Finally, after a seventeen-month Covid-19 induced pause, the 74 worldwide delegates ventured to Hollywood East (Hollywood, FL) in search of the 2021 Miss Universe Pageant crown, title, and universal accolades. As the longest reigning Miss Universe in history, Zozibini Tunzi would crown her successor following the 69th Miss Universe Pageant, broadcast from the famous guitar shaped Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. Hosted by pageant emcee veteran Mario Lopez and Miss Universe 2012 and Instagram influencer, actress and model Olivia Culpo, with commentary from Miss Universe 2014 Paulina Vega, Miss Universe 2017 Demi-Leigh (Nel-Peters) Tebow, and Extra correspondent Miss USA 2019 Cheslie Kryst also providing expert analysis, the interminable wait for Miss Universe’s return to the stage was at its conclusion.
With the exciting worldwide delegate introduction opening the show, the Miss Universe Pageant quickly announced the top 21, yes 21, semi-finalists who would command the stage in the final quest of the crown. The twenty-one semi-finalists were: Miss Colombia Laura Olascuaga, Miss Peru Janick Maceta del Castillo, Miss Australia Maria Thattil, Miss France Amandine Petit, Miss Myanmar Thuzar Wint Lwin, Miss Jamaica Miqueal-Symone Williams, Miss Mexico Andrea Meza, Miss Dominican Republic Kimberly Jimenez, Miss USA Asya Branch, Miss Indonesia Ayu Maulida Putri, Miss Argentina Alina Luz Akselrad, Miss India Adline Castelino, Miss Curacao Chantal Wiertz, Miss Puerto Rico Estefania Soto Torres, Miss Philippines Rabiya Mateo, Miss Brazil Julia Gama, Miss Great Britain Jeanette Akua, Miss Nicaragua Ana Marcelo, Miss Thailand Amanda Obdam, Miss Costa Rica Ivonne Cerdas, and Miss Vietnam Khanh Van Nguyen Tran. These twenty-one ambitious women, after overcoming the worldwide pandemic travel restrictions and on-location Miss Universe safety protocols, would embark on a night to remember.
If there was any thought the universal lockdown would have the pandemic pounds effect, the delegates defied conventional wisdom in an electrifying, confident display of a healthy and fit lifestyle in the Swimsuit Competition. The country representatives advancing to the Miss Universe Pageant Top 10 were Jamaica, Dominican Republic, India, Peru, Australia, Puerto Rico, Thailand, Costa Rica, Mexico, and Brazil.
Glamour, poise, and confidence are the trademarks of the contestant and fan favorite competition, Evening Gown. It is a universal proclamation of sophistication, and the Miss Universe stage shined in its elegance. However, the Evening Gown Parade would narrow the remaining ten delegates to a Top 5 who would advance to the Final Question Round.
The final five advancing and their final questions (paraphrased) were: Miss Mexico, “How would you have handled the Covid-19 pandemic as leader of your country?” Miss India, “Should countries lock down despite the strain on their economies or should they open their borders and risk an increase in infections?” Miss Brazil, “Convince the countries believing women cannot be strong world leaders that they are wrong.” Miss Dominican Republic, “How would you teach leadership to young girls as Miss Universe?” Miss Peru, “What would you say to women currently experiencing sexual or domestic abuse?” As a global ambassador, Miss Universe will frequently address such current and potentially divisive events, and each one answered succinctly with confidence and conviction. Their answers proved these women can face the scrutiny of the press and speak knowledgeably on a variety of subjects.
The Final Statement Round was the last opportunity for the Top 5 to impress their unique qualifications for Miss Universe upon the Miss Universe Pageant Selection Committee. Each one would speak for thirty seconds on a specific subject. Which qualified woman had risen to the title of Miss Universe 2021? The votes were tallied and the results announced: 4th Runner-up Miss Dominican Republic, 3rd Runner-up Miss India, and 2nd Runner-up Miss Peru. With the proclamation of Miss Universe 2021, Miss Brazil was recognized as 1st Runner-up, and for the third time in Miss Universe history, Miss Mexico had captured the crown and title of Miss Universe.
