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A Heavenly Universe - Miss Universe 2006 Zuleyka Rivera
PHOTOS BY MISS UNIVERSE L.P., LLLP l miss universe portrait by fadil berisha
The popular definition of the universe as “the Earth together with all its inhabitants and created things” could aptly apply to the assemblage of 86 celestial bodies competing for the 2006 crown of Miss Universe. No political differences or outside distractions would compete for the attention of the worldwide viewing audience. Adding to the surreal ethereal experience, the Miss Universe 2006 telecast returned to the center of the entertainment universe, Los Angeles, California, and the auspicious Shrine Theater.
Nations On Parade
NATIONS ON PARADE: Contestants for the 2006 Miss Universe Pageant perform in their national costumes during the taping of the opening segment.
Broadcast live on network partner NBC, the festivities were co-hosted by Access Hollywood’s Nancy O’Dell (Pageantry cover feature, Fall 2006) and Latin heartthrob Carlos Ponce with Miss USA 2004 Shandi Finnessey and the loquacious Carson Kressley providing stream-of-consciousness commentary throughout the event. Creating the excitement of an emerging galaxy in its 55th year, the 2006 installment of the Miss Universe Pageant brought the frenzied audience to its feet with the opening production of the National Costume competition. Resplendent in the fervor of national pride, the 86 delegates took to the stage for their initial introductions.
With the uniqueness and excitement of the opening accomplished, the competition would begin in earnest with the announcement of the Top 20 countries as chosen by the preliminary panel of judges and the Miss Universe Organization. Answering the call were Miss Puerto Rico Zuleyka Rivera, Miss Denmark Betina Faurbye, Miss Switzerland Lauriane Gillieron, Miss Colombia Valerie Dominquez, Miss Ethiopia Dina Mosissa, Miss Russia Anna Litvinova, Miss Canada Alice Panikian, Miss Japan Kurara Chibana, Miss Brazil Rafaella Zanella, Miss Sweden Josephine Alhanko, Miss Trinidad & Tobago Kenisha Thom, Miss Thailand Charm Osatanon, Miss Bolivia Desiree Duran, Miss Hungary Adrienn Bende, Miss USA Tara Conner, Miss Paraguay Lourdes Arevalos, Miss India Neha Kapur, Miss Argentina Magali Romitelli, Miss Ukraine Inna Tsimbalyuk, and Miss Mexico Priscila Perales. With such a diversity of cultural and ethnic representation from practically every compass point of the universe, the competition would soon define itself as a must-see event.
Island Jewels
ISLAND JEWEL: Miss Puerto Rico Zuleyka Rivera competes in her national costume during the 2006 Miss Universe National Costume Show (L), and strikes a confident pose during preliminary Swimsuit competition.
Pleasing Performances
Beginning with the audience-rousing segment of competition, the adrenaline-fueled contestants commandeered the Miss Universe stage within the temperature-raising Swimsuit competition. In competing within this lifestyle event in matching swimwear, delegates proved to the universe their commitment to a healthy existence. Moving to the up-tempo sounds and music of Chelo, the audience and judges alike were winnowing the field of contestants to a Top 10. As difficult as it may have seemed, the judges cast their votes and the field was reduced. Amidst the deafening roar of approval and nationalistic flag-waving, the young women representing the countries of Canada (age 21, 6'1"), Trinidad & Tobago (age 22, 5'8"), Bolivia (age 20, 5'10"), Japan (age 24, 5'8"), Puerto Rico (age 18, 5'9"), USA (age 20, 5'5"), Switzerland (age 21, 5'7"), Mexico (age 23, 5'8"), Colombia (age 25, 5'9"), and Paraguay (age 22, 6'0") learned they would continue in the quest for the crown of Miss Universe 2006. The cosmos was in alignment with another diverse group of competitors.
Quenching the desire of the worldwide audience to learn more about the remaining delegates, the “up close and confidential” segue shed light on the dreams and future aspirations of each contestant while providing a comfortable look into each individual personality. Armed with a little more knowledge of each individual, the Miss Universe audience was again ready for showtime.
Shimmering Star
SHIMMERING STAR: Zuleyka Rivera, Miss Puerto Rico 2006, makes a strong impression on-stage at finals in Evening Gown (L), and follows that up with a poised performance during the Final Question from co-hosts Nancy O’Dell and Carlos Ponce.
 
