Wednesday, May 13, 1998

By Denins Oda, Star-Bulletin
Billionaire Donald Trump and the newly crowned Miss Universe,
Wendy Fitzwilliam, shared a moment following the
pageant at the Stan Sheriff Center.

Trinidadian sings
for her title

It was 'Them There Eyes'
—and legs and answers—
that won over the judges

By Tim Ryan


TNT ignited the 47th Annual Miss Universe Pageant last night at the Stan Sheriff Center.

Miss Trinidad and Tobago, Wendy Fitzwilliam -- a 25-year-old, statuesque, 6-foot-plus law student -- is the new Miss Universe.

Miss Universe logo Fitzwilliam, who comes from Diego Martin in northwest Trinidad, replaces Hawaii's Brook Mahealani Lee.

"The winner actually won," said Dan Thiessen of Calgary, Canada, father of Miss Canada, Juliana Thiessen. "That's nice to see."

The pageant was broadcast worldwide by CBS and before a near-capacity crowd of about 5,000 who paid between $50 to $250 for a seat at the center. Representatives of 81 countries took part in the competition this year. Organizers said the pageant was given a complete make-over this year to reflect "the ideals and goals of women today."

Venezuela's Veruska Tatiana Ramirez, 18, was first runner-up; Joyce Giraud, Miss Puerto Rico, 23, a favorite throughout the pageant, was second. Rounding out the final five were Miss USA and Miss Colombia.

Fitzwilliam scored high in the evening-gown competition and second to Venezuela in swimsuit but crushed the other four finalists in the interview portion, where they were asked about another country in the event.

By George F. Lee, Star-Bulletin
Miss Venezuela Versuka Ramirez, left, Wendy Fitzwilliam,
Miss Trinidad and Tobago, center, and Miss Puerto Rico
Joyce Giraud, right, await the announcement of a winner.

When asked about Japan's culture, Fitzwilliam described the importance of kabuki theater, its easy understanding and elaborate costuming.

"And I know that Tokyo is a party town, and if there is one thing I know, it's p-a-r-t-y." she said, stretching the word.

Interview scoring was particularly devastating for some contestants, including an early final-five favorite, Miss Russia Anna Malova, who faltered badly when asked to compare her television and culture in her country to Ghana.

"She pulled a Chernobyl," said one observer. "She's history."

What clinched Fitzwilliam's victory was an impromptu song. On her Miss Universe registration form, she had written that someday she wanted to record a jazz song.

During final event, Fitzwilliam was asked to sing from a jazz song. Before a hushed audience, Fitzwilliam sang lyrics from "Them There Eyes."

"She just won it," Miss Universe Pageant owner Donald Trump whispered to his front-row seatmate Gov. Ben Cayetano.

"The Donald" was right.

By George F. Lee, Star-Bulletin
Brook Lee, right, crowns the new Miss Universe.

"After I wrote the jazz-singing thing in registration, I thought to myself, 'Stupid, stupid, stupid' because I was sure they would ask me to sing," she said after the pageant.

Fitzwilliam credited her victory to remaining "calm" on stage and "being honest and thoughtful" in her answers.

"I pride myself on sincerity," Fitzwilliam said, "and remaining calm in a crisis."

"My legal training helps me stay cool, because all the time I have to stand in front of a judge in mock trials and answer questions and make decisions on the spot."

When outgoing Miss Universe Brook Lee placed the crown on Fitzwilliam's head, she whispered into her successor's ear to "relax, take a deep breath and enjoy the air."

Fitzwilliam wants to use her studies in international law to become a diplomat and work for greater unity between Caribbean nations.

Miss Venezuela said her first pageant was also her last; Ramirez will now concentrate on continuing her education. Puerto Rico's Giraud will continue her modeling career.

"I've had very much fun, always happy," Ramirez said.

The Miss Congeniality Award was won by Miss Turkey, Asuman Krause. Miss Mexico, Katty Fuentes, won the $1,000 Clairol Herbal Essence Style Award. Slovak Republic's Vladimira Hrenovcikova won Miss Photogenic.

And where is Trinidad? It's the most southerly Caribbean island, sitting just seven miles off the coast of Venezuela.


Miss Universe
Wendy Fitzwilliam

Bullet Age: 25
Bullet Occupation: Pre-law student
Bullet Height: 6 feet-plus
Bullet Home: Trinidad and Tobago

Official Miss Universe Web site.

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