False braids cost beauty queen her title

LA PAZ, Bolivia - The winner of a Bolivian beauty contest for indigenous women was stripped of her title moments after her coronation when judges noticed she was wearing false plaits, organisers said on Saturday.

The Miss Cholita Pacena pageant, held in the Andean city of La Paz last Friday, seeks to instill pride in indigenous women who choose to wear the traditional dress of wide skirt, bowler hat and long plaited hair.

Mariela Molinedo won the contest, but doubts over whether she was a genuine Cholita Pacena - the name for Indian women from La Paz - led judges to strip her of her victor's sash and call for a rerun, said pageant organiser Walter Gomez from La Paz's city government.

The judges "disqualified the winner because they realised she didn't have plaits, that the plaits she had were false," he told Reuters.

"Having short hair means they don't live like Cholitas."

Friday's contest was a far cry from the mainstream beauty contests that are popular in Bolivia, in which the South American nation's indigenous majority are under-represented.

Not a bikini in sight, the toughest test for the 14 contestants was making a speech in the native Aymara language to prove their Cholita credentials.

It is not the first time scandal has hit the pageant. In 2004, the winner caused a stir after her coronation by saying she did not normally wear traditional dress.

- REUTERS

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