For Mexican born Miss Universe, Jimena Navarrete, pageant life was ingrained in her Latin upbringing. Jimena (also spelled Ximena and pronounced “Him-eh-na”) is intent on using her new title of Miss Universe to clear up some misconceptions about her native, Mexico. We discussed the economic climate in Mexico as well as the education offered in her country. Jimena surprised me with her responses to my questions, making me aware that there is likely a considerable segment of the Mexican population that is overlooked by the American media. It is in these moments when I am reminded that our news media is somewhat filtered, as we often get just the highlights and extremes. We miss the nuances and the areas of gray that exist in other nations and cultures. It is in these shades of gray that humanity is most apparent.
Jimena Navarrete is a nutrition major at the Universidad del Valle de Atemajac in Mexico, and her strong motivation to learn about nutritional science as it pertains to health is one I can certainly relate to.
Beyond that, Jimena revealed to me that she admires a certain other beautiful world famous Latina and she enjoyed meeting rock star turned comeback kid Bret Michaels who hosted last week’s Miss Universe pageant. Jimena Navarrete also wants you to know that she doesn’t take her newfound public image too seriously. She advises that others follow suit and she touts the merits of learning to laugh at yourself.
PR.com (Allison Kugel): How is it for you doing United States based press and making appearances? Are you confident in your spoken English?
Jimena Navarrete: I do my best always, because I am not very fluent, but I try. I never lived before in the United States, so you have to be listening and practicing [English] all the time.
PR.com: The night that you were crowned Miss Universe, did you hear about any big celebrations taking place in your hometown of Guadalajara, Mexico?
Jimena Navarrete: Yes, people in Guadalajara were crazy celebrating and they were celebrating all over the country. And my parents, cousins and many friends were [in the audience] to watch me.
PR.com: What did you do the very next morning when you woke up?
Jimena Navarrete: Photo shooting (laughs).
PR.com: It all started right away!
Jimena Navarrete: The official photo shoot, yes.
PR.com: What did that moment feel like when you were crowned Miss Universe?
Jimena Navarrete: I really was shocked. It’s like a big feeling, you know? You’re thinking about a thousand things at once, and I was very excited.
PR.com: What is the best piece of advice that you were given during the entire pageant process?
Jimena Navarrete: Enjoy and learn about everything. My family and my pageant director, my friends and other people that are around me, they always told me you have to learn and enjoy because this is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and the time is, like, so fast. All the things happen so fast, so you have to enjoy.
PR.com: You and the other Miss Universe contestants were all staying together at the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas. What was the atmosphere like between you and the other contestants?
Jimena Navarrete: It was great. I was very happy to be there, but there were lots of Mexican and Latin people working at the Mandalay Bay, so I really felt like I was in my own house, you know?
PR.com: They were coming up to you and introducing themselves to you?
Jimena Navarrete: Yes, all the time.
PR.com: When you hear about pageants and pageantry, you always hear about women feeling pressure to look perfect. Is there any specific physical flaw that you felt insecure about during the contest?
Jimena Navarrete: No, I really feel very confident and secure, because nobody is perfect. I think what is important is to have a balance in your life, and to accept everything. I am happy with my body and thankful with God, and with my family. I am happy like I am.
PR.com: What personality trait did you hope would be apparent to the judges during the show?
Jimena Navarrete: I try to be myself always, and always have a smile on my [face], and just be me. I wanted that [quality] to be crystal clear.
PR.com: How do you think Bret Michaels did as host of the show?
Jimena Navarrete: Oh, he was great. I love him! In the final rehearsals he introduced himself to all the girls.
PR.com: Did your parents take part in helping you prepare, or was competing for Miss Mexico and then for Miss Universe something you went for completely on your own?
Jimena Navarrete: In my country it is very traditional to do this kind of contest, like Miss Mexico. And they give us all of the preparation, like, a year before. They give us classes and they pay for everything. My parents went to the contest and they were enjoying Las Vegas. Days before the contest they did a vacation, and they went then to the show, and they were very happy.
PR.com: Any gambling in the casino for your dad while he was in Las Vegas?
