Wendy Fitzwilliam, representing her nation of two small islands off the Venezuelan coast, succeeded Brook Mahealani Lee of Hawaii to become the 47th Miss Universe. She won more than $200,000 in cash and prizes.
Second place was won by Miss Venezuela, 18-year-old Veruska Ramirez, and third place by Miss Puerto Rico, 23-year-old Joyce Giraud.
Fitzwilliam bested 80 other entrants in a pageant beamed to 75 countries and seen by about 2 billion people. She burst into tears as the crown was placed on her head at the University of Hawaii's Stan Sheriff Center before a raucous crowd of about 4,000.
During preliminary competitions last week, Fitzwilliam earned the Best National Costume Award for an outfit featuring a headpiece with 6-foot-long feathers.
She also wore a two-piece floral print bathing suit and a sheer white, floor-length dress during the pageant.
In her pageant biography, Fitzwilliam, the product of a broken home, was asked what she would do if she was named Miss Universe.
"My goal would be to impress upon women by my example that their struggle should not be for superiority over men but for equality to fulfill our God-given task of bringing up children, the future of the human race, together," she said.
Fitzwilliam also said she admired actress and UNICEF spokeswoman Hepburn because "her extraordinary beauty and grace was reflected in all facets of her life."
The original field of 81 contestants was whittled down to 10 during last week's swimsuit and evening gown competitions.
Those 10, in alphabetical order, were Brazil's Michella Marchi; Colombia's Silvia Fernanda Ortiz; India's Lymaraina D'Souza; Ireland's Andrea Roche; Puerto Rico's Giraud; Russia's Anna Malova; South Africa's Kerishnie Naiker; Trinidad and Tobago's Fitzwilliam; the United States' Shawnae Jebbia of Massachusetts; and Venezuela's Ramirez.
Fitzwilliam's winnings include a $40,000 salary, $20,000 in Planet Hollywood stock, a $10,000 scholarship and $10,000 in telephone calling cards.
The event was hosted by Jack Wagner of Melrose Place, Julie Moran of Entertainment Tonight and actress Ali Landry.
Written by Ben DiPietro ©1998 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed