Vega, the Reigning Miss Colombia, Named Miss Universe

It’s a crowning achievement for Paulina Vega

The 22-year-old Colombian beauty queen representing her native land, has been crowned Miss Universe.

Miss Universe Paulina Vega

Vega, a relative pageant newcomer, beat out first runner-up Miss USA Nia Sanchez and contestants from more than 80 other countries at Sunday’s pageant in Miami.

Vega, a student of business administration from Barranquilla, Colombia, said she would wear the crown with “pride and excitement” as she heard the news that fans in Colombia had taken to the streets to celebrate.

Real estate mogul and reality television star Donald Trump, who owns the pageant, said many predicted Vega would take home the coveted crown a few weeks ago when contestants first arrived in Miami for the festivities.

“From the minute she walked in the building, people said, ‘She’s a star,'” Trump said.

Vega’s win keeps the title in the hands of another Latina — reigning Miss Universe Gabriela Isler is from Venezuela.

Pageants and performance run in Vega’s family. Her grandmother, Elvira Castillo, was Miss Atlántico 1953 (Colombia) and her grandfather is legendary tenor Gastón Vega.

But the contests leading up to Miss Universe were a first for Vega, who is one of eight children. She also said they would be her last, as she is eager to return to her business studies, saying: “It gives me independence. I want to have my own company.”

After Sanchez, the 24-year-old Miss USA from Las Vegas, Nevada, the second runner-up was Miss Ukraine Diana Harkusha. Miss Jamaica Kaci Fennell and Miss Netherlands Yasmin Verheijen were also among the top five, emerging from the field of 88 contestants.

As Miss Universe, Vega will receive an undisclosed salary, a luxury apartment in New York, a wardrobe and oodles of beauty products, and a one-year scholarship from the New York Film Academy.

“It will be a dream come true to represent the woman of today,” Vega said earlier in the week. “A woman that not only cares about being beautiful and being glamorous, but also cares about being a professional, intelligent, hard-working person.”

Sanchez Named Miss USA 2014

It’s a crowning achievement for Miss Nevada Nia Sanchez

The 24-year-old half-Mexican American beauty queen, a fourth-degree black belt in the Korean martial art of taekwondo, has been crowned Miss USA 2014, becoming the first woman from the state of Nevada to win the title.

Nia Sanchez

Sanchez, who once worked at Hong Kong Disneyland, beat out 50 other contestants Sunday night at the pageant in Louisiana.

First runner-up was Miss North Dakota Audra Mari.

Erin Brady, of South Glastonbury, Connecticut, the 2013 winner, handed over her crown to Sanchez after a three-hour telecast from the Baton Rouge Civic Center.

Other runner-ups were: home state beauty queen, Miss Louisiana Brittany Guidry; Miss Georgia Tiana Griggs, Miss Florida Brittany Oldehoff and Miss Iowa Carlyn Bradarich.

Bradarich got a second chance when the viewing audience gave her the most votes on Twitter.

Sanchez, the fourth Latina to win the title, will go on from the 63rd Miss USA to represent the U.S. at the Miss Universe competition later this year.

The other Latina Miss USAs are Laura Harring (1985), Lynnette Cole (2000), and Susie Castillo (2003).