Miss Venezuela crowned Miss World 2011, but 200 protest outside
A Venezuelan orphan was crowned the 61st Miss World at a ceremony in London as protesters gathered outside
When Miss World was held in Britain, in the 1970s, bra-burning feminists stormed the Albert Hall in protest.
Forty years on, demonstrators were kept outside the auditorium – and their underwear stayed on – but their strength of feeling remained the same.
Inside Earl's Court in west London yesterday 122 contestants at the annual beauty pageant showed off their figures, boasted of talents and skills and spoke of their hopes for a better world.
Outside, up to 200 campaigners brandished placards and shouted slogans, determined to show that they were "still here, still angry".
The Miss World contest has not been broadcast on a major channel in Britain for a decade. But it is watched by more than a billion people worldwide and tickets to the event fetch up to £100.
As Miss Venezuela was crowned the competition's 61st winner last night, feminists chanted outside the exhibition hall, carrying placards with slogans such as "objectification won't achieve world peace".
Sabrina Qureshi, the founder of Million Women Rise, said that, far from harmless fun, beauty pageants were a sign of a society that trivialises women in a way that leads to violence such as the murder of Joanna Yeates. "We have read that the murderer of Joanna Yeates was using pornography which contained images very similar to how he murdered Joanna," said Ms Qureshi.
"To stop such heinous crimes against women and girls, we need to stop trivialising what may appear to be harmless practices and start joining up the dots of women's treatment, representation and discrimination."
Protesters from the London Feminist Network, Object and UK Feminista clearly did not heed the plea of a former Miss World, who last week urged feminists to abandon their planned demonstration.
Laura Coleman, a former Miss England, asked protesters not to attend the event, arguing that pageants "empower" women.
"Appreciating beauty should not cause anger," she said,
"Women enter beauty pageants at their own will, they are not forced into it. I don't understand why feminists think it is degrading, as pageants are actually empowering women.
"Ask any of the contestants.Pageants give the girls confidence and give them opportunities they may not otherwise have had and I can speak from experience."
Miss World began in 1951 during the Festival of Britain. Angie Beasley, the director of Miss England, insisted that the contest "had changed with the times".
"Yes they have to look great to win but it's so much more than a beauty contest. These people should give it a chance instead of thinking it's just a bikini parade.
"I'm all for women standing up for what they believe in, which is why I run Miss England, but I'm fed up of these protesters trying to bully us and push us around. We live in a free society where women have the right to choose. The contestants in Miss World are quite capable of making up their own minds if they want to enter or not and protesters shouldn't keep criticising the same decision. If you don't like it, don't watch it."
Gwendoline Ruais, a 21 year-old from Venezuela, was crowned last night at a ceremony that featured entertainment from the street dance group Diversity.
The final seven, chosen by the judges, were Miss England, Miss Korea, Miss Philippines, Miss Puerto Rico, Miss Scotland, Miss South Africa and Miss Venezuela.
It was announced that Ordos in Inner Mongolia, China, will host the 2012 competition.
The winner will spend a year visiting and supporting a range of global charity projects supported by Miss World's Beauty With A Purpose programme.
By the time the winner was announced, the protesters had moved off.