The goddess of beauty has a new name and it is Lara. Mumbai's Lara Dutta is everything Miss Universe 2000 should be.

Anyone who watched the Femina Miss India competition knows what a grand event it is. It's even bigger than Miss Universe itself with more international guests and a glamourous stage production that even puts the Oscars to shame. The best part is, there are no time constraints! It should come as no surprise that the contestants themselves are outstanding. This year's Miss India pageant also featured a video collage (with such excellent music) of all the representatives which India sent to international pageants that made the top 3 in their respective pageants. Madhu Sapre started India's rise to success in 1992 right up to Yukta Mookhey's win of the Miss World crown in 1999. It is exactly this kind of collage that I want to see in the 50th Anniversary pageants which are all coming in the next year. The pageants celebrating their 50th Anniversaries are Miss World (December 2000), Miss USA (February 2001), and Miss Universe (May 2001). In this competition, Lara was outstanding and instantly became a favorite for the Miss Universe crown. Now she has it. Interesting to note that whenever there is a tie in the Miss India competition, there seems to be an international winner among the finalists. In 1994, there was a tie between Sushmita Sen and Aishwarya Rai and both these ladies went on to win their respective titles of Miss Universe and Miss World. In 1997, there was a tie and Diana Hayden won the Miss World crown that year and now in the year 2000, there was a tie and now Lara has become Miss Universe! Lara already was an international titleholder, winning Miss Intercontinental in 1997 as well as other competitions. Lara definitely ranks among the best Miss Universes of all time, a true winner right to the finish.

Lara's family is also proud. Her father, Wing Commander, L. K. Dutta celebrated his birthday on the day of the pageant (May 12) although the local date was May 13. The number of congratulatory phone calls to the Dutta home has overwhelmed Lara's mother, Jennifer, and her two older sisters, Sabrina and Cheryl!

The quest began in Cyprus, the birthplace of Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty. A very nice symbolic choice to host the millennial pageant. There were 79 delegates and so many strong competitors this year making Miss Universe 2000 one of the strongest in Miss Universe history. The opening number was spectacular. All these angelic beings dancing around with the glowballs. Again the preliminary scores are gone. Who knows if they will ever return? One thing of which I disapprove was that this year, only the countries were introduced and they did not say the names of the delegates. They just become nameless faces and that's not right. We only got to hear the top 5 speak this year but all these girls have voices which deserve to be heard. Who stood out in the opening? There was something about the look Cayman Islands gave the camera. Estonia stood right out just as Evelyn always does, Finland has beautiful features, Hungary (that hair was phenomenal and it gave her the Aphrodite look), Namibia bore a striking resemblance to Joan Collins, Philippines looked gorgeous. There's no denying Miss Turks & Caicos was this year's biggest contestant but she was proud of it. As a final grand finale to the opening, last year's Miss Universe, Mpule, acting as Aphrodite rose from the sea-foam in the center stage sitting on a rock. The stage was also magnificent. The stairs looked like a colonial structure.

Sinbad was a good host. His jokes were great and he livened up the show as expected. Ali Landry and Julie Moran returned as commentators and were pretty good this time. They said all the right things and I'm glad they didn't give us that "no emphasis on breasts" speech again because this year that certainly was not the case!!!

The results were as follows:



Winner=India-Lara Dutta

Winner=India-Lara Dutta*

1st Runner Up=Venezuela-Claudia Moreno

1st Runner Up=USA-Lynnette Cole*

2nd Runner Up=Spain-Helen Lindes Griffith

2nd Runner Up=Philippines-Nina Ricci Caldo Alagao



4. Canada-Kim Yee

Aruba-Tamara Lucia Scaroni

5. USA-Lynnette Cole

Mexico-Leticia Judith Murray Acedo



6. Colombia-Catalina Ines Acosta Albarracin

Zimbabwe-Corrinne Crewe*

7. Estonia-Evelin Mikomagi

Japan-Mayu Endo

8. Zimbabwe-Corrinne Crewe

South Africa-Heather Joy Hamilton*

9. France-Sonia Rolland

Trinidad & Tobago-Heidi Ann Rostant

10. South Africa-Heather Joy Hamilton

Venezuela-Claudia Cristina Moreno Gonzalez*


ALTERNATES: Australia, Colombia(*-made actual top ten), Estonia(*-made actual top ten), France (*-made actual top ten), Germany, Ghana, Panama, Puerto Rico, Russia, Spain (*-made actual top ten)


