Q&A with Miss Universe Olivia Culpo

In January, Cranston, Rhode Island, native and Boston University sophomore Olivia Culpo beat out entire galaxies of women to win the Miss Universe pageant, which happens to be run by Donald Trump’s company. Her victory marked the first time in 15 years that a Miss USA had won the crown.

By Jason Schwartz | Boston Magazine |

miss universe olivia culpo

Photo by Miss Universe L.P., LLLP.

So you’re in charge of the universe now. 

I’m in charge of the whole thing! I’ll be traveling a lot internationally and a spokesperson for HIV and AIDS awareness.

How did you get into all of this? 

I started one year ago. I was studying communications and acting, and I decided over the summer that I wanted to work on my acting skills and perform in a pageant. I didn’t have any other way of practicing, so I entered the Miss Rhode Island pageant. I ended up wearing a dress that was a $20 rental. It was too short and there was a hole in the back of it. I won, and then in June I won Miss USA, and now I’ve won Miss Universe.

I read that you studied current events on flash cards to prepare for Miss USA. Did you do that for Miss Universe, too?

Yeah, I did. I used my notes from my USA competition and I also started a new journal of other notes along with new flash cards.

You know, that’s the exact same way that Sarah Palin prepared for her debate.

It’s a lot! You need to be prepared, you need to feel like you are aware of what’s going on. The more you put into it, the more you get out of it, so preparation, in anything, is so important.

What did you learn from all the current-events prep? What’s the thing that stuck with you?

Just to be yourself…do you mean, in terms of current events? Well, I concentrated on the deficit in our country, gun control, sex trafficking, issues regarding women, because this is a beauty pageant, self-consciousness, beauty-image problems, the media, social media, how the world has changed in the past 10 years, what I think is the biggest catastrophe that’s ever occurred in history.

Since you mentioned women’s issues: A lot of people are critical of this type of pageant, which is very heavily based on appearance. What do you say to them?

I think that, if anything, the pageant is great for people who suffer from body issues. It’s all about being comfortable with what you’re given and what you have and being able to flaunt it without being insecure. It’s about empowering women, not making them feel weak or less.

Do you have any good ideas for fixing the deficit? I think they need some help right now.

Yes, I have my answer prepared for that. Well, in terms of the deficit, I think that I would just solve it like I would solve a problem if it was my own personal crisis. I would save more than I spend, and I would use natural resources, and things that we have at our fingertips in order to create revenue rather than import it.

After you won, you had a press conference with Donald Trump, who seems to me cold and reptilian to the touch.

Uh, I’m very close with him. He’s very nice. He’s very easy to talk to, and I’ve never been intimidated by him. He’s turned this beauty pageant into one of the most-watched beauty pageants to ever exist. He’s just an amazing businessman and he impacts media a lot and I think he’s really good at what he does.

Fair enough. You probably had to miss a few classes for this, right?

I did, and a whole lot of parties. I did not go out to any parties and I did not stay up late. I wasn’t satisfied with the frat life or partying or going out every night. I felt like I was wasting my parents’ money, to be completely honest with you. I felt like people went to college and instead of concentrating on reaching goals, they just stayed up until 3 in the morning and they didn’t respect that they were there to get ahead. That’s kind of mean, but it’s how I feel.

I feel like 3 a.m. in college is when you get all the conversations that could help with current events. 

Exactly, but you don’t remember it the next day, that’s the problem.

I’ve read that you’re not planning on returning to BU. Why not?

I would just like to be in a city that has a bigger market for what I would like to do. But I love Boston, and it will always be a part of my past and what got me to where I am today.

That’s tough. We’re not a big enough deal for you?

Oh, I’m going to come back for major visits, I’m going to go for my run on the Charles, hit up my favorite restaurants. You betcha!