SAO PAULO — Newly crowned Miss Universe Leila Lopes hopes her victory will allow her to assist her native Angola further escape its history of war and impoverishment and said she plans to focus on combatting HIV around the globe.
Speaking in a timid voice early Tuesday shortly after taking the crown in South America’s largest city, the 25-year-old Lopes said that “as Miss Angola I’ve already done a lot to help my people.”
“I’ve worked with various social causes. I work with poor kids, I work in the fight against HIV. I work to protect the elderly and I have to do everything that my country needs,” she said. “I think now as Miss Universe I will be able to do much more.”
Responding to questions, Lopes said that she has never had cosmetic surgery of any kind and that her three tips for beauty were to get a lot of sleep, use sun block even when it’s not sunny and to drink lots of water. She said her smile was her best weapon in the competition.
Asked about racism in light of the fact that she’s one of the few blacks ever crowned Miss Universe, Lopes said that “any racist needs to seek help. It’s not normal in the 21st century to think in that way.”
She deftly handled the interview question that is asked of the remaining top five contestants. She was questioned about what physical trait she would change if she could.
“Thank God I’m very satisfied with the way God created me and I wouldn’t change a thing,” Lopes said. “I consider myself a woman endowed with inner beauty. I have acquired many wonderful principles from my family and I intend to follow these for the rest of my life.”
Despite battling against a home country favorite, Lopes won over the audience, speaking in the shared language of Portuguese. Angola, like Brazil, is a former Portuguese colony.
“She captivated the crowd and we were all behind her,” said Brazilian Natalie Bursztyn, 20, who was in the crowd inside Credicard Hall where the event took place. “It was great that the judges also saw what the fans saw and gave her the crown. Her dress was beautiful and she knew exactly what to say when they asked her the question about her looks.”
“I know my job and I’ll be tough, but fair,” Chung said. “You have to keep in mind that these women are not objects just to be looked at. They’re to be taken seriously. I want to choose somebody I take seriously and the world takes seriously, too.”
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