oliviaculpo-missuniverseOlivia Culpo became the first American in nearly 15 years to win the Miss Universe pageant, despite stumbling during the evening gown competition. Fortunately she made a poised recovery and went on to top contestants from 88 countries this year.

The 20-year-old college student won the Miss USA crown in June. Culpo, who represented the state of Rhode Island, is a lover of classic Audrey Hepburn films and plays the cello.

Miss Philippines, Janine Tugonon, was first runner-up, while Miss Venezuela, Irene Sofia Esser Quintero, finished third. Miss Maryland Nana Meriwether becomes the new Miss USA.

Olivia Culpo’s Magical Moment

In the final round, Culpo was asked whether she had she had ever done something she regretted.

“I’d like to start off by saying that every experience no matter what it is, good or bad, you’ll learn from it. That’s just life,” she replied. “But something I’ve done I’ve regretted is probably picking on my siblings growing up, because you appreciate them so much more as you grow older.”

She appeared on stage for the first time during the televised portion of the competition wearing a tight navy blue mini-dress with a sequined bodice. She wore a purple and blue bikini for the swimsuit competition and a red velvet gown with a plunging neckline for the evening gown competition.

The contest draws 16 semifinalists from the contestants, who compete in the televised portion of the show. Contestants were whittled down after each of the swimsuit, evening wear, and interview competitions.

In a post-show news conference, Culpo could not escape questions about the recent shootings in Newtown, Conn. that left 20 elementary school children dead along with six adults, the work of a lone gunman.

Culpo show even more poise in her answer. “It’s such an honor to be representing the USA in an international beauty contest in spite of all the tragedy that’s happened in this country lately,” she said. “I really hope that this this will raise everybody’s spirits a little.”

Among other things, Culpo is an accomplished musician. The Boston University student has played with world-renowned classical musician Yo-Yo Ma, and followed in her parents’ footsteps, who are both musicians. All three have performed at Carnegie Hall in New York City.

Singer Cee Lo Green, “Iron Chef” star Masaharu Morimoto and Pablo Sandoval of the San Francisco Giants were among the 10 judges for the event, held in Las Vegas.