As you can see, I predicted Lara's win, I got 5 out of 10 semifinalists plus 4 alternates. I pegged all except Canada. The reason why Philippines and Mexico didn't make it remains a mystery. I consider Nina Ricci Alagao to be far superior to last year's Filipina delegate, Miriam Quiambao who placed 2nd at Miss Universe. Letty Murray of Mexico prepared very hard for this competition with Miss Universe 91, Lupita Jones, and the fact that she won both the "Best in National Costume Award" and the "Clairol Herbal Essences Style Award" proves that. Funny to note, I was expecting Estonia to get Miss Congeniality and for Aruba to make the top ten but it was the other way around!! Japan's Mayu Endo attended some of the most prestigious schools in America and she had an excellent figure. Trinidad's Heidi Rostant was also strong but I don't know what happened with her. I do know that Puerto Rico's Zoraida Fonalledas made a very unwise gown choice and her legs looked enormous during the preliminaries even though she likely had a strong interview so I wasn't surprised she didn't make it.

Miss Congeniality

Aruba-Tamara Lucia Scaroni

Best in National Costume Award

Winner=Mexico-Letty Murray (also winner of Clairol Herbal Essences Style Award)

1st Runner Up=India-Lara Dutta

2nd Runner Up=Zimbabwe-Corrinne Crewe

Miss Photogenic

Spain-Helen Lindes


Overall, the top ten was well chosen.

This year marked the absence of the top 10 interview to make sure that only the best in swimsuit and evening gown made the top 5. I was expecting a gap in the pageant because of that but they filled up that time quite nicely with the opening introductory walk. I actually liked this portion because the girls could show off their modelling moves. I think I'll tell you what you didn't hear Julie say in those portions. Miss Spain was first and looked great. Helen, of course, was this year's controversial figure who almost got disqualified because of some sexy topless ads she had done which appeared in a Spanish magazine but they were not grounds for disqualification, it was more of a publicity stunt for the pageant. Helen also won Miss Photogenic. It's interesting to note that Eugenia Santana, Miss Spain 1993 was also from the Canary Islands and she also won Miss Photogenic, just like Helen! There's something about those Canary Islands! Miss Colombia followed and she hails from Cundinamarca, even though many people were expecting Miss Valle, Carolina Cruz to take the Colombian crown. Catalina looked gorgeous but her smile looked a bit plastered to me and she also seemed somewhat tense throughout the competition. Next was Miss Zimbabwe, who was finally the first Zimbabwean to make the semifinals at Miss Universe. Corrinne was one of many biracial beauties in the top ten. She also had a wonderful message to spread about tolerance because her country has been experiencing racial turmoil recently and Corrinne is half-black, half-white and is strikingly beautiful. Next was Miss Estonia whose personality has been flaunted right from the beginning and it most certainly won over the judges. She just had a unique style and spunk that I really wish more delegates had. Evelyn looked stunning here. Following her was Miss Venezuela, who wasn't originally supposed to go to Miss Universe. Venezuela was in a torn situation. In years past, the winner of Miss Venezuela went to Miss Universe and the 1st runner up went to Miss World but Venezuela did not make the semifinals at Miss World in 1997 and 1998 and it was clear that Miss World was going to keep doing that to Venezuela until they sent their winners. Well, this year they did send the winner to Miss World. Martina Thorogood Heemsen originally won Miss Venezuela in September 1999 and competed at Miss World 1999 in December and she placed 2nd runner up at Miss World. When the Miss Universe organization heard of this Martina was denied entry into Miss Universe for unclear reasons. One suggestion is that they claimed Martina would have an unfair advantage at Miss Universe since she placed so high at Miss World. Another suggestion was that she was first runner up to Miss World and had to be on-hand to replace Yukta Mookhey if anything should happen to her. The first runner up to Martina at Miss Venezuela was Norkys Batista but she was also denied since it was said that Miss Universe allowed only winners, yet several countries sent first runner ups to the pageant (i.e. Switzerland, Cayman Islands, Lebanon, and Yugoslavia all competed at Miss World 99 and Miss Universe 2000). The end result was that Venezuela held a new pageant with ten candidates that all competed at Miss Venezuela in the past 3 years. Claudia won it and she went to Miss Universe, even though Claudia was a semifinalist in the Miss Venezuela pageant that Martina won.

