Miss Vietnam 2002

Jurriaan Bendien J.Bendien at wolmail.nl
Sat Nov 23 05:33:32 MST 2002

A 17-year-old daughter of a ship mechanic was crowned Miss Vietnam in the
communist nation's first government-recognized pageant Sunday, ending years
of official ambivalence toward beauty contests. Pham Thi Mai Phuong, who won
a 50 million dong (US $3225.00) prize, said she plans to finish high school
and then enter a foreign trade college during her two-year reign. "I think
most people in Vietnam, as in other countries, support beauty contests, and
will have a chance to see that Vietnamese women are not only beautiful, but
also intelligent and clever," she said.

The ruling Communist Party once disparaged beauty contests as a sign of
capitalist decadence, but economic reforms over the last 15 years have
opened Vietnam up to increased Western influence and loosened its Marxist
dogma. "We acknowledge that this is a significant cultural event which has
broad support," said Bui Quoc Bao, head of the Ministry of Culture and
Information's grass roots culture and arts bureau.

Contestants competed in both bathing suits and in traditional flowing "ao
dai" dresses in the pageant, organized by the Communist Youth League's
newspaper, Tien Phong (Pioneer), and sponsored by Pond's beauty cream.

The newspaper has held beauty contests every other year since 1988, but
without official recognition. The winner was proclaimed "Miss Nation
Sponsored by Tien Phong Newspaper," or "Miss Tien Phong" for short. The
first contest drew less than 200 participants, while this year's attracted
more than 3,000. "In the past there were different attitudes toward this
beauty contest," said Tien Phong editor Duong Xuan Nam. "But now the number
of people who support it is greater than the number who don't, so the
government has given its recognition."

Vietnam's state-controlled media have historically extolled women as
workers, soldiers and mothers. Critics of previous beauty contests charged
that many contestants were empty-headed fashion models unable to properly
answer questions about the nation's history.

This year, the Ministry of Culture and Information instructed the Communist
Youth League to prepare questions in advance so contestants could study them
and be better prepared. The newspaper held a competition for the best
questions and answers from readers, and printed 200 out of more than 3,000
submitted. From those, judges chose a list for the pageant's final round.
The audience roared with laughter as all five finalists gave nearly the same
answer to the final question, "If you represented Vietnam at the Miss World
pageant, what message would you give the other competitors?" "My message
would be that Vietnam is a peace-loving nation, Vietnamese women are
beautiful, and Vietnam wants to be friends with all nations in the world,"
Phuong answered.

Bao, the ministry of culture official, said the role of Vietnamese women has
not changed despite the government's recognition of the competition.
"Vietnamese women are still very good at contributing to the country through
their jobs and are also very good at housework," he said. (AP)


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