Jimena Navarrete: No (laughs). He is always with my mother and my sister, and they love to go shopping.
PR.com: Regarding your country, Mexico, the country is known for being economically unstable…
Jimena Navarrete: Yes…
PR.com: I don’t know what it is like actually growing up in Mexico. I only know what I have seen as a tourist and read about your country. Growing up in Mexico, how was the educational system and how was the economy from your perspective?
Jimena Navarrete: Basically, there are many problems in my country, as there are in many other countries in the world. But I wanted to clean up this image. Many people think that in Mexico it is all a problem and it’s just violence and terrible things. It is not like that. There are many good things. You can find hard working people and great education, and just great people.
PR.com: Did your family struggle or did you have a middle class upbringing?
Jimena Navarrete: My family is like a normal family. I studied in a Catholic school. We were a normal family.
PR.com: Well you always hear about the very rich or very poor in Mexico.
Jimena Navarrete: In Mexico you can find balance. There are poor people and rich people, but my family is… in between (laughs).
(Jimena never heard the common American expression “Middle Class” so she struggled a bit in describing her family’s economic circumstances and ultimately settled on “in between.”)
PR.com: Right, many don’t know that there is a population in Mexico that is in the middle as you say, or middle class as Americans would describe it. And where does your passion for studying nutrition come from?
Jimena Navarrete: Well, my grandfather died from cancer. He was four years in the house sick with this cancer, so I saw how difficult it was, this kind of problem about the food; how the doctors can’t do correctly the food for him. So I want to know more. And that is why I decided to study nutrition.
PR.com: In other words, the doctors didn’t know, or didn’t teach your grandfather how to eat properly.
Jimena Navarrete: Yes, because this is very important. When somebody is sick, I want to know more just for that.
PR.com: Do you plan to continue modeling, or are you planning to focus more on nutrition once your education is complete?
Jimena Navarrete: I want to finish my nutrition [degree] and of course modeling too.
PR.com: What do you want your legacy to be as Miss Universe once this year is up and you pass on your crown to the next girl?
Jimena Navarrete: Well the official cause of Miss Universe is to work with AIDS and different organizations like Aid for AIDS (aidforaids.org) and Latino Commission on AIDS (latinoaids.org), so I really want to work on that and to make a difference and a change regarding that.
PR.com: Did Donald Trump speak with you and tell you what he expects of you throughout your reign as Miss Universe?
Jimena Navarrete: I saw him just this day, the contest day, and I know that he was very happy with the decision of the judges. He just said to me, “Congratulations,” and that he was very happy.
PR.com: What celebrity would you love to meet and why?
Jimena Navarrete: Shakira. She is always trying to help people. Though she is very famous, I think that she is very sensitive and very good, and she has a good conscience. I like that. And I have many favorite [Shakira] songs. My favorite Shakira song is Ojos Asi.
PR.com: I love Hips Don’t Lie (and just about every other Shakira song!).
Jimena Navarrete: I like that one very much too (laughs).
PR.com: And for all of the gentlemen out there who would like to know, do you have a boyfriend or are you single?
Jimena Navarrete: I have a boyfriend and he is Mexican.
(Did you really think she’d be single?)
PR.com: How did you like doing the Top Ten List on the Late Show with David Letterman?
Jimena Navarrete: It was great. Many people think that it is not proper for Miss Universe, but I think that it’s great. This is a kind of show that is for laughs and for celebrating. For me it was great and I really had fun. We have to learn have to laugh about ourselves.
PR.com: The two things I liked the best from your top ten list of things you want to do as Miss Universe to make the world a better place were, capturing Osama bin Laden by inviting him for a private meet and greet with you.
Jimena Navarrete: (Laughs.)
PR.com: I think that’s a very good idea. He is a man, after all. And I liked “bringing peace and stability to Jennifer Aniston’s love life.” I think you could win a Nobel Peace Prize for that one. Do you plan to remain in Mexico or will you move to the United States at some point?
Jimena Navarrete: This year I am going to live here in New York. Then I will probably go to Mexico.
Visit missuniverse.com or find Jimena Navarrete on the official Miss Universe Facebook page.