“Let me take a picture, please!” implored Iris Mittenaere, turning away from the cameras to take a photo of her own, while the photographers continued snapping away. The subject of her shot: the Statue of Liberty. “It’s the first time I’ve ever been in New York. It’s completely incredible.”
Mittenaere, Miss France 2016, was crowned Miss Universe in Manila in the Philippines on January 29th, 2017. At only 24, she competed with the most beautiful women on the planet—and won the crown. It’s the first Miss Universe crown for a Miss France since 1953. Along with the many advertising contracts, the travel, and the gifts awarded to the happy champion, Mittenaere will be spending a year in New York. With Miss USA sharing an apartment with her overlooking Central Park, Mittenaere is living a real-life dream.
“I love the energy here. When I’m walking down the street, I feel like I’m in a movie, it’s really great,” gushes Mittenaere, surrounded by a dozen fans along for the ferry ride around the harbor. This slow cruise off the coast of Manhattan is a welcome pause in her busy (and meticulously planned) schedule.
During her year-long New York adventure, Mittenaere will be an Ambassador for Smile Train, an association that offers free reparative surgery to children with cleft palettes in developing countries. Herself studying to be an oral surgeon in France, issues of oral health are important to her, and time well-spent. “The charitable aspect is much more of a focus for Miss Universe than for Miss France,” explains Mittenaere, “I’m really enjoying it.”
The Lille native loves cooking but right now her meals—eaten on the go, thanks to her busy schedule—mostly consist of street hotdogs and hamburgers. “It’s nice, but I miss French food a lot. What I really want is un croissant aux amandes!” confesses Mittenaere, who works out regularly to fight off any weight gain from sugary American food. “No one is making me diet but I’ve got to watch my figure. Actually, I should stay looking exactly as I did when I was chosen to be Miss France.”
Last year during her tenure as Miss France, Mittenaere represented her country around the world. A role that she took very seriously and that she’ll continue to do as Miss Universe. “I’ll be promoting France even without meaning to,” says Mittenaere, so proud of her country that the promotion is inherent to her. “I wear French clothes, I like to eat French food, I love my country and I talk about it all the time. When people talk about France being unsafe, I tell them ‘No, come to France! Come see, everything is really okay, it’s a great country.’”
On the deck of the ferry, the frigid wind whipping her hair across her face, Mittenaere stands next to Miss USA and responds directly to ABC News’ questions. Through the laughter, the photos, and the selfies, she does it all with a smile. She really is in a movie.