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A student from Kyiv, Marysya Horobets, wins the title of the First Vice Miss Tourism International
Marysya Horobets, a 23-year old student from Kyiv, won the title of The First Vice Miss Tourism International-2004, the most prestigious of all the Miss Tourism beauty contests held in the world. The venue of the contest was Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia; the time — December 13 2004 through January 3 2005, the only major beauty contest held on the New Year’s Eve. This contest was the ninth of its kind. In addition to the title of The First Vice Miss, Ms Horobets won the prestigious title of Miss Personality.
It was by far not the first time that Ms Horobets won a prestigious beauty contest prize. In June 2004, she was awarded the title The First Vice Miss Bikini of the World and Miss Photogenic at a beauty contest held in Malta. In 2003, she became The European Model of the Year at the Wosmos-2003 Contest held in Peru; she was one of the finalists of the Miss Tourism World-2003 held in Venezuela.
Ms Horobets is a graduate student majoring in journalism, the National University of Kyiv Mohyla Academy; she works as a correspondent of Welcome to Ukraine and Mizhnarodny Turyzm magazines; she appears on television as a presenter of TV programmes and as an actress.
The Kyiv beauty of many talents was interviewed by Yevhen BUDKO, Senor Editor of Mizhnarodny Turyzm Magazine.
Ms Horobets, as far as I know, you joined the protesters on Maydan (Independence Square) in Kyiv in the first days of the Orange Revolution and spent there many days in the bitter cold before you went to Malaysia where, as I can guess, the temperature was many degrees above zero and the atmosphere was festive rather than politically charged. How difficult it was to get adjusted to such entirely different conditions?
It was not only a sudden and swift transition from the politically hot but freezing Maydan to the hot climate and the mood of the forthcoming contest that I had to adjust myself to — I had to take a number of exams before I could fly off to Kuala Lumpur. Incidentally, the students of my University were among the first to join the protesters. All those days that I spent on Maydan I did not think either of the impending exams or the contest — I was taking an active part in the events. My brother and I, we signed up to be among “the security guards” of the tent city in the centre of Kyiv, close to Maydan.
No beauty contests were held in “the tent city,” were there?
No, of course not. On some days the tension was very high — there was an imminent danger of provocations and even of special security forces attacking the protesters. Besides, because of the layers of warm clothes we were wearing you could hardly tell boy from girl… But in spite of all this, I know that several young people got married in the tent city… I had to take several exams within a very short time — but I passed all of them with flying colours. I had to get ready for the contest too — the dresses, you know, this and that. I caught a cold, and then my car broke down, and it caused a great inconvenience because I had to go to so many different places — exams, fittings and tryings-on at the fashion designer’s, airline tickets… Some of the things were done at the very last moment!
Who was the fashion designer?
Taras Kraskin. I’m so thankful to him for getting everything ready within a very short time… I arrived in Malaysia with a cold but thanks to the tropical temperatures I was back again to normal fairly soon. I was even able to sing a Ukrainian song at “the contest of talents” which was part of the general contest, and at which all of the thirty three other contestants were supposed to demonstrate their acting or dancing skills… Incidentally, at the airport Boryspil near Kyiv when I checked in, it turned out that my luggage was about thirty pounds “overweight.” All of this extra-weight was made up of my “orange revolution” souvenirs that I wanted to take to Malaysia — orange scarves, orange hats, orange arm bands. I myself was swathed in orange too, and all my bags had orange ribbons tied to them. When I explained what I needed all of these things for, the extra-weight problem was settled. But when I arrived in Kuala Lumpur, one of the contest organizers who met me at the airport, asked, “Is this colour of your sponsor?” I laughed and said, “Yes, to a certain extent…”
During a sightseeing tour of Kuala Lumpur, with the world’s highest
What did you do upon arrival? Just relaxed?
No, I did not have any time for just relaxing. Several hours after my arrival, I had a photo shoot, wearing a Ukrainian national dress. I think my previous experience of travelling across time zones and into different climates helped. I did not have any problem with acclimatization, or with getting adjusted to the new conditions. But this time it was really tough. Compared to the previous contest I took part in, the one in Kuala Lumpur was the most interesting and most complicated. The schedule for every day there was tight and rigid. Every day we had photo and video shoots, press-conferences, plus the things you were supposed to do within the contest programme.
Did any of the people you met at the contest know anything about the Orange Revolution events in Ukraine?
