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Andrés Martínez Tutek/NYC
July 30, 2008 AT 01:00 PM EDT

Two weeks after leaving Vietnam, wearing the crown of the most beautiful woman in the universe, Venezuelan goddess Dayana Mendoza came by People En and, holding nothing back, opened her heart and shared with us the thrill of winning, how she spent the first few days after the pageant, her fears, and what she would like to do with her life.

Mendoza, 22, showed that she is not only a beautiful woman, but that beyond those deep green eyes her best attributes are her charisma, her charm, and, above all, her intelligence and personality.

Dayana, how do you feel with that crown on your head?
Wow. Obviously, very happy with the outcome, because, thank God, everything turned out the way it did. Yet the truth is that I’m still in shock, not fully aware of what happened. It all happened so fast, with so many mingled emotions, that I still feel so impacted by it all. My God, I still can’t believe it.

Honestly, what were your thoughts when you were standing there next to Miss Colombia just before the winner was announced?
I was really so shocked and anxious that I wasn’t doing much thinking, believe me. The only thing I thought of doing was to hold her hands and tell her that we had both won already. And right there I left it up to God and said, may it be whatever He wants it to be.But just imagine that in this pageant, instead of being a contestant you had been a judge. Who would you have chosen?
Wow, I couldn’t answer that, because it wouldn’t be fair. I would probably choose someone without being unbiased. I don’t know, but let me tell you something. If I had been a judge, I suppose the vote would have been private and also for that reason I couldn’t tell you what my choice would have been.

Four Latinas made it to the top 5. What is it that Latinas have that makes them such strong contenders in the Miss Universe pageant?
Well, many things. People in Latin America have such a mix of cultures: a little bit Italian, Spanish, a little bit Portuguese. And I believe it’s that mix that definitely gives us a flair and that makes us so interesting.

Tell our audience who Dayana Mendoza really is
Well, I am an extremely sentimental person, quite independent, and my big flaw is being a perfectionist. I love to have a good time, enjoy every moment to the max, I don’t like lies, and, well, I’m also one who cries over everything (she says this with a wide smile).

What do you say to those who think that beauty pageants only exploit the image of women?
I’d them that I understand that all too well because that’s exactly what I thought before being part of one. I’ll also say that it’s very easy to judge what you don’t know.

Responding to the final question is a test that many candidates fail in Miss Universe. Do you think this is due to lack of intellectual preparation?
It’s not easy to respond before millions of people in a language that is not your first language. It’s not easy to come up with an answer that the public wants to hear and that would accommodate your personality as well. It seems to me that the intellectual level doesn’t necessarily have to be college level, or even based on grades. It needs to come mostly from experience, from life itself, from family values and from natural intellect.

And speaking of languages, we’re told you are quite an intelligent woman who speaks three or four languages, right?
It’s that … (she turns serious), what if I only spoke one? Then what? Would that mean that I’m not intelligent? A woman’s intelligence can’t be measured by the number of languages she speaks. Intelligence is part of your personality, your behavior, your thinking. I don’t personally believe that you necessarily must speak various languages to be considered intelligent.

Since you were crowned in Vietnam your life has been on the run. If a fairy were to grant you an entire day to do as you please, what would you do?
Wow, I’d love to get some sleep. Sleep the whole day, here in New York or anywhere else in the world. We spent an entire month in Vietnam sleeping only three or four hours a day. You end up suffering from being tired all the time.

How would you rate these days as Miss Universe?
Extremely busy. I’m up at 5 in the morning and the day extends until 11 at night. A normal day is a working day. You get up early, have breakfast, work all day, get home, shower, have dinner and go to bed.

When you were a little girl, did you you ever pretend you were a beauty queen?
No, I wasn’t the type who played being a queen, but one day at a bus stop, the person who is now my manager approached me and asked me if I would like to be a model. He gave me his business card. At first, I was reluctant. But three weeks later I visited his agency with my father. We signed a contract, and two or three years later I was already in New York working as a model.

What do you fear most in life?
I’m afraid of the dark.

If you had the powers to end something in the world, what would that be?
I would end violence because it doesn’t make sense, and I would end wars because they are equivalent to mediocrity.

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