Miss Universe Leila Lopes Pledges to Combat HIV, Emphasizes Natural Beauty

Miss Angola Leila Lopes beats out 88 contenders to become Miss Universe.

ByABC News
September 12, 2011, 4:35 PM

Sept. 12, 2011 — -- After a nail biter of a finale, Miss Universe 2011 was crowned Monday night in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The winner: Miss Angola Leila Lopes, who beat out 88 contenders to win the world's largest beauty pageant Monday night.

The 25-year-old beauty queen pledged to help Angola move past its history of war and impoverishment. She also plans to focus on HIV advocacy worldwide.

"As Miss Angola I've already done a lot to help my people," Lopes said. "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 ... I think now as Miss Universe I will be able to do much more."

The soft spoken beauty offered down to earth advice when asked about her three favorite beauty tips: Get plenty of sleep, always use sunblock and drink lots of water. She asserted that she's never had plastic surgery.

"Thank God I'm very satisfied with the way God created me and I wouldn't change a thing," Lopes said, responding to the question of what part of her body she'd change. "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."

Lopes was also asked about racism in light of the fact that she's one of the few black women to earn the Miss Universe crown. Lopes responded, "any racist needs to seek help."

"It's not normal in the 21st century to think in that way," she said.

Contestants hailing from 89 nations spent the past three weeks in Sao Paulo for the 60th anniversary of the beauty contest that had an anticipated worldwide audience of one billion. Mexico's Ximena Navarrete, last year's winner, was on hand to relinquish her crown to Lopes.

Rounding out the top five at Monday's pageant were Miss Brazil, Miss China, Miss Philippines and 23-year-old Miss Ukraine Olesia Stefanko, who was the first runner-up.

The top ten also included young women from Australia, Costa Rica, France, Portugal and Panama.

Even before Monday's pageant, Miss Universe was making headlines. Reports that Miss Colombia had shunned underpants during some of the pre-pageant activities led organizers to reprimand 22-year-old Catalina Robayo.

"Our supervisors talked to all of the contestants about dressing appropriately, and one of our p.r. people spoke to her, and apparently she said she was wearing underwear," Paula Shugart, president of the Miss Universe organization, told E! Online. "But regardless, it created quite a stir here for a few days."

Pageant officials refused to confirm whether or not Robayo was wearing underwear. Her alleged ban on briefs hasn't been the competition's only problem. Officials were forced to return bikini bottoms from sponsor Catalina Brasil Swimwear after they were deemed too skimpy for audiences. (What flies on the sands of Rio, unsurprisingly, raises issues on prime time network TV.)

It's far from the first time controversy's reigned at one of Donald Trump's many pageants. Carrie Prejean memorably condemned gay marriage at the 2009 Miss USA pageant, posed for partially nude photos and later lost her crown due to breach of contract. Last year, the Miss USA organization came under fire after releasing racy portraits of the contestants clad in lingerie.

It's likely that the buzz leading up to Miss Universe translated to a bump in viewers for NBC's Monday night broadcast. And there's a silver lining for Miss Colombia.

"If it doesn't work for her at Miss Universe, she could always go to Hollywood," Shandi Finnessey, fashion commentator for the pageant, told ABCNews.com last week. "It worked for Paris and Britney."