The contestants from Europe did know what was going on in Ukraine, and expressed their support for the change. The contestants from Latin America, from Australia and from Asia knew much less, if anything at all, and I had to explain what was happening in Ukraine and why. I distributed all those orange scarves and ribbons that I had brought with me, and all the contestants had something orange to wear. When I watched television, I saw that in the news shows the Orange Revolution in Ukraine was number one news practically in all of the world news agencies. But then the tsunami struck, and there was, of course, a lot of news coverage about that tragedy.
You took part both in Miss Tourism World and Miss Tourism International contests. Which of them is more prestigious?
Among all other beauty contests in the tourist category, Miss Tourism International contests are the most prestigious. Last year I took part in the Miss Tourist World contest held in Venezuela. Everything was very organized, but at the Miss Tourism International contest I felt that everything was done at a higher level — you could see it in the way things were organized, in the logistics, in the way the contestants were chosen, in the programme, and the main thing, in the way the tourist opportunities of the country that held the contest were promoted and advertised. You could see it even in the way the media covered the contest… Once we — several of the contestants — went to a shopping mall and there we saw our photographs displayed on the wall. People recognized us and we were offered all kinds of discounts to buy things!
Who were the contestants? Which countries did they come from?
All the continents were represented. Most of the contestants were the winners of national or international beauty contests, and some had even taken part in the Miss World contest. Some of the girls were professional actresses and dancers.
And who were the judges?
The jury was made up of people from several countries, and the members of the jury were strict and uncompromising. In fact, we, the contestants that is, saw them only two times — the first time at the pre-judging round when the first top ten contestants were selected on the results of the interview, and at the final. Incidentally, at the selection of the top ten we wore bathing suits and no public or correspondents were allowed to be present. Malaysia is a Muslim country, you know. Because of this, a greater importance was attached to the personality of the contestants rather than to just looks. And I liked such an approach. To win, you had to show you have some talents, an ability to behave in different situations, you had to show that you know a lot, that you know foreign languages. Only those who were fluent in English were selected into the top ten. But, of course, the American contestant had the edge over the rest of us.
Which awards went to which contestants?
The American girl of Indian descent won the top title. The crown of the Vice Miss was awarded to me. The second Vice Miss was a girl from Venezuela; the third Vice Miss was a girl from Singapore and the forth — a girl from China. The biggest Malaysian mobile telecommunications company Celcom awarded me the title of Miss Personality. The award was based on the results of an SMS poll the company conducted. In fact, I do not know which of the titles gave me more pleasure to receive.
What was it that played in your favour?
Probably one of the things that worked for my advantage was my age — I am a bit older than most of the other contestants. I was a bit more experienced, more confident of myself, I had a better grasp on many things, my views were much more clear and established. There were some other factors that contributed to my being voted Miss Personality. I had been to Kuala Lumpur before, and I knew the city well. Not only had I visited Kuala Lumpur several times before, I also had read a lot of books and articles about the Malaysian capital and Malaysia when I was writing articles and brochures about this country. I offered to take the girls on a guided tour and after a two-hour long tour I found myself being warmly thanked and praised. Even our Malaysian escorts enjoyed my tour thoroughly. Some of these things must have contributed to my winning the title of Miss Personality. We were in constant limelight, not only when were on stage.
I do remember your articles about some of the countries that you visited, Malaysia in particular. How badly was Malaysia affected by that disastrous tsunami?
Malaysia was least affected among all the other countries that were hit by the tsunami. Some of the islands which I had visited before, were badly hit too. In fact, we were also to visit one of these islands, but just a day before the disaster struck, it was decided that we would go to Melaka instead… I hoped that the beauty contest would help restore the tourist flow to Malaysia.
Was the place were you stayed affected in any way?
At night I felt the tremors in the hotel I stayed at and it was pretty scary. And of course when I saw the reports about those places which were devastated by the tsunami on television, I was deeply shocked. The girl I shared the room with was from Sri Lanka and her country was very badly affected. She was grief-stricken and I did what I could to help calm her down and to lessen the terrible shock that she suffered.
I know that the USA provided a considerable amount of aid for Malaysia right after the disaster. Then the American contestant won the beauty contest — was there any connection?
There could be some connection. After the final, some members of the jury told me off record that I had a very good chance of winning but some political considerations had played a role in giving the title to the American girl.
