I was kidnapped, Miss Universe says

01:43, Jan 31 2009
TAKE IT EASY: Miss Universe winner Dayana Mendoza says a kidnapping incident 18 months ago taught her to stay calm in stressful situations.

Miss Universe 2008 winner Miss Venezuela Dayana Mendoza says an "express kidnapping" in Venezuela taught her how to handle stressful situations.

Mendoza beat 79 of the world's most beautiful women to be crowned Miss Universe at the beauty pageant in Vietnam's resort city of Nha Trang, watched by nearly a billion television viewers worldwide.

She received a crown - made of white and yellow gold and precious stones - by last year's winner, Riyo Mori of Japan.

"I am excited. I cried a lot. I am really glad I made it," Mendoza, the 57th winner of the title, later told reporters.

She admitted she was kidnapped 18 months ago in Venezuela, an experience that taught her how to remain calm in stressful situations.

"It is something that happens in my country and that's why I want to raise my voice and say violence is not the answer," she said when asked about the incident.


Mendoza, an aspiring interior designer, was among four finalists from Latin America, including first runner-up Taliana Vargas, 20, from Colombia.

The rest of the top five were from the Dominican Republic, Mexico and Russia.

Communist-led Vietnam spent nearly $20 million on the event, including $7 million on a new resort and convention centre to host the pageant, in a bid to promote tourism to the Southeast Asian nation.

After celebrating at home with her family, Mendoza will spend her year-long reign travelling the world to speak out on humanitarian issues.

"I think I will jump on my family and they will jump on me. I want to have my mum's food," she said.