Only eighteen years of age when she was crowned Miss Universe, Rivera is one of the youngest women to win the title.She is also the first winner from Puerto Rico to have noticeable mixed (African and indigenous) heritage features, different from her four predecessors (Marisol Malaret, Deborah Carthy-Deu, Dayanara Torres, and Denise Quiñones) that have distinctly European features.
Rivera is also the second woman with noticeably mixed features to win Miss Puerto Rico Universe after Alba Reyes in 2004.The incident was reportedly attributed to heat exhaustion (from the stage lights) coupled with the weight of the heavy, chained dress she was wearing.Rivera was the fifth Puerto Rican to win the title, which makes the island the third most successful entity in the pageant (behind the United States and Venezuela).Rivera was the third consecutive delegate from Puerto Rico to make the Top 5 at Miss Universe, after Alba Reyes placed 2nd Runner-Up in 2004 and Cynthia Olavarría placed 1st Runner-Up in 2005.Zuleyka Rivera represented Puerto Rico in the Miss Universe 2006 pageant which was televised live internationally from the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, California on 23 July 2006.After competing in swimsuit, evening gown and interview, she was crowned Miss Universe by outgoing titleholder Natalie Glebova of Canada.
At the time she was the youngest Miss Universe winner since Amelia Vega in 2003 (until Stefanía Fernández in 2009).
Later that evening, Rivera fainted briefly during a press appearance.
Zuleyka Jerrís Rivera Mendoza (born October 3, 1987) is a Puerto Rican actress, TV Host, dancer, model and beauty queen who won the titles of Miss Puerto Rico Universe 2006 and Miss Universe 2006.
She made her debut as a telenovela actress in Mexico's Telemundo's soap opera Dame Chocolate in 2007.
Born in Cayey, she was raised in Salinas with her parents Jerry Rivera and Carmen Mendoza, and two brothers, Jerry, Jr. Prior to winning the Miss Puerto Rico title she won the local pageant for her hometown of Salinas.
She had also placed as the first runner-up in the Miss Teen Puerto Rico pageant.