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Miss Ireland crowned Miss World in China

Rosanna Davison, 19, was crowned Miss World 2003 today in China's first international beauty pageant.

india Updated: Dec 06, 2003 21:50 IST

Nineteen-year-old Miss Ireland Rosanna Davison was crowned Miss World 2003 on Saturday in Communist China's first international beauty pageant, an event that would have once been branded a heretical display of western decadence.

"I would like to describe myself as a fun-loving yet humble person and hopefully a great ambassador for my country and for women all around the world," Davison said when asked to describe her life and character just before the result was announced.

Runner-up was Miss Canada, Nazanin Afshin-Jam, 24. Chinese contestant Qi Guan, a fashion designer, was second runner-up in the country's third attempt at grabbing the crown.

In contrast to last year's pageant, moved to Britain from Nigeria following Muslim-Christian riots sparked by controversy over the contest, more than 100 beauty queens displayed their talents on the peaceful, semi-tropical island of Hainan.

Showing how far China has come since the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution, when women could be branded counter-revolutionaries for wearing makeup, officials embraced the contest as a way of boosting Hainan's image, according to state-run media.

Until recently, China banned beauty contests as expressions of decadence but beauty has become big business. Fashion show catwalks grace fancy shopping malls and billboards advertising beauty products and brand names are common.

The state-run media recently called 2003 "the first pageant year in China" but local contests have attracted young beauties for the best part of a decade.

At least 10 beauty contests were held in the southern city of Guangzhou last year, according to the Xinhua news agency.

China banned beauty pageants after the Communists swept to power in 1949 and did not enter the Miss World Competition, which started two years later, until 2001.

But even with official sanction, the transition to a beauty contest-friendly China has not been all smooth. Last year, police in southern China raided an auditorium during the Miss China contest saying the organisers did not have a permit.

The pageant was quietly allowed to continue and the winner, Zhuo Ling, went on to become second runner-up at the Miss Universe finals in Puerto Rico.

China, an economic giant striving to raise its profile in ways other than hosting the summer Olympics in 2008, has its sights on other beauty contests.

The Web site of the Communist Party's sober-minded mouthpiece, the People's Daily, recently reported the Miss International competition would be held in China next year.

First Published: Dec 06, 2003 21:23 IST