Classically Attired
Serenaded by Italy’s newest operatic voice, Vittorio, the serene and elegant Evening Wear competition began. Beautifully attired in the artistic nuances of couture fashion, each representative shown as brightly as the brightest stars in the universe. As is the customary tradition of the Miss Universe Pageant, the stars would be reduced from 10 to a final five delegates. However, before the final cut could be announced, we were treated to the special recognition awards. As voted on worldwide through the NBC.com web site, Miss Photogenic was awarded to Miss Philippines Lia Ramos; recognized for her warm personality by her fellow delegates, Miss Ghana Angela Asare was awarded the title of Miss Congeniality. And for her representative samurai-invoking image, Miss Japan Kurara Chibana was announced as the winner of Best National Costume.
 
Making Eye Contact
MAKING EYE CONTACT : Giving the judges one final look are the Top 5 for 2006 (L-R): Zuleyka Rivera, Miss Puerto Rico 2006; Tara Conner, Miss USA 2006; Kurara Chibana, Miss Japan 2006; Lourdes Arevalos, Miss Paraguay 2006, and Lauriane Gilliéron, Miss Switzerland 2006.
 
The announcement of the Top 5 increased the pressure on Miss Switzerland, Miss Paraguay, Miss Japan, Miss USA, and Miss Puerto Rico. In order to calm the nerves of these five remaining contestants, each delegate was afforded the opportunity of a relaxed one-on-one question-and-answer opportunity with Nancy O’Dell. This was to set the stage for the defining final question.
 
Special Awards
Final Questions
Standing center stage, one-by-one, the final five hopefuls would answer a question as posed by either their fellow remaining competitors or the reigning Miss Universe, Natalie Glebova. Miss Switzerland spoke of her biggest fear as posed by Miss USA, while Miss Paraguay answered the question offered by Miss Switzerland as to what values we can teach our children. Miss Japan tackled the question of Miss Paraguay relating to something she would change in the history of humanity and why. Miss USA dealt with the question of her possible flaws after drawing the question of Miss Puerto Rico, while Miss Puerto Rico provided her definition of success as posed by Miss Universe 2005 Natalie Glebova. How each handled the pressure of the final question would determine the final outcome and her chances of capturing the crown. All that remained was the final walk of Miss Universe 2005 Natalie Glebova (whom we learned was taking a job position in Bangkok, the site of last year’s Miss Universe competition) and the final announcement.
Decisive Moment
DECISIVE MOMENT: (Left) Kurara Chibana of Japan hugs Zuleyka Rivera of Puerto Rico just seconds before Zuleyka was named Miss Universe 2006. Outgoing queen Natalie Glebova (R) readies the crown for a surpised Zuleyka.
As it was proclaimed throughout the universe, Miss USA Tara Conner was recognized as 4th Runner-up, Miss Paraguay Lourdes Arevalos 3rd Runner-up, and Miss Switzerland Lauriane Gillieron as 2nd Runner-up. Standing and holding each other center stage, Miss Japan Kurara Chibana turned away as 1st Alternate as Miss Puerto Rico Zuleyka Rivera captured the crown of Miss Universe 2006, acknowledged as the fifth young woman from the Caribbean island to be awarded the distinction. With an ethereal nod to the oneness and diversity of our universe, Miss Universe 2006 Zuleyka Rivera joins the Miss Universe Organization cosmos.
Tears of Joy - Miss Universe 2006 is crowned
TEARS OF JOY: Choreographer Scott Grossman steadies Zuleyka’s crown, and then the newly crowned queen steps out, with traces of tears still on her cheeks, for her runway walk as Miss Universe 2006.
 

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