24-year old Ingrid Marie Rivera, from El Yunque (Dorado) won the Miss Puerto Rico Universe 2008 title on Friday, November 23rd. The 1.75 m beauty will represent "la Isla del Encanto" at the Miss Universe 2008 contest in Nha Trang, Vietnam, next June.
The annual competition was held at the Centro de Bellas Artes in Santurce, televised live by Telemundo Puerto Rico.
A pageant veteran, Rivera was crowned Miss World Caribbean and won the 2nd runner-up spot at the Miss World 2005 competition, won by Unnur Birna of Iceland. In 2003, she held the title of Miss Global Queen.
The 1st runner-up was Miss Santurce (Claudia Cruz Bosch), followed by Miss Trujillo Alto (Kristina Ruisanchez); Miss Utuado (Maribel Montalvo) and Miss Isabela (Amanda Diaz). Miss Bayamon (Ivelisse del Valle, chosen by text votes) was the 5th runner-up.
Rivera also won the Miss Photogenic Award. Miss Canovanas, Letty Perez, won the Miss Congeniality award.
The victory of Rivera was widely celebrated in the streets. Local fans have gone far to predict that she could easily become the winner of Miss Universe 2008, only one year apart after Zuleyka Rivera won the 5th crown in 2006.
"We witnessed the crowning of our next Miss Universe!" said one overwhelmed fanatic.
Among the panel of judges -who voted for her as the new beauty queen- were Alba Reyes (Miss Puerto Rico 2004 and 2nd runner-up in Miss Universe), Miredys Peguero (Recording artist and 1st runner-up in Miss Puerto Rico 1999) and Candela Ferro, TV presenter of "Telemundo".
While beauty pageants are losing interest in other parts of the world, Puerto Rican pageant fans (along with fans from the Philippines) are known to follow these events with all the energy and fanatism of soccer enthusiasts.
Although not as successful as Venezuela when it comes to international pageants, Puerto Rico has been doing extremely well in recent years. With 5 Miss Universe crowns, 1 Miss World crown and 1 Miss International crown, the Island is gaining recognition as a 'powerhouse' of beauty.
Ingrid Rivera (right) as a runner-up in the 2005 Miss World pageantCourtesy of El Nuevo Dia and Primera Hora