A contestant in the Miss Earth beauty pageant has raised eyebrows and ire in her native Russia and beyond after responding to an innocuous-sounding question by launching into a tirade blasting the state of her nation.
Radio Free Europe reports that 24-year-old Natalia Pereverzeva, a native of Kursk and a former Miss Moscow, is representing Russia in the 2012 Miss Earth pageant in the Philippines. Miss Earth, which bills itself as a "reinvention and improvement of the concept of beauty competitions for the new millennium," requires contestants to "actively promote and get involved in the preservation of the environment and the protection of Mother Earth."
But it was Mother Russia that was abuzz with controversy following Pereverzeva's response to this seemingly softball question: "What makes you proud of your country and what can you promote about it?" After waxing prosaic about how Russia was a "kind cow with very big eyes" that gives "sweet milk," Pereverzeva's tone soured:
"But my Russia-- it is also my poor, long-suffering country, mercilessly torn to pieces by greedy, dishonest, unbelieving people. My Russia-- it is a great artery from which the 'chosen' few people are draining away its wealth. My Russia is a beggar. My Russia cannot help her elderly and orphans. From it, bleeding, like a sinking ship, engineers, doctors, teachers are fleeing because they have nothing to live on.... Tell me, how and why does nationalism prosper in this country? My dear, poor Russia!"
Pereverzeva then offers these words of hopeful advice for her fellow Russians:
"Only we can improve the situation. We must learn to express ourselves and to show our best quality traits. We should try to live not only as consumers but to develop ourselves... bringing into this world something new... When we seriously begin to take care of our country, it will blossom and shine brightly."
The young beauty queen's remarks set off a firestorm of criticism-- and agreement-- in Russia. Some observers offered both in equal measure.
"All this is true, but I would not advise her to represent her homeland this way," Elizabeth Komarov, director of Komaroffmodels, told Komsomolskaya Pravda. "I would have said 'Russia is the best country' despite the fact that we have a lot of problems and shortcomings. I just think that the beauty contest is no place for criticism of country, it is more lively, lighthearted event. Criticize and try to change things at home."
The Miss Earth pageant will be televised live around the world on November 24.