Wednesday 18 October 2017

Wheelchair beauty queen crowned

Katalin Eszter Varga smiles after winning Hungary's first beauty contest for wheelchair users (AP/Bela Szandelszky)
Katalin Eszter Varga smiles after winning Hungary's first beauty contest for wheelchair users (AP/Bela Szandelszky)

Many beauty queens may wish for world peace, but Hungary's loveliest wheelchair user has a more achievable goal in mind.

In an event unusual for Eastern Europe, the winner of a Hungarian beauty pageant for wheelchair users said she will be an advocate for improving access conditions for the disabled in the country.

Miss Colours organiser Tibor Kazany said the pageant is the first such event in Europe and will be repeated annually. In the US, the first Ms Wheelchair America pageant was held in 1973.

Katalin Eszter Varga was chosen by a jury from among the eight finalists who rolled on stage in choreographed moves set to music by Maroon 5 and Rihanna and wore dresses from leading Hungarian designer Katti Zoob.

Ms Varga, a 26-year-old perfume saleswoman who has been using a wheelchair for four years, said there is a lot of work to be done in Hungary to improve wheelchair access.

"It's hard to access many buildings, bathrooms for the disabled are badly designed and there are few domestic hotels offering wheelchair access," Ms Varga said after the pageant. "I have many hopes that all this will change."

The finalists, chosen from more than 50 entrants, received personalised services from hair stylists, make-up artists and photographers.

"It was great to be surrounded by professionals and it was wonderful to see us becoming more and more beautiful," said second runner-up Marietta Molnar, who competes in wheelchair fencing and basketball and co-founded Hungary's first competitive rugby team on wheelchairs.

"It is important for me to be seen everywhere as a woman, not as just someone in a wheelchair."

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