November 18, 2001, Chandigarh, India
Miss Nigeria is Miss World
Sun City, November 17
Darego, an 18-year-old computer science student, tall, athletically built, and with shoulder-length hair, is a hiker, a dancer, and has the ambition to become a supermodel.
Runners-up yesterday at the luxury casino retreat in the South African bush, 180 km northeast of Johannesburg, were Miss Aruba, Zerelda Lee, a 19-year-old law student (second), and Miss Scotland, Juilet-Jane Horne, an 18-year-old media student (third).
Darego won a cash prize of $ 100,000 plus gifts valued at $150,000 and will travel the world over the next year.
Television viewers took part in the voting for the first time, directed to local telephone numbers from the Miss World website.
Their votes — with each country given equal weighting — counted toward the first winnowing-out: the viewers and the jury at Sun City were each given 50 per cent of the vote for the first 10 finalists out of the 96 contestants.
After that, the jury decided.
Bookies had made Miss USA, Carrie Ann Stroup, the favourite, followed by Miss Chile, Christianne Balmeli, but neither figured in the final 10.
“I am happy and excited. The joy of winning is just indescribable, and that’s all I can say,” Miss World told AFP minutes after the crowning, before being whisked away by bodyguards.
About 3,000 spectators viewed the event live inside the Sun City Superbowl, while an estimated 1.2 billion others watched it on television around the world.
Darego was crowned by the previous winner of the competition, Miss India, Priyanka Chopra, who won in London last year.
It is the fourth time a contestant from Africa has won the competition. It started in 1951, which means that the early beauty queens are now about 70 years old. The last African to win was Miss South Africa, Anneline Kriel, in 1974.
Miss Nigeria led the stakes from the middle of the contest when she went to the top of the leaderboard ahead of other strong entrants like Oleksandra Nicolayenko, of Ukraine and Miss Aruba.
When asked by controversial US television host Jerry Springer what she would take with her to a desert island, Miss Nigeria said: “A Bible, water and some blankets”.
Earlier, she said that one of her ambitions was to become a supermodel on the world’s ramps. She added that she enjoyed hiking and doing the traditional Nigerian “Riverine Dance”.
Miss World was dreamt up by Eric Morley in 1951 as a stunt to publicise the theatres and bingo halls of entertainment group Mecca, where he was a director at the time.
Morley died last year at the age of 82, but the reigns are being continued by his wife Julia, who had assisted him. She calls the event “good clean fun.”
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