Iceland, Ecuador early favorites for Miss Universe
Sandra Vinces, Miss Ecuador 2009 - Photo: AFP
Eighty-four contestants will parade in swimwear for the judges who this year include actors, TV producers, photographers, fashion critics and vintage supermodel Valeria Mazza.
In the run-up to the big event at the Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island, Panama's Diana Broce won the prize for best national costume.
And the contest actually sparked a diplomatic kerfuffle.
Bolivia's culture minister was outraged when Miss Peru Karen Schwarz wore a typical costume known as a "Diablada," saying it was a symbol of his country -- and not Peru.
The costume is worn during Bolivia's Oruro Carnival, a UNESCO-honored cultural event. The term Diablada also refers to a typical dance of Aymara indigenous people, who live in Peru, Chile and Bolivia.
With a worldwide audience and a particularly rapt following in Latin America, the Miss Universe contest airs on NBC television on Sunday 23 August.
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