Miss Universe contestants speak on sexual harassment issue
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Miss Universe Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters didn't shy away when asked to comment on sexual harassment just after being crowned.
"If women take hands and stand together, we are unbreakable," said the 22-year-old representative from South Africa, "and we can say no to the things that are wrong in the workplace, at home or wherever you might go."
In the U.S., dozens of politicians, Hollywood executives and actors, and media personalities are facing accusations of sexual misconduct, sparked by a wave of allegations against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.
The topic arose during Sunday's competition when a fan-submitted question asked why it's important for men and women to work together to address the issue of sexual misconduct.
Miss Jamaica Davina Bennett said men and women should come together to make sure no form of abuse, including sexual harassment, is tolerated.
"Sexual harassment is a form of abuse, and no abuse should be tolerated whether in the workplace or in society," Bennett said.
Nel-Peters, who recently earned a business management degree, was crowned during the event at The AXIS theater at Planet Hollywood casino-resort on the Las Vegas Strip.
The runner-up was Miss Colombia Laura Gonzalez, while Bennett finished as the second runner-up.
Nel-Peters is from the South African coastal community of Sedgefield in the Western Cape province. She helped develop a program to train women in self-defense in various situations after she was robbed at gunpoint a month after she was crowned as Miss South Africa.
She also said she wants to champion other causes during her yearlong reign.
"HIV/AIDS is a very big problem in my country South Africa, so I hope to stand as an advocate for that," she said after the event.
She is the second woman from her home country to earn the crown.
Ninety-two women from around the world participated in the decades-old competition. This year's edition had the most contestants ever, including the first representatives in its history of Cambodia, Laos and Nepal.
Steve Harvey returned as the show's host despite botching the 2015 Miss Universe crowning. On Sunday, he poked fun at his mistake throughout the night. Three days after people in the U.S. celebrated Thanksgiving, Harvey told the audience he is "grateful for the Oscars," referring to the best-picture flub at this year's Academy Awards.
Grammy-Award winner Fergie performed her new song "A Little Work" while the contestants walked down the stage wearing evening gowns. This year's judges included YouTube star Lele Pons, former judge of "America's Next Top Model" Jay Manuel and Wendy Fitzwilliam, the 1998 Miss Universe winner from Trinidad and Tobago.
Nel-Peters earned a yearlong salary and a luxury apartment in New York City for the duration of her reign as well as more prizes.
Donald Trump formerly co-owned The Miss Universe Organization with NBCUniversal. But the network and the Spanish-language broadcaster Univision quickly cut ties with him in 2015, when he offended Hispanics with anti-immigrant remarks in announcing his bid for the White House. Trump sued both networks, eventually settling and selling off the entire pageant to talent management company WME/IMG.