In her increasingly public dispute with contest organizers an ethnic minority woman in northern Vietnam described her life as a beauty queen as "miserable."
In interviews with this paper and others, Trieu Thi Ha (Miss Ethnic Vietnam 2011) claimed that contest organizers held her under a rigid contract that required her to be available to promote their event at all hours of the day.
She asked to give up her title in a letter last year due to “health reasons.”
Since then, the matter has spilled into the media and the organizers have accused her of libel.
“I just want the public to understand that I did that under pressure from the organizers,” she said.
The 22-year-old member of the Nung ethnic group told Thanh Nien via telephone that she worked hard for her title and never wanted to give it up, but “the organizers pushed me into a corner.”
In a separate interview with Tuoi Tre she said her calendar grew packed as she prepared for last year's contest, as the incumbent. When she asked for several days off from promoting the event, she says the organizers told her to follow through or step down.
Ha claims she never revealed her difficulties because she was told not to by Doan Thi Kim Hong, the chief contest organizer and winner of a beauty contest for married women.
She says she had to work from dawn to late at night to campaign for 2013 contestants and attract sponsorship.
She had to be available at all hours of the day and was sometimes called, at midnight, to greet potential sponsors.
Hong claims Ha is lying and has accused her of libel.
“If she cannot [provide evidence], she'll have to be held responsible under the law for what she's said,” Hong said.
Ha told Thanh Nien she's telling all the truth.
“I’m not making up anything to defame anyone.”
Hong says Ha's decision to drop out of Thai Nguyen University in the namesake northern province had nothing to do with the contest; Ha said her responsibilities as beauty queen forced her to ask the school for a leave of absence.
Officials from the Performing Arts Department at the Ministry of Culture met with Ha Thursday to find out who took the matter to the media.
The department head, Nguyen Dang Chuong, didn't respond to questions sent by Thanh Nien after the meeting, saying he needed to report to the ministry first.
Tuoi Tre reported that Ha’s contract with the organizing company CIAT Advertising and Trade Fair JSC prohibited her from participating in romantic relationships, media interviews, fashion shows or advertisements for two years after her victory.
She was awarded VND100 million--ten percent of which went to tax.
Prior to her victory, she had stipulated that she would give 30 percent to charity.
She also recieved VND54 million to cover the cost of clothing worn during the contest.
The contract stipulated that any breach on her part would require her to pay VND2 billion in compensation and relinquish her title in addition to other punishments.
Ha said she was not allowed to participate in any advertisements during her two year title and was scolded by Hong after taking a few photos of herself and sending them to newspapers.
During the ban on activities, Ha says the organizers failed to introduce her to any programs or promote her. Instead, they forced her to work to promote the contest.
“There were two times Hong asked me to participate in a program but the calls came on such short notice I couldn't make it, so she complained that I was not fulfilling a beauty queen's responsibilities.
“Under the contract, I was totally passive. Everything I did had to come from the organizers.
“I had no idea being a beauty queen was that miserable,” Ha told Tuoi Tre.
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