LAS VEGAS – A 20-year-old Boston University sophomore and a self-described “cellist-nerd” brought the Miss Universe crown back to the United States for the first time in more than a decade when she won the televised contest Wednesday.
Olivia Culpo beat out 88 other beauty queens to take the title from Leila Lopes of Angola during the two-hour competition at the Planet Hollywood casino on the Las Vegas Strip.
Culpo’s coronation ends a long losing spell for the U.S. in the competition co-owned by Donald Trump and NBC. An American had not won the right to be called Miss Universe since Brook Lee won the title in 1997.
Miss Philippines, Janine Tugonon, came in second, while Miss Venezuela, Irene Sofia Esser Quintero, placed third.
Culpo was the first Miss USA winner from Rhode Island when she took the national crown in Las Vegas in June.
She grew up in Cranston with two professional musicians for parents and has played the cello alongside world-renowned classical musician Yo-Yo Ma. On her Miss Universe page, she said she hopes to pursue a career in film or television, and cites Audrey Hepburn as a role model because of her “generosity, intelligence and grace.”