Toronto event planner Samantha Tajik was crowned the 57th annual Miss Universe Canada last night before a packed house in downtown Toronto.
An ecstatic Tajik, 25, outshone more than 60 contestants from across the country to capture the crown before hundreds of black-tie supporters at the Winter Garden Theatre, on Yonge St.
"I want to thank my family and friends for all their support," she said. "I look forward to the Miss Universe pageant in Vietnam."
Outgoing Miss Universe Canada 2007, Toronto's Inga Skaya, 22, said, "It's been a life-altering experience for me."
Tajik will represent Canada at the July 14 Miss Universe pageant in Vietnam, and has won the use of a car for a year, jewellery and trips.
Reigning Miss Universe Riyo Mori, 21, of Japan, who was a judge last night, said she was looking for a winner who showed inner beauty.
Aspiring queen Alexandria Wiemer, 24, of Calgary, said she quit her job as an administrative assistant to follow her dream. "This has been a fantastic experience," Wiemer said backstage. "Its not like TV, in that all the girls get along here."
Miss Saskatoon Ann Parry, 25, a Shaw TV anchor, said the competition among girls was tough.
"It has been a good experience and at the same time a lot of work," Parry said. "I think my experience working in the media and with people has helped."
Lateesha Ector, one of 12 contestants from Quebec, said the pageant has been a learning experience.
"This has been one of my goals since I was a young girl," Ector said. "It has made me learn a lot about people."