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United States takes the Miss World crown

The newest Miss World is from the United States.

Alexandria Mills, a soft-spoken 18-year-old, was named the winner in Saturday night's contest in southern China. The tall blonde was a relative surprise winner after speculation focused on other contestants.

According to London's Daily Mail, reports are surfacing that Chinese officials pressured judges into giving lower scores to competitor and early favorite, Norway's Mariann Birkedal. The article suggests that tensions between China and Norway, resulting from a controversial Nobel Peace Prize choice, led to the decision.

Officials were upset that the Oslo-based Nobel Prize committee honored Liu Xiabobo, a democracy campaigner jailed in China, the Daily Mail reports.

Birkedal made it to the top seven, but was cut before the top five.

Second place went to Emma Wareus of Botswana, and Adriana Vasini of Venezuela came third.

The host country's own contestant, Tang Xiao, also was among the final five.

According to a brief biography on the Miss World website, Mills calls Louisville, Ky., her hometown, and she recently graduated from high school. She would like to become a teacher.

"I've never met a stranger and enjoy meeting new people," she says in the bio.

For the final, she was wearing a shimmering ivory-colored dress slit up the leg.

Mills takes over the title from Kaiane Aldorino of Gibraltar, who was named Miss World 2009 at a ceremony in South Africa last December.

Women from more than 100 countries participated in the contest, organizers said.

This is the 60th year of the Miss World Competition, and organizers brought back contestants from past decades to give the night a retrospective theme.

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