The creed of the Miss Universe Pageant, despite its many detractors, is to spread a message of “peace, tolerance and mutual understanding” to the world. At the top of the crop are three nations (USA, Venezuela, and Puerto Rico) that come every year not just to play, but to win. The United States, where the competition originated, has 7 all-time wins, the leader; 15 all-time top-two finishes, the leader; and 54 all-time top-ten finishes, again the leader. It has been a staggering 13 years, however, since Brook Mahealani Lee from Hawai’i last delivered an American victory.
In Venezuela, where Miss Universe is the national pastime, they boast the following: Six all-time winners (including two of the last three and the only ever back-to-back winners); six more first-runner-ups; five more second-runner-ups; four third-runner-ups; and an unmatched 13 consecutive top-six finishes (1991-2003). Venezuela is also the only country that can claim multiple awards for Best-in-Swimsuit, of which it claims a total of 4, and in 1993 Venezuelan contestant Milka Chulina matched beauty with brains when she recorded the highest-ever score (9.843) in the interview portion.
Last but not least, the humble island territory of Puerto Rico, of approximately 4 million people, has won Miss Universe an impressive 5 times, which is more than double what the world’s two most populated nations, China and India, have combined. Puerto Rico has won the Miss Photogenic award an equally impressive 5 times, second only to the Philippines, and is one of only two countries (with Venezuela) that can claim at least one victory in each of the last four decades. In 2001, Puerto Rican contestant Denise Quiñones completed perhaps the most dominant performance ever, winning Miss Photogenic, Best-in-Swimsuit, and Best Hair, to go along with the—gloriously astronomical—title of Miss Universe.