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November 23, 1997


With Yeats on her lips, India's own Diana Hayden crowned Miss World

Yet another Indian climbed the peak of pulchritude last night.

Diana Hayden is the 1997 Miss World.

Diana Hayden The 24-year-old Hyderabad native and Bombay resident is the third Indian to have won the Miss World title -- Reita Faria and Aishwariya Rai being the others.

The confident Hayden quoted the Irish poet William Butler Yeats on 'dreams begin with responsibility' when she introduced herself in the semifinal round. On winning the title, the five feet-eight inch Anglo-Indian made a sign of the cross and said the title "meant the world'' to her.

Laura Lee Martinovich, an 18-year-old New Zealand model, was placed second, and Jessica Motuang, a 24-year-old South African student of law and psychology, placed third.

"I am sure the rest of India is very happy about this,'' said a beaming Hayden, a former record industry executive before she became the first runner-up in the Miss India contest. She now runs a celebrity management company and hopes to launch a record label herself. She said she would use part of her $ 95,000 prize to help her family. Her responsibilities as Miss World, she said, would oblige her to postpone her marriage to Mark Cohen, a 37-year-old Irish businessman.

Diana Hayden Hayden told reporters, "some of her ancestors were English, four or five generations back.'' She won the Miss India title a year after protestors drove the swimsuit section out of the 1996 Miss World pageant in Bangalore.

Eightysix contestants participated in this year's pageant. Unlike many of the entrants, Hayden is not a professional model.

She described last year's protests by groups who felt the pageant was insulting to women and Indian culture "very unfortunate.''

The panel of judges included former Seychelles president James Mancham, Kenyan Indian businessman Ketan Somaiya, who has just announced a $ 40 million investment in a Seychelles hotel complex, and American actor Lou (An Officer and a Gentleman) Gosset Jr.

Hayden was crowned at the end of a two-hour open air show that managed to escape torrential rains that fell for most of the day on Mahe, the largest island in the 115-island Seychelles archipelago.

The winner is required to give 50 appearances during her title year to promote the Seychelles Archipelago in the middle of the Indian Ocean.

Although Latin America is a major television market for the Miss World pageants, none of the Latin American entrants could find a place among the top 10.

Contestants came from 26 countries and territories in North and South America. 32 from Europe, including the British colony of Gibraltar. 13 from former communist nations. 16 from Asia and 12 from Africa.

Three categories of guests dined on caviar and champagne after the ceremony. Local residents paid $ 400 for the privilege.

Others from the Miss World organisation and a complex set of licensing, branding and product placement companies were to be guests of Talent Promotions Limited. The firm has been set up by the Seychelles government to exploit the license of the Miss World pageant.

Gilbert Pool, spokesman for TP and the government, said they did not expect to make a profit from the $ 3 million investment for this year's pageant, but hoped to recoup on the second year of the license.

Pool said the government of President Albert Rene hoped the event would boost the image of the Seychelles not only as a tourist destination, but also as a country interested in the "environment, children and welfare.''

Rene, who has ruled the country since he overthrew Mancham in a 1977 coup, watched the pageant from the front row. The 62-year-old veteran labour leader and politician did not stay for the party.

The Little Princess
The Diana Hayden Chat

Dr Reita Faria
Aishwarya Rai

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