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Something in the Water Gabriela Isler is the seventh woman from Venezuela to wear the crown of Miss Universe, and just like all of them before her, she’s going to use her crown to foster change and spread awareness I t started with an 18-year old named Maritza Sayalero in 1979. The Caracas native was the first young woman from Venezuela to ever be crowned Miss Universe, and she certainly wouldn’t be the last. In fact, since that day in July almost 35 years ago, no country has been as successful on the Miss Universe stage as Venezuela, which has seen seven of its native daughters go on to capture the global crown, including Maritza on that fateful day. Who knows? Later this year, Migbelis Castellanos could end up helping her country tie the United States for the most Miss Universe ti- tles in the pageant’s history at eight, but until then, Venezuela is still sim- ply basking in the victorious glow provided by Gabriela Isler, the reign- ing Miss Universe. Hailing from the state of Guárico, Gabriela has sought a career in mod- eling since she was a teenager, al- though she’s the first to admit that her peers may have never seen it coming. But so often is the story in fairy tales and books, Isler shed her so-called “nerd” demeanor and soon rose to fame as not only one of the most beautiful and influential women in her country, but the entire world as well. Like most of the spectacular women before her, Gabriela is just trying to both enjoy and make the best of her title reign that began on that fateful GABRIELA ISLER IS CROWNED MISS UNIVERSE and incredible day in Moscow. Pageantry magazine: Since we have already written about your trip to Moscow, we need to have your firsthand account. What was your experience like? Gabriela Isler: It was really great, not only for me to have the chance to witness a different and new culture in Moscow, but to have the chance to share this experience with 85 girls. I tried a lot of food and I met a lot of Russian people, as they helped me in the airport. Some of the people took it very seriously, but I always had a smile and the rest of them smiled, too. It was a really great experience. PM: You’ve been back to Russia, too, as you actually judged the Miss Russia Pageant recently. GI: Yes, I did and it was a very differ- ent experience, because I came back as Miss Universe, and it’s always good to go back to the place where everything started for me. The people were still really nice and kind to me, and I had some more time to be a tourist. I did- n’t have to do the rehearsals, so I had time to go to St. Basil and the Krem- lin and just enjoy more of the city. It was amazing. PM: When we travel to Russia or just anywhere in the world, we have conceptions about what things GABRIELA ISLER AT THE RED SQUARE IN MOSCOW, RUSSIA might be like. Was there anything about Russia that was totally differ- ent than what you expected? GI: I think it’s the people. When you think of Russian people, you think of very serious people. But in my case, I was always trying to smile and be friendly to the people, and they were the same way back. They would al- ways smile and they were very friend- ly with me, and I didn’t expect that kind of behavior. But they were just really, really friendly with me. PAGEANTRY 33