Australian Jennifer Hawkins won the Miss Universe title Tuesday night in a two-hour pageant watched by television viewers around the world.

Miss USA Shandi Finnessey of Florissant, Mo., was named first runner-up at the event, which organizers said drew 7,500 spectators to a convention center on the northern outskirts of the Ecuadorean capital.

Hawkins, 20, received the crown from outgoing Miss Universe Amelia Vega of the Dominican Republic and strolled down the runway to the cheers of the crowd.

Pageant officials said Hawkins choreographs a dance team that tours Australia. Her interests include surfing, camping and watching ballet.

The three other finalists were Miss Puerto Rico Alba Reyes, Miss Paraguay Yanina Gonzalez and Miss Trinidad & Tobago Danielle Jones.

Before the pageant began, singer Gloria Estefan defended the contest from critics who consider such events frivolous.

"A beautiful woman has very great powers to convince, and we have seen many misses who have done a great job," said the Cuban American singer, who performed Tuesday night. "The new Miss Universe should do a spectacular job helping the needy."

The panel of judges included actor Emilio Estefan, actress Bo Derek and supermodel Petra Nemcova.

Kwame Jackson, who was runner-up on the reality show "The Apprentice," was dropped as a judge after being disqualified Monday by pageant organizers for greeting beauty queens he bumped into in the lobby of their hotel.

Miss Universe Jennifer Hawkins, right, with first runner-up Shandi Finnessey of the United States.