Republic clinches Miss Universe title
Miss Dominican Republic Amelia Vega, a six-foot (1.83-metre) tall 18-year-old high school student, won the Miss Universe 2003 title at a sparkling ceremony in Panama City recently beating a field of 70 other pageant queens with her charm and charisma.
It was the first time a contestant from the Dominican Republic, a Spanish-speaking country that shares the Caribbean island of Hispaniola with impoverished Haiti, was crowned Miss Universe.
Vega, with typical dark brown Latin hair, was cheered on by an electric crowd as she walked the catwalk in her diamond and pearl-encrusted crown and long white dress.
Miss Venezuela Mariangel Ruiz, an olive skinned 23-year-old economics student, came second. She was followed by Miss South Africa Cindy Nell, a 21-year-old management student from Johannesburg.
After reaching the final five with her sheer poise and good looks, Vega clinched the pageant with her reply to a final question put to her "What is the most precious gift youve ever given someone?"
"According to my grandmother, it was a letter I wrote to her when she was once very ill," said Vega, to the applause of some 7,500 festive pageant-goers in the packed auditorium.
As Miss Universe 2003, Vega will take home an estimated $70,000 in prizes and hold public engagements around the world that will include fund-raising and campaigning for AIDS research and awareness.
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