Miss Universe

Latina goddess: How Nicaragua’s Sheynnis Palacios won Miss Universe 2023 crown

Jairo Bolledo

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Latina goddess: How Nicaragua’s Sheynnis Palacios won Miss Universe 2023 crown

MISS UNIVERSE 2023. Nicaragua's Sheynnis Palacio, the winner of Miss Universe 2023.

Miss Universe/ Instagram

Palacios' rich experience in pageantry is evident in her impeccable preliminary and final performances, which made her win the highly coveted crown

MANILA, Philippines — Sheynnis Palacios made history on Sunday, November 19, as the first woman from Nicaragua to win the Miss Universe crown.

Palacios bested 83 other candidates during the finals night held in Latin country El Salvador. Thailand’s Anntonia Porsild, Miss Supranational 2019, was named the first runner-up, while Australia’s Moraya Wilson was the second runner-up.

The new Miss Universe winner is also the first winner of a major pageant from Nicaragua. The country, despite coming from the continent known for being a stronghold for beauty contests, has never won a Miss Universe crown before Palacios. Nicaragua has yet to win a Miss World, Miss International, or Miss Earth crown.

The last time Nicaragua placed in the Miss Universe pageant was in 2021, with Ana Marcelo finishing as a Top 20 finalist in Miss Universe 2020. In 2013, Nicaragua also placed through Nastassja Bolívar, who was named as one of the Top 16 semi-finalists.

In 2016, pageant fans were captivated by Marina Jacoby’s beauty, Nicaragua’s bet at Miss Universe 2016. Many fans rooted for her, expecting Jacoby to land a placement in the pageant. Unfortunately, she did not secure a spot even in the semi-finals.

Palacios, fortunately, got the same momentum due to her captivating beauty. It also helped that the pageant is held in a Latin country, so she was primarily surrounded by Latinas like her.

But how did Palacios snatch the highly coveted Mouawad crown?

Contender from the start

Palacios is no stranger to international beauty pageants. Like our very own Michelle Dee, she already represented her country at the Miss World pageant. She placed as one of the top 40 semi-finalists during the 70th edition of the London-based pageant.

The new Miss Universe winner joins fellow sisters who competed first in Miss World, then eventually went on to win Miss Universe. This includes Miss Universe 1992 Michelle McLean of Namibia (competed in Miss World 1991), Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray of the Philippines (competed in Miss World 2016), and most recently, Miss Universe 2020 Andrea Meza of Mexico (competed in Miss World 2017).

Palacios’ rich pageant experience became more evident during her national pageant.

She aced every portion of her local pageant — from rocking the swimsuit portion with her pink two-piece, to showing her elegance in a crystal-encrusted blue gown. Palacios unsurprisingly won her national title.

Even before stepping in El Salvador, Palacios was already among the favorites to win the Miss Universe 2023 crown. Pageant site Missosology, which ranks the contestants’ chances in pageants, included Palacios in their first hot picks for the Miss Universe 2023 competition, placing her second-highest.

Later, Missosology put Palacios at the top spot for their last two hot picks, choosing her as the possible winner — and the prediction was right.

Consistent from prelims to finals

Palacios was consistent from the pageant’s first day. But many people only started taking notice of her after her flawless preliminary performance.

Her shoulder-length wavy hair emphasized her facial structure. Wearing a metallic, rose gold two-piece, Palacios devoured in the preliminary swimsuit round with her polished pasarela. She commanded the stage with her presence — she carried herself with confidence and all of her body movements were in sync.

In the preliminary evening gown portion, she once again wore a blue gown with crystals. The gown with a side slit emphasized her captivating walk. Even in the national costume presentation, Palacios really performed well by embodying El Zanate, Nicaragua’s grackle bird.

It was not surprising that Palacios’ name would be called during finals night. She was called as the first semi-finalist, like other Miss Universe winners in the past like Dayana Mendoza and Paulina Vega.

Being Latinas was not the only common denominator among the three. Like Mendoza and Vega, Palacios was a really strong contender and had good chance of winning from the very start.

Palacios gave off a different aura in her final swimsuit performance. If she was already confident in the preliminaries, she was oozing with even greater confidence in the final swimsuit round, wearing the same two-piece. She did not overdo it; she maintained her pasarela’s great rhythm.

Although she did not wear the most astonishing dress, Palacios still displayed elegance in the finals’ evening gown portion, which secured her spot in the Top 5.

In the Top 5 interview round, she answered with sincerity. Although she was speaking a different language, you can still find her delivery endearing. She was last to be called in the Top 3.

It was Palacios’ response in the final question and answer portion that got her the crown. The three finalists were given the same question: “If you could live one year in another woman’s shoes, who would you choose and why?”

Palacios gave a remarkable response by mentioning women’s rights fighter Mary Wollstonecraft, and by ending her answer with a sticky phrase.

“I would choose Mary Wollstonecraft, because she opened the gap to give an opportunity to many women. What I would do is to have that income gap would open up so women could work in any area that they choose to work in because there are no limitations for women. That was 1750. Now in 2023 we are making history,” the new Miss Universe said.

As Miss Universe 1969 Gloria Diaz put it, “luck” also plays an important role as to whether a contestant will win the crown or not. But it was truly undeniable that Palacio’s win was not because of pure luck.

From her national pageant stint to the Miss Universe finals, she proved that hard work and preparation are essential to stand out in your competition. Palacios lived up to her name — a name fit for a royalty — and went on to win her country’s first Miss Universe crown. — Rappler.com

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Jairo Bolledo

Jairo Bolledo is a multimedia reporter at Rappler covering justice, police, and crime.