By Teryl Warren

Somewhere in New York, a beautiful young woman is adjusting to a new job, a new life and some extremely cold winter weather. She is elegant, she is confident and she is Miss Universe 2014.

On January 25, 2015, Paulina Vega was crowned Miss Universe 2014 in Doral-Miami during the 63rd Annual MISS UNIVERSE® Pageant.  Born  in  the  town  of  Barranquilla,  located  in  northern  Colombia,  the  22  year-­‐old  is  a  student  at  the Universidad  Javeriana  in  Bogota  and  is  majoring  in  business  administration.  She is  the  2nd youngest  woman  to  take  home  the  Miss  Universe  crown  from  Colombia and, as she waited for the winner ‘s name to be announced, she recognized the significance of the moment beyond her, personally.

“I was so nervous, standing there, holding hands with [Miss USA] Nia Sanchez,” she shared.  “I was just breathing deeply – trying to remain calm and relaxed. I believed that being the 1st runner-up out of 88 contestants would be an honor, but I had 400 people there in the audience and I knew my whole country was watching, too. It was very exciting.”

Paulina Vega, Miss Colombia 2014

Since winning the pageant, the entire world has been watching Paulina’s every move, and the first weeks of her reign promise to be a whirlwind of media interviews, social engagements and international travel.

“I’m traveling to Indonesia, first, to crown the new Miss Indonesia. Then, I’m off to Dubai, and maybe, after that, to my home in Colombia.”

The  Miss  Universe Organization  (MUO)  is a Donald  J. Trump and NBC Universal  joint  venture,  which  uses  its global  grassroots  reach  to  empower  women  to  be  self-confident  and  strive to be their personal  best.

A model since the age of 8, Paulina has been groomed for a life in the spotlight from an early age; and she shared how her life as Miss Colombia also prepared her for the responsibilities of her new role.

“As Miss Colombia, I became accustomed to this kind of lifestyle and everything that comes with it. But now that I have international obligations, the really important thing is [for me] to have fun, to be authentic and to be responsible, because I know I’m representing women of today from all over the world.”

The  MISS UNIVERSE®, MISS  USA ®, and  MISS TEEN  USA® beauty  pageants provide  an  international  platform  through  dedicated  partnerships  with  charities, sponsors,  and  brands  around  the  world.  During  their  reign,  pageant winners are given  the  tools  to  personally  and  professionally  enrich  others  by  providing humanitarian efforts  to affect  positive  change,  all  while  developing  their personal career  goals.

Miss Universe’s charitable platform is the fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Over the last decade, every Miss Universe titleholder has traveled around the world championing this cause and creating awareness for HIV/AIDS prevention, HIV testing, and access to medical care.

“During my reign as Miss Colombia, I spent the year traveling and helping raise funds for more than 70 foundations, including organizations that support education, assist pregnant teens and who help children whose parents are in jail and in,” Paulina shared.  “I’m really excited to focus on HIV/AIDS awareness as Miss Universe, because I believe the more awareness we all have, the more we can do to really improve the lives of the people impacted by the disease.”

Paulina Vega, Miss Universe 2014, poses for photos at Trump National Doral (Photo by Darren Decker)

Beyond her work with HIV/AIDS-related causes, Paulina also sees her reign as an opportunity to represent the very best that her homeland has to offer and to begin a new global conversation about Colombia’s current social climate.

“I’ve become an ambassador of my country. Columbia is not what it was in the past. We have achieved many things in sports, arts, music and education. It’s a beautiful country, it’s very safe and you can do a lot of things, there,” she said. “When tourists visit my country, they love the environment and they love the people. As Miss Colombia and, now, Miss Universe, I feel I have a job to spread this message about my country to people all over the world.”

Fresh, effervescent and charmingly optimistic, Paulina Vega is well-prepared to tackle her obligations as Miss Universe, but there’s one thing she is struggling a bit to adjust to: the snow. Part of the Miss Universe prize package includes luxury accommodations in a New York apartment for the duration of her reign, but, as anyone who’s been watching the weather closely can attest, February can be a tough time to be in the city that never sleeps – especially if you’re not accustomed to winter weather.

“I hate being cold so, of course, all this snow makes it’s even worse,” she laughed. “I like to go to the beach and I like to tan, but I am getting used to [the cold].”

As Paulina Vega embarks on her dazzling new journey – snow and all – she’s determined to remain grounded and true to her relaxed, spontaneous and thoroughly authentic self.

“I believe everyone should maintain their essence,” she shared. “I’m very natural. I’m not afraid to make mistakes, and I love to have fun. I come from a big family, so I love to be around people. I’m also very passionate and I’m a dreamer. I like to dream a lot.”

It takes no more than a few moments in her company to see why Paulina Vega beat 87 other contestants for the 2014 Miss Universe crown.  Not only does she embody the spirit and core values of the pageant, itself, but she exemplifies the type of total beauty that is rare, enchanting and utterly breathtaking.

“Everyone has a different definition of beauty, but for me, beauty is about finding a balance between what’s on the outside and what you have inside, she shared.  “When you have a balance, and you have good feelings, you’re a positive and you have a good heart, then you are beautiful to me.”

For more information, visit:  www.missuniverse.com

To keep up with Paulina Vega throughout her reign, stay connected on:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/MissUniverse

Twitter and Instagram: @MissUniverse  #MissUniverse

YouTube:  www.youtube.com/missuniverse

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