Contestants vie for Miss Universe crown in Miami on Sunday

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

MIAMI (AP) — Miss USA, Miss Venezuela and Miss Colombia have been named among the 15 finalists in the running to be crowned Miss Universe in Sunday's pageant in Miami.

The contestants were narrowed from 88 to 15 during the preliminary competition earlier this week, but the results were only announced during the live show Sunday night on NBC.

"I thought I was done for sure there," said Miss Australia Tegan Martin, whose name was the last to be called.

The other finalists are from Italy, India, Spain, France, Indonesia, Philippines, Argentina, Jamaica, Ukraine, Brazil and Netherlands.

Miss Venezuela Migbelis Lynette Castellanos has tremendous support and pressure locally and back home. The Miami suburb of Doral, which is hosting the women during their stay, is also known as "Doralzuela" for its many Venezuelan residents. Three of the last six Miss Universe titles have gone to Venezuela, where beauty pageants are big business.

"I'm feeling good and I'm feeling this moment is mine," said 19-year-old Castellanos.

Miss USA Nia Sanchez, 24, said she was looking forward to the often-dreaded interview portion. She has been running practice questions all week with her roommate Miss Australia Tegan Martin.

"Interview is the best place to connect with the judges. Miss Universe is not a runway model. I can look good onstage all I wantm but if I can't talk to somebody I'm not going to be a good Miss Universe," said Sanchez, who also has a black belt in Tae Kwon Do.

Miss Colombia Paulina Vega said she was elated. "It will be a dream come true to represent the woman of today. A woman that not only care about being beautiful and being glamorous, but also cares about being a professional, intelligent, hard-working person," she said.

"Today Show" personality Natalie Morales was hosting the show. And before Miss Universe, Gabriela Isler of Venezuela, crowned the next winner, viewers were to hear performances from singers Nick Jonas and Prince Royce.

The swimsuit competition was up next.

"Don't think about it too much. We can't really change our bodies now. It's a bit too late. You just have to go out there and be confident," Martin said backstage.

Her roommate, Sanchez, said she stashed a jar of Nutella backstage and had been waiting all week to take a spoonful once the swimsuit competition was over.