LONDON — The Miss World whirlwind whipped into London on Monday, with beauty queens from across the globe gathering to kick off the official countdown to next month's grand final in Johannesburg.
The 2009 Miss World Festival brought together 120 national winners from countries such as India, Thailand, Australia, China and hosts South Africa, to Tahiti, Gibraltar and Curacao.
They were at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London's plush Park Lane to flex their credentials at a charity dinner marking one month until the December 12 final.
"There are so many beautiful Snow Whites here," Yu Sheng, Miss China, told AFP. "I can't say now who is the most beautiful because we perceive people as more beautiful when we know them better."
However, the broadcasting graduate fancies her chances of claiming the crown. "Yes, because there are 1.3 billion people behind me, so I have confidence," the 22-year-old said.
"This is my honour, and I prepared a lot for this competition and I want to deliver the culture of China."
Meanwhile Miss Sierra Leone, who works in television in China, said support from the people's republic was helping her achieve her goals.
"The Chinese people help me to help the poor people, because that is my dream, to help the poor people in Africa and all over the world," Mariatu Kargbo, 23, told AFP.
The Freetown girl said her homeland had settled down since the 1991-2002 civil war, but still needed "a lot of help".
"Now a lot of foreigners, especially the Chinese people, they are a lot in Sierra Leone, doing business there.
"We try to see the kind of things we can do to promote, to help the poor people because pepole without feet and arms, they cannot work and we can help them to produce and give them something to live.
"My dream is to stand up for them, not only for Sierra Leone, for all the poor people all over the world."