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BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST INTERVIEW: JULIA MORLEY DECEMBER 1ST, 2002
Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used
DAVID FROST: Well now some of the most beautiful women in the world have gathered in a hotel near Heathrow preparing for this year's Miss World competition. It's going to be held in London this year in a last minute change of venue about which I'm sure you've read. The contestants were forced to leave Nigeria when rioting left more than 200 people dead. It's the latest incident in a chequered history of the beauty pageant as Razia Iqbal reports.
DAVID FROST: And I'm joined now by Julia Morley the President of the Miss World Organisation. Miss World's been going for how long?
JULIA MORLEY: Since 1951.
DAVID FROST: When you were a tiny toddler?
JULIA MORLEY: I wasn't born.
DAVID FROST: Not even born. And you are always quoted as, one of the great quotes of yours that people quote is the one where you said, allegedly said, "The Miss World Contest is still going strong, although we do have our fair share of knockers". Did you say that?
JULIA MORLEY: You know I'm sure I did but it was meant in, in the way I meant it, but it was a very funny line, that's the whole point isn't it.
DAVID FROST: Excellent, excellent line. Now what about the people who, we heard that a bit in there, who think that this contest is a bit antediluvian now, a bit dated, a bit obsolete, a bit coy?
JULIA MORLEY: Well I'm sorry they say that, I don't agree with that of course. We have over 90 nations competing, we're going out to 142 countries next Saturday and you know David it's, it's a really interesting exercise for young women to have the greatest communication in fact the world has. Women getting together, young students, we've got young doctors, architects, lawyers, dentists, you've got a cross-section of the world's youth and this is the most valuable exercise in my view for young people to get together, meet and discuss the world issues if they...
DAVID FROST: Yes it doesn't sit very well with women's liberation or political correctness I suppose?
JULIA MORLEY: No it doesn't and that's true but we didn't try to be politicians, nor do we wish to, we recognise the qualities in men and women and really basically it's ironic that women choose to use us as a bandwagon because it's entirely women doing what they want to do. So in effect it's rather arguing against the case for women being free to choose which I believe we should be. And nobody has got to like us.
DAVID FROST: Now in retrospect I suppose it's easy to say this in hindsight that it was a mistake to try and take Miss World to Nigeria but could you have worked that out in advance?
JULIA MORLEY: You see I went to Nigeria three and a half years ago and then it would have been a mistake. I was raising money there, we were doing a fashion show, children there needed heart surgery and they needed echo-cardiograms and I was asked to go in to help and we did and when I went in three and half years ago I would have said absolutely no, you shouldn't go. Since then when Nigeria won I went back in and I couldn't believe the change, in, in three years the President Oba Sanjo who's made such a vast difference in the country, it's made up of 241 ethnic differences and they've got them together and it's a place in the north that has decided to implement the Sharia to the extreme. But the vast majority of Nigerians are with us, they didn't want to see, I mean Amina Lawal threatened to be stoned, everybody there knows she wouldn't be stoned, the fact is that the vast majority of Christians and Muslims are superb, welcoming, kind people and that's how we found them.
DAVID FROST: But I mean the, the riots that killed more than 200 people, you said that it wasn't all to do with Miss World competition and it started out as one offensive newspaper article by somebody and, and that phrase the Prophet would marry, if he was here now, would marry one of your contestants or something like that, that allegedly started the riots but then this latest report here from yesterday's Guardian really comes down on the fact that it was, the unrest in Nigeria was more about old grudges than a beauty contest. So that would suggest that although it seems bizarre that you were there at all to many people, nevertheless this piece tends to say the Miss World contest was not directly responsible for the riots?
JULIA MORLEY: Truly David I wouldn't want to be, nor would I be proud of doing anything to hurt anyone, we save lives really through the fund raising, we don't ever think about or wish to be involved with taking lives. But you know it was an unfortunate mistake by a young journalist for a local newspaper and, and the riots started because of the incident you mentioned, the unfortunate article written and that caused the youth of that area which was far from, I think it was like from here to Northern Ireland, the distance, we were in the rain forest enjoying the monkeys that were becoming extinct and the wildlife, it was a great, great time and there was the discussion on Aids we were planning, all of that we were doing and not knowing...
DAVID FROST: Some people said that you should have called off this contest out of respect for the 220 people who died?
JULIA MORLEY: But if I could explain that whilst we were doing that the unfortunate journalist wrote the unfortunate article, they went and burnt down the newspaper building and that was the riot, it went on for two days but as they came back we had no knowledge of this until we actually landed in Abuja we still had no sight of this trouble but read it, heard and read about it on television and news media. So it was the reason I came back, I regret what's happened to Nigeria, they're good hard-working, honest people, most of them, and they need a chance. But when we did realise the mothers and fathers around the world were worrying because they saw the reports and it was that that decided me to rent a plane, something I've never done before, and fly everybody out.
DAVID FROST: Now should you have called it off for this year because of the deaths or not?
JULIA MORLEY: No I always think that...
DAVID FROST: Why not?
JULIA MORLEY: Well first of all we were not responsible for those deaths, nor could we possibly be when Northern Ireland was fighting and we had the shows in London. I think realistically if we keep doing things which doesn't allow tourism but terrorism the whole time we're never really going to move in this world, we've got to recognise good things. Nigeria is good and is trying terribly hard to get on its feet and there's also an election coming up in February which again is like anybody else in those elections.
DAVID FROST: Well thank you very much for that, and the contest will now be here in a week's time and probably not, not in Nigeria for some, some time to come. But anyway thanks very much Julia for being with us.
JULIA MORLEY: Thank you.
DAVID FROST: Julia Morley.
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