Ivian Sarcos, who was crowned Miss World on Sunday, told AFP that her victory showed that a tragic orphan background was no barrier to achievement in life.
The 22-year-old Miss Venezuela, who works for a broadcasting company and has a degree in human resources, was one of 13 siblings.
However, she lost her parents at the age of eight and spent five years in an orphanage run by nuns.
Speaking through a translator, she said she felt her victory in a glitzy ceremony in London showed that people's circumstances in life can change.
"This has taught me that life, although it may be bad, doesn't have to end badly. Although I no longer have my parents it has taught me to be stronger," she told AFP after being crowned before an estimated one billion viewers worldwide.
She said her moment of glory was overwhelming.
"I felt the most gorgeous woman in the world. I was so happy and I wanted to shout, to cry, to stand still and to smile. So many emotions," she said.
"I'm incredibly happy for this moment, for this opportunity and for winning and I'm grateful with my life."
She will now spend a year working with Miss World's Beauty with a Purpose charitable programme, which has raised $800 million (580 million euros) in its 40 years.
"I want to carry on doing the wonderful work that Beauty with a Purpose and the Miss World organisation does and to help people in need," she said, adding that she wanted to help "people like me" -- other orphans.
She stands 1.79 metres (five feet, 10 inches) tall, and then some in her heels.
The picture of her in her pink dress with diamante studs with a mass of giant frills slashed below the waist will appear in newspapers around the world.
"It's a little big!" she said of her dress.
"It's incredibly comfortable to walk in, it's a lovely colour -- bright pink is one of my favourite colours. People have referred to it as a princess's dress."
From Guanare in Venezuela's western Portuguesa State, her hobbies include volleyball, mountaineering and trekking.
Miss World chairman and chief executive Julia Morley said she thought Sarcos would prove a popular winner who would not be afraid to "get her hands dirty" in the challenging charity projects ahead.
"She's a very nice person. There are lots of girls that look beautiful but she's a very, very interesting girl too," she told AFP.
"She's a very real person, very sweet and very genuine and I think that we're really lucky to have her.
"We're going to Ghana to work on a project there and I know that she's a down-to-earth person and she won't be afraid to get her hands dirty."
Sarcos won the interview round, which helped propel her into the 15-strong semi-finals.
"That the other girls are really happy, they really like her. So I think that she'll be very successful," Morley added.