The next half started with Miss South Africa, who many people have said bears a striking resemblance to Loretta Swit who played "Hot Lips" on the show M.A.S.H. and Heather has somewhat big hips which prevented her from getting past the top 10, therefore for these reasons, I hereby dub Heather, "Hot Hips". She looked gorgeous and her hair bounced nicely. Next was Miss USA, Lynnette looked stunning as always with a shorter hairdo. Lynnette, who is half-white, half Puerto Rican, was rescued from an abusive home and adopted at the age of 2 by the Cole family who also raised 130 other foster children. I saw a special program on Lynnette on the day of the pageant on the net and it was about Lynnette's quest for the crown. While the sound was somewhat choppy, her family and her brother talked about her and it also showcased Lynnette's popularity as Miss USA. Lynnette is also the third woman to compete in Miss Teen USA, Miss USA, and Miss Universe. Ali Landry and Kimberly Pressler were the first two. Lynnette truly has done Tennessee proud. Next was Miss Canada, a pleasant surprise in this pageant. Kim is from Edmonton, which is the city that has hosted the Miss Canadian Universe pageant for several years. Edmonton is well known for its very cold winters. I have several relatives living there and they have told me that on some winter days the temperature has gone down to -30 degrees Celsius. Kim is another bi-racial beauty, she has a Ukranian mother and a Chinese father. Her father is also a missionary. Next was Miss Universe herself, India's Lara Dutta. Lara looked spectacular here. Did you notice how she really worked her moves? It really shows that she is a professional model. She has toyed with ideas of several occupations but after her win of Miss Universe, she is destined for stardom. Finally, Miss France, Sonia, yet another biracial beauty, had a great story to tell about her fleeing the genocide in Rwanda where her Rwandan mother and French father owned a company. Unfortunately, she never got to tell it but I'm sure it came up in the preliminary interviews which likely influenced her entry into the top ten. Sonia always has looked so sweet and I couldn't help but notice her constantly stroking that ponytail.

Next was the swimsuit competition accompanied by the awesome Cibola club mix of "Suavemente" performed by Grammy-winner Elvis Crespo. The stage was excellent for this portion. I loved the flames rising from the ground and the fast lighting movements. After watching this year's swimsuit competition, I realize that last year's delegates were not completely well chosen when it came to swimsuits. Spain was first and she looked great. Very fit body and fair shape. Colombia was next and as I said before she was strong in gown but fair in swimsuit. Even though she was the only one wearing a one-piece swimsuit, I thought she looked okay but again she seemed a little tense. Next was Zimbabwe and she looked incredible. Very nice body, curves in all the right places and I thought she was underscored here. Next was Miss Estonia who certainly wasn't lacking in the bust and she flaunted that too by jiggling all the way through. I thought she looked great. Next was Venezuela, and you just can never deny that Venezuela always has the body. I think the reason why she placed second after India was because she did seem rather thin and not as built as Lara. Claudia also looked like she had tripped a bit during one point. Next followed South Africa who unfortunately placed last here because of those hips but Heather still looked gorgeous. Next was USA and Lynnette looked super-tone and fit. A high score well deserved. Next was Canada and Kim looked very nice but there was two huge things that you just could not miss, the breasts. Now, I have talked with other girls who have competed with Kim and the first topic of conversation that came up was the fact that Kim had breast augmentation done. Her father is a missionary which makes me wonder what he thinks about Kim doing this. I really would like to think that Kim made the top ten on her own merits but I can't help but think that the implants helped. Next was Miss Universe herself and Lara won this portion thanks to that confident walk and grace in addition to that fit body reminiscent of Madhu Sapre's. I really wish the camera had zoomed out a bit because during the swimsuit/beachwear competition at the Femina Miss India pageant, when Lara was called out, the camera did this nice wide shot of the stage and showed Lara walking away from the chasing photographers and Lara had such a sexy walk. It even made Juhi Chawla (Miss India 1984 and a judge at Femina Miss India 2000) give a little confident grin. Finally, France's Sonia Rolland looked sweet too but didn't really score as high.

The tourism shots of Cyprus were really nice and they made Cyprus look like an ideal vacation spot. The crystal clear waters, the colonial sights, and the nice weather all enhanced those video segments.

