25th place – Justine Pasek (Panama)
(Our judges are: Greg Borowski, Willian Prendiz de Jurado, Edwin Toledo (Times of Beauty), Ricardo Guiraldes (Chilean Charm), Julio Rodriguez (Belleza Venezolana), Alberto Dubal (Miss Memorabilia), Jimmy Harris (Beauty School), Pepe Medel, Jean-Marie Vandecasteele, Andre Sleigh, Rose Foulger, Luis Trujillo. From GB, Ed Dominguez, Henrique Fontes, and Chris Kuntz)
“… and if for any reason the winner cannot fulfill her obligations, the first runner-up will become Miss Universe…”
24 September 2002: a day that marked the history of the Miss Universe pageant forever.
It was the first time in the pageant’s 51 years of history that the Miss Universe Organization had to organize a press conference and send out a press release explaining that Miss Universe had lost her title, being replaced by the 1st runner-up. It said:
Russia Out, Panama In As Justine Pasek is Crowned Miss Universe 2002
First Time in 52-year History Reigning Titleholder Ousted
23 September 2002
Miss Universe Press Release
The Miss Universe Organization announced today [23 September] that Oxana Fedorova of Russia has been terminated as Miss Universe 2002, and the first runner-up, Justine Pasek of Panama, will ascend to the title and serve the remaining nine months of the reign.
Fedorova was dismissed today [23 September] for breach of contract because she has failed to fulfill the duties required of the title. TheMiss Universe crown comes with a large array of responsibilities including, but not limited to, extensive international travel as a goodwill ambassador in the fight against HIV/AIDS, the official cause of Miss Universe.
“We are disappointed that it did not work out with Oxana, but we wish her all the best in her future endeavors,” explained Paula Shugart, President of the Miss Universe Organization. “We are extremely excited that Justine Pasek will be wearing the crown and are confident that she will be a great Miss Universe, and a wonderful representative of our company, and its sponsors and charities,” added Shugart.
Justine Pasek, a crowd favorite during the 2002 Miss Universe competition, was 22 years old when she became the first woman to inherit the Miss Universe crown. She worked in television production and planed to complete a degree in Environmental Engineering, someday working for the Smithsonian Research Center, educating the public about conservation.
She commented when she was crowned as Miss Universe 2002: “I am looking forward to taking on the responsibilities of Miss Universe and moving to New York City. I will work to make this transition as easy as possible for the Miss Universe Organization and its supporters, sponsors and charitable partners, so that I can quickly and seamlessly get to the work that must get done,” said Pasek.
Pasek stepped into the role of Miss Universe 2002 and traveled extensively working with internationally recognized AIDS/HIV organizations, including the Global Health Council, the Harvard AIDS Institute, AmFAR, and the Center for Disease Control’s “Act Now” campaign. As a “celebrity” spokesperson, she was responsible for working with the media globally to generate a better understanding and acceptance of AIDS and HIV and its prevention; while helping increase awareness, funding and resources for these key organizations.
She did a great job as Miss Universe.
Justine arrived in Puerto Rico with a low profile, in a year when favoritism was focused on two strong black contestants – Misses Colombia and Dominican Republican (both failed to make the cut). Her fashionable look did not make her stand out much at first. But as the days went by, her favoritism grew consistently.
The week leading up to the pageant, the local media tried to discredit her by twisting some declarations she had made earlier about the national costume competition.
Media in Panama struck back, as the reputation of their national queen wouldn’t be tarnished. TV shows dedicated to ridicule beauty queens, had to take their statements back. With all this energy shifted, not only Justine became a crowd favorite during the final night of the pageant, but she also put the cherry on the top of the sundae by answering that she “would love to represent Puerto Rico”, if given the chance of wearing a different sash during the pageant.
No contestant from Panama had ever reached the final stage of the competition, so that night virtually everybody in her country was glued to the TV sets waiting for the final results. The climax came to a maximum with Justine holding hands with Oxana Fedorova, the eventual winner (who absolutely deserved to win, by the way).
After her presentation as the official Miss Universe 2002, Justine was extremely involved in her work as the new titleholder, including trips to Indonesia, Thailand, Poland, Spain and many other places; her endless work raising AIDS awareness and even a visit to the White House were continously featured by the media.
She crowned her sucessor during the 2003 pageant held in her home city of Panama.
Some pageant fans, mostly from Latin America, never liked her, because she was a natural beauty, something the most conservative Latin pageant fans could not understand.
Nowadays, she is an activist extremely involved in causes true to her heart. She is still and advocate for AIDS awareness, gay rights, conservation of the environment, as well as Goodwill Ambassador for the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
Pasek got married in 2009 and currently resides in the United States with her husband. To this day, she is highly regarded by the Miss Universe Organization as one of the best titleholders in recent years.
Obs: A full report on Miss Universe 2002 will be written when Oxana Fedorova’s time arrives.