Stargazing

Miss Universe shines international spotlight on small host city, Doral, Florida

Miss Canada, Chanel Beckenlehner, posef for the judges wearing a hockey-themed costume during the national costume show at the 63rd annual Miss Universe Competition in Miami, Fla., Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)
Miss Canada, Chanel Beckenlehner, posef for the judges wearing a hockey-themed costume during the national costume show at the 63rd annual Miss Universe Competition in Miami, Fla., Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter) AP

If you haven’t been paying attention to the two weeks of hoopla leading up to Sunday’s Miss Universe pageant, here’s what you probably missed: The event is being hosted by a small Florida town named Doral.

Not glitzy Las Vegas, not historic Moscow, both of of which have hosted the pageant in previous years.

Nope. This year all the pre-pageant activities have been held in Doral, a town of about 50,000 residents just outside of Miami – and home to Trump National Doral resort, one of pageant owner Donald Trump’s properties.

The pageant itself, airing at 7 p.m. Sunday on NBC, will be held outside Doral at nearby Florida International University Arena in unincorporated Miami-Dade.

Doral is home to reportedly the country’s largest population of Venezuelan immigrants. And anyone who follows these things knows that Venezuela is just a wee bit obsessed with beauty pageants.

The current Miss Universe, Gabriela Isler, was the seventh woman from Venezuela to win the crown.

“We feel the pageant belongs to us. We feel a proprietary pride about having Miss Universe here,” the town’s mayor, Luigi Boria, a native of Venezuela, told Fox News Latino.

“In Venezuela, people grow up with the Miss Universe pageant ... Venezuela is blessed with beautiful women. In my college classrooms, on the streets of Caracas, you’re surrounded by beauty. People appreciate the country’s beautiful women like they would a work of art, a beautiful flower, a breath-taking landscape.”

He said he was shocked when he wrote to Trump last year suggesting Doral as a site for the Miss U.S.A. pageant, and Trump offered Miss Universe and its expected 600 million TV viewers instead.

The Miami Herald reports that the pageant has been a bone of contention for Doral city officials, not all of whom have been as enthusiastic as the mayor. The town reportedly is forking over $2.5 million to host the pageant, money that mayor Boria is confident will be covered by private corporate sponsorships.

The contestants have been in Doral for the past two weeks participating in parades, a golf putting tournament, zumba lessons, a cooking contest, charity work, fashion shows, preliminary competitions and the ever-popular National Costume show.

“I couldn’t ask for a better place to finish my chapter as Miss Universe,” Isler told Fox News Latino. “I can find arepas and my Venezuelan food at any corner. I have all my people here. It just feels like home.”

So who are the favorites for Sunday night?

On Friday, betting company Paddy Power had Miss Mexico as the 4/1 favorite, followed by Miss Costa Rica, Miss Colombia and Miss Australia, all at 6/1, Miss USA and Miss India at 8/1 and Miss Venezuela at 10/1.

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