A 23-year-old dental student from France won the Miss Universe crown Monday in a pageant held in the Philippines, 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 the outgoing winner from the Philippines, Pia Wurtzbach, crowned her and the crowd erupted in cheers at the packed Mall of Asia Arena by Manila Bay, the AP reports. 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.
Eighty-six candidates vied in this year's pageant, which was formerly owned by Donald Trump. 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. Mittenaere said her victory would also help cheer French people following terrorist attacks in recent years. Mittenaere said she would focus during her reign on helping all children, especially girls, attend school. As he closed the ceremony, the host, American comedian 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, for which he was roundly criticized. (Read more Miss Universe stories.)