The Boston University sophomore becomes the first American to triumph since 1997

By Tim Nudd
Updated December 20, 2012 08:35 AM
Credit: Julie Jacobson/AP


Olivia Culpo, the 20-year-old Miss USA and former Miss Rhode Island, won the Miss Universe pageant on Wednesday night in Las Vegas, becoming the first American to do so since 1997.

The Boston University sophomore outlasted 88 other competitors. Miss Philippines, Janine Tugonon, came in second, and Miss Venezuela, Irene Sofia Esser Quintero, finished third.

“What an honor! This night was a dream come true. Thank you everyone for your support tonight!! USA finally did it!” Culpo wrote on Twitter after the competition ended.

The U.S. drought in the competition had gone back 15 years. The last American to win was Hawaii’s Brook Lee.

With Culpo earning her new title, Miss Maryland, Nana Meriwether, now becomes the new Miss USA.

Culpo had told the Boston Herald this week, before she won, that the Miss Universe competition was a whole different challenge than Miss USA. “For Miss USA, I felt more pressure to be lean,” she said. “Here, they’re bigger and taller. The look of Miss Universe is more voluptuous.”

On Thursday, Culpo was ready to embrace everything that comes with the Miss Universe title. “Rise and shine!!” she wrote on Twitter. “Makeup time with @Yukyan51 for a long day of media. Ready for day one of #MissUniverse life :)”