- Associated Press - Monday, August 23, 2010

LAS VEGAS (AP) - More than 80 beauty queens from around the globe have started their final run in hopes of being crowned the next Miss Universe.

The 83 national pageant winners from six continents took to the stage Monday night at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino on the Las Vegas Strip. They introduced themselves by wearing over-the-top costumes celebrating their homelands. They then strutted onstage in short silver and black dresses.

Just 15 contestants will to stay in the running to replace Miss Universe 2009 Stefania Fernandez after the opening number.

A panel of celebrities is judging the women on how they look in swimsuits and evening gowns, as well as how well they answer an interview question.

The winner gets a package of prizes including an undisclosed one-year salary.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

LAS VEGAS (AP) _ A set of 83 beauty queens plans to show off swimsuits, evening gowns and quick-thinking interview skills in hopes of impressing a panel of celebrity judges and winning the 2010 Miss Universe crown.

From Albania to Zambia, contestants from six continents were expected to strut across a stage Monday night at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino on the Las Vegas Strip.

The winner will replace Miss Universe 2009 Stefania Fernandez, who gave Venezuela a second consecutive win by taking the title at age 18 last year. The South American country has won six titles since the pageant started in 1952.

Fernandez says it’s clear in her mind who is contending in this year’s contest _ but she won’t give her picks until after the telecast.

Her successor will receive a package of prizes including an undisclosed salary, a luxury New York apartment with living expenses, a one-year scholarship to the New York Film Academy with housing after her reign, plus jewelry, clothes and shoes fit for a beauty champion.

Online voters will pick Miss Photogenic Universe, while contestants themselves will select Miss Congeniality Universe. Each award comes with a $1,000 cash prize.

Fans of Miss Universe gave high ratings to Miss Philippines Venus Raj, Miss Bolivia Claudia Arce Lemaitre and Miss Venezuela Marelisa Gibson in an online vote.

The headline-grabbing pageant hosted by rocker Bret Michaels and NBC correspondent Natalie Morales will air live on NBC and Telemundo and be distributed in some 190 countries and territories. The contest, co-owned by Donald Trump and NBC, will be judged by celebrities including 2010 Olympic gold medalist Evan Lysacek and actress Jane Seymour.

If Gibson wins, it would give Venezuela an unprecedented third consecutive win.

The pageant started as a local bathing revue in Long Beach, Calif., organized by a swimwear company. It now skips over the world; it was held last year in the Bahamas and in Vietnam in 2008.

Representing the United States is Miss USA Rima Fakih, a 24-year-old Lebanese immigrant from Dearborn, Mich., whose win spurred celebrations among Arab-Americans. Pageant records aren’t detailed enough to show whether Fakih is the first Arab-American, Muslim or immigrant to win Miss USA.

Miss USA has not been named Miss Universe since Brook Lee won the title in 1997.

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