Next was the evening gown competition accompanied by the song "Careless Whisper" (a cover of the George Michael/Wham! hit of the 80s) performed by Montell Jordan and Dave Koz. Coincidentally, this song was the background song for my "Who Has the Most Miss Universes" page but I had to move it to this page to fit the theme, of course!! Spain had a very nice gown that was very much like the white dresses all the delegates wore at the opening. The sheer one-shoulder overlay seemed to have pushed down the bust a little though. Colombia carried on the spectacular gown tradition. This gown was very nice and the wavelike structures seemed to fit the Cyprus/Aphrodite theme. Zimbabwe was next and I don't care how low she scored, I looovvved this gown. It was very African. The beads hanging done made her look like a tigress from a distance and I also liked how Corrinne put her hands on her hips to have the beads on the armpieces hanging down. Beautiful. Next was Estonia who had a gown that looked sort of ruffly but she carried it so nicely. Some people said that this gown reminded them of the gown that Hilary Swank (winner of Best Actress Award) wore at the Oscars. I liked how Evelyn spun around and her hair flew. She did look like she stayed on stage a bit too long though. Venezuela followed with a nicely structured and fitted gown, much like that of Veruska Ramirez, Miss Venezuela 98, but this gown had straight tinsel pieces from the waist up and I didn't really think the tinsel was necessary and they could have trimmed it at the bust. South Africa followed in a very elegant gown but again the hips hurt her chances. Next was USA in a very nice light-brown, almost skin tone gown that looked very nice on Lynnette. Next was Canada in a nice light blue gown with a very nice shape particularly at the bottom but her breasts seemed to protrude so far out that Kim looked like she was hunched over whenever she turned to the side. Next was India in one of the most breathtaking gowns I have ever seen. Lara gives a whole new meaning to the term "Lady in Red" because the open back, the shape of the gown, the scarf around her wrists, in addition to how she worked the gown made her look absolutely perfect. I also love how she placed the scarf lying out so that it was open when she stood on her center mark. She had this unmistakable "there's-something-about-me" quality that just set her apart. Estonia had a bit of that too but Lara's was blended with maturity. Lara should have won this competition too but it doesn't matter since she won the crown anyway. Finally, France followed wearing a very nice white gown again stroking that ponytail and I liked how she held out her arms so that the flaps/wings on the armpieces flowed down. This year there were some amazing gowns.

The top 5 were announced and we finally were allowed to hear the girls speak!!! The first of the five was Canada. Kim talked about dinner at her house being good because her mother is Ukranian and father is Chinese so she also got to celebrate other holidays like Chinese New Year. She wants to be an MTV VJ and she said music on MTV should be censored since children are impressionable. I didn't like how Sinbad asked how Kim keeps people from hating her when she says that she can't weight gain. It seemed a bit strongly worded to me but Kim handled it well and explained that everyone in her family is thin and she just wishes that she could go to the gym to lose weight instead of eating protein bars to gain weight. Her last statement was nice when she responded to how she keeps warm in the winter, she said you wait for summer. I was actually pleased with Kim's performance here. Next was Venezuela, a dentist who examined Sinbad's tooth and said in a struggly form of English, "You have to do another treatment." You have to give Claudia credit for trying so hard to express herself in English. I noticed she said "too much" instead of "very much" twice. I also found myself clinging to her words to the point where it sort of became uncomfortable but I was happy that she pulled off her little explanation about how she handles children who are scared of going to the dentist. It also seemed that Claudia was trying to speak with an American accent as well. I wonder what kind of pressure Claudia was under when she was training. It was funny watching the judges' scores after this interview since it sort of confused them and half swung one way and the other swung the other way and she got a deadlock 9.00 and she ended up right in the middle.

