Afghanland.com - Afghanistan has joined a beauty contest again after 30 years
Vida Samadzai, was born and raised in Kabul Afghanistan. She went to
the United States in 1996
She helped form the US-based Afghan Woman Organization, which aims to educate Afghan women on their rights and raise funds for
educational facilities being put up in key areas in Afghanistan. She participated in the Miss Earth pageant in
Manila on Nov. 9 2003
"Preserving the environment is the major thrust of the Miss Earth pageant," said the Afghan beauty. "I want to be able to implement the things
that I would learn from my visit here in my country which is heavily damaged by war."
She and other Afghan Woman Organization delegates will fly to Afghanistan in November for a series of lectures sponsored by the new
Ms Samadzai, or Miss Afghanistan as she was known in the competition, took part in all sections of the contest, including the swimsuit
Ms Samadzai, who now studied at California State university
Fullerton, A double major in Advertising and Speech Communication and
speaks five languages fluently said "My country wants peace more than anything," Vida told Inquirer
Entertainment. "We see this pageant as one way of implementing change in Afghanistan, which is now in the process of
reconstruction." her participation in the contest sent out a powerful message to her fellow countrywomen.
"I would like to make people aware that, as Afghan women, we are talented, intelligent and beautiful," she told Reuters news agency.
"I'm happy and I feel great that the country is relieved from the Taleban's regime.
"Now, women can go to school, go to work, they're free. They don't have to wear those long burqas anymore."
Ms Samadzai is also not just a very beautiful face; she helped to found a US-based Afghan women's charity which raises awareness of
women's rights and education in the troubled country.
And she is only the second Miss Afghanistan to take part in a beauty contest.
She was the third runner up in the 2002 Ms America International Pageant (formerly the Miss
Inter-National Pageant) on Saturday -
June 29, 2002 at the Multi-Cultural Festival 2002 - Westminster, California
Zohra Daoud was crowned
Miss Afghanistan in 1974 and technically still retains that title
Afghanistans minister for women's affairs condemned Miss Afghanistan, as Vida Samadzai became the country's first woman to appear in a bikini during a beauty contest in Manila.
"Appearing naked before a camera or television is not women's freedom but in my opinion is to entertain men," minister Habiba Surabi.
"We condemn Vida Samadzai, she is not representing Afghanistan's women, and this is not women's freedom."
Surabi said according to Afghan culture women should not demonstrate their worth using their "beauty or bodies" but by their skills and knowledge.
"In the name of women's freedom, what this Afghan girl has done is not freedom but is lascivious," the minister said.
At a meeting of The Afghan Supreme Court on state TV, judges condemned Samadzai's appearance.
"Women who show their bodies without clothes in front of people are completely against Shariah (Islamic) law, against Islam and against the culture of the Afghan people,"
"I know that ... it caused a lot of controversy and I didn't feel comfortable wearing it ... because it's not just my
culture, But wearing the two-piece bathing suit was necessary to qualify for the contest, said
she was "appointed" as a contestant by people aware of her work as a volunteer fund-raiser for women's rights causes.
She plans to finish a bachelor's and a master's degree in international business and speech at California State University, Fullerton. She then plans to help produce, direct and act in a movie about the life of an Afghan-American.
"Whether I mention it or not, it's on my mind, it's in my blood. My whole goal is to just go back
there and help them,"
announced that, for the first time, they were handing out a "beauty for a cause" prize. They awarded it to Samadzai for "symbolizing the newfound confidence, courage and spirit of today's women" and "representing the victory of women's rights and various social, personal and religious struggles."
The Miss Earth crown went to Miss Honduras Dania Prince. Brazil's Pricila Zandona was selected first runner-up, Costa Rica's Marianela Zeledon Bolanos was chosen second runner-up, and Miss Poland Marta Matyjasik was third runner-up.
Earth is a new international beauty pageant organized and produced
by Carousel Productions, Inc. to search and develop true
"beauties for a cause." The delegates and winners give
meaning and relevance to this beauty competition by promoting
worthwhile environmental causes and getting actively involved in
caring for and preserving Mother Earth. In addition to its
environmental objectives, MISS EARTH will also get involved in the
ongoing campaign of the Department of Tourism ("DOT") to
attract and bring more tourists to the country. In cooperation
with the DOT, Carousel will bring the MISS EARTH delegates to
selected tourism destinations in the Philippines to showcase and
promote the same to the pageant's international viewers.
