BANGKOK, Thailand – Miss Canada, Natalie Glebova (search), was crowned Miss Universe in the 54th annual pageant held in the Thai capital of Bangkok. The brunette from Toronto was chosen over Miss Puerto Rico Cynthia Olavarria.
The two were among five contestants selected to answer questions onstage in the final round of the competition. The others were from Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela.
Glebova, 23, was asked what she considered the biggest challenge of her life. She said it was remaining optimistic.
"I always try to maintain a positive outlook on life," she said.
Earlier, the 12-judge panel narrowed the field of 81 contestants to 15, then 10 as the Miss Universe hopefuls modeled evening gowns and swimsuits.
During the event broadcast live, hosts introduced the contestants, judges and last year's winner, Australia's Jennifer Hawkins (search).
Thailand hopes that hosting the pageant will boost the country's tourism sector, which was badly hurt by last December's tsunami (search).
Contestants, who arrived in Thailand about three weeks ago, have visited tsunami-struck areas along the southern coastline and historic Buddhist temples around Bangkok.
They have also driven the country's famous three-wheeled motorcycle taxis, called tuk-tuks, and ridden atop elephants — Thailand's national symbol.