Miss Spain Athenea Paulinha Pérez was named Miss Congeniality on Saturday during the 2023 Miss Universe competition in San Salvador.
The model won the honor after the delegates voted for the competitor who inspired her peers with kindness, positivity and enthusiasm. In remarks shared by hosts Zuri Hall and Catriona Gray, Pérez said that “her biggest fear this week was forgetting this was a competition because she was so busy socializing and making friends.”
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Pérez is being celebrated for more than being a steward of sisterhood. She made history as the first woman of color to hold the title of Miss Spain.
“I believe that diversity is the future and I’m an example of it,” Pérez said in an interview segment. “Currently, I’m collaborating with children’s villages with immigrant mothers and single-parent households because I was raised by a single mother who is an immigrant and black woman.” She continued, “I know that my story can help to inspire other people. Diversity is here, and diversity is now — it’s today.”
Pérez, who ranked among the top 10 finalists, presented several looks. She paid tribute to Spain’s traditions in a flamenco-inspired dress by Siempreviva that featured dramatic ruffles around the train and wrists. During the evening gown segment she chose a sparkling gold dress that incorporated allover sequins and large cutouts.
For the swimsuit round, she chose a bikini designed by Rubin Singer, the Miss Universe Organization’s collaborator for its first merchandise line. The opening number saw her in a blue one-shoulder cocktail dress by Clarisse Designs, which provided dresses worn by all delegates for the opening numbers, and Jojo Bragais was the footwear sponsor.
2023 represented the most inclusive and diverse Miss Universe pageant in its 72-year history. In addition to Spain’s first delegate of color, restrictions on age and marital status ended. Two competitors were their country’s first transgender representatives — Miss Portugal Marina Machete and Miss Netherlands Rikkie Kollé. In 2018, Miss Spain Ángela Ponce became the first transwoman in the competition after rules changed five years earlier. Miss Guatemala Michelle Cohn and Miss Colombia Camila Avella debuted as the first competitors who are currently married. Miss Nepal Jane Dipika Garrett was the pageant’s first plus size delegate, and Miss Pakistan Erica Robin was the first competitor to wear a burkini during the swimsuit round.
The pageant’s modern makeover began last year after Anne Jakkaphong Jakrajutatip, a transgender businesswoman, purchased the Miss Universe Organization for $20,000,000. She promised that under her direction, the pageant will have the “transformational leadership in order to enhance the organization’s longstanding heritage.”
Miss Nicaragua Sheynnis Palacios was named the winner of Miss Universe 2023. Miss Australia Moraya Wilson was first runner up, and Miss Thailand Anntonia Porsild was also one of the top three finalists. Miss Universe 2022 R’Bonney Gabriel of the USA presented Palacios with a crown created by Mouawad, the official jeweler for the Miss Universe Organization since 2019.
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