Miss Gibraltar Kaiane Aldorino was crowned Miss World 2009 on Saturday, outshining 111 other hopefuls at a glittering ceremony with a distinctly African flavor.
"Thank you South Africa, this is the most wonderful moment of my life," said a tearful Aldorino, a 22-year-old human resources clerk.
Confetti rained down on the stage as the beauty from the tiny British territory of fewer than 30,000 people accepted the crown in South Africa.
Mexico's Perla Beltran came second, with South African entry Tatum Keshwar taking third place.
African drums, gumboot dancers, choirs and a local pop band performed during the pageant held in Midrand, north of Johannesburg and which was broadcast to an estimated one billion viewers around the world.
Miss India, Pooja Chopra, a hot favorite with the flag-waving international crowd, was eliminated in the top 16, after winning the "beauty with a purpose" title for her charity work.
"The build up to this event has been phenomenal, the girls have had a time of their lives in South Africa," said Chinese television presenter Angela Chow, who hosted the show.
Among the disappointed contestants was Miss England, a soldier dubbed "Combat Barbie" by the British media.
Lance Corporal Katrina Hodge, a 22-year-old who has served in Iraq, was granted leave from the military for the one-month tour of South Africa, where before the live broadcast the contestants competed in sports, a talent showcase, and of course the swimsuit competition.
Also losing out was Miss Indonesia, Kerenina Sunny Halim, who was the subject of a last-minute legal battle with a South African weekly that reported on her public comments about her ties to an American religious cult.
According to a report by the weekly Mail and Guardian, Halim belongs to The Family International, which has been mired in child and sexual abuse allegations by former members.
The 23-year-old Halim told the Jakarta Globe that she is a member of the church, for which she did humanitarian work after the Asian tsunami in 2004, the Mail and Guardian said.
Organizers lost a court battle to quash the story early Saturday.
"This was a blatant attempt by Miss World Ltd to intimidate us by threatening damages running into hundreds of millions of pounds sterling," said Mail and Guardian editor, Nic Dawes.
"I have offered the pageant organizers right of reply in our newspaper and on our website, which they have yet to take up," said Dawes.
But organizers didn't let the incident affect the glittering ceremony in Midrand, north of Johannesburg, where reigning Miss World Ksenia Sukhinova, 22, from Russia handed over the crown.
Organizers say the title pays recognition to beauty queens who have made a difference in people's lives, through charitable works in their home countries.
"Charity work is integral to the Miss World ethos and part of the brief to contenders in each country is that they volunteer their time or fundraise for charity," said pageant owner Julia Morley.
In 1951, Sweden's Kiki Hakansson became the first Miss World; then-unknown Halle Berry represented America in 1986 and became a runner-up before going on to become an Oscar-winning actress.
Venezuela and India have produced the most Miss Worlds, with five title holders each.
The city of Johannesburg has been lambasted in local media for spending 90 million rand (eight million euros, 12 million dollars) to host the event, as its council is battling to meet basic service demands by the poor.