Miss Venezuela Stefania Fernandez was crowned the winner of the 2009 Miss Universe pageant last night. Check out gorgeous pictures of her below...

Dressed in a flowing red gown, 18-year-old Stefania Fernandez hugged the runner-up from the Dominican Republic and danced in joy as her victory was announced Sunday.

Last year's winner Dayana Mendoza (click for pics) whispered in her ear that she must have worked hard for Venezuela to win consecutively - the first time in the 57 year-old competition that a country has had back-to-back Miss Universe winners.

When asked during the questions-and-answers phase of the competition, Fernandez said she believed women have overcome obstacles such as hitting the proverbial glass ceiling. "I feel we have reached the level that men are at."

When asked later how she thought beauty contests promoted equality between men and women, Fernandez said they provided exposure to strong role models for the younger generation of girls to follow.

Stefania Fernandez is from the city of Merida, a city in western Venezuela - a South American country where hard-fought pageants are something of a national sport, with contestants widely dissected by the public and the media.

The President of her country, Hugo Chavez, did not meet last year's winner when she took home the crown, but Fernandez hopes he will change his mind in light of the historical back-to-back wins for the country.

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Pictures of Miss USA Kristen Dalton / Every Miss Universe 2009 contestant in bikinis

Watch video of Miss Venezuela being crowned Miss Universe 2009:

Image © Miss Universe Organization L.P., LLLP