The pageant has come under heavy criticism for "cultural appropriation" and "whitewashing" of Israeli apartheid.
Miss India Harnaaz Sandhu has been crowned Miss Universe in the Israeli city of Eilat as several contestants defied pressure to boycott in support of the Palestinians.
Sandhu took the top prize early Monday in the Red Sea resort with Paraguay's Nadia Ferreira first runner-up and Miss South Africa Lalela Mswane taking the second runner-up spot.
South Africa's Ministry of Sports, Culture and Arts had urged its contestant to stay away from Eilat, citing "atrocities committed by Israel against Palestinians."
The call echoed Palestinian groups who pleaded with contestants to avoid the event.
The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel wrote: "We urge all participants to withdraw, to avoid complicity in Israel's apartheid regime and its violation of Palestinian human rights."
Thousands of artists and scholars have pledged to boycott apartheid Israel this year alone.— PACBI (@PACBI) December 13, 2021
No wonder Israel's far-right regime is desperate to use #MissUniverse2021 to polish its tarnished image!#BoycottMissUniverse2021 #MissUniverse #MissUniversohttps://t.co/AfMWi4NOGD pic.twitter.com/F8aPd6hztJ
The 80 contestants also included Miss Morocco Kawtar Benhalima and Miss Bahrain Manar Nadeem Deyani, whose majority Muslim nations normalised ties with Israel last year.
Muslim-majority Indonesia and Malaysia, nations that do not have diplomatic relations with Israel, have not sent contestants but both cited complications related to the pandemic, not Israel's rights record.
READ MORE: South Africa pulls support for Miss Universe contestant over Palestine
Criticism of cultural appropriation
Contestants for the pageant landed in Israel late last month and have since toured sites, sometimes coming under criticism for cultural insensitivity.
In one stop in the Bedouin city of Rahat, the candidates wore robes with traditional Palestinian embroidery while rolling grape leaves, which Miss Philippines Beatrice Luigi Gomez tweeted was a "Day in the life of a Bedouin."
The Bedouin are a traditionally nomadic people who belong to the community of Palestinian citizens of Israel. They have long complained of discrimination in housing and education.
"Colonialism, racism, cultural appropriation, patriarchy, whitewashing, all in one place," tweeted Ines Abdel Razek of the advocacy group the Palestine Institute for Public Diplomacy.
Participants in the pageant, which was co-owned by Donald Trump before he became US president, must be between the ages of 18 and 28 and may never have married or had a child.
According to organisers, the coronation ceremony will be watched by 600 million viewers in 172 countries.
READ MORE: Miss Universe: A vulgar display of patriarchy and apartheid