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Miss Universe 2008 from Venezuela

Miss USA takes a fall for second straight year

— PHOTO: AP

TOP OF THE WORLD: Dayana Mendoza, Miss Venezuela, after being crowned.

NHA TRANG: Miss Venezuela was crowned Miss Universe 2008 on Monday in a contest marked by the spectacle of Miss USA falling during the evening gown competition for the second year in a row.

The new Miss Universe, Dayana Mendoza, was once kidnapped in her homeland and says the experience taught her to remain poised under pressure.

Tension got under the skin of Miss USA, Crystle Stewart of Texas, who tripped on the train of her bejewelled gown as she made her entrance here in this Vietnamese city.

During the 2007 Miss Universe contest in Mexico City, Miss USA Rachel Smith tumbled during the evening gown competition and became an unintended star on YouTube, where the video was shown over and over again.

After the event, a beaming Ms. Mendoza said she was not yet sure where her upcoming year of whirlwind appearances would take her. But after a quick stop in New York, she wants to see her family again, enjoy some of her mom’s home cooking and give everyone hugs

In the meantime, Ms. Mendoza said, she is simply looking forward to taking off her high-heeled shoes and massaging her feet.

She declined to discuss her kidnapping, which occurred a year and a half ago, but used the occasion to call for global peace. “I want to raise my voice and tell the world that violence is not the answer.”

Ms. Mendoza, 22, is a 178-cm, green-eyed beauty who enjoys learning languages and photography. Ms. Stewart, 26, is a motivational speaker and former track and field star who is working on a book called Waiting to Win. — AP

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