Sat, Dec 10, 2005 - Page 16 News List

Beautiful, but is it fair?

Eight beauty queens in today's Miss World contest say allowing the global public to vote via text message, phone and e-mail is not right


Aside from the beautiful women, a Miss World contest wouldn't be complete without a dash of controversy to spice things up and eight former winners who will judge this year's event have provided just that.

Over lunch in the lead up to today's final in southern China's tropical Hainan island, the eight beauty queens voiced their opinions about a new system that allows the global public to vote via text message, phone and e-mail.

"I don't agree at all with the e-mail, telephone voting,"

Brazilian Lucia Petterle, Miss World 1971, said flatly on Thursday.

"As a judge you need to see all the girls, to see how they are. We have all been through this so we know what to look for. People calling in, do they know what they are looking for? Do they see the same things we are seeing? I don't think so, the judges should do the judging."

The new system, an expansion of previous models that introduced public voting, allows people to vote for a short-list of 12 of the 15 finalists.

The three other finalists are "fast track" nominees. Miss Russia Yulia Ivanova advanced by winning this week's bathing suit contest, while Miss America Virgin Islands Kmisha-Victoria Counts won the talent show.

The third "fast track" finalist has yet to be named and will be the winner of the "Beauty With A Purpose" contest, which is based on the contestants' charity activities.

Public voting for the other 12 finalists started last month and ends this morning with fans voting as many times as they want based on materials online and from six television programs that have already been broadcast.

The public get to elect two women each from North and South Europe, the Asia Pacific, Africa, the Americas and the Caribbean.

Vital statistics

■ More than 100 women are competing in this year's edition.

■ A television audience of 2 billion people in 207 countries is expected to watch the final.

■ Hainan Island is the second largest island in China.

■ The Miss World Contest was begun in 1951, in England, by Eric Morley, a businessman.

■ This year Miss Philippines, Miss Italy and Miss Canada are among the most favored to win.

■ The girls have between them over 650 suitcases.

■ ``You have to be yourself,'' is the best advice of former winner Wilnelia Merced from Puerto Rico.


In another innovation, Petterle, a specialist in child neurology in Rio de Janiero, and her seven colleagues will judge the final, the first time in the 55-year history of the pageant that the jury is made up of former winners.

Although the former winners get to have the final say, Petterle and some of the others feel that perhaps the public does not have the insight to decide who are world's most beautiful women.

"To judge you have to see the girl and for us, we know what to look for," said Miss World 1953, Denise Perrier Lanfranchi, from France.

"For us it is actually easy to choose a winner. We can identify her almost immediately. You can see who separates from the water, you can tell who is intelligent by the way she moves, even before she talks."

However Miss World 1997, Diana Hayden from India, disagreed.

"I think the public voting is a very good idea, it will bring in revenue for the contest and that in itself should be the bottom line," Hayden said.

"The people should have a say in this."

Interviews between the judges and the contestants began Thursday, according to panel member Miss World 1975, Wilnelia Merced from Puerto Rico, who offered advice on how to win.

"You have to be yourself and you have to be natural," Merced, the wife of British television entertainer Bruce Forsyth, said.

"You have to be careful of what you wear, how you stand, or smile, of course you must look beautiful and show off your body. There are so many things to think about. You have to bring these things all together."

Hayden, an international model, actress and the former face of L'Oreal, said the winner must be prepared for her life to changed dramatically.

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