MANILA - Miss South Africa Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters deserved to be crowned Miss Universe, a Filipino beauty queen mentor said Monday.
Nel-Peters, a 22-year-old business management graduate, brings home the title to her country after almost four decades, besting 91 other candidates during the finals held in Las Vegas.
"South Africa is very deserving from the start. She was a heavy favorite, along with Thailand and Venezuela and Colombia. I think South Africa is a good choice by the judges," said Arnold Mercado of Aces and Queens.
Aces and Queens trained, among others, Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach, Miss World 2013 Megan Young and Miss International 2016 Kylie Verzosa.
Mercado said while it was no shock that Nel-Peters made it to the final cut, the second-runner up finish of Jamaica's Davina Bennett was a surprise.
"I predicted that South Africa and Thailand will be there. The surprise for me is Jamaica. I was really surprised that she made it to the Top 5 and even the Top 3 and won as second runner-up," he told ANC.
Mercado said Philippine bet Rachel Peters, who finished in the top 10, also "did very well" in the competition.
"We were all hoping for her to get into the Top 5, but of course there were a lot of strong girls this year. She did well and the judges have their own opinion and we cannot question that," he said.