The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Head turner goes reeling
- Beauty queen faints on stage after winning crown

Los Angeles, July 24: The most beautiful woman in the world, sorry, universe is expected to make others go faint.

Instead, Zuleyka Rivera Mendoza herself collapsed 40 minutes after being crowned Miss Universe during a post-pageant news conference last evening.

“She got dizzy. It’s very hot up here. Her dress is tight ' as you could see it was beaded and heavy. She passed out,” pageant representative Lark Anton said.

Former Miss World Yukta Mookhey, who’s been there, seen all, ripped apart the “tight” dress explanation.

“It is very unlikely because it’s made two months in advance in your own country and to your measurements. The organisers just specify the types of dress needed and the rest is entirely up to the participant and the designers in her country,” she said in Calcutta.

The Puerto Rican beauty queen, the youngest of the five finalists at 18, appeared radiant as she waved to photographers several minutes before collapsing. Most of the media had left by the time she fainted.

Having lingered on stage, the five-foot-nine Mendoza was leaning on some assistants when her face fell to her chest, her new tiara atop her head. Tottering on high, spiky heels, she appeared to lean in this fashion for about 10 seconds and, at 8:38 pm, collapsed in the arms of pageant assistants.

She was rushed offstage while the organiser of the news conference called for aid. “Is there a nurse in the house' Can a nurse come to the stage'” said the announcer.

Within a minute, Anton said Mendoza was fine and had merely fainted.

Merely fainted'

“I am not surprised the Puerto Rican girl fainted. In international beauty pageants, the timing is such that there is no scope for rest. You get up at 6 in the morning and are on your feet the whole day trying to put your best foot forward. And that does take a toll on your health,” Mookhey said.

It would if one is wearing a dress made entirely of metal chains ' which was what Mendoza was draped in ' and standing under hot stage lights in a stifling auditorium. The beauty queen, who burst into tears as the $250,000 pearl and diamond crown was placed on her head, began to topple over but was caught by someone as she fell.

Maybe she didn’t get enough food into her slender body on a hectic and emotionally high-strung day. It does happen.

As Mookhey explained: “In terms of food, such a scenario can really be a problem. You are always on the move ' from meeting judges to doing press interviews ' and may not get a chance to have your regular meals. The diet is never up to the mark.”

Anton, however, said Mendoza “had plenty to eat today”, when pressed for the beauty queen’s condition before she fainted at the centre of the stage at the Shrine Auditorium.

She is not the first one to faint after winning an award. It happened to the beauty of all beauties, Elizabeth Taylor, in 1960 when she won her best actress Oscar for Butterfield 8. Taylor was sick before the ceremony but still made it, fainting backstage after winning.

Pop star Michael Jackson couldn’t even go to the Billboard Music Awards in 1995, collapsing hours earlier. Fellow singer Tina Turner accepted the award on his behalf.

In a little over an hour, Mendoza had recovered enough to walk into the coronation ball, make-up perfect, crown in place, to be greeted by Donald Trump and escorted through the ball, all smiles.

“Yes, she’s fine,” Trump, co-owner of the Miss Universe Organisation, said as he left.

In her pageant biography, Mendoza said: “My biggest goal in life is to become a great actress of infinite range.”

Learning to faint could be part of it.

Written with agency reports and inputs from Pratim D. Gupta

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