December 20, 2015 / 6:19 PM / 3 years ago

Miss Universe pageant begins post-Trump era in Las Vegas

Comedian Steve Harvey (C) poses with the 80 contestants of Miss Universe 2015 in this handout photo provided by The Miss Universe Organization prior to rehearsal at the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, on December 19, 2015. REUTERS/Darren Decker/The Miss Universe Organization/Handout via Reuters

(Reuters) - The Miss Universe pageant will crown a new international winner on Sunday, months after the annual beauty show was thrust into controversy when then-co-owner Donald Trump made disparaging remarks about immigrants.

Contestants representing more than 80 countries will compete in Las Vegas at the 64th edition of the pageant. For the first time, viewers will have a chance to vote on the winner, rating each contestant in the swimwear, evening gown and interview competitions.

Until recently, the pageant was co-owned by Comcast Corp’s NBCUniversal and Trump, who is leading national polls in the 2016 Republican presidential nomination race.

Trump’s remarks about Mexicans in announcing his candidacy in June drew sharp criticism, and the Spanish-language network Univision pulled out of a deal to televise the pageant.

Trump, who has sued Univision for $500 million, bought out NBC’s stake in the Miss Universe Organization, which produces both Sunday’s pageant and the Miss USA contest. He sold the company in September.

Sunday’s live telecast begins at 7 p.m. ET on the Fox television network.

Among the contestants is Ariana Miyamoto of Japan, whose father is African-American. Miyamoto’s height of 1.73 m (5.7 ft) and bronze skin are unusual in Japan and her selection to represent Japan in the Miss Universe pageant created an online firestorm in her native country.

The panel of judges includes former National Football League great Emmitt Smith, celebrity blog mogul Perez Hilton and 2012 Miss Universe winner Olivia Culpo.

The reigning Miss Universe is Paulina Vega of Barranquilla, Colombia, who will crown her successor at the end of the evening.

Reporting by Joseph Ax in New York; Editing by Alan Crosby

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