WEDNESDAY NOVEMBER 28, 2007 08:50 AM EST
By Stephen M. Silverman
Miss Puerto Rico Ingrid Marie Rivera says her alleged pepper-spray incident – and the controversy it has sparked – will not trip her up on the road to the Miss Universe pageant.
"Now I'm heading to Miss Universe," Rivera, 24, told Meredith Vieira during a friendly interview on Wednesday's Today show. "Where you got a will, there's a way. With God in my mind always, like I block myself through anything negative that could pass through my mind."
Those negative thoughts apparently include the animosity NBC News reported has developed around the newly crowned Miss Puerto Rico, who, it was also reported, last year served as a judge in her country's competition before joining the race this year.
The other contestants from Saturday's pageant in San Juan – at which Rivera claimed her gown and other belongings had been pepper-sprayed in an alleged attempt to sabotage her – are also not taking kindly to being considered possible suspects in the case.
"All of us are good girls, honestly," one of them told NBC.
'It's Not Funny'Rivera said the same about herself to Vieira and claimed, contrary to reports of police skepticism over the fact that Rivera's condition only seemed to occur when she was backstage, that her accusations about the pepper spray are genuine.
"It's not funny," she said. "It's real. I had to go through so much ... itchy, burning, reddish, swelling ... a horrible feeling."
Crime-lab tests on Rivera's dress and makeup are to begin Wednesday, says NBC News.
Rivera added, in regard to the skepticism, "It's not a nervous reaction. It's not made up. It's a beauty pageant. Why would I do that to myself?"
'Let Me Do My Thing'When asked why she didn't initially take her claim to the police, and instead only told pageant supervisors, Rivera said that her thoughts were, "You know what? Just let me do my thing for now."
And that thing includes moving on to the 57th Miss Universe in Vietnam's central Nha Trang city of Khanh Hoa province next July. (The Miss Universe enterprise is jointly owned by Donald Trump and NBC, home to the Today show.)
Saying she's ready for Vietnam, Rivera vowed, "Just give me the will, and give me the faith and I will go on."
Mystery Deepens in Miss Puerto Rico Pepper-Spray Incident The mystery surrounding the alleged pepper spraying of Puerto Rico's 2008 Miss Universe contestant's belongings is nothing to sneeze at.
Police are now said to be investigating just how Ingrid Marie Rivera was able to stop crying between camera appearances at Saturday's pageant, if indeed her gown and makeup had been sabotaged with the spray, as she asserts, NBC News reports.
The reported skepticism about Rivera prompted Today show host Meredith Vieira to inquire on Tuesday's broadcast if, possibly, crime-scene investigators believe the pepper-spray claim may have been imaginary.
"They're saying, they think she made it up?" Vieira asked reporter Kerry Sanders, who replied: "They're looking into it. They're curious."
Rivera is due to be interviewed on Wednesday's Today show, where, on Tuesday, co-anchor Matt Lauer said he intended to get to the bottom of the mystery.
Composed – at TimesBeating 29 rivals, Rivera took home the crown and the chance to vie in the Miss Universe pageant. Throughout the competition, Rivera was composed while appearing before the cameras and panel of judges.
But once off-camera, she was forced to shed her clothes and apply ice bags to her face and body, which twice swelled and broke out in hives, the Associated Press reports.
"We thought at first it was an allergic reaction, or maybe nerves," said pageant spokesman Harold Rosario. "But the second time, we knew it couldn't have been a coincidence." Later, Rivera's garments and cosmetics tested positive for pepper spray.
Rivera's bag containing her gowns, makeup and credit cards reportedly had also been stolen before the pageant.
Saying that she had wavered about remaining in the competition, Rivera, 24, told reporters at a Sunday news conference, "It was a lot of sacrifice, and my tears were genuine," reports Reuters.
'Am I a Masochist?'"At one point, I asked, 'Am I a masochist?' But I said regardless of the results, this is my goal. The more rocks there are in my path, the more thanks I will give to God for sustaining me."
Miss Puerto Rico Universe pageant director Magali Febles also told the AP that pageant officials were forced to postpone Thursday's final day of competition because of a bomb threat.
Authorities said they searched the premises with dogs but did not discover any explosives.