As Olivia Culpo took her predictable winner's walk down the runway as the first Miss USA to win Miss Universe in 15 years, she was -- as they all are-- smiling, crying and fidgeting to keep her crown in place.
But something else was different. The 20-year-old Boston University sophomore is a brown-haired, brown-eyed woman who looks more like Salma Hayek than Gwyneth Paltrow. This could be a symbol of progress. It could be that as a culture we are broadening our image of physical perfection to be more inclusive and representative of society.
Many perhaps were expecting a stereotypical American - blond-haired and blue-eyed in the mold of Grace Kelly, Marilyn Monroe, Cheryl Tiegs, Kate Hudson, Kirsten Dunst and Amanda Seyfried.
But perusing past Miss USA winners, all of them genetically blessed no matter what the color of their hair, an interesting trend emerges. Since 2000, eight Miss USA winners (including Culpo) have been brunettes, four have been blondes and one was a redhead.
Brook Lee was the last Miss USA to wear the Miss Universe crown in 1997 and she had dark hair as well. While blondes may have more fun, it's clear the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants prefer brunettes.
Could the look of the quintessential American beauty be changing as our population changes?
The U.S. Census Bureau estimates by 2043 whites will no longer be the majority in America. The Hispanic population is expected to more than double by 2060, making nearly one in every three U.S. residents Hispanic compared to one in six today. The black and Asian populations are on the rise as well, according to the census bureau. Perhaps, as our population has become more colorful and inclusive so has our definition of beauty.
Don't misunderstand; in no way do I condone or excuse objectifying women with a judgment on their external attributes. But it is helpful as a measure of how our culture perceives what is beautiful and how that perception might be changing.
Miss Maryland, Nana Meriwether, will take over Culpo's duties here as the new Miss USA. And in keeping with the trend she is a brunette.
Of course stereotypes persist -- "Modern Family" actress and Pepsi spokeswoman Sofia Vergara dyes her naturally blond hair brown to make her look more typically Latina.
And who can forget Dayana Mendoza? She not only won Donald Trump's 2008 Miss Universe contest, she also appeared on his 2012 edition of Celebrity Apprentice.
Throughout the season Ms. Mendoza was continually lambasted by her cast-mates, especially comedian Lisa Lampanelli. She was attacked for apparently not being smart, not working hard and in general being a bimbo. Mendoza didn't win, but she fought back and lasted longer than even she expected before hearing the infamous words from Trump, "You're fired."
Mendoza, who's from Venezuela, made it her mission on the show - along with raising money for charity -- to prove that a woman can have beauty and brains.
Culpo is also no dummy. She attends Boston University, graduated high school with honors and as a member of the National Honor Society. Her family says she conquered the cello in the second grade and played with renowned musician Yo-Yo Ma and performed at Carnegie Hall.
Music is in Culpo's genes -- both of her parents are professional musicians. But extraordinary height is not part of her DNA.
Of the 10 Miss Universe finalists she was by far the shortest woman on the stage. Culpo stands a diminutive 5-feet, 5-and-a-half-inches tall and in a world where beautiful women tend to tower toward 6-feet tall and still wear platform heels, it's nice to know a more down-to-earth woman can win too.
Like most all Americans in the 21st century, Culpo has a melting pot heritage. Culpo's father is of Italian decent and her mother is a mix of Italian and Irish ancestry.
But she looks to a Belgian-born icon for her beauty inspiration. According to Culpo's Miss USA profile she is a fan of the late actress and humanitarian Audrey Hepburn and keeps a journal of the actress's quotes.
As Hepburn did, Culpo will now champion a cause worldwide. During her year-long reign as Miss Universe she will travel around the globe to support HIV/AIDS prevention, according to the official website for Miss Universe.
I would like to suggest one more mission for the newly crowned Miss Universe - breaking beauty stereotypes. She's already proven you don't have to be a dumb blonde, and you don't have to be long and leggy to be gorgeous.
Next let's bust the beauty myth that you have to be a size zero. Perhaps one day we'll see a Miss USA or Miss Universe who is a size 10. And perhaps she can openly be a representative of the LGBTQ community, or discuss her or her family's struggle with mental illness or be one of the millions of Americans who have battled with and beaten an addiction.
That way whoever is chosen as Miss Universe can walk down the aisle crying and smiling knowing she is one of us.
Follow Caryn Ward on Twitter: www.twitter.com/carynward123