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[b]TV host Irina Khanunik-Rombalskaya wins MRS. Multiverse International[/b]A part from the crown, the Belarusian beauty has brought home the title of ‘Missis Photo’. The contest gathered 35 ladies, with representatives from Croatia, Canada, Ukraine and Nigeria becoming runners-up. Irina is proud of representing Belarus and smiles, “Our huge flag opened the show, as I was the first to step on the catwalk. It was 1m by 2m (much larger than some others’ flags) so everyone noticed it!”
A part from the crown, the Belarusian beauty has brought home the title of ‘Missis Photo’. The contest gathered 35 ladies, with representatives from Croatia, Canada, Ukraine and Nigeria becoming runners-up. Irina is proud of representing Belarus and smiles, “Our huge flag opened the show, as I was the first to step on the catwalk. It was 1m by 2m (much larger than some others’ flags) so everyone noticed it!”
Irina’s win in Amsterdam is not her first title; last year, she was ‘Missis Supermodel’ at the Mrs. Universe Pageant. That time, she took just two evening dresses and a national costume but packed almost 50kg of clothes this year. She tells us, “I was better prepared, knowing that I had to wear an official costume or dress, depending on the situation. This time, I replaced a classical national costume for a playful model sewn especially for me by designer Yulia Latushkina. It symbolised a swan, being white and decorated with stones. It had a rushnik and a head-band, with the high skirt resembling wings. It met Belarusian traditions, while being more modern. It took Yulia three days to decorate it.”

Was it easy for you to find a common language with other participants?
Two months before the pageant, I began studying English with a tutor — three to four times a week. We had three or four major interviews with each jury member, so I needed to have confident knowledge of the language. Nobody spoke Russian with me, except the Russian language entrants.

What was the most difficult aspect of the contest?
The rehearsals were hard work, lasting eight hours daily over three days. We had one short excursion to Amsterdam, but spent the rest of the time giving interviews and photo sessions.
We once finished at 2a.m. and were woken at 5am, being told that anyone who wasn’t ready in five minutes would be disqualified. The organisers wanted to see how we would react, and to see us without make-up. Some put on dresses while others shrugged on jeans. You could see panic or joy on various faces. We were then taken to yoga — at 5a.m! They wanted to see how fit we were; some girls actually gave up, saying they were in pain.
In the finals, we were asked tricky questions such as our thoughts on the September 11th tragedy in the USA and whether marijuana should be legalised. They also asked us which animal we’d choose to be. I was asked a very difficult question: my favourite toy in childhood? I answered ‘a gun’ as my parents had been told that they were having a boy, so they’d bought lots of boy’s toys and clothes in advance. The jury was quite amused.

Who was your strongest rival?
A dark skinned lady from Sudan was my favourite; she’s a famous model in Europe, working with Louis Vuitton Fashion House. The TV host from Ukraine was also wonderful, being beautiful in all respects.

What were you asked about Belarus and what did you say?
I spoke a great deal about our country. When asked about whether I’d like to emigrate, I replied that I want to travel, attending beauty pageants and going on business trips, but I don’t want to leave my homeland forever. They loved this answer. The criticism offered by some participants regarding their countries did not impress the jury.

What are your impressions of the Netherlands?
It’s a beautiful country. However, homes have low windows, without curtains, so you can see what everyone is doing inside. There are many handsome men but few beautiful women. I think Belarusian ladies would arouse delight among the Dutch.

What’s your attitude to some Internet rumours that your beauty is the result of plastic surgery?
At school, I was called Ponochka (a small cartoon duck) because my lip bent upward and my nose had a slight split. I must admit that I corrected that nose. I’m also suspected of making my legs longer but that’s just ridiculous! Why would I do that? My legs are long enough. Of course, I can add hair extensions but this is common for models. The fashion industry sets its own rules and we have to follow. Make-up can also hide a great deal.

Are you happy?
Is anyone completely happy? Can we be always optimistic, smiling and radiating joy when we know others have problems? I take part in the ‘Dreams Come True’ charity project and, at weekends, my family visit those with disabled children. We take gifts and give our time but we know it’s impossible to remove another person’s sorrows. We live in an age of technological progress but, sadly, can do nothing to fight many diseases.

How do you imagine the future for your daughter Isabella?
On leaving for the Amsterdam pageant, she asked me to bring back a crown and, looking at my evening dresses, said, “What beautiful dresses you have. I want to wear them as well.” I replied, “You eat too many cakes and sweets, so they’re unlikely to become yours.” She thought for a while and then said, “Mother, I promise that I won’t eat sweets. I want to grow up and wear your dresses.” We’ll see whether she’ll follow in my footsteps.

By Viktar Korbut
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