Miss South Africa Rolene Strauss was crowned Miss World on Sunday in a competition in London.
“South Africa, this is for you,” she said in an interview after the pageant. “I’m so proud of you, and I’m proud to be your representative.”
Strauss, 22, inherited the crown from Miss World 2013, Megan Young of the Philippines. She won the title over runner-up Miss Hungary Edina Kulcsar. Miss United States Elizabeth Safrit took third place.
Strauss, a fourth-year medical student at University of the Free State, put her studies on hold after being crowned Miss South Africa in March. In her official Miss World 2014 introduction video, she credits former South African President Nelson Mandela with paving the way for her to pursue a career in medicine by creating a democratic South Africa.
Strauss said she looked forward to continuing the legacy of Miss World CEO Julia Morley, founder of “Beauty With a Purpose,” a nonprofit that supports humanitarian projects of Miss World contestants.
Those who participate in a charitable contest or cause through the organization compete for the “Beauty With a Purpose” award, winning points toward their final score.
The focus on charitable acts helps counter criticism that the pageant promotes superficial images of women through swimsuit competitions and slinky evening gowns. As Miss South Africa, Strauss has promoted projects in women’s rights, health and education, including one to provide menstruation education to schoolgirls in South Africa.