Beauty, Inside and Out: Leila Lopes, Miss Universe 2011

When Leila Lopes was crowned Miss Universe 2011, the 25 year-old put her native south-central African country of Angola on the map for the first time in the pageant’s 60-year history.However, glamour quickly took a backseat to Lopes’ more pressing desire to use her newfound platform of beauty to illuminate one of the darkest shadows cast over Angola—and that of the world—the HIV/AIDS epidemic.In Angola, the fatal disease has reached pandemic proportions. According to the World Bank, HIV has factored into the plummet of the country’s average life expectancy rate to one of the world’s lowest—47.6 years when last measured in 2009. Meanwhile, the rate of infection has more than quadrupled from 1990 to the present day.In spite of government efforts to educate people about protection, Lopes says the burgeoning infection rate has more to do with a mindset that is difficult to change.“Most people in the world just don’t believe it will happen to them, but this is especially true in Angola,” Lopes told YouBeauty in an exclusive interview. “We have had a civil war from 1975 until just a few years ago. Because of the war, many people didn’t go to school. They’re uneducated, they don’t know about the disease, they don’t know about prevention. They think it is something that happens to someone else.”QUIZ: How Healthy Do You Feel?Yet according to Lopes, the true ‘death sentence’ is not when someone is diagnosed with or even passes from the virus, but when the rest of the community finds out that a person is infected. “When people start to avoid and abandon them, that’s when their life really ends. I’ve even seen children left by parents,” says Lopes.By bringing the spotlight of the Miss Universe crown to areas affected by AIDS, Lopes hopes that a picture will help expedite a powerful message. “By being with HIV patients, I want others to see that HIV people don’t change just because they are HIV positive. We need the discrimination to end,” says Lopes.It may seem a different beat from the ‘world peace’ platform of your stereotypical beauty pageant contestant, but Lopes’ winning edge has appeared to be that she is not a manufactured beauty.Competitors even took note of the difference—though some, perhaps begrudgingly. Miss France Laury Thilleman—who made the first cut, but did not advance into the last round of semi-finalists —openly complained to the press afterwards that Lopes “was often in jeans and not wearing makeup” during the nearly month-long competition in Sao Paulo, Brazil.“Many girls made efforts that were not rewarded. I don’t know, something is missing in her temperament,” moped the French beauty queen.MORE: The Science of MakeupIn response, Lopes says she read through the rules and regulations paperwork while packing for the pageant, and didn’t come across any requirements to,” dress for rehearsal as if we were going to the final competition.” As such, Lopes opted for leggings and jeans for the long hours of practice—“because I feel most comfortable in them”—adding that her preference is for a subtle touch of makeup.“If she [Miss France] thinks I wasn’t wearing any makeup, I’ll take that as a compliment. That means I did a great job of applying it,” laughs Lopes. “My beauty secret is—the less, the better.”While the rest of the final five contestants wore their hair in long, Victoria’s Secret-esque tousled waves, Lopes once again broke the pattern by sweeping hers up into a bouffant-like top knot. “Most of the time, I wear my hair up,” she says. “I like my face. I wear it up to show off my features.”QUIZ: How Happy Are You With Your Face?The statuesque 5’11 beauty attributes her glowing skin to a family tradition that has been passed down through generations of women; combining honey with sugar as a soothing scrub for both the face and body. Her other musts are the usual great-skin suspects—plentiful water, a restful night’s sleep and daily use of sunscreen.Yet when it comes to advising other women on the best beauty tip she has to offer, Lopes’ focus is on the inner kind.“Studying is the most important thing any woman can do for herself. No one can ever take an education away from you.”MORE: DIY Beauty Recipes the Makes You Feel Good, Inside & Out

Share with your friends

leave a comment