. NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL

Miss Universe: An aspiring electrical engineer from Botswana
Miss Botswana Mpule Kwelagobe is crowned Miss Universe in Trinidad. (AP/Lynne Sladky)
Miss Botswana Mpule Kwelagobe is crowned Miss Universe in Trinidad. (AP/Lynne Sladky)

CHAGUARAMAS, Trinidad (AP-CP) - The three beautiful women left on stage were from different continents, but they agreed completely on the final question: What if Miss Universe became pregnant during her reign - in violation of the rules?

Bend them, said Miss Spain, Diana Nogueria. Ditto, said Miss Philippines, Miriam Quiambao. Miss Botswana also agreed. But whereas her predecessors hemmed and hawed, 19-year-old Mpule Kwelagobe (mm-POO-leh kweh-lah-HOH-beh) was proudly resolute.

"Personally, I think it should not in any way interrupt her duties," she declared to wild applause from the Trinidadian audience. "She should celebrate her femininity."

And thus did the lithe aspiring electrical engineer manifest the characteristic that world boxing champ and Miss Universe judge Evander Holyfield said he was seeking: confidence.

First runner-up was Quiambao, a 23-year-old physical therapist who turned a fall in preliminaries last week into a plus with a much-discussed graceful recovery. Nogueria, a 24-year-old who works in the fashion world, came in third.

Miss Canada, 26-year-old Shannon McArthur of Windsor, Ont., was shut out of the finals.

Miss Photogenic went to Miss Puerto Rico, Brenda Liz Lopez, 23, and Miss Congeniality to Marisa Ferreira, a 21-year-old student from Portugal.

Kwelagobe described herself as "very focused, determined and ambitious."

She has studied subjects alien to most African women - pure electronics, physics, chemistry and mathematics. Yet pregnancy, she said, explaining her winning answer, is "what its all about: celebrating women, celebrating our femininity."

Its doubtful pageant officials would agree with her views. Earlier in the week Miss Guam, Trisha Heflin, was disqualified and sent home, with officials saying she was pregnant. Her promoters later insisted she was merely ill.

 

Mpule Kwelagobe

Engineer , and Botswana's

First Miss Universe in 1999