Miss Universe 2006: her triumphant odyssey
On July 23rd, 2006, the life of 19-year-old Zuleyka Rivera changed forever as she was crowned Miss Universe 2006 in Los Angeles, California.
Hailing from Salinas, Puerto Rico, a small coastal town off the Caribbean Sea, Zuleyka is the eldest of three children.
Extremely close with her two younger brothers, she has always considered family her top priority. "My parents always provided both my brothers and me with all the necessities in life, but taught us that what matters most is being a part of a united, loving family where respect and honesty prevail."
An aspiring actress, Zuleyka has already worked on several commercials and television programmes, as well as tested her skills as an emcee. "I would love to be a crossover actress and work in both Latino and American cinema."
When she is not representing her native country Puerto Rico, or presently, the Universe, Zuleyka enjoys working up a sweat with activities like jogging, spinning, weightlifting and dancing. She is also a self-professed fan of the Latin version of 'American Idol'.
Zuleyka's reign as Miss Universe began with a trip to Tokyo just days after her crowning and she has not stopped traveling since. She has visited Greece, Japan, Indonesia, Kazakhstan and India and will be going to France and Turkey before the year is up!
Although Zuleyka's year has been an adventure filled with glamour and excitement she feels that working with internationally recognized HIV/AIDS organizations is the most important part of her reign. She took a public HIV test on behalf on the Latino Commission on AIDS to help promote HIV/AIDS awareness and education in the Latino community and says she looks forward to continuing her work with HIV/AIDS charities throughout this year, as she says, "I know that I can use my title as Miss Universe to truly make an impact."
Zuleyka will spend the remainder of her year championing the official causes of MISS UNIVERSE, which include increasing HIV/AIDS awareness by focusing on women's health and reproductive issues and forging relationships with organizations committed to research and education, including the Latino Commission on AIDS, the Global Health Council, God's Love We Deliver, GMHC (Gay Men's Health Crisis) and amfAR.