By Viktar Korbut
Stolichnoye Television channel host Irina Khanunik-Rombalskaya admitted on returning from Bulgaria, “I’ve revealed the secret of Belarusians’ beauty. We conquer the world with our blue eyes. Ladies with such eyes always win prizes at beauty pageants.” Interestingly, Irina was taking part for the first time. Having worked as a model, it didn’t enter her head to try for a beauty title but fate had other plans.
“I was invited to take part by the World League of Beauty and Fashion’s National Director, Vitaly Zhilinsky. I thought he was joking but, later, agreed,” she smiles. “Until the last moment, I didn’t believe that I’d be going to the contest. It was only on receiving an invitation from the organisers that I realised it was true. I even had to cancel a scheduled shooting for Belarusfilm and for television and had to take a crash course to improve my English. Contestants had to prepare an English language report on how their country is battling domestic violence, defending it during contest week. I studied for two hours daily with a tutor to improve my language knowledge and worthily represent our country.”
Tell us more about the report; it caused a stir abroad, didn’t it?
I independently wrote the report on how Belarus is tackling domestic violence, with some assistance from the Interior Ministry (which gave me official data). Previously, I’d shot films on this topic, so I had some idea of the facts. I tried to mention not only official figures but to speak of the creative measures taken by our country. Belarus was the first former Soviet republic to recognise domestic violence by law. Some women are embarrassed to admit it takes place, which was the major problem I highlighted. In recent years, Belarusian women have become more decisive in defending their rights I think.
Audiences know of you as a witty host. Meanwhile, a beauty pageant focuses primarily on appearance. What was your attraction?
In line with the contest rules, I had to take a national costume, evening and cocktail dresses, high heeled shoes and a swimsuit. Nothing was bought especially for the pageant though; some were provided by Stolichnoye Television and some were given to me by the National Beauty School. I only had to buy souvenirs. Belarusian designer Ivan Aiplatov gave me violet silk gloves, which helped me during my report. In English, ‘violet’ is similar in pronunciation to ‘violence’, so I used the pun to create a joke… urging that only light-hearted battles be fought in the home.
Belarusians are appreciated all over the world for their grace. Is this a myth do you think? You must have compared yourself with other contestants…
The competition brought together women of different nationalities — from the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and our neighbouring states of Latvia, Ukraine and Russia. All are absolutely different but very interesting. Among thirty girls, there were only five blondes — including me. I shared a room with a Ukrainian and we looked like sisters. I do think that Slavs are the most beautiful.
What characterises Belarusian beauty?
Light hair and blue eyes; many have tried to look deep into my eyes, searching for hidden mysteries. It seems to me that the trend for dark-complexioned girls is passing. We, Belarusians, shall soon win the title of the most beautiful! Of course, beauty must not be only skin deep. To become the top Mrs., a woman should be married, follow strict principles of behaviour, take part in charity projects and protect human rights. Beauty alone is not enough. She should be a true domestic goddess and a worthy human being.
Did you have to explain where Belarus is situated?
In Bulgaria, people often cried out ‘Belarus!’ on seeing me, saying that Belarusians are the kindest and most sincere. I felt pride for my country. People know of us! Many contestants told me that, in our Belarus, sports sites are being constructed and popular musical festivals are being organised and, most importantly, the most beautiful ladies live here!