A beauty queen known as the Dominican Cinderella for her rise from humble roots is trading pageants for politics and will serve as deputy mayor of the region where she was born.
Ada Aimee de la Cruz, who was the 2009 Miss Universe runner-up, was voted to office on the ticket of Mayor Francisco Fernandez of the opposition Revolutionary Dominican Party in May 16 elections. She will represent Santo Domingo Norte, the country's fourth largest municipality with 445,000 residents.
"I'm here to shatter the myth that beauty queens are airheads," the 23-year-old told The Associated Press in a recent interview. "I want to help youth so they do not find themselves without anything to do because of a lack of plans and opportunities."
The 6-foot-tall beauty starts work Aug. 16 and will become the first former beauty queen to assume an elected position in this Caribbean nation.
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She said she would promote education and sports programs for children in a municipality where only half are enrolled in high school and where the illiteracy rate is 10 percent among those older than 10, according to government statistics.
She said most schools in her municipality offer only a fifth-grade education.
De la Cruz also envisions creating work programs for impoverished women and promoting her hometown of Villa Mella for its popular pork products.
"We're going to build a pork rind park as a tourist attraction," she said.
De la Cruz recently earned an accounting degree and recalled how she worked since she was 16 in a women's clothing store to pay for her studies and transportation.
She was crowned Miss World Beach Beauty in 2007 and Miss Dominican Republic in 2009. She stepped down from that position a month before it expired.
"At 23 I have achieved all my goals. From here to 35 you never know, I might even reach the presidency," she said with a laugh.