BEAUTY PAGEANT

Spain wins first ever Miss World title

Barcelona model Mireia Lalaguna, 22, scores upset victory over big favorites to take crown

Mireia Lalaguna (center) wearing her new crown.
Mireia Lalaguna (center) wearing her new crown.JOHANNES EISELE / AFP

A 22-year-old from Barcelona has become the first Spaniard to be crowned Miss World.

Mireia Lalaguna, a model and pharmacy student, beat Miss Russia and Miss Indonesia – the first and second runners-up – at the finale of the 65th edition of the world’s oldest beauty pageant, which was held in the Chinese city of Sanya on Saturday. The event had been clouded by controversy following China’s decision to ban Miss Canada for her statements against human rights violations.

The young woman could not conceal her disbelief when she was announced the winner, beating out the big favorites from France, Venezuela and China.

I think I should be the next Miss World because I believe in strong women”

Mireia Lalaguna

“When they said my name, I was not expecting it at all, but I’m very happy,” she told Spanish news agency Efe.

Lalaguna speculated that the jury had “managed to find who I really am, because they were seeking inner beauty, not just outer beauty.”

In their final statements to the jury, the finalists sought to convince the panelists why they should be crowned Miss World.

“I think I should be the next Miss World because I believe in strong women,” said Lalaguna.

Lalaguna dedicated her victory to her grandparents, “who were unable to come because China is very far away.” But her parents, who did make the trip, were ecstatic.

“We are really excited, we’re up on a cloud, just like her,” said her mother Encarna Royo.

As a child, Mireia used to be “the tallest girl in class, the one with the most prominent lips, and she got laughed at,” recalled her mother.

After receiving the crown from last year’s winner, South Africa’s Rolene Strauss, the new Miss World now begins a 12-month reign filled with trips, charity events and fund-raisers for humanitarian causes.

When they said my name, I was not expecting it at all, but I’m very happy”

Mireia Lalaguna

“I hope to have a brilliant year,” said the winner about her new responsibilities.

Lalaguna said she might have to move to London, headquarters of the Miss World organization, and put her pharmacy studies on hold for a while.

The official Miss World website says that she “aspires to further her studies with nutrition, before setting up a business in nutrition and dietics to find alternative health solutions to orthodox medicines.”

In 1974, another Spaniard, Amparo Muñoz, won the Miss Universe title. This year, that crown went to Miss Philippines.

English version by Susana Urra.