Sanya, China: An Indian medical student was crowned Miss World at a glitzy event in a Chinese resort on Saturday, making her country the joint-most successful in the beauty pageant’s history.
Manushi Chhillar is the sixth Indian winner of the long-running contest, following in the footsteps of Bollywood actresses Priyanka Chopra and Aishwarya Rai.
Her win brings India level with Venezuela as the countries with most victories in the history of the pageant, now in its 67th edition.
Chhillar, 20, is a trained Indian classical dancer who also enjoys painting and hopes to open a chain of non-profit hospitals in rural areas, according to the Miss World website.
“Thank you, everyone, for your constant love, support,” and prayers she wrote on Twitter. “This one’s for India.”
Chhillar’s victory rapidly became a top trending topic on the social media platform in India after the announcement, with Manohar Lal Khattar — the minister of her home state of Haryana — among the first to offer congratulations.
Chhillar was handed the crown by last year’s winner, Stephanie del Valle of Puerto Rico, at the ceremony in the Chinese coastal city of Sanya on Saturday night.
Stephanie Hill of England and Andrea Meza of Mexico finished as runners-up.
Saturday marked the Miss World pageant’s return to Sanya, on southern China’s Hainan Island, for a seventh time, where the event was last held in 2015.
At the previous occasion two years ago, controversy erupted as officials in Hong Kong stopped Miss Canada, Anastasia Lin, from boarding a plane bound for Sanya, telling her she would not receive a visa.
The 25-year old actress claimed the decision was due to her stance on China’s human rights record, including its persecution of Falun Gong, a Chinese spiritual group of which she is a practitioner.
At last year’s event in the United States, Lin was again embroiled in controversy when pageant officials reportedly warned her against speaking to the press for three weeks about human rights abuses in China.
Miss Lin did not participate in this year’s event, with Canada represented instead by Cynthia Menard, a high school student.