By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated September 24, 2002 11:00 AM
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Unemployment has struck every field: For the first time in the pageant’s 52 years, a reigning Miss Universe has been fired.

Russia’s Oxana Fedorova, who won the crown May 29, will be replaced by the first runner-up, Panama’s Justine Pasek, 22, a spokeswoman for the pageant told Reuters Monday.

On Tuesday’s “Today” show, Pasek said that her stepping up to the plate happened so fast that she hadn’t even had time to tell her parents the news. “As a regular person,” she said, “you don’t know what to expect.” She added that she hopes to save the rain forests.

Pageant spokeswoman Mary Hillard McMillan said that Fedorova “was not able to fulfill her obligations and her responsibilities as Miss Universe,” which included global travel to speak on AIDS awareness. No further details of why she was given the boot were announced.

Reuters, however, reports that here has been some buzz that Fedorova turned out to be married. Tabloid reports also claimed Fedorova was pregnant and had gained 50 pounds, but there has been no comment about the reports from pageant officials.

“Being at home in Russia was more important for her,” McMillan said. Fedorova, described as “a raven-haired beauty,” was the first Miss Russia ever to win the contest.

Donald Trump, who co-owns the pageant, will crown Pasek Tuesday in New York.

“It’s too bad it didn’t work out better with Oxana but our new Miss Universe is equally beautiful and she is a tremendous crowd pleaser,” Trump told the New York Post in Monday’s editions. Trump’s spokesman said the real-estate entrepreneur would not comment further until after Tuesday’s press conference.