(I-magen Productions / Tony Productions)
Lena Hansen
December 01, 2017 10:22 AM

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Miss Colombia Laura Gonzalez, Miss Universe’s first runner up, made quite an impression with her charisma and eloquence during last week’s televised pageant. When host Steve Harvey asked her how she would explain terrorism to a small child, the 22-year-old actress said: “I would tell any child that this generation, and even mine, needs a world with less weapons. Please more books, more culture, more friends, more love.”

Gonzalez defended her stance against gun violence in an exclusive interview with PEOPLE CHICA after the pageant. “It’s not about instilling fear in them, it’s about creating agents of change. A child that feels passionate about books, culture, sports, science —who finds his own passion— will stay far away from terrorism and weapons. We have to build on that as a society: kids who bet on other things and stay away from violence.”

(I-magen Productions / Tony Productions)

To that end, she highlights the damaging role weapons have played in her homeland. “My country comes from a difficult process of 60 years of civil war. In Colombia you have to have very particular and specific permits to carry guns, which I think it’s great,” she adds. “Not just anyone can carry weapons. We are trying to reduce delinquency and distance ourselves from the culture of weapons.”

Gonzalez admits she is not your typical reina and was bullied as a child for being overweight. “I never thought I would be a beauty queen because when I was little I wasn’t the prettiest girl in my class,” she recounts. “In fact, they made fun of me many times for one thing or another: my weight, my height, my hair, my clothes. So for me, pageants were for pretty girls, they weren’t meant for someone like me. I didn’t think it was possible.”

(I-magen Productions / Tony Productions)

Many years and many pageants later, she is not giving up on her dream to act, be it on stage or in front of the cameras. The stunning actress, who says she is single, is focusing on her professional goals. “I see myself in Hollywood. That will be the highest step for me and the one I will enjoy most,” she says. “I want to work in English, to train so I’m able to take on any role.”

Even though she didn’t take home the coveted title of Miss Universe, Gonzalez accepts the judges’ decision with humility. “I always thought that beauty pageants were a complex matter, especially for the judges because each person sees beauty differently,” she reflects. “The winner is very different from me. The top two [contestants] this year were very diverse. She was blonde and I have dark hair. She was from a totally different culture. I’m always laughing, I make funny faces, I speak loudly. She spoke slowly, she was very discreet and calm,” she adds of South Africa’s Demi Leigh Nel-Peters. “We are very different women and perhaps this year they wanted someone like her and not like me, and that’s ok.”

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