For those who dismiss beauty contests as parades of dream-girls gushing about world peace, Puerto Rican bombshell Valerie Hernandez Matias offers a twist: a serious political agenda.
The newly crowned Miss International told AFP she hopes to pay back her country’s education system for the opportunities it afforded her, after crediting teachers with helping her overcome learning difficulties as a child.
Before delivering her manifesto, Hernandez Matias strolled through the swimsuit category in a blue number reminiscent of Halle Berry’s famous bikini scene in the 007 movie “Die Another Day”.
Amid the tears, hugs and squeals of joy and despair, politics was never far away in the competition: world peace was a common mantra, but runner-up Zuleika Suarez of Colombia vowed to tackle racial intolerance and Britain’s Victoria Tooby took aim at poverty and unemployment.
– Tuna sushi and chopsticks –
A video montage of the beauty queens visiting temples and posing presidentially with babies was shown on a big screen as judges deliberated over the winner.
Scenes of the contestants clapping with delight as a giant tuna was hacked apart by a sushi chef grated a little, tottering like a debutante in stilettos on the wrong side of political correctness.
Another clip showing them attempting to pick up peanuts with chopsticks could also have misfired, but Hernandez Matias, whose passion is ballet dancing, had even mastered that.
Colombia’s Suarez took away the ‘Miss Best Dresser’ award for her plunging, sequin-lined evening wear, which drew gasps from the audience, and earned her a pearl necklace from sponsors.
Thailand’s Punika Kulsoontornrut valiantly forced a smile as her abundant charms and calls for world peace only brought her third place.
But Frenchwoman Aurianne Sinacola struck a blow for couch potatoes by winning the ‘Miss Perfect Body’ category.