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Tomorrow, the world; Brainy Miss England gives lie to the old jokes.

Byline: Mark Hookham

THE glitzy world of Miss England beauty contests used to be a by-word for everything that was naff and politically incorrect.

Its contestants would, typically, say their ambition was to work with either children or animals and travel the world when being interviewed by a middle-aged host.

Since being taken off the television in 1987, beauty queens have disappeared from public view and affection.

But last night the tiaras, sequins and flowing ballgowns were back with a vengeance in Liverpool and proved the dream of winning a tas-selled sash lives on. More than 1,000 spectators packed seats lining the raised cat-walk and stage at the Liverpool Olympia on West Derby Road to cheer on this year's contestants. Gone is the outdated swimwear procession, last night replaced with an athletic fitness routine but the tradition of crowning the Queen with an imitation diamond-studded tiara remained.

The pageant's eight judges included former Liverpool footballerJohn Barnes and Miss World 2001, Agbani Darego, from Nigeria.

The 25 contestants started their parade in elegant evening wear, each turning on the catwalk with Colgate smiles and eyes fixed on those of the judges.

Behind the judges' tables, the girls' tuxedoed boyfriends smoked cigars and offered reassuring nods.

Some girls glided, while some of the newcomers to the gala scene looked slightly embarrassed at having to perform the mandatory hair flick and smile.

Others unfortunately chose gowns so figure hugging they had to resort to a shuffle for fear of toppling head first into Miss World's sorbet.

Event organiser and former Miss West Yorkshire, Angie Beasley, said the contest had become ``intelligent and modern''.

She said: ``It has certainly moved with the times. We replaced the swimsuit section with a sportswear performance, where the girls do an athletic routine.

``More than ever it is about personality and charisma. Models only have to impress on the catwalk but contestants have to be charming and intelligent.

``We have had girls in this contest who want to be lawyers and forensic scientists.''

And her claims were borne out by the winner, Danielle Luan, 21, a student of human biology at Oxford Brookes University.

Jayne Earl, 16, from Aintree, claimed the runner-up prize. She had to win the sashes of Miss Bolton, Miss Ford News, Miss Sunbeam and Miss Southport Rose before having a shot at the national title.

Jayne, bubbly blonde and tanned, has been a serial contestant since winning Miss Aintree Rosebud at the age of five.

This year's Miss Merseyside now juggles intensive tanning and toning with her A-level studies at Merchant Taylors' girls school in Crosby.

Jayne said: ``When they present you with a big sash, a tiara, a bunch of flowers, a trophy and a cheque, it is like being in another world.''

Student Ann-Marie Walsh, 18, from Huyton, was competing in her first major beauty contest.

She said: ``I love wearing the elegant dresses and gowns. If I had it my way, I would wear a huge pink blancmange dress.''

When not on the beauty circuit Kellie Akew, 23, from West Derby sings in local pop band Essence.

``I often sing during the part where we introduce ourselves. Too many girls practise speeches but I usually do the first thing I can think of. I think they are looking for good personalities.''

This year's contest has been the most politicised since the 1960s when militant feminists ambushed contestants with flour-bombs.

Pressure has grown for a boycott of this year's Miss World contest in Nigeria after an Islamic court sentenced a woman to be stoned to death for adultery. Miss World, Agbani Darego, last night urged the newly-crowned Miss England to attend the international contest.

She said: ``If you want to make a difference you should go to Nigeria and show how much you care rather than staying away.''

CAPTION(S):

RUNNER-UP: Aintree's Jayne Earl; and, right, Miss World Agbani Darego; STAGE SHOW: The contestants go through their paces, dressed in; sportswear; WINNER:; Danielle Luan
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Sep 27, 2002
Words:663
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