Since 1952, the Miss Universe pageant has been considered as one of the most prestigious platforms to champion beauty, diversity, and women empowerment. More than whipping up the perfect balance of beauty and brains, this pageant continues to shed light to long-standing advocacies—with glitz and glamor sprinkled in.
As the country seeks the best representative to take home the coveted title, let’s take a stroll down memory lane to witness the most memorable Miss Universe winners who’ve remained influential throughout the years.
Here are 10 Iconic Miss Universe Winners and Where They Are Now:
1. Gloria Diaz (1969)
When it comes to beauty queens, it’s impossible to miss the fabulous Gloria Diaz, the country’s first-ever MU winner! She made history not only as the woman who cemented Filipinos’ love for pageantry, but also for having one of the most notable replies for the Q&A portion. With her witty sense of humor as on point as her signature winged eyeliner, she eventually reigned supreme at just 18 years old. After her coronation, then-U.S. president Richard Nixon even mentioned her victory in his speech in Manila, saying that while the US conquered the moon, the Philippines conquered the universe!
Gloria’s influence has never left the spotlight since her monumental win in 1969. While she remains a sought-after voice for her opinions on the contemporary pageant scene, she also continues to thrive in her career as an award-winning actress (see: a guest appearance on Netflix’s Insatiable!) She’s also a happy mom to her kids Raphael, Ava, and Isabelle Daza.
2. Margie Moran-Floirendo (1973)
Even when her duties as the second Filipina to win MU came to an end, Margie Moran’s passion for knowledge and the arts stayed with her. After earning degrees in business and development management, she now applies her learnings thoroughly in her socio-civic work as an ambassador-trustee of Habitat for Humanity Philippines and World Wide Fund for Nature. Prior to that, she remained a purveyor of the arts by serving as the former president of Ballet Philippines and the chairperson of the Cultural Center of the Philippines in 2018.
3. Pia Wurtzbach
Breaking the country’s 42-year Miss Universe title drought proved to be a challenging feat. Much to the delight of everyone, the tenacious Pia Wurtzbach triumphantly brought home the crown in 2015 while dazzling us in her royal blue ensemble.
Today, Pia remains a queen in her own right, gracing magazine covers, appearing in movies, and jet setting around the world with beau Jeremy Jauncey. She’s also co-hosting Between Us Queens, a Spotify original podcast with fellow beauty queens Carla Lizardo and Bianca Guidotti.
4. Catriona Gray (2018)
Catriona flawlessly slayed her pageant run from start to finish in 2018! Her seemingly unending reign extends up to her music career, a passion she continues to pursue with partner Sam Milby. The couple’s concert tour in Canada will begin in May, making it their first collaboration since they went official! She also recently unveiled her Madame Tussauds Singapore wax figure, immortalizing her iconic Miss Universe winning look for everyone to marvel at in the years to come.
5. Dayanara Torres (1993)
Puerto Rican beauty Dayanara Torres didn’t only win the title in 1993—she also managed to win Filipinos’ hearts. In five years, she was able to forge a successful career in Philippine showbiz by performing and hosting in TV shows during the ‘90s. Her potential for acting was also tapped, leading her to star in box office films such as Hataw Na (1995) with Gary Valenciano, and Basta’t Kasama Kita (1995) together with former flame Aga Muhlach.
Dayanara battled skin cancer in 2020, but she bounced back stronger after her treatment. Since her diagnosis, she’s been a vocal ally on fighting the disease.
6. Sushmita Sen (1994)
Arguably one of the hardest questions in the history of Miss Universe was asked on the fateful Manila coronation of the wise Sushmita Sen. After she encapsulated her definition of the essence of being a woman, she secured her spot as the first Miss Universe titleholder from India in 1994.
More than two decades after her momentous win, she continues to enthrall audiences by being a Bollywood mainstay. She’s currently starring as Aarya in the titular crime-thriller TV series, her latest project in 2021.
7. Riyo Mori (2007)
Japan beamed with pride when ballerina Riyo Mori won the crown during Miss Universe 2007 in Mexico. Putting a contemporary twist on their traditional wear, Riyo’s kimono-inspired black/floral winning gown from Gucci’s Spring/Summer 2007 collection remains to be one of the most memorable pageant outfits there is.
Now, Riyo continues to be a fashion model while sharing snippets of her post-pageant life on her Instagram account, @riyomori_.
8. Lara Dutta (2000)
Former Miss Universe Lara Dutta made sure to start the millennium with a bang when she made history as the pageant’s highest-earned scorer, racking up the maximum 9.99 points from the panel in the interview portion alone! Aside from the Best Swimsuit award, she won the Best in National Costume as well. At this point, saying that 2000 was her year is an understatement.
The Indian phenom eventually found her success in Bollywood, gaining numerous accolades from her projects throughout the years.
9. Lupita Jones (1991)
Fiery Latina beauties have always been strong pageant contenders since time immemorial, and Lupita Jones made sure to live up to the reputation. In 1991, she made history as the first Mexican to earn the Miss Universe title. As she basked in the glory of pageantry, she found herself mentoring future beauty queens, and she’s since never looked back.
Strong-willed as ever, Lupita tried her hand in politics in 2021. After failing to nab the gubernatorial position she was running for, she continued her legacy as a queenmaker instead. Lupita became the director of the Mexican division of the Mexicana Universal franchise, which has produced two titleholders, Ximena Navarrete (2010) and Andrea Meza (2020).
10. Zozibini Tunzi (2019)
A trailblazer at heart, Zozibini Tunzi made two historic feats during her Miss Universe stint: being the first black South-African woman to win the title, and being the first MU winner with afro hair. Although she was originally advised to wear a wig, she remained loyal to her crowning glory.
As the longest-reigning Miss Universe due to the pandemic, Zozi’s post-pageant era consists of occasional traveling, while remaining active in championing her causes.
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