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Miss World: Not just a pretty face?

Feminists may be up in arms that the “sexist” pageant of crowning Miss World has survived for 60 years, but modern-day contestants insist that just having a pretty face is no longer enough.

“Winning means everything to me and I hope to take advantage of being a winner in a productive manner. I first and foremost want to help people in need. I would like to help people like me. I am an orphan,” Venezuela's Ivian Sarcos told reporters in London after gaining the crown of Miss World 2011 late Sunday.

Miss Venezuela, Ivian Sarcos, is crowned Miss World 2011 in Earls Court in west London November 6, 2011 REUTERS/Paul Hackett. Credit: Reuters

The 21-year-old student beat rivals from 113 countries to win the coveted title whose categories range from beauty to talent and purpose - a category where contestants must show involvement in a charity project.

Sarcos, dressed in a pearl-studded top with a flowing, light pink feather skirt that showed her long legs, revealed that she was orphaned at the age of eight and dreamt of becoming a nun.

One of 13 siblings, she spent five years studying at a nunnery and later gained a degree in human resources which led to her working for a broadcasting company.

“Unfortunately I lost both my parents at a very young age which led me to study for five years in a nunnery. I spent my five years in there and my dream was to become a nun,” said Miss Venezuela.

Her future ambition is to work with children.

In contrast to the glamour inside the hall, some 100 feminist protestors, clad in anoraks and jeans, braved the cold to hold up banners condemning the event.

“Treating women like cattle is not empowering,” said their posters. “We're not beautiful, we're not ugly, we're angry,” they sang.

A statement on the website of one of the groups, London Feminist Network, recalled better times.

“Forty years ago feminists disrupted this sexist contest in a spectacular fashion... Let the organizers and all those profiting from the event know that we are all angry that such an event is once again being held here in London, 40 years later.”

Joe Robinson spent a night in a police cell for throwing stink bombs at contestants after storming the Royal Albert Hall, where the 1970 Miss World event was held.

Now approaching 70, she told the Independent newspaper Monday:

“You'd think that after 40 years things would have changed, wouldn't you?”

“We thought we'd stopped it, but we haven't. It's back and it's worse than it was 40 years ago,” said fellow-protestor Sue Finch.

Over a billion viewers from around the world tuned in to watch the contest, which has become the world's longest running beauty competition.

The first Miss World competition - in which contestants wore bikinis -was held in London in 1951, proclaiming Swedish beauty Kiki Haakonson the winner. - Sapa-dpa

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