CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Mariana Jimenez, a 20-year-old social communications student, has been crowned as the new Miss Venezuela, surpassing 24 other contestants and winning the right to represent Venezuela in the Miss Universe pageant.
As in recent years, the country's hard economic times were apparent in Thursday night's austere ceremony. The show went on without the international pop stars and Broadway-like dance productions that used to grace the competition. And it was held in the small studio of the show's sponsor rather than a large arena.
What hasn't changed is Venezuela's obsession with beauty. The show is one of the most-watched on Venezuelan TV and one that crosses political and class lines normally insurmountable after 15 years of socialist rule.
Venezuela has won more international beauty competitions than any other nation, including three of the last six Miss Universe pageants.
The current Miss Universe, Maria Gabriela Isler, who is Venezuelan, attended Thursday's pageant.