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Saturday, May 1, 1999 Published at 13:35 GMT 14:35 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

Finding Miss Elephant

Intraporn Improm: Crowned at an elephant farm

By David Willis in Bangkok

A 22-year-old pharmacy student has won a bizarre beauty contest in Thailand.

The event was held to find a woman who most resembles the country's national symbol, the elephant.

[ image: Eyeing up the opposition]
Eyeing up the opposition
Fat is beautiful was the motto of this, the third annual Jumbo Queen contest.

It attracted more than 100 entrants and the heaviest weighed in at more than 25st, or 160kg.

The organisers were looking to find someone who embodied the grace, elegance and enormity of the elephant.

David Willis: "The combined weight of the 24 finalists was over 2.5 tonnes"
And the judges chose Intraporn Improm, a fourth-year student at Hua Chieu University, near Bangkok. She also collects 25,000 baht ($695) in prize money.

Spice girls theme

Organisers had to build a special stage at an elephant farm on the outskirts of Bangkok to support the 24 finalists, whose combined weight was more than 2.5 tons.

As well as the Jumbo Queen title, this year saw a second award to mark Thailand's economic collapse and the intervention of the International Monetary Fund.

There was a Miss IMF award, although on this occasion the initials stood for, I'M Fat.

Contestants were called upon to dance and lift weights and, of course, it wasn't over until the fat lady sang. All contestants had to do a Spice Girls imitation.

Although the contest is intended to be fun, there is a serious side to it; to draw attention to the country's diminishing elephant population.

The proud winner will act as ambassador for elephant conservation in Thailand during the next year.

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