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New Miss Universe to Be Crowned in Turbulent Manila

May 21, 1994

MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ An 18-year-old model from New Delhi won the 43rd Miss Universe pageant Saturday, defeating 76 other contestants from around the world. Sushmita Sen became the first Miss India to win the title.

Miss Sen received her crown from the outgoing Miss Universe, Dayanara Torres of Puerto Rico, at the end of the two-hour pageant telecast to an estimated 600 million viewers in 60 countries around the world.

First runner up was Miss Colombia Carolina Gomez and the second runner up was Miss Venezuela, Minorka Mercado.

Miss USA, Lu Parker of North Charleston, S.C., was among the 10 semi- finalists.

Others included Miss Slovak Republic, Silvia Lakatosova; Miss Philippines, Carlene Gonzalez; Miss Greece, Rea Toutounzi; Miss Switzerland, Patricia Faessler; Miss Italy, Adriana David and Miss Sweden, Dominique Forsberg.

The new Miss Universe will receive $215,000 in cash and prizes.

During a news conference, Miss Sen said the long-repressed women of her country should show greater self-confidence. ″I’m not telling you to be a feminist,″ she said. ″Men are important. Know what you want and get it.″

Asked what she thought of the dowry system, which is common in India, she replied: ″He can get married to the dowry. I don’t want to get married to a man like that.″

In preliminary competition, Miss Venezuela, a member of her country’s national volleyball team, won the swimsuit competition. Miss Slovak Republic, who spoke of the excitement which accompanied the collapse of Communism, scored highest in the interview.

Miss Colombia, who works with unwed teenage mothers, finished first in evening gown competition.

In her interview, Miss Parker, a 26-year-old teacher, charmed the Filipino audience by saying a few phrases in Tagalog, the local language.

The Philippines, where beauty queens are revered, last hosted the contest in 1974, two years after dictator Ferdinand Marcos imposed eight years of martial law.

This time, the government hopes the contest will draw attention to the Philippines as a destination for tourists. The country’s image has suffered from two decades of political instability, including the 1986 ouster of Marcos and a series of Muslim, Communist and military revolts.

But protests surfaced. Shortly before the competition, police turned back about 100 feminists who were marching toward the pageant venue to protest government sponsorship of the festivities.

They distributed handbills claiming the government ″has been reduced into nothing but a trafficker of women and promoter of a global sex industry that preys on women.″

Earlier this month, the government’s Commission on Human Rights began investigating allegations that police were rounding up scores of homeless children to hide them from Miss Universe visitors and contestants.

Police acknowledged the roundup but said it was part of a campaign to curb drug abuse. Human rights organizations claimed the children were beggars and vendors in areas near the site of the pageant.

On Thursday, a Communist women’s group staged a brief protest in a crowded shopping district and claimed the government was seeking ″to profit from the exploitation of women’s bodies″ by hosting the pageant.

Late Thursday, a small pipe bomb exploded near the pageant site at the Philippine International Convention Center but caused no injuries or damage. No one claimed responsibility.

Earlier this month, police detonated a small bomb near a resort some of the Miss Universe contestants were visiting.

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