A baguette-bedecked beauty queen bedevils bigots in Vietnam

Jan 04, 2019

Peace, loaf and understanding

“FROM NOTHING, I am here.” That was how H’hen Nie, a Vietnamese model, introduced herself in her opening speech at the Miss Universe beauty pageant on December 17th. She went on to make it into the top five in the competition, the highest rank any Vietnamese has achieved, dressing in a costume inspired by banh mi, a nationally prized sandwich typically made with pork pâté. Yet Ms Nie is an unlikely idol for Vietnam. In a country that prizes long, flowing hair and pale complexions, she is relatively dark-skinned and rocks a pixie-like bob. When she won the Miss Vietnam contest last year, she was the first woman from an ethnic minority to do so.

Ms Nie is from the Rade, one of the tribes from the central highlands collectively labelled Montagnards, or mountain folk, by French colonists. Two decades of fast economic growth have brought greater...

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