The Miss Universe competition has been a staple of international pageantry since 1952. It has gone through various iterations: from a pageant designed to promote a swimwear line in the 50s to what it is today–a showcase for the most beautiful women in the world and their advocacies.
One factor that is a constant in Miss Universe from then to now is the walking. Elevating what we mere mortals do to get from point A to point B, a Miss Universe walk is in itself a statement; a piece of art, even. A contestant’s walk is often given the same importance as the clothes she wears and the answers she will give. For many months before the competition, Miss Universe hopefuls undergo grueling walking or pasarela training, and a competitor’s walk can make or break her chance of winning the crown.
In time for the 69th Miss Universe pageant broadcasting this weekend from Florida, here’s our ranking of the walks of the last ten Miss Universe winners, from 2010 to 2019. This list is in reverse order, starting from number 10 down to our pick as the best pasarela performance. It should be noted that this list is purely arbitrary and subjective and should be taken as such. And if it feels like we’re heaping the praises, well, we are. They are all winners. None of them walked weird. Deal with it. On with the list!
10. Ximena Navarrete (Miss Universe 2010, Mexico)
Ximena Navarrete may have been more celebrated for her strikingly beautiful face, but the way she carried herself on stage guaranteed her the crown in the 2010 pageant in Las Vegas. She radiated both warmth (you’d want to be her best friend) and fiery heat (watch your man around her). Her confident turn in the swimsuit round showcased her toned body perfectly, and her poise and elegance in her evening gown fit the queen that she is to a T.
9. Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters (now Tebow) (Miss Universe 2017, South Africa)
At five feet and seven inches, Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters is practically tiny by Miss Universe standards. But she towered over everyone else in the 66th edition by the sheer force of her arresting beauty and sunny countenance. The Miss Universe pageant was held in the evening, but every time Demi-Leigh walked onstage, it was as if she brought the sun with her. Her winning performance placed South African beauties solidly on the Miss Universe map and ushered in South Africa’s current powerhouse era in Miss Universe.
8. Leila Lopes (Miss Universe 2011, Angola)
Leila Lopes lit up the stage every time the cameras hit her, and she walked like royalty. Her very chill countenance every time she was up on stage–especially in the evening gown competition–carried her striking frame and delicate features perfectly.
7. Olivia Culpo (Miss Universe 2012, USA)
Olivia Culpo was just 20 when she was crowned Miss Universe 2012 in Las Vegas, a fact which made it all the more impressive that throughout the competition, she carried herself with a grace that many women more seasoned than her could only hope for. For her final look, she wore an enormous Disney princess-y ball gown that would have swallowed her whole had she not carried it with a quiet confidence and an elegance that was beyond her years.
6. Iris Mittenaire (Miss Universe 2016, France)
Iris Mittenaire had that unmistakable Parisian chic energy that took her all the way to the crown in 2016. She was, for the lack of a more elegant term, very, very cool. The sum of all her parts proved to be the recipe for France’s first win in 63 years: a walk with an easy confidence and a surplus of charm. She is prime proof that French girls make beauty look so easy.
5. Zozibini Tunzi (Miss Universe 2019, South Africa)
Zozibini Tunzi had a very steep hill to climb when she represented South Africa in 2019. After Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters’ 2017 win and Tamaryn Green’s 2018 first runner-up finish, it seemed near impossible that South Africa was going to place high that year, it was too good to be true. But all bets were off the moment Zozibini gracefully walked that runway for the first time. She had the regal bearing of a true queen and the arresting presence of a fierce warrior. She was not too good to be true–she was just too good.
4. Gabriela Isler (Miss Universe 2013, Venezuela)
Gabriela Isler presented herself in 2013 with the perfect mix of fierceness and relatability. She was every inch the glamazon every time she walked the stage, but she also never failed to convey a sense of warmth. This gave her the edge that set her apart from many of the other delegates that Venezuela has sent to Miss Universe: not only was she the striking goddess we have grown to expect a Miss Venezuela to be, but she was also someone you would probably want to hang out with.
3. Pia Wurtzbach (Miss Universe 2015, Philippines)
Pia Wurtzbach goes down in Miss Universe lore for the messiest winner announcement ever. But more importantly, she has also proven herself as one of the most compelling Miss Universe queens ever. Her presence was electric; she stalked the stage in her iconic blue gown like a gazelle and gazed into the cameras as if daring us all to look away. And we couldn’t. The rest, as we know, is pageant history.
2. Paulina Vega (Miss Universe 2014, Colombia)
With the face of an angel and the body of a Victoria’s Secret Angel, Paulina Vega took the 2014 Miss Universe competition by storm. Her movie-star looks were further heightened by her easy charm and charisma on stage, and the twinkle she always had in her eye was very infectious. She walked like a top model, and she looked like she had fun doing it.
1. Catriona Gray (Miss Universe 2018, Philippines)
One just has to say these two phrases—’lava walk’ and ‘slow-mo turn’—and any self-respecting pageant fan would instantly be transported to the 2018 Miss Universe preliminary show, wherein the Philippines’ Catriona Gray, in her hot pink swimsuit, was casually rewriting Miss Universe history with the combo of a playful hip pivot and a sassy toss of her lustrous hair. It was the move that cemented her as the one to beat that year, taking notices from industry heavy hitters including supermodel Tyra Banks. And as if that wasn’t enough, she then proceeded to serve us her signature ‘lava walk’ in the finals. Wearing her now-iconic fiery red gown, she stalked the runway with such nerve and pluck that it was simply inevitable that the crown was hers. But, aside from her indelible on-stage performance, what elevated her further were the small moments of joy that she peppered her every runway walk and interview response with. Case in point: fan videos of the pageant show behind-the-scenes footage of Catriona, off-camera, after her final walk before the winner is crowned, exuberantly dancing to Ne-Yo’s Miss Independent like she doesn’t have a care in the world. That infectious joie de vivre that she has is what placed her on the top of this list, and will go down the pageant history books as the stuff of legends.