For the first time in 15 years, an American has brought home the Miss Universe crown. Olivia Culpo, a self-described cellist-nerd from Rhode Island won the Miss Universe contest Wednesday night in Vegas. She beat 88 other contestants. Culpo was originally crowned Miss USA back in June. She joins “Starting Point” to discuss what it felt like to win and what she can expect with her new title.
On whether she could imagine entering her first beauty contest just last year and then foreseeing herself winning the Miss Universe crown Culpo says, “Absolutely not. I thought I was awful on stage. I had never done a pageant before. I decided to do it over the summer. I got my dress the night before. It was too short. There was a hole in the back of it and here I am today. I never would have guessed that this would be where I am today – Never.”
On the topic of criticism for participating in pageants and showcasing a swimsuit, Culpo says she thinks there is “so much more to it.” She says, “Swimsuit portion is confidence. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the greatest shape or if you’re in the best shape out of all the 89 contestants. It’s about feeling comfortable with yourself and being open to others.” She goes on to say, “everybody has things that they don’t like about their body so I think that there’s a lot to be said for girls who are confident enough to walk on stage.”
Culpo says the contest is meant to inspire other women. She adds, “It’s not all about beauty. It’s about brains and your ability to be open to the audience and open to others,” which she says feels is important as a woman in society.
President Obama tapped a number of big names to campaign for him in the final days of his campaign, including tennis icon Billie Jean King.
King is a tireless supporter of the LGBT community and a champion of powerful, enterprising women who continues to use tennis to promote equality long after retiring from competition.
The 39-time Grand Slam tennis champion sits down with Soledad to discuss her activism and sports career.
Some of the top female leaders in business and government and academia and the arts recently met for "Fortune's" Most Powerful Women Summit. Soledad had the chance to sit down with one of those leaders, Sesame Workshop executive vice president and CMO Sherrie Westin. Westin addresses why there aren't more women in leadership roles.
"This is somewhat controversial, especially when you're in a conference like this when you see so many impressive women, women CEOs, heads of Fortune 500 company major divisions, and leaders in the nonprofit area as well," Westin says. "It's a wonderful example of how far women have come. But I think there is also that element of choice where women are struggling to balance home and work. And I think often the reason there's not more of those women CEOs is not because they aren't able, not because they haven't been offered, but because at certain times they've decided they have to be in a position that allows more flexibility and choice."
Westin adds, "I think success for an individual woman is being able to create the kind of environment where she is content, that she believes she's dedicating the time she needs if she has children to those children and to her career. But I do think there is - there is an importance in having larger numbers at the top because, let's be honest, women leaders are often different. And to have a mix of both male and female at the top of a corporation I think is a really important mix."
Though the interview was conducted before the first presidential debate, where GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney said he would cut PBS funding if he were elected, Westin addressed the candidate's prior funding cut statements and says Sesame Street won't be going anywhere anytime soon.
"Sesame Workshop is a nonprofit organization and also a nonpartisan organization. So I don't want to be critical of any camp," Westin says. "We have been on PBS for some 43 years, and we're partners with PBS and proud of it. So we would always be supportive of broadcasting money. But interestingly Sesame Workshop receives very little money from PBS."
"Quite frankly, you know, you can debate whether or not there should be funding in public broadcasting, but when they always sort of tout out Big Bird and say we're going to kill Big Bird, that actually is misleading, because "Sesame Street" will be here," Westin adds.
A popular bestseller by Pulitzer Prize winning authors Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn explores the unimaginable horrors and challenges facing women around the world. The 2009 non-fiction success, “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide,” has inspired a new two-part documentary by the same name, featuring celebrities from Olivia Wilde to Meg Ryan who travel the world with Kristof and WuDunn to address the hopes and struggles of exploited women. The widely acclaimed authors sit down with Soledad O’Brien to discuss the documentary, which will air in two parts on PBS on Monday and Tuesday.
Soledad O'Brien and the Starting Point team of CNN contributors Will Cain, Margaret Hoover and Ryan Lizza discussed an article that's making the rounds online.
Author Anne-Marie Slaughter's piece, "Why Women Still Can't Have It All" on TheAtlantic.com, has taken on a life of it's own, sparking debates about whether high-powered moms are really achieving the dream or setting themselves up for failure.
Slaughter was the first woman Director of Policy Planning for the State Department, but she writes that getting her high-powered dream job meant that her family life would suffer.
Margaret Hoover says it's all a matter of choice for modern women. "The triumph, real triumph of the feminist movement is that women get to choose," She says. "But she has a choice to make."
Soledad, a mother of four who regularly travels while working at CNN, says she thinks society doesn't put the same pressure on men as they do women. "When my kids have issues in school, they call me...and my babysitter e-mails me during the show because someone is having a meltdown. And I know that I have to make a doctor's appointment in the commercial break because my kid has some kind a weird rash," she says. "I would just say there's a certain amount of pressure that will come on you that does not come on the husband."
She adds, "You know I think it is very difficult to have it all. I definitely like to think that I keep all of my options open so that if I had to stop working tomorrow for some reason, I would do that because you have to make decisions about your kids first. But it's very, very hard. I cannot tell you the number of times I have been on some breaking story, on a satellite phone at $8 a minute, trying to talk a crying child out of something. And you know what? It sucks. It completely sucks."
See more of what the team had to say in the video clip above.