- 25 years of age.
never given birth.
height of 5 feet 4inches (164.6 cms)
beauty of face and proportionate body structure
knowledge of her country's culture and environment.
for your Favorite Miss Earth Contestant by clicking
Womens Activist/Beauty Queen
Residence: Mission Viejo
What she does: Actress, women's rights activist and reigning Miss
What woman do you most admire? Mother Teresa
How do you motivate people? I tell them that whatever goal they
have in life, to go after it, be dedicated, determined, work hard
and never give up.
What do you do for fun? Outdoor activities-biking, beach
volleyball, walking and taking pictures of the beach.
Cell phone or e-mail? Both
Your pick for best picture of the year: "Osama"
It was the strut felt 'round the world. When 26-year-old Vida
Samadzai walked down the runway last November at the Miss Earth
Pageant in the Philippines, wearing nothing but a body-hugging red
bikini, a Miss Afghanistan sash and a smile, the world held its
collective breath. After all, Islamic law forbids its women to
expose their bodies. But this act of defiance - and bravery, claim
her supporters - was all for a good cause.
"I wanted to send a message to the world for the liberty and
freedom of Afghan women...who should be allowed to speak their
minds and be whatever they want to be," says the Orange
County resident, U.S. citizen and first Afghan contestant in an
international beauty pageant in more than 30 years.
While making a stand for women's equality at a beauty pageant
seems ironic by American standards, Samadzai hit the mark, calling
global attention to the plight of Afghan women and children in a
country that is struggling to rebuild itself after more than two
decades of war.
"I want to change the image of Afghan women, to show the
world that we're courageous, intelligent and beautiful, not wild,
vicious and uneducated." The 5-foot 9-inch, green-eyed
beauty, who speaks five languages, didn't place in the pageant.
But she won respect from the judges, who gave her a newly created
"Beauty for a Cause Award" for "symbolizing the
newfound confidence, courage and spirit of today's women."
Before the pageant, Samadzai was your average, young Afghan
American. She came to the United States in 1996, without her
parents and four siblings, on an education visa because "the
U.S. has the best education system in the world." (Her family
joined her seven years later.) She earned her associate of arts
degree from Irvine Valley College in 1998. She was steadily
working toward a double major in international business and speech
communications at Cal State Fullerton, paying the rent as an
assistant loan representative at World Savings. Life was on track.
But one bikini changed all that. Now there are movie contracts,
book deals, speaking engagements and death threats.
death threats. While many members of the Muslim community are
behind her 100 percent, others are angry about her show of
courage. By strutting her Western values in the name of
Afghanistan, Samadzai, her critics claim, "has done a
disservice to her culture and religion." There's even talk of
prosecution should she ever return to Afghanistan.
Samadzai admits she feels "stuck" in between two
cultures. But she's determined not to let cultural clashes
dissuade her from her mission. "I'd love to go back to
Afghanistan. They need me right now. I need to help the children,
teach them English and math. And I'd like to teach women how to
Vida, or "Veda," which means "knowledge and
reality" in Sanskrit, was born and raised in Kabul,
Afghanistan. Her father worked for the government and owned a car
dealership; her mother was a kindergarten teacher. Even as a young
girl, she remembers with painful clarity the mistreatment of
women. "I HATED the way Afghan men treated women. I was just
a kid and felt powerless to do anything, but I so deep inside
wanted to help," she says, referring to the routine beatings
unleashed by some Afghan men on women and young girls.
In stark contrast, Samadzai loves the way American men treat
women. "They're wonderful. They show a lot of respect for
women and respect their goals." Asked if she prefers to date
Afghans or Americans, she says, "It doesn't really matter
what race he is, as long as he understands me and gives me the
freedom to do anything."
Samadzai hopes to marry and have six children. But right now, it's
the furthest thing from her mind. She's too busy as a
self-proclaimed ambassador for the "new" Afghanistan.
Currently, she's shooting a feature film in which she stars as an
Afghan American woman torn between two cultures. And she continues
to spearhead fund-raising efforts of an Afghan women's rights
organization she founded a few years ago.
On top of it all, she wants to get her real estate license and go
skydiving again. Samadzai did it once, and her impressions of it
are quite telling of her character. "It was so exciting! I
forgot about the fear. I thought, 'So what? Let's just do
Her hopes for Afghanistan? "As a child, I remember lush
gardens and thriving commerce. It was a beautiful country,"
she reflects. "I want it to have a great educational system
and a strong economy. When people look at an Afghani passport, I
want them to be proud of these people and treat them with
- Lynn Armitage