MANILA -- Indian beauty queen Sushmita Sen said she was overwhelmed with "love and belonging" from Filipinos as she looked back on the 25th anniversary of her Miss Universe win in the Philippines, the first for her country.
The 43-year-old mother of 2 was 18 when she won the crown in Manila, upsetting heavy favorites Carolina Gomez from Colombia and Minorka Mercado of Venezuela, who were her runners up.
Sen, who parlayed her pageant win to Bollywood stardom, said being Indian was her "proudest identity" and the love and respect that came with the tittle was her "life’s greatest earning."
"I want to remember and thank the people of my second home, Philippines. I Thank God for the privilege of having Won Miss Universe in their beautiful country. They continue to overwhelm me with their love and belonging to this day, even naming their children Sushmita," she said in an Instagram post.
Sen, who was a judge during Manila's 2016 hosting of Miss Universe, used the hashtag #MahalKitaPhilippines. France's Iris Mittenaere won the 2016 edition.
Sen thanked her first runner-up from Colombia who was "beyond gracious" and celebrated her win as if it were her own.
Gomez-Correa gave Sen a big hug when she was announced as first runner-up and the shocked Indian beauty was proclaimed Miss Universe.
"May the Universe always conspire in your favor," Sen said in her post, which had nearly 384,000 likes as of early Sunday.
India has had 2 Miss Universe winners and has not won the crown since Lara Dutta in 2000.
The Philippines won 4 times, the most recent was Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray, who won in Bangkok, 3 years after Pia Wurtzbach broke 40-year drought.