The 2023 Miss Universe pageant wrapped up on November 18 and made history in all kinds of ways.
For the first time ever, married women and women who are mothers were allowed to compete. The pageant included its first “curvy” contestant. And for the first time ever, the winner was from Nicaragua.
But the sweetest moment of the historic pageant came when the winner, Sheynnis Palacios, 23, thanked God for winning the crown. This is particularly notable because the Church in Nicaragua is being persecuted to such a degree that the Pope has compared the ruling regime to Nazis and Communists.
Catholic Study Fellowship shared Palacios’ words:
I am a Christian person, a Catholic person. To me, prayer is a way I feel more comfortable. When I say “Thanks, God,” it’s because this crown is not mine. It is for Him. It is for all the delegates that I share with and it is also for my country and my family.
She also publicly shared how she prayed and asked God for help throughout the competition. In an interview with Hola!, she said:
“Lord, help me,” I asked God for a lot of wisdom. I remember that at that moment, I started to feel a bit of anxiety, and I began using my techniques to manage my emotions. When the question was over, I said, “Well, Lord, I consider myself well-served, thank you. I did a great job up to this point…”
Her mission to promote mental health
She managed this moment of anxiety with both spiritual help and emotional wisdom, in keeping with her message. Mental health awareness is the focus of her Miss Universe platform, stemming from her own experiences with anxiety.
Her mission is to make mental health help more accessible and normalized in Nicaragua, according to her Miss Universe profile:
Coming from a country where this issue is rarely addressed, she started an accessible initiative called “Understand Your Mind,” in which she interviews a specialist on emotional care in her television segments. She has also produced events and other audiovisual projects on this theme.
In the shoes of Mary Wollstonecraft?
Another special moment in her competition came when judges asked her in which woman’s shoes she would like to spend a year. She chose the 18th-century British philosopher and feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, who, she said “gave an opportunity to many women.”
Wollstonecraft was deeply religious in her early years and often appealed to God and virtue in her brilliant writing on women’s rights.
Wollstonecraft’s impact on Catholic and other religious thinkers remains so great today that a project for virtue-based engagement in questions of sexual equality and freedom is named for her. The Wollstonecraft Project website explains her influence:
Her vision for marriage – the highest form of friendship; a relationship of reciprocity between equals built upon sexual integrity, mutual trust, and collaboration; a shared project for the upbringing of children; and the best means to restore harmony between the sexes – remains Wollstonecraft’s most farsighted vision.
With Wollstonecraft’s deep affirmation of intellectual, professional, and domestic life for both men and women – alongside her still unsurpassed rationale for women’s rights – the 18th-century philosopher is the obvious patroness of our work.
Hopefully Palacios’ mention of Wollstonecraft can draw attention to her writings. And in a history-making competition, it’s inspiring to see the winner take time to pause and give thanks to God.