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New Miss Universe hoping to inspire

LAS VEGAS — The 20-year-old Rhode Islander who brought the Miss Universe crown back to the US for the first time in 15 years is hoping that her quick rise through the beauty contest ranks and an on-stage stumble will show women that anything is possible.

Olivia Culpo receives her crown from former Miss Universe, Leila Lopes.

Perched high above the Las Vegas Strip in the Planet Hollywood winner’s suite yesterday, Olivia Culpo told The Associated Press that her year-long transformation from Boston University sophomore to pageant winner proves that women can accomplish anything to which they set their minds.

“My first pageant was a year ago and already I’m Miss Universe. It’s kind of incredible,” she said.

She pointed to the fact that she stumbled on her red velvet evening dress Wednesday night before beating out beauty queens from 88 countries as proof that confidence and poise matter more than perfect performance.

“I like the fact that I tripped last night in my evening gown. I think that that’s cool,” she said. “And you learn from it: Don’t step on your dress,” she added with a laugh.

The former Miss USA spent the first day of her reign surrounded by stylists and handlers, wearing a scarlet mini-dress with cutout cap sleeves and sky-high silver heels. Plates of cupcakes and croissants went untouched as she sipped from a water bottle with a straw.

For the past six months, Culpo has shared a New York City apartment with outgoing Miss Universe, Leila Lopes of Angola. The two titleholders traditionally room together.

Her coronation ended a long losing spell for the US in the competition. An American had not won the Miss Universe title since Miss Hawaii, Brook Lee, won in 1997. (AP)

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