Andre Penner/AP
Andre Penner/AP
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Angola’s first Miss Universe, 25 year-old Leila Lopes, won the international crown last night in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Indicating she’s already done a lot to help her people as Miss Angola, she anticipates her new title will help her native land forge ahead to escape its history of war and impoverishment.

According to The Associated Press,  she 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,” she said. “I think now as Miss Universe I will be able to do much more.”

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Saying her smile is her best weapon in the competition, Leila beat out 88 competitors from around the globe for the world’s biggest beauty pageant. When asked during the pageant what’s the one physical trait she would change, she indicated she wouldn’t change a single thing!

“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.”

As contestants spent three weeks leading up to the pageant in Sao Paulo and trying to learn the samba, visiting needy children and tossing around the football, a fan told the AP, “She captivated the crowd and we were all behind her.”

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Judges were apparently behind her, too. Adrienne Maloof and Connie Chung were among the judges. Before the competition Connie indicated, “I know my job and I’ll be tough, but fair.” She added, “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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