Philippine bet Michelle Marquez Dee made it as one of the 10 finalists.

During the final question-and-answer, the three finalists answered the same question: “If you
could live one year in another woman’s shoes, who would you choose, and why?” Palacios, an audiovisual producer and mental health advocate from Managua, replied: “I would choose Mary Wollstonecraft because she opened the gap, and gave an opportunity to many women.

What I would do, I would want that gap, that income gap, would open up so that women could work in any area that they chose to work in because there’s no limitation for women. That was in 1750. Now in 2023, we’re making history.”

Palacios was previously crowned as Miss Teen Nicaragua 2016, and then Miss World Nicaragua 2020, going on to compete at Miss World 2021, where she finished at the top 40.

This year’s Miss Universe is seen by many to be a history-making contest for its diversity, inclusivity and several improvements.

It saw the participation of two married women and mothers for the first time — Colombia’s Camila Avella and Guatemala’s Michelle Cohn. Married women and mothers have been banned from competing or disqualified in the past.

This pageant had two pioneering transgender contestants, both first trans winners of their countries  — Netherlands’ Rikkie Kollé and Portugal’s Marina Machete.

The first openly transgender candidate is Spain’s Angela Ponce, who competed in 2018, when the pageant was held in Thailand. Machete marked a milestone by advancing to the semifinals.

Dee is the second openly LGBTQ+ candidate from the Philippines, who came out as bisexual after being crowned Miss Universe Philippines. Beatrice Luigi Gomez, who competed in 2021, was the first.

As the pageant expresses to celebrate all body types, Nepal’s Jane Dipika Garrett stepped onto the runway as a proudly plus-sized delegate. 

As Miss Universe dismantled another barrier, the age limit, Bulgaria’s Yuliia Pavlikova became the oldest delegate to compete at 30.

This pageant also marked the debut participation of Pakistan with Erica Robin.

These contestants underwent preliminary competitions, which included gown, swimwear and closed-door interviews. They also joined the Voice For Change competition, where they shared their advocacies.

On finals night, 20 contestants made it as semifinalists and competed in their swimsuits. They were Palacios, Spain’s Athenea Pérez, Puerto Rico’s Karla Guilfú, Namibia’s Jameela Uiras, Venezuela’s Diana Silva, India’s Shweta Sharda, Porsild, Chile’s Celeste Viel, Jamaica’s Tomiris Zair, USA’s Noelia Voigt, Garrett, Peru’s Camila Escribens, Cameroon’s Issie Princesse, Colombia’s Camila Avella, Robin, Wilson, Dee, Machete, South Africa’s Bryoni Govender and El Salvador’s Isabella García-Manzo.

They were narrowed down to the top 10  — Guilfú, Porsild, Escribens, Avella, Palacios, Dee, García-Manzo, Silva, Wilson and Pérez — and then top five — Guilfú, Porsild, Avella, Palacios and Wilson.

The special award winners were Dee (Fan Votes winner and Spirit of Carnival Award) and Pérez (Miss Congeniality). Meanwhile, the Voice for Change Gold Winners are Angola’s Ana Coimbra, Dee and Guilfú, while the Silver Finalists were Brazil’s Maria Brechane, Viel, Lebanon’s Maya Aboul Hosn, Singapore’s Priyanka Annuncia, Govender, Ukraine’s Angelina Usanova and Zimbabwe’s Brooke Bruk-Jackson.

The 72nd Miss Universe was the second time the pageant was held in El Salvador, which first became host country in 1975. It was hosted by American television personality Jeannie Mai, Miss Universe 2012 Olivia Culpo and Maria Menounos, with Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray and Zuri Hall serving as backstage correspondents.
Multi-platinum artist and activist John Legend served as performer during the evening gown and final look portions.

The finals night panel of judges were composed of Somali-American model Halima Aden, Puerto Rican actress and television host Giselle Blondet, Miss Universe 1977 from Trinidad and Tobago Janelle Commissiong, Filipino-American physician Connie Mariano, Miss Universe 2016 from France Iris Mittenaere, American businesswoman and Miss Oregon USA 1994 Denise White, Mexican singer Mario Bautista, Miss Universe 2021 first runner-up from Paraguay Nadia Ferreira, American social media personality Avani Gregg, American designer and television personality Carson Kressley and vice president of Growth Marketing & Merchandising at Roku Sweta Patel.

WITH Roel Hoang Manipon