Next was the next Miss Universe, Lara, who aced this competition. Lara also now holds the record of the highest earned score in the history of the Miss Universe pageant. That honor used to belong to Carolina Gomez, Miss Colombia 94 who earned 9.897 in the evening gown competition but Lara earned a whopping 9.954 in this interview. Adventurous Lara explained that she clocked in so much time as a passenger on a plane since both her father and sister are pilots that she wanted to try skydiving. When asked about women politicians in comparison to men, Lara responded that the difference lies in the degree of sensitivity carried by the women and women are very well-educated (those that are educated) and are standing shoulder to shoulder with men and making a mark in their own field. She also was asked to demonstrate a classical Indian dance called "Bharatanatyam" but she explained that she couldn't do it in the gown she was wearing since she needed to squat to dance and she explained the concept behind that particular style of dance and showed three hand gestures that are part of the dance. She had such poise and eloquence. USA's Lynnette Cole was next and as much as I hate to say it, Lynnette completely lacked the magic that won her the Miss USA crown. I still love Lynnette and all but she may have just not wanted to be Miss Universe and that may be why she gave a rather dry performance, just like Shannon Marketic in 1992. Her answers were still pretty good though but I think that her appearance on Hollywood Squares may have made Lynnette want to change her image particularly when she talked about bad girl characters coming into port with an overall plan that then conquer. She said she would like to return to the pageants in the future to talk with future contestants and share to get plenty of sleep because they are kept on the move. Maybe we'll see Lynnette doing what Ali Landry is doing now in the future. She said rock climbing is harder than climbing stairs in stiletto heels because she's scared of heights and she recalled a line from a book that said "Good deal" and a 3rd grade class she taught gave her a T-shirt that said "Good deal, Miss Lynn." Lynnette ended up 5th. Spain followed and she talked about talking on the cell phone with her concerned mother. Sinbad asked what would happen if he painted his house red because all houses must be painted white in the Canary Islands and Helen really tried to explain it in English in saying that one man wanted it that way but caught herself rambling and said "You just cannot!" Sinbad asked her to do a salsa, merengue, flamenco dance simultaneously but she said you can't do that at the same time but she did demonstrate some and it was cute how she asked for the some music, please, but Sinbad said that this is as funky as it gets. She was, as Julie said, adorable.

Lara is congratulated by Miss Estonia. Evelin adds a little of her spunk to the moment.



























South Africa





















Now the final 3, Spain, Venezuela, and India were asked the final question. It was about the protest that had been staged in Cyprus posing pageants as an affront to women. They were asked to convince them that they are wrong. Spain used her translator and everyone knew that the translator did not do justice to Helen's answer. Helen clearly gave a much longer answer but the translator just summed it up briefly in saying that women deserve to be heard and recognized as beautiful also. I'm sure Helen knew about this butchering of her answer which is why she didn't look too pleased. Venezuela followed and basically said in her broken English that they are looking for the complete woman (or the "completely" woman as Claudia would say) who are also intelligent and that pageants aren't bad for them. Next followed India and an interesting situation happened here. Sinbad held the microphone a little too far away and Lara asked to hold the microphone and the second she took hold of that microphone, she basically took the crown. Lara was able to make gestures in a public speaking style by holding the mic. She said that pageants give women a platform and enable them to foray into various fields like the armed forces, entrepreneurship, and politics and it gives women a chance to voice their opinions and makes them strong and independent as they are today. She ended that magical answer with an oh-so-confident bow of the head to the side and gracefully handed Sinbad the microphone. Lara had a command of the English language and Lara sounded like a woman while the others sounded like girls. This final question was the icing on the cake. At this point, the win was very obvious and it was just a matter of time to hear it. Lara's win was also the unanimous choice of the judges as Judge Serena Altshul said and Tony Robbins said he admired Lara's regal aura.

Lara gazes at her crown before she won it.


Mpule Kwelagobe's farewell walk was nice and I would have liked to have seen her wear her hair in one of those new styles she had in some of her newer pictures but she was sweet. The second runner up was Spain's Helen Lindes, and at the moment when Claudia and Lara were standing together as the final two, Claudia looked like she turned to Lara and said, "I know it is you" and Sinbad confirmed and Claudia clapped happily as she knew that Lara won and Lara reacted and hugged Claudia. Mpule crowned Lara, several times actually because Mpule didn't realize that the crown was on since she couldn't see it because she was standing behind Lara and Lara had to walk away and she was handed flowers and she took off with the music and graced us with her presence. It's the kind of win dreams are made of. As a grand finale, I loved that final video collage of Lara shown on the telecast accompanied with that excellent and adventurous Magnum, P.I-esque music. 

The Miss Universe 2000 crown was definitely Lara's all along. She had an unparalleled combination of class, beauty, intelligence, and elegance giving her a style that was completely her own. She deserved it right from the start and she was the clear winner. Lara made winning a strong competition look so easy. Bravo, Lara on winning MU2K.


A special thanks goes out to all of you who followed the quest for MU2K on this site.

Here is a collage of the 79 delegates.