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Nigeria’s Maristella Okpala Wins Best National Costume + SA’s Lalela Mswane Makes Top 3 at Miss Universe 2021



The 2021 Miss Universe grand finale took place in Eilat, Israel on Sunday, December 12. India’s Harnaaz Sandhu won the crown of Miss Universe. South Africa’s Lalela Mswane made it to the pageant’s Top 3.

24-year-old Model and activist Lalela Mswane holds a law degree. The Lalela Mswane Foundation is her charitable organization.


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During the preliminary round, she showed off her ballet talents while representing her country, culture, and Ubuntu spirit. Miss South Africa was transformed into a dove of peace by wearing a white bodysuit with modest feathers printed on it to serve as a background for the feathered arms covered in white pheasant feathers.


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Miss Universe Nigeria, Maristella Okpala, won the Best in National Costume award, a costume designed by Filipino fashion student Kenny Gasper.


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The Mmwana costume was inspired by a well-known traditional masquerade of a tribe in southern Nigeria, and it featured a beaded headpiece, an ornate tribal mask, and a brilliant ancient back cape. Maristella explained what it symbolized on her Instagram page:

It represents the beautiful Mmanwa who fought tirelessly to stop girl child mutilation and child slavery while the colourful patterns and embellishments portray the African dashiki which offers a visual appeal and forms meant to invoke the ancestral spirits.

I picked this particular costume because I see a self-reflection of my cause in this Mmanwa who protects children and women against any form of abuse.

Gasper expressed his thanks in a Facebook post following Maristella’s win for Best in National Costume. “Thank you Lord. Hindi pa rin ako makapaniwala talaga. Umiiyak ako kanina habang kayakap si mama (I still can’t believe it. I was crying earlier while hugging my mom),” he wrote.

Congratulations ladies, thank you for making us proud!

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