Rakhima Ganieva from Tashkent, Uzebekistan appears to have everything it takes to be a perfect Miss World contestant: She's a college-bound 18 year-old with brown wavy hair and dewy, dark eyes. She says she loves travel, tennis, and playing the piano. And she's no airhead. "When I have some free time," she writes in her Miss World introduction, "I like to read a good book…my favorite writers are Chekhov, Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy." She's also the first ever contestant from her country to participate in the pageant. The catch is, officials from Uzbekistan deny sending her and say they have no clue as to her identity.
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According to EurasiaNet, a news service that covers Central Asia and the Caucuses, Uzbek Culture and Sports Ministry and the national committee on women, claimed they had no information on Ganieva's entrance into the Miss World pageant, which kicked off in Indonesia on September 8. Furthermore, they denied there was ever a Miss Uzbekistan contest at all. According to the Miss World Website, Ganieva was crowned in her country on July 20, but there is no footage available of that event and scant reporting on it aside from beauty pageant blogs.
Facebook page features posts from well-wishers and casual photos with other contestants, but no hint of the of the dispute.A representative of Pro Models modeling agency in Tashkent, which represented Ganieva when she was 15, told EurasiaNet, "Rakhima Ganieva never passed through any special selection process in Uzbekistan. If there had been a process to choose a young lady for this competition, I can assure you that a much more beautiful model would have been chosen." He added, "I'm sorry that Ganieva is choosing to build a career on lies." Neither Miss World officials, nor Ganieva could be reached for comment. Her official
Even Gulnara Karimova, daughter of long-time president Islam Karimov, reportedly tweeted that Ganieva was a "Tajik-looking girl" who "came out of nowhere," implying that she wasn't even from Uzbekistan.
The mystery of Ganieva seems a fitting tale for Uzbekistan, a country where "reality" can shift on the whim of it's authoritarian leader and Karimova, who was described in a 2010 WikiLeaks cable as a "robber baron" who is the country's "most hated" figure. According to the Guardian, corruption runs rampant in the country and the government has been linked to organized crime. If Ganieva manages to win a top spot in the grand finale on September 28 will her journey have a fairy tale ending or be more of a horror story given that her very presence defies the official word of her home country?
Meanwhile, Miss World officials have plenty of other controversies to wring their hands about. Last week, thousands of Islamic hardliners took to the streets across the country to protest the pageant by burning effigies of the officials and parading goats wearing sashes. Indonesian officials have asked that the finale be moved from Jakarta to Bali for security, but organizers say that would be logistically impossible at this point.