BANGKOK — Maria Poonlertlarp Ehren was crowned Miss Universe Thailand on Saturday night at the Siam Paragon shopping mall.
Ehren, 25 of Thai-Swedish descent, graduated from Stockholm Business School and entered the pageant as a favorite for her existing fame as a model, stage presence and English-language skills.
“Equality of men and women in Thailand isn’t equal yet,” Ehren said when asked what was difficult about being a woman. “But to move forward, both men and women have to hold hands and move forward together, because it’s not just an issue about women.”
Ehren will go on to compete on the world stage on Nov. 26 at the Miss Universe pageant in Las Vegas.
“This stage will help me to succeed and build foundations to help Thailand,” Ehren said when asked why she was competing, adding that she’d most like to tackle issues of teenage pregnancy and ocean pollution.
The first runner-up was Supaporn Ritthipruek. Paweensuda Drouin, Suraphrin Atkhonghan and Ratchanok Naowaset were all chosen as second runner-up from the 40 finalists who went into Saturday’s pageant.
The winner of the People’s Choice Award, selected via SMS votes for the public’s favorite headshot of contestants wearing haute couture, Lanna-style headdresses, was nabbed by No. 24, Ratapirayarn Aphinanthanapong, 24 of Yala.
Read: Thai Crown Contenders Ready to Vie for ‘Universe’ (Photos)
Ehren’s entire final-round performance
Maria’s English interview Saturday night after her win
Maria’s interview with Khaosod English