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My City_My Life

Riyo Mori: Mistress of the universe

  • Story Highlights
  • Riyo Mori says her grandmother convinced her to enter Miss Universe
  • She says Tokyo has a very mixed culture and the city never sleeps
  • She wants to teach young people to be patient and happy, through dancing
  • Tokyo is a great place to shop -- especially Ginza and Harajuko, she says
  • Next Article in Travel »
By Mark Tutton
For CNN
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(CNN) -- Riyo Mori is a classically trained ballet dancer who won the 2007 Miss Universe beauty pageant. She talks to CNN about Tokyo, dancing and baseball.

Riyo Mori

Trained ballet dancer Riyo Mori was crowned Miss Universe in 2007.

CNN: What made you decide to enter the Miss Universe competition?

Riyo Mori: My Grandmother. Japan, 50 or 60 years ago, was very conservative. Women had to stand behind men and never talk, never give an opinion -- and my grandma was different. I love her so much. She found out that there was Miss Universe Japan and that's how everything started. She said, "Riyo, you're young, you can dance, you can teach dancing, you love it, it's good -- but maybe you should see a different world. Just go for it." And I said, 'OK' and now I'm here.

CNN: What's it like for you to be back in Shizuoka?

Riyo Mori: It's so nice to be back home. I can relax, I can sleep. This is my first vacation, I think -- just having fun with my family, my friends, and talking to my friend in a café. That was my normal life before and since I became Miss Universe it suddenly stopped. I always have to be in the mood, and I have to be Miss Universe, so this is just perfect for me to be in my hometown of Shizuoka.

CNN: How would you describe your relationship with Tokyo?

My City_My Life
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Riyo Mori: I love Tokyo, like I love New York; I love big cities. The first time I came to Tokyo was even before becoming a finalist for Miss Universe Japan. I was so excited. Also I was scared too, because people look so fashionable and people look so confident here and I was just a tourist from the countryside. I was very nervous.

People from all over the world come to see Tokyo, and so that's why you can see very unique people here. People speak Spanish, French, German, English, and Japanese; there's a very mixed culture here

CNN: How would you define Tokyoites?

Riyo Mori: I feel like people are so energetic here, so different from Shizuoka. People keep moving -- they never stop. Tokyo never sleeps. Tokyo people are so busy all the time. I wouldn't say they are cold, they're just busy; they don't have time to talk to others.

I need a balance, I have to be in Shizuoka for maybe 50 percent of the year and I have to be in Tokyo too, because I need this energy.

CNN: How did you become a dancer?

Riyo Mori: I started to learn dance in mother's dance school. My mom is my best friend, of course, my mother and teacher. So we have very unique relationship. We are not just mom and daughter, we're also teacher and student.

My mom teaches jazz dance, tap dance, modern dance, but she doesn't teach ballet. I thought I should learn how to teach ballet, so I can have different class than she has. So I went to Canada when I was 16. I went to high school and professional ballet school in Canada. It was very, very tough, but it was worth it now that I can teach ballet. Now I want to teach young people, through dancing, how to be positive, patient and happy. These three things are very important to me.

Dancing means a lot to me, because dancing is my life, part of my life. I have been dancing for a long time -- maybe 17 years. Dancing is great because this is how I express myself; this is where I learned how to be confident.

CNN: What was your mum's reaction to you winning Miss Universe?

Riyo Mori: She was very happy when I won Miss Universe --'my daughter can travel the world and see people' -- see the culture that she couldn't. So she was very happy.

CNN: Outside dancing, what else do you enjoy?

Riyo Mori: I'm a huge fan of baseball. Baseball fans here in Japan are very supportive and crazy. They can go crazy too, but that's a good part of Japanese people -- if you like something, you're very into it and support it.

CNN: What else do you love about the city?

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Riyo Mori: I think Tokyo is the best place to shop. Ginza is a great place and I like the atmosphere too. When I became finalist for Miss Universe Japan, almost every week I went to Harajuko to shop. Also, this is very close to Miss Universe Japan's office, so I was back and forwards to the office almost all the time.

Maybe you have heard about Harajuku girl; there is a very famous street in Harajuku -- Takeshita-Dori -- and here you can find very crazy people, who dress up like dolls. There's a very crazy, unique fashion code -- that's why people like it.

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