Pageantry recently spoke with Miss Universe Andrea Meza about capturing the title and her goals as a global representative of women.
Pageantry magazine: With the worldwide lockdown during Covid, how did it feel to finally be able to walk on the Miss Universe Pageant stage?
Andrea Meza: Oh my gosh, it felt amazing. It’s been hard, not only for me, but for millions and millions of people all around the world. A lot of things crossed my mind. I had doubts and wondered if it was going to be possible. Finally being on that stage was so great.
Once I was there for the competition, I had this inner conversation where I told myself, “You have to enjoy it because this is a once in a lifetime experience you will remember forever. Enjoy it as much as you can!” Being on that stage has been one of my biggest dreams and the final was the best moment of my life, definitely.
PM: How long did you actually have to wait from the time you were crowned Miss Mexico?
AM: It was not a long time. I won Mexicana Universal at the end of November 2020. So, I had five months to prepare, but I’ve been preparing for this moment for years. The first pageant I competed in was in 2016. At the beginning, I couldn’t picture myself at the Miss Universe stage. I always had it in my mind, but I never thought I was going to be able to reach that dream. I started from the bottom, preparing myself. I went to another international competition and then I said, “Why not? I think I can do it.” It’s been a long journey.
PM: You’re the third woman from Mexico to capture the Miss Universe Pageant title. What does that mean to you?
AM: It means so many things because knowing I am in the same spot as Lupita Jones (1991) and Ximena Navarette (2010), women who have inspired me to pursue my dreams for so many years, gives me the opportunity to keep inspiring other women around the world. I want to encourage all those young girls who are just like I was, admiring Miss Universe, to pursue their own dreams. They can achieve their goals if they really believe in themselves and if they prepare for it, because nothing is going to fall from the sky. That’s exactly what the crown symbolizes for me.
PM: You’re a very passionate woman, specifically in advocating for women’s rights. Can you explain that a little bit more?
AM: I have to admit and say for many years I was blind to the problems happening in my country. It was normal for me to see pink crosses around the streets and not realizing what it meant, not knowing the cross meant the loss of a woman and that the family didn’t know what happened to them. They didn’t know if she died, if she was lost somewhere, adopted, they didn’t know anything because no one did anything to help them or help those women. When I made that connection, when I listened to the people who were talking about fighting for women’s rights, that’s when I understood I couldn’t live in a blind world anymore. I needed to do something about what I saw, and I realized I had this great platform.
It was not as big as it is today, but I knew there were people following me and listening to me. I started talking about this topic because I believe the way we can change gender-based violence is by spreading the word and awareness about it. The laws won’t matter unless the people believe in the cause. We have to start changing people’s mindset in order to start creating effective change and that’s what I want to do with my platform as Miss Mexico and now as Miss Universe.
PM: How important do you feel it is that everyone gets vaccinated, especially with this resurgence of some of the variants?
AM: For me, it is very important. I look at it this way, the more people who are vaccinated, the faster we can get back to our normal activities. I know it can be a little scary because it’s something new. We feel like they created this vaccine in a very short time and we are afraid of the consequences. However, we have to keep in mind these scientists have been working on vaccines for a long time with all different kinds of illnesses. They are professionals and they wouldn’t be giving us the vaccine if it was not safe to give.
PM: Let’s talk about your move to New York. Is it your first time there?
AM: I came to the city twice before. Those two times I came here for work, so I didn’t really have time to enjoy the city. So, this is actually the first time I am experiencing the enormous city of New York.
Last week, I was at a movie premiere for the Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard. It’s work, but it’s also fun and I absolutely love it. I came at a very good moment for New York because the city is coming back to life.
I have also visited the Empire State building, it was one of my first activities. I was able to do a few interviews from that location. The view is amazing!
PM: How have you kept busy since getting crowned?
