August 1, 2008
By Kiko Martinez
It was a memorable night for Latinas around the world when Miss Venezuela, Dayana Mendoz, 22, was crowned Miss Universe on July 13 during the 56th annual pageant held in Vietnam. This marked the fifth time in the pageant’s history that a contestant from Venezuela won the prestigious title.
Along with Mendoza, three other Latinas (Miss Colombia, Taliana Vargas; Miss Dominican Republic, Marianne Cruz Gonzalez; and Miss Mexico, Elisa Najera) made up four of the final five contestants. Miss El Salvador, Rebeca Moreno, was also named Miss Congeniality.
While in New York City last week, the new Miss Universe spoke about pageant protestors, controlling her emotions before the big event, and why everyone should visit Venezuela at least once in their life.
I read that you’ve always been interested in learning about different cultures. Spending the last few weeks with all the other contestants from different parts of the world, whose country was the most interesting to hear about?
Dayana Mendoza: I had the opportunity to share with all [the contestants], but I would say my roommate, Miss Italy [Claudia Ferraris]. I was really close to her. We were like sisters. I’ve been to Italy a lot of times. It’s like my second home, so when they told me she was going to be my roommate I was happy. I got to practice my Italian with her.
Did you ever think about the one billion people that were watching you that night?
Before the opening I thought about it and got nervous. But I told myself that I had to calm down and control my emotions and enjoy my moment.
There were a lot of protests last year when the pageant was held in Mexico and there are still groups that boycott pageants because they feel the events are demeaning to women. What would you say to these people?
I can’t understand them. I would just tell them to be more open and don’t judge people without getting to know them.
As part of your prize package for winning this year’s pageant, you are receiving a two year scholarship to the New York Film Academy. Are you going to take advantage of this opportunity?
I’m so glad I have that. For the moment I cannot do it because I’m going to be all over the world the whole year, but maybe after Miss Universe I can think about it. I would like to do it. I don’t want to say what I am going to do [with the rest of my career] because I would limit myself to all the opportunities. But who knows? We’ll have to see.
Are you ready for any questions about the political turmoil in your home country that might come up during your reign as Miss Universe? Is that something you are comfortable talking about?
Miss Universe doesn’t have anything to do with politics and I’m not an expert in it. I know people are very curious about it but I’ll feel kind of helpless because I’m not a political girl.
Pitch me a reason to go to Venezuela on vacation.
Go to Venezuela to see snow, beaches, deserts, and mountains. We have a lot of different cultures. It’s a little bit of everything.
Do you have a boyfriend?
Yes, he’s Venezuelan.
What does he say now that he is dating Miss Universe?
He’s really quiet but he did say the other day, “I already knew she was the most beautiful girl in the world, I don’t need anyone to tell me that.”