Miss Mexico beat out Miss Brazil and Miss Peru in the top three to claim the prestigious crown

By Joelle Goldstein
May 16, 2021 11:09 PM
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Miss Universe Miss Mexico Andrea Meza
Miss Mexico Andrea Meza
| Credit: Rodrigo Varela/Getty Images

Congratulations are in order for Miss Mexico Andrea Meza, your new Miss Universe!

A year after the annual competition went on a hiatus due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Meza was crowned Miss Universe 2020 on Sunday evening.

Meza, 26, beat out 73 other women representing their countries and territories, including runner-up, Miss Brazil Julia Gama, and second runner-up, Miss Peru Janick Maceta Del Castillo.

Meza — who has a degree in software engineering, according to her contestant biography — was presented the crown by her successor, Miss Universe 2019 Zozibini Tunzi, at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida.

During her final statement, Meza was given the topic of changing beauty standards, and offered an inspiring answer.

"We live in a society that more and more is more than advanced, and as we advance as a society, we've also advanced with stereotypes," she said. "Nowadays beauty isn't only the way we look. For me, beauty radiates not only in our spirit, but in our hearts and the way that we conduct ourselves. Never permit someone to tell you that you're not valuable."

Miss Universe Miss Mexico Andrea Meza
Miss Mexico Andrea Meza
| Credit: Rodrigo Varela/Getty Images

Earlier in the night, Meza was also asked how she would have handled the COVID pandemic if she was the leader of her country, and said she would have started a lockdown earlier.

"I believe there is not a perfect way to handle this hard situation such as COVID-19," she said. "However, I believe what I would have done is create the lockdown even before everything was that big because we lost so many lives and we cannot afford that. We have to take care of our people. That's why I would have taken care of them since the beginning."

Meza was a standout during Sunday's show, which began with a swimsuit segment ahead of an evening gown portion and interview questions. Puerto Rican singer Luis Fonsi also graced the stage for a performance alongside the Top 5 contestants.

According to her contestant biography, Meza is also an activist focused on women's rights, and works closely with the Municipal Institute for Women.

Miss Universe Miss Mexico Andrea Meza
Miss Mexico Andrea Meza
| Credit: Rodrigo Varela/Getty Images

She's also a certified makeup artist and model, an extreme sports and Crossfit fan, and is the official Tourism Brand Ambassador for the city of Chihuahua.

Listen below to the episode of our daily podcast PEOPLE Every Day for more on Miss Mexico Andrea Meza's Miss Universe win.

The 69th Miss Universe show comes over a year after Tunzi, 27, last earned the crown in 2019. No winner was named last year after the pageant went on a hiatus amid the pandemic.

In March, it was announced that the competition would be returning with a live broadcast after a number of safety precautions were put in place.

"We have spent months planning and preparing safety precautions to develop this edition of Miss Universe — one that will be memorable, special and totally innovative," the organization's president, Paula M. Shugart, said at the time.

The safety precautions, administered by Seminole Hard Rock's Safe + Sound, were modeled after the 2020 Miss USA competition that took place in November, and included contests quarantining upon arrival, frequent testing, mask use and social distancing.

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Aside from the new winner, this year's pageant — which was hosted by Mario Lopez and Olivia Culpo — featured an impressive roster of women.

Some standouts included Miss Curacao Chantal Wiertz, Miss Canada Nova Stevens, Miss Ireland Nadia Sayers and Miss Philippines Rabiya Mateo.

Wiertz's autism diagnosis inspired her to empower others with special needs through her social media campaign #CelebrateYourUniqueness, according to her contestant bio.

Stevens, who grew up away from her family in Canada after they fled the civil war in Sudan, used her voice to co-found two initiatives, Freedom March Vancouver and Black Freedom Society, her bio states. Both initiatives focus on "eradicating hate and racism experienced by black and indigenous people of color."

Sayers also used her platform for good and focused on reducing the stigma around mental health after her own struggles as a child, according to her bio. She now works in suicide prevention with a mental health charity that develops comic books based on survivors' stories.

As for Mateo, she is the current ambassador for education in the Philippines, per her bio. Her passion for the job ultimately led her to start a reading and food program for underprivileged and malnourished children in Iloilo city.