Who Miss Universe is and what she represents has changed throughout the years, and it’s no doubt that today, those who win the crown are charged to become positive change-makers more than anything else.

In her stint as Miss Universe, dentistry student Iris Mittenaere focused on Smile Train, an advocacy that helps children with cleft palette improve their quality of life. On the other hand, her successor Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters plans to focus on projects that will empower women and children.

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“I think we all have things that are special to us as individuals… and I think experiences that we’ve gone through is eventually what makes us who we are today. The experiences Iris have had in her past are different from what I have had so I think I will focus on things that are special to me and just give it my best shot,” she shared when asked about her plans for her reign during her visit to Jollibee Biopolis with the children of Kanlungan sa Er-Ma.

“With all the children that we get to spend time with today, I would like to focus on empowering women and children by giving them skills and knowledge on how to overcome difficult situations and how to prevent difficult situations. I think it’s a very important and real problem…all over the world today.”

Demi-Leigh, who was once “hijacked and held at gunpoint,” is a strong advocate of self-defense. As Miss South Africa, she launched her campaign “Unbreakable” with the help of karate expert Mark Grobbelaar, promoting confidence and providing the right skills that women can use in situations that call for immediate action.

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She is also very aware of the kind of influence she has now that she’s wearing the crown.

“Just to be on the Miss Universe stage is such a great honor, but it’s [also] a very big responsibility because you’re seen as a role model and as an inspiration to women and especially children all over the world. There’s a little girl somewhere watching your every step and every move and you are her inspiration so I think that’s a very big responsibility. So always be mindful of your actions, because your actions are inspiring somebody else.”

We’re rooting for you, Demi-Leigh!

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