Miss Universe contestants and the universities that shaped them
Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach, left, prepares to crown Iris Mittenaere of France shortly after being proclaimed the Miss Universe 2016 in coronation Monday, Jan. 30, 2017, at the Mall of Asia in suburban Pasay city, south of Manila, Philippines. Source: AP.

These lucky women are blessed with great genes and brains for days. From dentistry to music prodigies, their talent and skills definitely go beyond skin deep.

Though the beauty pageant industry does have its problems (for one, they promote conformist, Euro-centric beauty ideals that may be damaging to young girls), these girls have used the Miss Universe platform to campaign for many good causes, from education to dental hygiene.

“I want to help people, I want to understand people, I want to meet people, that’s why this is a dream for me,” said Iris Mittenaere, this year’s Miss Universe 2016.

In that spirit, here are five Miss Universe contestants and the universities that played a part in making them the smart, big-hearted individuals they are today:

1. Iris Mittenaere, Miss Universe 2016 – Lille 2 University of Health and Law, France


This year’s winner, Mittenaere has spent the past five years studying dentistry in the vibrant French city of Lille and has plans to become a dental surgeon.


During the Q&A session, she spoke about France’s open borders. “In France, we want to have the most globalisation that we can, we want to have the biggest exchange of people that we can,” she told the judges. She also hopes to use the Miss Universe platform to advocate for dental and oral hygiene.

2. Pia Wurtzbach, Miss Universe 2015 – Center for Asian Culinary Studies (CACS), Philippines


Wurtzbach was a culinary student at the Manila cooking school helmed by the island nation’s top local chefs.

“She was not afraid to ask if she did not know certain procedures and did not pretend to know. This was probably [why] despite all the intrigues as she was barely 20 years of age, Pia was voted Executive Chef of their Legacy Buffet event… And she pulled this off, making the necessary purchasing requests, cooking schedules, and other logistical measures to make this event successful,” said Gene Gonzalez, one of the school’s operators, in a post on the website of CACS.


As the Instagram post above shows, she knows when and how to get down to business, and with sass, to boot!

3. Olivia Jordan, Miss Universe 2015 (2nd runner-up) – Boston University, United States of America

The Oklahoma native graduated from Boston University in May 2011 with a Bachelor of Science in health sciences.

Jordan stood out during her Miss USA 2015 pageant when asked what was the next big issue the American nation needed to tackle. Where other candidates fumbled or were unsure, Jordan confidently replied: race relations, a topic that was rife then due to then-presidential candidate Donald Trump’s controversial comments on Mexican immigrants.


“We have freedom of speech in this country, and immigration is certainly an important issue,” Jordan later said to Associated Press.

She added, “This organization is not one person. It’s definitely not just me. It’s a family. This organization celebrates diversity, and I think that was clear on the stage tonight, and I look forward to spreading a message of love and diversity and acceptance.”

4. Honey Lee, Miss Universe 2007 (3rd runner-up) – Seoul National University, South Korea


Lee hails from a family of musical talents and has a degree in Korean traditional music from the prestigious South Korean university. She was also named a gayageum (a traditional Korean zither-like string instrument) prodigy by the Kumho Art Centre, the most prestigious musical foundation in Korea.


Lee’s talents do not stop at music and beauty pageants. She also hosts her own cooking show “Lee Ha-Nui’s Vegan Recipe”, holds a 3rd degree black belt in Taekwondo, is a scuba diver, and a competitive skier.

5. Natalie Glebova, Miss Universe 2005 – Ryerson University, Canada


Before winning her title in 2005, Glebova worked as a model and received her Bachelor of Commerce in information technology management and marketing at Canada’s largest undergraduate business school. When she was younger, Glebova also won various regional rhythmic gymnastics championships in Russia, where she was born.


Since then, Glebova has worked with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and Habitat for Humanity as a goodwill ambassador, started her own company in Thailand, wrote a book and launched a line of perfumes.

Swimsuits or not, we are proud of these women and their accomplishments. Girl Power!

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