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Miss Venezuela wins Miss Universe pageant

Sunday, July 13, 2008

NHA TRANG, Vietnam —  Dayana Mendoza of Venezuela has been crowned Miss Universe 2008.

Mendoza and three other Latin Americans women made the final five at Sunday's contest.

The four other finalists were Miss Colombia Tailana Vargas, Miss Dominican Republic Marianne Cruz Gonzalez, Miss Mexico Elisa Najera, and Miss Russia Vera Krasova.

Miss USA Crystle Stewart of Texas was in the top 10 but tripped on the train of her bejeweled evening gown as she made her entrance.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

NHA TRANG, Vietnam (AP) _ For the second year in a row, Miss USA has fallen down during the evening gown competition at the Miss Universe competition.

It was a nightmare come true for Miss USA Crystle Stewart, a Texan, who tripped on the train of her bejeweled evening gown as she made her entrance.

During the 2007 Miss Universe contest in Mexico City, Miss USA Rachel Smith also tumbled during the evening gown competition and became an unintended star on You Tube, where the video was shown over and over again.

Like Smith, Stewart quickly stood up after her fall and continued on as if nothing had happened.

Stewart, 26, is a motivational speaker who is working on a book called "Waiting to Win."

Her mishap occurred just after the judges had narrowed the field of 80 to the final 10: Miss USA, Miss Kosovo, Miss Australia, Miss Spain, Miss Mexico, Miss Colombia, Miss USA, Miss Dominican Republic, Miss Russia, Miss Italy and Miss Venezuela.

The NBC show is being hosted by talk show star Jerry Springer and Spice Girl Melanie Brown and broadcast live to hundreds of millions of viewers in 170 countries.

Eighty contestants gathered in the seaside city of Nha Trang, Vietnam, vying to succeed reigning Miss Universe Riyo Mori of Japan.

Sporting yellow, green and orange bikinis, the 15 semi-finalists strutted across the stage during the swimsuit competition to the sounds of Lady Gaga, who belted out the pulsating "Just Dance" in a platinum blond wig. Miss Vietnam, Lam Thuy Nguyen, was greeted with a roar from the Vietnamese audience.

The final 10 then competed in the evening gown event.

They are performing in front of a panel of judges that includes international fashion experts and Donald Trump Jr., whose father, the real estate magnate and TV star, co-owns the pageant with NBC.

This year's contestants span a wide range of experiences and aspirations.

Miss Albania was a professional basketball player. Miss Argentina says she has paranormal experiences. Miss Antigua & Barbuda is fascinated by snakes.

Miss Venezuela has been kidnapped and Miss Angola was in a plane crash while trying to escape a conflict during her country's civil war.

The shortest contestant in this year's show is Miss El Salvador, a petite 5-foot-3. The tallest are Miss Jamaica, Miss Mexico and Miss Peru, who measure 6 feet.

All the contestants are hoping to avoid the calamity that befell Miss USA during last year's contest, when she fell down during the evening gown segment and became an unintended star on YouTube, where the video was played over and over again.

The show is a publicity bonanza for Vietnam, where beauty contests are very popular. The contest featured segments on many of the nation's most popular tourist destinations, such as Hue, Hoi An, Sapa and Ha Long Bay.

The program set has been dominated by iconic Vietnamese images, such as bamboo trees, conical hats and lotus flowers.

The tuxedoed Springer made a grand entrance on a motorbike _ the vehicle of choice in Vietnam where the streets are teeming with millions of the speeding two-wheelers.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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