| YUCK! Miss Universe Zuleyka Rivera-Mendoza being escorted out of the Jehangirpuri slum where she fell sick on Monday. (AFP)
New Delhi, Oct. 30: One can only have so much of a slum, unless one is living there. So don’t blame beauty queen Zuleyka RiveraMendoza if she threw up today at Jehangirpuri in north Delhi.
Enough of spreading AIDS awareness, folding hands in a well-tutored namaste and flashing the bright, rehearsed smile — the 18-year-old so-called Miss Universe spilled her guts out at the squalor of it all. It was the one time when the real feeling came gurgling out.
So when in Mumbai the stock market took one India’s breath away as Point 13000 fell in its all-conquering wake, a group of people in a slum in the capital gasped for breath as they watched this unreal Puerto Rican beauty perform a very human act.
They wouldn’t have known that Mendoza is vulnerable. A few months ago, after being crowned the Universe’s most beautiful woman, she had collapsed, under the weight of a heavily beaded dress.
“She got dizzy. It’s very hot up here… She passed out,” the pageant representative had then said.
This time, Puja, a member of the group accompanying Mendoza, explained: “There was a large crowd.”
It could have been the press of curious people or pressure of engagements. “She had a hectic schedule. In Mumbai, she visited slums. In Hyderabad, she walked the ramp,” said a group member.
Mendoza arrived in Delhi yesterday and went straight to India Gate from the airport and then to a temple.
So when this morning, after greeting the children, she was walking up the stairs to talk to workers of a local NGO, “she started vomiting”.
“Her bodyguard and the people took her back to the car. She wanted to come out again. Waited for 10-15 minutes. But had to go back as she continued to feel unwell,” said the member.
“She is after all just a teenager who has been stressed out because of the hectic schedule.”
No one will dispute that. Soon after winning the title, she did take on her slender shoulders the heavy burden of continuing the pageant’s mission of promoting AIDS and HIV awareness and education.
But then Jehangirpuri, dingy, dusty and with open sewers, isn’t quite the place for a sight-and-sound show, though the slums she had visited in Mumbai earlier should have prepared her. There’s more to come — Delhi is only the third of the six Indian cities she’s expected to tour.
Mendoza has a promise to keep. “I want to tell those people there’s always problems in life, but there’s always possibilities to improve things,” she had said after her crowning.
Mother Teresa is usually the role model for many beauty queens who tend to turn models later. Mendoza, however, wants to be in films.
She won’t be the first or last beauty queen to have to survive the hazards of a slum visit. “We — part of the AIDS awareness group — had got every Miss Universe in the last two years to India for our campaign,” said Sanjana Jon, a New York-based fashion designer.