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Miss Universe Pageant Interviewby Pattye Grippo    

Miss Universe Pageant

This is an interview with Co-Host Natalie Morales and Guest Judge Helio Castroneves on September 1, 2011 about the Miss Universe Pageant. The pageant airs on September 12, live from Sao Paulo, Brazil beginning at 9 pm Eastern Time on NBC.

Question:
Natalie, with such a huge audience for Miss Universe, what's the biggest challenge for you as a co-host as compared to the flow of your job on TODAY?

Natalie Morales:
I think my job on the TODAY Show obviously has a lot more challenges, but I think for the Miss Universe Pageant the fact that it's two hours live it's a lot of contestants. We have 89 countries, you know women from 89 countries competing, so it's just keeping the whole flow of the show on time and making sure that everything runs smoothly. And Andy Cohen is my co-host as well, so I've worked with him in the past, I know it's going to be great, and hopefully go off without a hitch.

Question:
Helio, since you've had such a successful racing career, what do you think it takes to win Miss Universe?

Helio Castroneves:
I have to be honest this is an amazing opportunity. I'm really, really excited to be judging first of all. I mean, for me being a race car driver, being an athlete, you've got to be focused, you've got to be determined, and I fully understand that all the contestants, all the ladies, I mean they're going to do a pretty good job.

They're working really hard in terms of - you know, to have their hair, makeup, and eating the right things, and I believe it's going to be the whole package. You know, it's not about only one thing, to be beautiful, but also as well you've got to represent well, you've got to be presentable and things like that. I'm just super excited and hopefully I'll do a good job.

Question:
Helio, what does it mean for you to be back in your home country judging Miss Universe or working with Miss Universe?

Helio Castroneves:
First of all, Brazil it's in right now, you know? We're going to have the World Cup in 2014, the Olympics in 2016, and I mean to be hosting the Miss Universe just show that we're getting better and better with events. And for sure, Brazil has beautiful taste and beautiful women, and I do believe it's quite an honor to have the country hosting a big even like Miss Universe. And for me especially it's fantastic just to go back and have this opportunity to help and choose the right person, and for me it's just great. So, it's quite an honor.

Question:
We know you from Dancing with the Stars and you won with Julianne Hough, what makes her such a great lady and why is Ryan lucky to be with her?

Helio Castroneves:
I think in my case with Julianne, certainly she has quite a lot of the package. She's beautiful, she's smart, she could dance, she had a great personality and that's one of the biggest points that end up myself and her getting a great chemistry. Nothing happened between us. A lot of people think that something happened, but no it's just we becoming good friends and I do feel she play really well on the show. And for me, being around the Dancing with the Stars with beautiful ladies and seeing each one of the personalities, I think it's going to help as well when I be judging down there in Brazil. Certainly it's going to help me to pick the right one.

Question:
She taught you, do you think she bosses Ryan around? Is she bossy in any way?

Helio Castroneves:
I don't know what's going on between those two. She did boss me, but it was for a good reason, you know? And to be honest it did pay off in the competition that we ended up winning the show, but between those two I have no idea what's going on.

Question:
Natalie, what was the appeal about this particular job?

Natalie Morales:
The appeal is for me also getting a chance to go home in a lot of ways because I am half Brazilian and I lived there when I was seven to ten years old, so I know the beauty of Brazil and I couldn't be more excited that it's resurgence as a world power is prime. I think a prime example is the fact that it's getting to host such a great event, which is the Miss Universe Pageant on the 60th anniversary of the Miss Universe Pageant, so what a great way to celebrate that and all of these beautiful ladies. I mean 89 participants and from countries all over the world. So Brazil is an incredible country, as Helio will also tell you, and it's taking the world by storm again, and it's an incredible opportunity for these ladies to showcase all they have to offer as well in a country that I believe is proving to the world that it's time they're taken more seriously.

Question:
Helio, have you thought about what kind of judge you might be? Have you thought about certain characteristics or traits or things that you want to see from the contestants?

Helio Castroneves:
Certainly I think the theme of this year it's interesting because everybody's talking about not only representing well for the HIV and AIDS education they've got to research and legislation. Miss Universe serves as a role model and you've got to look for actually that kind of scenario. People just sometimes thinking about the model look picture and, ???Oh, this one looks fantastic,??? but it's not only one thing, you know? In fact, I was talking even to Adriana, my wife, and she said, ???You've got to look for something that is actually the whole package.??? And it's true because she's going to be representing so many, many things beauty, tradition, accomplishment and that's what I'm going to be looking. So, hopefully I can see when I'm judging I'm going to be able to see that and it'll be pretty exciting.

Natalie Morales:
I speak Portuguese, so that was the appeal really is I think it's a win-win because I get to hopefully practice my Portuguese a little bit and really have a chance to get back and see this beautiful country, which I'm so excited. And my family is coming as well, so it'll be my husband and my boys' first time going to Brazil, so it's pretty exciting.

