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“I was confident of my success and arrived in Belarus aiming to win. Don’t believe people when they say that participation is the most important thing! Everyone wants to be first; however, only the best can be first,” announced the new ‘Miss Intercontinental-2009’ happily, although without much modesty. Venezuelan Ambassador Amйrico Dнaz Nъсez, who attended the event with his wife, was actively suppor-ting Hannely and couldn’t conceal his delight, saying, “She deserved this victory.”
Ms. Quintero charmed the professional jury with her energy and temperament, while Maria Yesman created a warm and tender image on stage. Afterwards, the Belarusian entrant admitted that she was pleasantly surprised by her success. Apart from being named ‘First Runner Up’, Ms. Yesman was also named ‘Miss Intercontinental Europe’ and ‘Miss Congeniality’.
For the first time in the 38 year history of the competition, two crowns were awarded. The TV host and model from Venezuela received a platinum tiara studded with diamonds, which is given annually to the holder of the main title. Meanwhile, the student from the Belarusian State University’s Law Department was given a tiara of artificial emeralds, grown at the National Academy of Sciences. It was a special prize, prepared for the ‘First Runner Up’.
The jury’s choice coincided with that of the audience, who thunderously applauded the entrants from Venezuela and Belarus. Although, in truth, every entrant was warmly welcomed, helping the girls to relax. Standing backstage, many of them danced to music by Belarusian Pesnyary and sang along with the lyrics.
I was pleasantly surprised at how the girls chatted like old friends — helping each other readjust long hems, giving encouragement and thanking former opponents once winners had been announced. Each entrant arrived in Minsk with a secret desire to win and hardly noticed their delighted fans, crowded near the stage. On entering the makeup room, to satisfy my curiosity, I was bemused by one of the girls simply calling out, “Could you please pass the hairspray.”
Eurovision-2009 winner Alexander Rybak was on the jury and dropped into the beauties’ waiting room. “Sasha, do you have a favourite yet?” I asked him. “Of course… Unfortunately, I can’t say which. They are all just entrants with numbers for now.” Rybak was keeping his cards close to his chest. Later, when the winners had been chosen, he admitted that he’d marry them all.
It was not only the girls receiving compliments; the entrants were generous in repeating that they were delighted with the welcome extended to them in Belarus. Most were making their first trip to the country and enjoyed discovering Belarus’ rich history, culture and customs. The candidates for the diamond tiara arrived in the Belarusian capital two weeks before the final show, giving them time to explore the most interesting places in each of the six regions. They met Father Frost in the centuries-old Belovezhskaya Pushcha and saw a knight’s tournament, organised especially for them. They also tasted national dishes and tried on Belarusian costumes in Dudutki village. A ball was held in Grodno to honour them while Mogilev invited them to visit its zoological garden and St. Nicholas’ Convent. They even managed to descend into a Soligorsk potash mine. Looking at them, it was hard to believe they’d be brave enough. “I was quite scared of going in there,” the Puerto Rican entrant admitted. “However, it was very beautiful in the mine.” The girls were particularly impressed by the age of Soligorsk’s caves — over 3 million years.
The entrants were interested in every subtle detail and, even after wearisome fitting sessions and show rehearsals, managed to find time to shop in Minsk for souvenirs. Many admit to falling in love with Belarus and are keen to return in future.
It’s likely that they’ll be back as Miss Intercontinental entrants in future rather than just tourists. The European Director of the World Beauty Organisation, Detlef Tursies, asserts that he has never seen a show of such a high level. “Sri Lanka and Korea also wanted to host the event but the choice was made in favour of your country. I’m very pleased with it,” praises Mr. Tursies. He’s keen to invite Belarus to host again.
Belarusian ONT TV channel did everything possible to make the debut successful, with photographers, designers, stylists and make-up artists creating the girls’ stage image. Several hours were spent trying on bathing suits, let alone their other outfits. The catwalk show of national costumes was given particular attention, with entrants’ outfits sometimes occupying far more than one suitcase.
After fireworks to honour the winner, Ms. Quintero was in no hurry to leave Belarus. “I want to see more of your country and learn more about its people. I like them very much,” she noted when we met her several days later at the Simon Bolivar Latin American Centre in Minsk. She arrived to chat to Belarusian schoolchildren who had taken part in the drawing competition, which was dedicated to Venezuela. It was her first official event as ‘Miss Intercontinental 2009’. Hannely will be involved in public activities for the next year. “I’ll endeavour to worthily represent my country,” she asserts confidently. It’s difficult to doubt her words. Her confidence, which helps her achieve her goals, is striking.
By Dmitry Alfer