But viewed from a similar angle — could the fact that you were from the country where the Orange Revolution was talking place influence positively the decision of the jury in your favour?
I don’t think it played any role. You see, in South East Asia, the events happening in Europe are something too remote, in every sense of the word. But the events in Ukraine could have played a role in the sense that they inspired me. And of course I am grateful to all those who made my participation in the contest possible — the National Committee of Miss Ukraine, the National Tourist Organization, and the fashion designers Taras Kraskin and Olena Cherevychna without whose wonderful dresses I would have hardly stood the chance of winning. And of course I’m very grateful to my family and to the magazines I work for for supporting me in every way they could.
You started taking part in beauty contest only two years ago and have already won several prestigious prizes. You took part in prestigious fashion shows. How do you account for such a success?
It is widely believed that in order to achieve any success on the catwalk you have to start training very early in life. In my case this stereotype has turned out to be broken. But I had a different sort of “training” that must have helped a lot. At the age of six I started attending an art school. Incidentally, this school was founded by my parents and later it became a state-supported one. In addition to general musical education, I had attended classes of ballet for seven years, of Ukrainian national dances and of the visual arts. It was only two years ago that I tried myself on the catwalk. Diana Dorozhkina, a leading fashion designer, was the one who arranged for me to take part in the Seasons of Fashion show, the best-known fashion show in Ukraine.
You are twenty-three, and, as far as I know, it is the age when most of the models already have to think of other careers…
I know, but it does not bother me. I’ve got so many other options in life. I can continue writing about fashion shows if I feel like it. Incidentally, it was my articles about Seasons of Fashion shows that attracted the attention of the people who matter in this sphere. One of them was Tetyana Savchenko, president of the Miss Ukraine-South National Committee, and it was she who later promoted my participation in beauty contests.
What do you do to keep physically fit? And, as far as I know, there are special requirements for the models — they should meet certain measurement standards, you know.
I do some sports, of course, but the main thing is that I keep moving all the time. Paradoxically, many of the people who know me say they liked my looks much better before I went into the modelling business — I was a typical Ukrainian girl on the plumpy side. But there came a time when there were so many things that I had to do — exams, writing a paper for my Bachelor’s Degree (political sciences and history), and a lot more, and I lost weight. And as I began to meet the requirements you mentioned, I was invited to try myself on the catwalk.
The classical standard is 90-60-90, isn’t it?
I don’t quite fit this standard with my 94-61-94, but I don’t think the standard you mention is of much importance these days. These standards were established in the era of Marlene Monroe. The present-day standards of a girl being hardly more than a hanger for clothes is not what I care for either. It does not look good, it’s unnatural and is good only for fashion designers who use it to their rather than girls’ best advantage. All the stereotypes should sooner or later be broken.
After your return from Malaysia, your were awarded another title, this time by Derzhturadministratsiya (State Tourism Administration) — An Honorary Worker of Tourism of Ukraine.
That was nice of them, but I think I did contribute to promoting tourism in Ukraine by my articles and by spreading information about the tourist potential of Ukraine during my foreign trips. And I do plan to continue working in the same line.
Do you have any definite plans for the future?
There are some plans, but I don’t think I’ll continue to pursue the career of a model for long. I’ll work as a journalist, I’ll open my own business. I want to be appreciated as a person rather than just as a pretty girl.
What about parents — what did they think of your going into the modelling or of your taking part in beauty contests?
They have always been telling me that whatever I do, it must be done to the best of my ability. My parents have brought me up to be independent, to choose things to do in life as I thought would be best for me. They have never tried to impose their own preferences on me. I feel sort of embarrassed for those girls who come to the contests escorted by their parents…
I can say I like the way things are developing in my life. I enjoy life. I want to accept the choices that life offers me. If, say, I get a chance to make a trip to Antarctica or into space, I’ll gladly use that chance. I try to do everything in life so that I — or my parents — won’t be ashamed of it later. I wanted to learn who my ancestors were and from what I learnt I drew a conclusion that I should be much more than just a beautiful and clever girl who wins prizes — I must be a person worthy of the memory of my ancestors and relatives among whom were such distinguished personalities as Mariya and Ivan Mykolaychuk (Mariya Mykolaychuk is a well-known Ukrainian singer, and Ivan Mykolaychuk was a great Ukrainian actor and film director — tr.). When I take part in contests I feel I represent my country, my family, my relatives, my university. I let the world know more about Ukraine. Welcome to Ukraine!