New journey for Miss Vietnam-to-be

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Judges of this year's Miss Vietnam pageant have pledged to ensure that the girl crowned winner on August 14 will demonstrate qualities becoming a national beauty icon.

Following her victory, she will be put through a six-month Personality Development Program at the John Robert Powers Center. The US$6,500 course is offered by the network of schools that run executive and "personality enhancement" training classes.

The pledges were made in an effort to avoid a scandal similar to the dust up surrounding the discovery that Miss Vietnam 2008 Nguyen Thuy Dung had not yet graduated from high school at the time she won.

This year's organizers said they spent a lot of time selecting their finalists. The 37 girls who will enter the last round of the contest have all graduated from high schools or universities. According to the organizers, the winner's educational level will play an important role in enhancing her capacity to give back to the community during her two-year reign.

Among the 11 winners of previous pageants, Miss Vietnam 2006, Mai Phuong Thuy, is considered as the most successful due to her devotion to many charitable activities.

Thuy's development from a modest high-schooler to charming beauty queen was mostly built by her designer-turned-manager Viet Hung. Following her victory, Thuy and Hung continued to collaborate for four years and then separated to pursue their own goals.

Apart from Thuy, most other queens like Nguyen Thi Huyen, Pham Thi Mai Phuong, Phan Thu Ngan and Ha Kieu Anh married soon after being crowned and went on to pursue their own projects.

According to Long Kan (who has gained notoriety as a personal style consultant for numerous local celebrities), the crown is just like the ultimate feather in a beauty queen's cap and is not linked to any social responsibility.

"Beauty must be linked with a cause to enhance its value. Most of our beauty queens do not have a manager to support them in developing their sense of social responsibility like other nations' beauty queens," said Long.

This year's organizers spent nearly VND7 billion on designing the outdoor fountain stage at the Tuan Chau resort to accentuate this year's theme: Nghin nam huong sac (Beauty of thousand years). In the event of rain, the coronation ceremony will be postponed.

According to Viet Tu, the show will not include a series of variety performances like the previous ones. Tu hopes the new format will focus more attention on the girls' presentation. All 37 finalists now have the chance to compete in the swimsuit and ao dai events; last year, only 20 had the chance.

Twenty girls will be selected following the fashion events.

This year's top 20 will go headto-head in an evening-gown event which will narrow the selection pool to a lean top 10 which will also include Miss Talent Nguyen Pham Bich Tram and Miss Bikini Nguyen Thi Loan.

After handing out the supporting awards, the judges will choose five finalists to face off in a Q&A session.

Many local experts, designers and directors have expressed the difficulty in selecting a likely winner. The contestants, they say, are equal with specific strengths.

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