Iceland, Ecuador early favorites for Miss Universe

MIAMI (AFP) — Ecuador's Sandra Vinces, 19, and Iceland's Ingibjorg Egilsdottir, 24, are early favorites on Facebook and other social networking sites ahead of Sunday (23 August)'s Miss Universe contest.

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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