AM: Well, I have had a busy schedule and I love that. Miss Universe has been everything I dreamed about and more. I have done a lot of interviews and I enjoy talking with you and all of the different journalists around the world. I also have been able to work with the Miss Universe team to answer the questions, “What do you want to do? How do you see yourself after Miss Universe?” We’re working together in order to achieve those ideas. I am so lucky to be Miss Universe because the platform gives you all the tools you need to keep working on your goals and to keep preparing yourself.
Also, I’ve been working with the organizations we have partnerships with like Smile Train, where they give surgeries for lip and cleft palates. Another great partnership is with God’s Love We Deliver. They prepare, package and deliver food to people who live with chronic illnesses. I had the opportunity to be there and I worked packing the food. I would love to make this part of my weekly schedule as Miss Universe while I’m here in New York.
I’ve also been working with these two organizations that work to create awareness about HIV and AIDS. One is a Latino Commission on AIDS and the other is Gay Men’s Health Crisis. I’m proud to tell you today I got HIV tested and we want to make it public because I want to encourage people to not be afraid to have this test. It is important for ourselves and our communities to stop the stigma, to stop the taboos. I want to make the people feel safe and to let them know there are organizations that can help them.
I’m in love with this work and I’ve been appreciating it so much. It’s one of the parts I have enjoyed the most. Also, as you mentioned, I was creating awareness about the vaccine. Vaccination is different in other parts of the world. Here, it is available for everyone. In other countries like mine, it’s been difficult because we don’t have enough vaccines.
PM: I want to focus on God’s Love We Deliver. When you were there helping, they actually delivered 10,000 meals a day.
AM: 10,000 meals a day is crazy. You see how well-organized they are. You feel how committed the volunteers are. Everyone is a volunteer, and they start at 5:00 AM with the first group of people there preparing the breakfast. Some of the volunteers are cooking, others are packing, and others are delivering using cars, bicycles, whatever kind of transportation they need. They manage to deliver 10,000 meals a day. When I knew about all the work and all the effort everyone is putting in that, I felt part of such an amazing purpose for people who really need it.
PM: You’re an official tourism brand ambassador for your hometown of Chihuahua. What makes Chihuahua so special?
AM: First of all, because I was born there and my family’s there. All the people I love are in the city. Every time I go there, I feel connected to my roots. I know it’s not the most popular tourist place in the country. Everyone goes to Cancun, to Cabo or Mexico City, but believe me, Chihuahua has these breathtaking landscapes and you have to visit one day. We have a train called El Chepe that takes you into the mountains and the forest. You can see this beautiful place called Cooper Canyon which is actually three times bigger than the Grand Canyon.
PM: How’s your family reacting to all this excitement?
AM: It was something so beautiful. My mom was not able to be there in Florida, but my dad was and he just couldn’t believe it. He was screaming and jumping. My mom was crying, watching on the live stream. The best feeling was looking at all my family members, especially the ones I don’t see as often and seeing them crying and feeling so proud of what I did. Really, it was not only my family, but the whole country.
When I meet a Mexican person here and they tell me, “We are so proud of you. You made the whole country proud,” it feels so good. I get goosebumps because every time I see a Mexican doing something great out there on an international level, I feel that person represents me and that gives me hope. I know me winning Miss Universe gave hope to a lot of people in my country, making them believe they can also do great things and that we, as a country, can do even greater things.
PM: In the last several weeks there have been many cyber attacks. As a software engineer, how would you address that?
AM: Technology depends on how you use it. How can we control how technology is being used? For me, it’s about the values we have as people and as a society. Teach a person to use power and intelligence to help others, in order to do something, not only for you, but your community and your society as well. We have to educate our people to give technology a good and powerful use.
PM: How can people follow you throughout the year?
AM: You can follow me through social media on my official social media @missuniverse, and also my personal social media @andreamezamx. There you can find everything I’m going to be doing during in the upcoming months. I want it to be a very productive year. I want you to see me as a normal Mexican girl who inspires others to be themselves and to pursue their dreams. You’re not going to see me only wearing these expensive, amazing dresses with perfect hair and a perfect pose. You’re going to see a real girl who is living her dream and inspiring others in that process.
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