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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 April, 2004, 13:56 GMT 14:56 UK
Anti-Barbie becomes Russian icon
Alyona Pisklova (picture from Rambler website)
Alyona, 164 cm tall and weighing 60 kg, was hailed as a "real-life girl"
An unglamorous schoolgirl has become a feminist icon in Russia after she was entered for an online beauty pageant by a friend as a prank.

Alyona Pisklova - not her real surname - got at least 40,000 votes, making her the runaway favourite to represent Russia in June's Miss Universe contest.

But Alyona, 15, was disqualified ahead of the finals because of her age.

In a blow to convention, her supporters hit back with a website called "Say No To Barbie Dolls".

She collected at least twice the votes of her nearest competitor.

An English-language statement on the website says Alyona "represents a catalyst to reveal problems of our society".

People who voted for Alyona voted against... products of the same type and trademark, which are made into cult objects
Say No To Barbie Dolls statement
"The appearance of a common, real-life girl caused an enormous wave of support" it says.

"(She) submitted for the competition usual photos, made by unprofessional photographers, without make-up, with a natural smile and expression of the eyes."

The statement says the vote for Alyona was "against unnatural beauties who cannot be distinguished from each other, fake emotions, smiles and gazes reflected in the lenses of professional photographers, products of the same type and trademark, popular music, cigarettes without nicotine and coffee without caffeine".

Several anti-globalisation groups backed her cause, leading to criticism that they were trying to hijack the phenomenon.

'No Pasaran!'

Meanwhile, articles appeared on the web claiming the unlikely candidate had received offers from political parties and other organisations.

One article even claimed the campaign was the "answer to the uncontested elections of President Vladimir Putin".

Ivan Zassoursky, the beauty pageant's producer, argued that the popularity of the online contest had drawn attention to Alyona.

It is the largest ever internet vote in Russia
Ivan Zassoursky
Pageant producer

"This competition has set two records," he told BBC News Online.

"It is the largest ever internet vote in Russia and the first nationwide beauty pageant to be held without a jury - as far as I know, in the world."

"The reason why the Alyona phenomenon arose is that it was an open choice - ordinary people could vote freely."

The organisers invited Russians to chose from among 1,000 contestants using the internet and their mobile phones.

Alyona refused an offer from the organisers to accompany the winner of the contest to the Miss Universe competition in Ecuador in June, apparently because of her school exams.

The pageant site now features the news that she was awarded the "Viewer's Choice Award".

It also includes a photo of her wearing a red t-shirt bearing the slogan: "Barbies No Pasaran!"

In the eye of the beholder?
04 Dec 03  |  In Depth
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02 Dec 03  |  Asia-Pacific

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