Contestants vie for Miss Universe crown in Miami on Sunday

Miss Universe
(AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee). Miss Universe contestants stand in place during a break in rehearsals, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015, at Florida International University in Miami. The Miss Universe pageant will be held Jan. 25, in Miami.

Associated Press

MIAMI (AP) — A new Miss Universe will be crowned Sunday night in Miami, with participants from 88 countries taking part.

The contestants were narrowed to 15 during Wednesday’s preliminary competition, but the results won’t be announced until the live show, which airs at 8 p.m. EST on NBC.

“Today Show” personality Natalie Morales is hosting the show. And before Miss Universe, Gabriela Isler of Venezuela, crowns the next winner, viewers will hear a performance from singer Nick Jonas.

Miss Universe
Miss Universe contestant Grace Levy, center, of Great Britain, smiles as she chats with other contestants during a break in rehearsals, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015, at Florida International University in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

The women have been participating in events around Miami from a golf outing to a Zumba class in the past two weeks.

“All of the contestants are really beautiful souls and we’ve gotten to get to know each other during the 20 days and we’ve become great friends,” said Miss Egypt Lara Debbane. “We’re excited and we’re going to support each other.”

Miss Venezuela Migbelis Lynette Castellanos has tremendous support and pressure locally and back home. The Miami suburb of Doral, which is hosting the women during their stay, is also known as “Doralzuela” for its many Venezuelan residents. Three of the last six Miss Universe titles have gone to Venezuela, where beauty pageants are big business.

“I’m feeling good and I’m feeling this moment is mine,” Castellanos said.

Miss USA Nia Sanchez says she’s looking forward to the often-dreaded interview portion. She’s been running practice questions all week with her roommate Miss Australia Tegan Martin.

“Interview is the best place to connect with the judges. Miss Universe is not a runway model. I can look good onstage all I want but if I can’t talk to somebody I’m not going to be a good Miss Universe,” Sanchez said.

Miss Colombia Paulina Vega says “Every girl has different reasons why they are participating, but my reason, it’s because it will be a dream come true to represent the woman of today. A woman that not only care about being beautiful and being glamorous, but also cares about being a professional, intelligent, hard-working person.”

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