Last month, Mexico’s Andrea Meza was crowned the 69th Miss Universe. In a new interview, the 26 year-old is opening up about what this was like for her, admitting that she did not have a job before she won.

“It has been the greatest moment of my life so far,” Meza told Fox News of winning. “When I heard [‘Viva Mexico’] I didn’t know if it came from the audience or if it was Mario [Lopez] that was calling my country. So in the beginning, it took me a few seconds to realize that I won.”

“Every time I see the video now, I think it’s funny because I’m super excited,” she added. “I didn’t believe what was happening. You can’t hear it, but I was jumping and screaming. I could feel my whole country there with me because the audience was going crazy. And I could see all the flags. I’m so grateful I got to feel so much love at that very moment.”

Meza was then asked what it was like taking part in the pageant during COVID-19.

“It was a totally different experience,” she said. “I didn’t have work. My family was struggling with their business. All of that starts playing with your mind. But somehow, participating kept me focus and kept me working on something. And having all this free time? I took advantage of it.”

When asked what it’s like being a role model for young girls around the globe, Meza replied, “As I said, for a long time, I didn’t believe I was capable of doing a lot of things. I was afraid of what people would think about me. I was afraid to show myself.”

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“I never thought I was capable of shining or being an inspiration to someone else,” she continued. “When I started working on my fears, I realized that it was all in my head. That encouraged me to push forward with my goals. Now I want to tell my story and show other girls that we are capable of doing anything.”

“Sometimes we’re afraid to try because of failure or we just feel vulnerable,” Meza said. “But I want to tell them that being vulnerable is OK. That makes us human. And that’s OK if we’re afraid. We can only try. Once you step out of your comfort zone, you’ll realize that you’re capable of doing amazing things.”

As for what she hopes to accomplish as Miss Universe, Meza said, “I want to take advantage of every single moment. I want to do the most I can with it. I worked with the consulate general in New York and we had this amazing conversation about women empowerment and gender-based violence. That’s one of my main focuses.”

“I want to give women a voice,” she concluded. “I want to let the world know the conditions of the Latin community here in the States, as well as in general. I want to raise awareness of gender-based violence because it happens all around the world, not just in Mexico or the Latin community. We need to create awareness for it. And for me, it’s only beginning.”

This piece originally appeared in and is used by permission.

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