Question:
Natalie, I know you're a newsperson and a Phi Beta Kappa and everything, but I was also wondering in the early days did you ever enter any beauty contests as a kid or anything?

Natalie Morales:
Oh, no. No, no. I had buck teeth and I was not a pretty kid. It took having a good dentist to fix me up.

Question:
How old were you when you had the dentist fix you up?

Natalie Morales:
I was probably, I think, 10, 11 years old. He did a great job.

Question:
Reflect a little bit more on Brazil, what ages were you when you lived there and what do you remember the most about being a kid there, and how often have you had a chance to go back?

Natalie Morales:
I lived there when I was seven to ten years old, so I'm 39 now so do the math. Actually, I was able to go back there for the first time just in March of this year for the TODAY Show, and we did a whole feature series on why Brazil is hot right now from its exploding economy and in the next ten years it's going to become the world's fifth largest economy. And it has wealth that is surprising all of us, from its oil reserves and it has incredible resources right now, just natural gas wealth.

I think what's truly exciting about my being able to participate in the Miss Universe Pageant is, as I was saying, it's a chance for me really to get to go home in a lot of ways because I did live there as a kid. And I remember just about everything because for my school, the American School of Rio, Escola Americana do Rio, the EA American School of Rio, to the beautiful beaches, which is spent a lot of time on Copacabana and Ipanema Beach, to just walking around on those beautiful black and white sidewalks, the Carnivale. My parents wouldn't let me see it, but I saw a lot of it on TV.

I remember Brazil pretty clearly all the great tourist sites as a kid we would go to. And my grandmother and a lot of my mother's whole side of the family, they still live there, so this really is a great chance for me to go back as well and introduce my two boys and my husband to that part of my family who they haven't met yet.

Question:
You mentioned being a role model before, what characteristics do you take into account when you talk about being a role model?

Natalie Morales:
I think being a role model is really being truthful, honest with yourself. It's always being a good example by striving and trying to do things. Always achieving and you know trying to be successful at everything you do. And because we are I think in the public eye so much, for me I'm a Hispanic and you know half Brazilian, I think it's a really incredible opportunity to speak to a wider audience as our country is becoming much more multi-lingual. And to me, being a role model is really being able to hopefully speak on many platforms about everything that I know about having grown up in many different cultures and having a diverse background.

Helio Castroneves:
For me basically being a racecar driver, an athlete I do represent a lot of important companies and names, so you do got to you know kind of like represent well, speak well, judge, you know even sometimes you got a little bit nervous because something happens sometimes to make sure that you don't do anything that jeopardize that image. Plus, you have kids looking up to you. When you're racing a lot of kids come up and say, ???I like you the way you are,??? and things like that. And so for me, a role model is representing all these characteristics and it's extremely important in our business to be a good one, you know. I try to just be myself, but obviously in a way that I can represent great companies so that people look after them.

Question:
You both mentioned being parents, what advice would you give to the girls competing from a parent's point of view?

Natalie Morales:
I think from my end, I was the host of this competition last year as well and I think these are young women who have an opportunity to be really sort of ambassadors for their country. And you know I hope they are just proud in the fact that they've gotten so far in the competition and they don't forget where they came from to be there. I know they all are going to shine and look stunning and spectacular. Beauty is one thing, they're all gorgeous. I mean, there's no question about that. I think what I really look to is the strength of their character, seeing a little bit in how they compete, but also in how they represent, as you mentioned, as you know being a role model.

But then as well, their message, what they hope to accomplish if they're given the crown, if they become the new Miss Universe. I think it's really important they realize that this - it's an important platform, it's not a beauty contest, this is truly about picking someone who is an ambassador to the world and who hopefully will be eloquent, intelligent beautiful, because that always helps just to get the message out. But again, it's really about being able to be well-spoken and really deliver a positive image to the world.

Helio Castroneves:
Pretty much like that. For me being I'm still learning being a father, my little girl is only 20 months, and I hope to do what my parents did. You know, certainly to compete you've got to work, dedicate so that you can achieve the success. In this case, for example, in the Miss Universe Pageant, you've got to work as well, but in the same day it's very difficult there is certain ways that you can present yourself, there was a way but you've got to be yourself too, you know? A lot of tastes are different, but the way I understand being - representing your country, like Natalie was saying, you already achieved kind of like the number one spot. You know, now it's just a matter of representing yourself, have fun, because you can't forget to have fun as well. If it's meant to me, it will be. All this package, brings it together, dedication, work hard, I guarantee you will achieve the success that you want.

Helio Castroneves:
Natalie, I was a big fan of yours already, now even more. So, hopefully to meet you there and we'll have fun out there.

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