Vega hails from Barranquilla and is studying business administration at the Universidad Javeriana in Bogota

By Stephanie Emma Pfeffer
January 26, 2015 02:30 PM
Alexander Tamargo/Getty

It’s a happy day in Colombia.

Representing the South American country, Paulina Vega beat 87 other contestants from around the world to be crowned the 36th annual Miss Universe Sunday night in Doral, Florida.

Although only Miss Universe for a day so far, Vega is already taking her role seriously. “When we participate in a pageant we are examples to young and teenage girls,” she tells PEOPLE. “It’s very delicate.”

“I want to demonstrate that it is not the most important thing to be beautiful and have a glamorous life. It’s about feeling beautiful. Become an intelligent, professional, hardworking woman with a great heart. That is the example I want to set,” she says.

Vega, 22, hails from Barranquilla and is studying business administration at the Universidad Javeriana in Bogota. During the Q&A portion of the pageant, when asked what she thinks women can learn from men, Vega said through a translator, “I believe there’s still men that do believe in equality. I believe that’s what women should learn from men.”

Vega inherits the throne from Gabriela Isler, the reigning Miss Universe from Venezuela, though this year’s crown is all her own. The new $300,000 headpiece is modeled after the skyline of Manhattan, where Vega will spend the year of her reign.

“My whole life I have dreamed to live in New York City and now I am living the dream,” Vega says. “I love to walk the streets and see the movements and the vibe of the city.”

The first runner-up was Miss USA Nia Sanchez, followed by Miss Ukraine Diana Harkusha. Rounding out the top five were Miss Netherlands Yasmin Verheijen and Miss Jamaica Kaci Fennell – who stood out in her short haircut.

“I don’t have long tresses like everyone else. I’m just representing myself, and that’s what beauty pageants are all about,” said Fennell.

PHOTOS: Fun Facts About This Year’s Contestants