Miss Universe

Cambodia and Laos compete for the first time

With the addition of these two Southeast Asian candidates, the prestigious beauty pageant will now feature 92 countries and territories, smashing the previous record of 89 in 2011

Johanna Chisholm
November 27, 2017
Cambodia and Laos compete for the first time
Miss Thailand Mareeya Poonlertlarp competes during the 2017 Miss Universe pageant in Las Vegas on 26 November 2017 Photo: Paul Buck/EPA

Contestants from Laos and Cambodia made their historic debut at this year’s 2017 Miss Universe competition, signifying a momentous inauguration for their individual countries and marking this year’s international beauty competition as the largest in the pageant’s history.

Debut contestants at the 2017 pageant all hail from the Asia-Pacific region, with Nepal also making its introduction with the other two Southeast Asian nations in the annual competition.

Despite the excitement and subsequent build up, neither By Sotheary nor Souphaphone Somvichith – from Cambodia and Laos respectively – managed to place in the elusive top 16.

Held at the AXIS theater at Planet Hollywood casino-resort on the Las Vegas Strip on Sunday, Miss South Africa Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters eventually took the crowning title after beating first runner-up Miss Venezuela and second-runner up Miss Jamaica.

The Kingdom’s historic debut comes thanks to 19-year-old Phnom Penh local Sotheary, who had gained extensive support and attention from local fans after winning the Miss Cambodia pageant in 2016. The part time student announced she had been undergoing extensive training and plans to make her nation proud.

“I am so excited to represent my beloved country to the Miss Universe Pageant,” stated Sotheary before the Sunday competition. “I will do my best to show the real beauty of Cambodian women and the world will know more about our country.”

Similarly, 20-year-old Vientiane runway model and business administration student Somvichith was Laos’ first representative at the pageant and had won the title of her nation’s Miss Laos in 2017.

“[I] love to volunteer at programs that help people who are visually impaired and for children who are less fortunate,” Somvichith stated on her bibliography page on the Miss Universe website. “If crowned Miss Universe, [I] would love to continue working with those who are visually impaired and children.”

Thailand fared best amongst the remaining Southeast Asian nations, managing to squeeze into the top five, alongside South Africa, Venezuela, Jamaica and Colombia. The early favourite and 2015 winner the Philippines managed to scrape into the top ten, whilst contestants from Vietnam, Singapore, Indonesia, Myanmar and Malaysia failed to place.

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