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Sunday, February 28, 1999 Published at 21:10 GMT

World: Africa

White beauty sparks African row

A leading magazine objected to its white contestant

By Africa Correspondent Jane Standley

A white woman finalist in a pan-African beauty contest has sparked a race row.

The Face of Africa competition hit controversy when a leading magazine described the selection of a white South African as insulting to black people.

[ image: Tracy Maitland-Stuart: Touching post-Apartheid sensitivities]
Tracy Maitland-Stuart: Touching post-Apartheid sensitivities
The South African publication insisted that the Face of Africa should be an African face, not a white Western one.

It accused white people among the organisers and judges of not taking black sensitivities into consideration.

The magazine called on black African finalists to withdraw in protest from Sunday's final.

But not one of the 12, who made it to the final, responded to the magazine's call for them to pull out of the contest.

Colour-blind beauty

The chance of winning first prize - a three-year contract with the leading Elite modelling agency, worth $150,000 - may have swayed their decision.

But some of the black finalists also came out in support of their white rival, Tracy Maitland-Stuart, saying she is as African as they are.

Ms Maitland-Stuart herself responded to the row by saying that she is African because she was born here and that beauty is colour-blind.

The heated debate has touched on some of the most sensitive issues in post-apartheid South Africa, not only of who is an African, but of cross-cultural racism and the relationship between black and white.

The Face of Africa competition, organised by M-Net, the continent's largest pay TV channel, was eventually won by a black contestant from Namibia.

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