THESE 12 finalists will compete for the Miss 2002 title on April 13.
In that belief they are supported by many Slovak men. "Slovak women are really among the most beautiful in the word," said Jozef Oklamčák from the Oklamčák Production Agency. "They are the Slavic type, in a group with Russian, Ukrainian and Polish women. They have a high reputation [for beauty] around the world and thanks to them, Slovakia receives world-wide recognition."
Oklamčák, in co-operation with the Forza Production House, holds an annual competition to find the most beautiful girl in the country. This year's finals of Miss Slovakia 2002 will be on April 13 in Bratislava's Istropolis complex. The event will be broadcast live on Markíza TV.
Although Oklamčák and Forza only merged in 1999, the contest has been held since the Czechoslovak divorce in 1993 by various organisers, often resulting in more than one competition a year. The first official Miss Slovakia in the nation's modern history, Silvia Lakatošová, immediately secured the reputation of local girls by taking fourth place at the Miss Universe event. In 1998, Slovak entrant Vladimíra Hreňovčíková won Miss Photogenic at the Miss Universe competition, while Karolína Čičatková placed in the top 15 at Miss World 1999.
Such competitions can often lead to lucrative modelling careers. Miss Slovakia 1999, Andrea Verešová, is now represented by the Next Agency and enjoys an international catwalk career. Zuzana Fábryová, Miss Slovakia 1998, won the Top Model of the World in 1999. The first Czechoslovak Miss, Ivana Christová, is still active in the field.
This year's 12 Miss Slovakia finalists, selected out of 1,036 participants from all around the country, will first compete in three basic disciplines: a swim suit parade, an interview, and an evening wear exhibition. The six best will then compete in an extra discipline, a change from previous years. Music stars Samantha Fox and Limahla, as well as the bands Baccara and ABC, will entertain the audience. Comedian Milan Lasica, who used to be the show's Emcee, will this time lead the contest's 11-member international jury.
Contrary to male expats and beauty experts, Lasica takes a more down-to-earth look at local beauty. "We don't know much about our beautiful girls here, at home. Not even the girls boast about it much. But it's true that [Slovak model] Adriana Sklenaříková is a superstar," says Lasica.
Apart from famous personalities such as Czech actor Jiří Kodet, the jury also includes representatives from international modelling agencies who will be searching for new faces. Wulfran Quirel from Next in Paris, Andrea Cairo from Fashion agency in Milan and Roberta Manganelli from Stella in Vienna will all be present.
As in other beauty contests around the world, the competing girls have to fulfil international, not national beauty criteria, despite the Miss Slovakia title. The reason behind this is that the winners advance to international beauty competitions. While the modelling agents' decisions will be partly influenced by their agencies' requirements, all agree that the contest verdicts will be very subjective, as there are no mathematical formulas for beauty.
"Beauty is universal. I doubt it could have any national limits, expect those imposed by Anna Malíková [chairman of the Slovak National Party]," Lasica joked.
Miro Šimonič, modelling chief at Forza Production House, agreed and added: "Somebody made it up and then everybody started talking about some Slovak or Slavic type, but it doesn't exist. If somebody is beautiful, that's it. Verešová is considered beautiful from America to Tokyo. It doesn't matter where she's from. She's just a typical beauty. That's it. There is where it begins and ends.
"On the other side, it's very difficult to choose the most beautiful girl because other people will not agree. It's a very individual decision, as everybody has different beauty ideal."
Sociologist Zuzana Kusá explained that the reason foreigners say Slovak girls are beautiful is because they are more accessible. "Beauty is more visible here" than in other countries, she said, where society is more segregated.
"You are still more likely to spot pretty girls in public places here than in other countries. People can meet them on a tram or at a bus stop, while in France, for instance, women who care for themselves go only to very luxurious, different places, hidden from the public eye. Soon, though, it will become the case here also."