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Thai beauty contest has a hidden difference

May 25, 2000
Web posted at: 8:51 a.m. HKT (0051 GMT)

PATTAYA, Thailand (CNN) -- It definitely looks like a typical beauty contest. Backstage, nervous contestants squeeze into their dresses to compete for the crown. Lipstick and eyeliner are applied with careful precision. Meanwhile, an eager audience waits patiently for the event to get underway.

Before long, an elaborate opening number kicks off Miss Tiffany's Universe 2000 in Pattaya, Thailand, and 82 shimmering contestants strut their stuff on stage.

But there's more to this beauty pageant than meets the eye.

While the judges are on the lookout for charming smiles and impressive looks, there's really only one pre-requisite for the contestants -- they have to be men by birth.

"They could be transsexual or they could be transvestites," says Judge Seri Wongmontha. "Transsexuals means they have changed sex and transvestite means they still have their original sex but they wear women's clothes."

At Pataya's Tiffany theatre on Sunday, contestants dazzled an audience of more than 1,000 people with their flashy clothes and pearly whites in a contest that's growing popular in Thailand.

The first Tiffany show was organized in 1998 and it has since become an annual event that draws tourists and features dozens of stage performers.

The pageant is split up into the best evening gown contest and the best national dress competition. The winner goes on to compete in the "Miss Queen of the Universe" contest to be held later this year.

The 2000 crown will rest on the head of Chanya Moranon for the next 12 months.

"I think I have a good personality and a winner smile," a tearful Moranon said shortly after the contest. "That's why judges picked me as the winner. I have to do my duty as a winner and represent Thailand in the world's contest."

And the pressure is on, because the 1999 title holder from Thailand went on to win the world contest.

Reuters contributed to this report.


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