Dayana Mendoza isn’t what she appears to be, so don’t let her stunning looks or pageant poise fool you. The woman has survived being kidnapped, embarked on a professional career as a teenager and faced down Donald Trump across a boardroom table six times. Clearly, she is tougher than she looks. Standing a statuesque 5’9”, the green-eyed beauty queen is unafraid of confrontation, hard work or speaking her mind. In case you’ve been living under a rock, you missed Mendoza’s turn on The Donald’s The Celebrity Apprentice where she worked to raise money for the Latino Commission on AIDS, an organization and issue she’s championed since her reign as Miss Universe. Mendoza made it mid-way through the season before getting ushered out of Trump’s boardroom. She also regularly faced down comedienne Lisa Lampanelli. Despite getting “fired” Mendoza garnered lots of attention for her energy and fierceness, as well as her beauty.
Mendoza once led a much simpler life than anyone could imagine. The 25-year-old model and beauty queen grew up in a humble home in Caracas, Venezuela with her parents, sister and grandmother. At just 13-years-old she was discovered, waiting for the bus, by a modeling scout. She was soon swapping her humble existence for a jet-set life acting as a muse for photographers across Europe where she posed for fashion designers like Roberto Cavalli and Max Mara. Her modeling led to beauty competitions which is where you probably recognize her from. Mendoza was crowned Miss Venezuela 2007 and qualified for the Miss Universe crown – a title she won in 2008.
When ‘LLERO spoke with the trilingual Venezuelan (she speaks Spanish, English and Italian) her “half-glass full” attitude and humility was ever apparent. She also had plenty to say about wearing her heart on her sleeve, reality TV and standing up for Latinos everywhere.