3rd place – Dayana Mendoza, Venezuela
(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)
Not long ago, who could have imagined that Vietnam would host the Miss Universe pageant, an event produced by Americans? Well, it did happen, in 2008, and Vietnam put together a remarkable production. 80 candidates competed, and it was hosted by the king of controversy and trash tv, Jerry Springer, along with the eternal Spice Girl, Melanie Brown. Among the music performers, the woman who would soon after that become the world’s hottest pop singer: the unique Lady Gaga.
Kosovo, a partially recognized republic still claimed by Serbia as part of its own territory, debuted in 2008 with beautiful Zana Krasniqi, who would be a top 10 semi-finalist, and finish the competition in 6th place.
The big favorite for the crown in 2008 was Miss Venezuela, Dayana Mendoza. Pageant analysts believed her only real threats were Miss Mexico, Elisa Nájera, and Miss Colombia, Taliana Vargas. Other favorites were Misses Australia, Kosovo, Panama, Spain, India, Norway, Puerto Rico and USA.
Miss Universe 2008 lasted for almost 30 days, being one of the longest in history. The candidates visited Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang, Hoi An, Ha Noi, and finally, Nha Trang, where the big final event took place.
For the first time (and only until now), Miss Universe held a separate competition to choose the most beautiful figure among the contestants, and this special award went to Miss Mexico, Elisa Nájera. Another unique contest was the Miss Ao Dai (Vietnam’s national costume). Venezuela won that.
Miss Russia, Ksenia Sukhinova, declined competing in the pageant due to her studies, and chose to go to Miss World only (she was supposed to compete on both). The rest is history: Ksenia would be crowned Miss World 2008, in Johannesburg, South Africa, later that year. Her 2nd runner-up in Russia, Vera Krasova, replaced her, and was the 3rd runner-up in Vietnam.
Another original national titleholder who could not compete in Miss Universe was Miss Spain (who also competed in Miss World 2008 and was a semi-finalist). The 1st runner-up, Claudia Moro, represented Spain in Miss U08, and was a favorite and semi-finalist.
That year the Mikimoto crown was replaced by a new piece made by Vietnamese Designers CAO FIne Jewelry. It was a one-year edition crown, and part of the local sponsorship agreement.
The show started at 8 AM, local time, to be telecast live on prime time in the USA and Latin America, Miss Universe’s main markets.
Many jaws dropped when a ‘top 15′ filled with ‘surprises’ was announced: Venezuela, Kosovo, Mexico, Vietnam, South Africa, Australia, Japan, Dominican Republic, Italy, Colombia, Russia, Hungary, Czech Republic, USA, and Spain.
Once again, Donal Trump and the Miss Universe Organization choices (6 out of 15) were highly questioned by most fans and pageant observers. South Africa (who looked her best and performed better in Miss World), Japan, Dominican Republic (who started being noticed at the final night), Italy, Czech Republic, Vietnam (there were rumors that her place among the 15 was secured on the contract signed by the MUO and the local organizers), and mostly Hungary (one of the biggest upsets in pageant history), took the spots of very competitive beauties, like India, Panama, Puerto Rico, Norway (Miss World 2010′s finalist), Montenegro (Miss Tourism Queen 2008′s 3rd runner-up), and others.
But the show had to go on, when to the sound of emerging pop star Lady Gaga, the 15 paraded in swimsuits. The “surprising” ones, except for Miss Dominican Republic, got not so surprising historic low marks from the judges, like Vietnam (7,050), Japan (7,100), South Africa (7,133), and Hungary (7,229). Colombia topped the group, followed by Venezuela in 2nd, and USA in 3rd place.
The 10 candidates who would go on to the next round of competition were Misses Kosovo, Australia, Spain, Mexico, Colombia, USA, Dominican Republic, Russia, Italy, and Venezuela.
After some unforgettable gown performances, Miss Colombia was 1st once again, followed by Venezuela in 2nd, and Mexico in 3rd. Surprising Dominican Republic and Russia rounded out the ‘top 5′, leaving behind favorites from Kosovo, Spain, and Australia. Just like the American representative in Miss Universe 2007, Miss USA, Crystle Stewart, fell during the evening gown competition. However, unlike her predecessor, Crystle did not make it to the ‘top 5′.
At that point, it was believed that the judges were favoring Miss Colombia over the heavy favorite Miss Venezuela. However, Dayana Mendoza’s stunning looks and spontaneity when answering the final question, gave her the extra edge and necessary votes to become her country’s 5th Miss Universe. Miss Colombia was 2nd, Miss Dominican Republic, who many believe went way too far, was 3rd, Miss Russia was 4th, and Miss Mexico, who was expected to be in the ‘top 3′, was 5th.
Dayana received the crown from Miss Universe 2007, Japan’s Riyo Mori, who made a fashion statement by doing her farewell walk wearing a tux. It was another first in Miss Universe’s history!
It had been 12 years since Venezuela’s last victory (Alicia Machado in 1996), an eternity for a country known for the beauty of its women and preparation to compete internationally
with great success. When some thought Osmel Souza, the famous Venezuelan national director and pageant coach, had lost his touch, Venezuela was back in the game stronger than ever: one year later, in the Bahamas, it would make history for winning the first back-to-back title for a country in Miss Universe history.
Dayana, considered the third most beautiful Miss Universe ever, and the most beautiful from the Americas, was a very charismatic queen, having done a remarkable job as Miss Universe.
MISS UNIVERSE 2008 – DAYANA MENDOZA
MOST BEAUTIFUL MISS UNIVERSE FROM SOUTH AMERICA
MOST BEAUTIFUL MISS UNIVERSE FROM THE 2000′S
Still competing: 2002-Oxana, 2004