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    R.I. beauty is on top of the universe

    Olivia Culpo, from Rhode Island, won the Miss Universe competition Wednesday night.
    Julie Jacobson/AP
    Olivia Culpo, from Rhode Island, won the Miss Universe competition Wednesday night.

    The day after Rhode Island-bred beauty Olivia Culpo was crowned Miss Universe, friends and family in the Ocean State were celebrating.

    “We all knew she was going to win. It was in the stars,” said Peter Rogina, a family friend who’s known Culpo her whole life. “She’s the same person she’s ever been. She’s the same sweet girl she’s always been and we’re all very proud of her.”

    Culpo, a Boston University sophomore, walked off with the de facto title of world’s most beautiful woman during the Miss Universe competition Wednesday in Las Vegas. The 20-year-old brunette was chosen by a 10-judge panel from among 89 contestants representing far-flung countries ranging from India to Kosovo to Australia.


    “Yes, the girls from South America were lovely, and Miss Australia was stunning,” said Rogina. “But Olivia knows what she’s doing when she’s up there.”

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    According to Reuters, Culpo, who wore a red, long-sleeved dress for her final look of the evening, is the eighth winner from the US in the pageant’s 60-year history, and the first Miss USA to take the title since 1997.

    Miss Philippines, 23-year-old Janine Tugonon, was the runner-up and Miss Venezuela, Irene Sofia Esser Quintero, came in third after the top five answered brief questions posed by the judges. Culpo takes the place of last year’s winner, Leila Lopes, who was the first-ever Miss Universe from Angola.

    The new titleholder, who could not be reached Thursday, will travel the world for the next year representing the Miss Universe Organization and advocate for HIV prevention. We’re told Culpo will return to Rhode Island briefly to celebrate Christmas with her family. In an interview with the Associated Press Thursday, she said it’s unlikely she’ll return to BU.

    ‘‘I do want to finish my education,’’ she said. ‘‘I just don’t think that Boston has a big enough market for what I want to do.’’


    Attempts to reach the beauty queen’s parents, Peter and Susan, were unsuccessful Thursday. (We’re told they were flying home from Las Vegas.) Her dad owns the Boston restaurants The Hill Tavern and Woody’s Grill & Tap, and her mom is an accomplished viola player who’s performed with the Boston Pops and the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood. (And her grandmother Madeline Cantarella Culpo, a Pittsfield native, is the founder, director, and artistic director of the Albany Berkshire Ballet.)

    Asked what might be next for the new Miss Universe, Rogina sighed.

    “Miss Solar System, I guess,” he said. “She’s got her eye on a prize, but it’s not for me to divulge. She’s got a plan.”