TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Miss Universe 1988, a Thai student from California who outshone dozens of beauties from around the world to win the glittering pageant Tuesday, said she hopes to use the title to help her aunt's foundation for children.
Porntip Nakhirunkanok, 19, dabbed her eyes briefly when she was proclaimed winner of the competition -- Taiwan's first beauty contest in 23 years -- beamed by satellite to millions of viewers worldwide. It was televised Monday night in the United States.
The black-haired beauty quickly regained her composure when her predecessor, Miss Universe 1987 Cecilla Bolocco of Chile, placed the delicate crown on her head.
The brunette winner, a student at Pasadena City College in Los Angeles, was selected from five finalists -- four of them Asian -- chosen from a field of 66 women.
Porntip, who is 5-feet-8-inches tall and weighs 114 pounds, collected a bevy of prizes along with the title, including $250,000 in cash, a Maserati sports car, a mink coat, a diamond necklace and a diamond-studded watch.
Miss Korea, Yunjung Chang, 18, an art student from a high school in Seoul, South Korea, was first runner-up, and Miss Mexico, Amanda Oliveres, a college student, was second. Miss Japan, Mizuko Sakaguchi, an American literature major at a university in Tokyo, was third runner-up and Miss Hong Kong, Pauline Yeung, an actress, was fourth runner-up.
Miss U.S.A., Courtney Gibbs, 21, of Texas, was among the 10 semi-finalists.
Porntip said she moved to the United States from Thailand when she was about 5 years old and returned to her homeland only three weeks before a Bangkok beauty contest crowned her Miss Thailand.
She said her aunt, who heads a children's foundation, talked her into entering the Miss Thailand pageant.
'I never expected to win,' Porntip said after winning the contest. 'But I am very happy I have, and I believe this title will enable me to help take care of my aunt's children.'
Speaking in English, Porntip said she considers herself a true Thai and that the United States was her second homeland, but plans to learn more about Thailand and master the Thai language now that she is Miss Thailand andMiss Universe.
Asked by host Alan Thicke, a comedian and star of the television series 'Growing Pains,' where she had learned her English, Porntip replied 'Big Bird' on the television show 'Sesame Street.' She was not allowed to speak Thai at home, she said.
Porntip was the second Thai to win the Miss Universe title. The first Thai winner was Apasra Hongsakula, who captured the coveted title in 1965.
Judges rated the beauty of the contestants, who paraded in gowns, swimsuits and traditional Chinese gowns, and assessd their intelligence in brief interviews conducted by Thicke.
Beauty contests were banned in Taiwan by conservative former President Chiang Kai-shek in 1965 because he considered such events counterproductive to his goal of driving the communists out of China. The ban was lifted only this year after Chiang Kai-shek's son and successor, Chiang Ching-kuo, died in January.