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MANILA, Philippines — A 23-year-old dental student from France won the Miss Universe crown Monday, saying her triumph will make the beauty contest more popular in Europe and help her efforts to put more underprivileged children in school.
Iris Mittenaere from Lille city in northern France buried her face in her hands in shock and joy as she was crowned by the outgoing pageant holder, Pia Wurtzbach, at the packed Mall of Asia Arena by Manila Bay in the Philippines.
Miss Haiti, Raquel Pelissier, a 25-year-old survivor of the devastating 2010 earthquake that destroyed her hometown, was named first runner-up, while Miss Colombia, 23-year-old industrial designer and photographer Andrea Tovar, was second runner-up.
As he closed the ceremony, host Steve Harvey, quipped, "I got it right," referring to his mistaken announcement of Miss Colombia as the winner in last year's pageant in Las Vegas. "One thing I learned in life: when you make a mistake, you gotta keep on moving forward, man. That's all," Harvey said.
In her farewell remarks as outgoing winner, a smiling Wurtzbach thanked Harvey for making her "the most popular Miss Universe." Harvey, laughing, thanked her for making him the "most famous" Miss Universe host.
Mittenaere's victory was the first by a French contestant in more than 60 years.
"I think France and Europe really need a Miss Universe" after failing to win the crown for so long, she said at a post-pageant news conference when she was asked how her countrymen would receive her victory.
The contest has not been as popular in France as in other countries, she said, but "French people will love it now and every year they will be watching Miss Universe."
"I'm very proud to bring this crown to Europe," she said.
Mittenaere said she would focus during her reign on helping all children, especially girls, attend school.