Miss Universe 2016
Miss France Iris Mittenaere was crowned the Miss Universe 2016 TED ALJIBE/Getty

Decked in a gorgeous sheer golden gown, Miss France Iris Mittenaere beat 86 talented beauties from around the world to win Miss Universe 2016. In her own words, her journey so far has been surreal but looking back at the past, the 24-year-old Parisian reveals that she hardly expected to win the coveted contest.

Speaking to Hollywood Life about her Miss Universe experience, Mittenaere said she felt good being on stage, but did not have high hopes of making it to the top position.

"I didn't expect to win so I was just on stage," she explains. "I told myself, 'I just want to enjoy this moment. It's a once in a lifetime experience.' I didn't really care about the result. If I didn't win, it was ok."

Mittenaere was pitted against two strong contenders — Miss Haiti and Miss Colombia — in the final round of the competition in Manila, Philippines. But she came through with flying colours impressing the jury with her political acumen.

The aspiring dentist recalls her life-altering experience and dishes about her "surreal" life following the competition.

"Everything changed in one second when they said my country's name. Everything has been absolutely crazy. It's a new city, a new life, there's new people around me, and it's difficult to realize and believe in all of these things."

One of the conditions of wearing the beauty pageant crown includes working with the organisation for the year, for which, Mittenaere had to make a move from her home town in Lille, France to New York. While the French model seems to be excited about her new life in the Big Apple, she admits her parents are worried for her.

"They are very proud and I hope they are very happy for me. My mom is very afraid because I am so far away, but I think everything's going to be ok. We're very close, and it's only 6 hours or 7 by plane."

However, her time in NYC is still an unbelievable experience. "This is like in a movie where people eat hotdogs in the street with yellow cabs. This is exactly like French people when they go to New York — All they want to do is this!" she quipped.

Mittenaere's future plans included using the Miss Universe platform to raise awareness for oral and dental care, and she is already on the right track.

"I'm going to work with Smile Train. I want to show the people that my country is so beautiful. But, my first objective is Smile Train. I think one year will be short for this, but my second objective is to speak for all the women who cannot speak.

"I want to be a good role model for children, women and girls," she added.