A number of beauty contests are held in Vietnam every year, and few of them are known to the public, until those who win the crown or top prizes are involved whenever police bust a high-profile sex trade ring.
The latest example came in early September, when Ho Chi Minh City police unfolded a ‘high-end’ prostitution ring involving several showbiz figures, including winners of beauty contest, models, actresses, and TV personalities.
The sex service was provided for a whopping US$500-7,000 per hour, making it the most ‘expensive’ prostitution ring ever busted in the country, according to police.
The four females were identified as sex workers; one of them is winner of at least three different lesser-known beauty contests, while the other works in the television industry.
This is not the first time a sex trade ring involving winners of beauty contests was busted in Vietnam.
The common thing among these beauty queens is that they mostly came from little-known pageants, which are ubiquitous in the Southeast Asian country.
Every year, thousands of women compete in various pageants, widely understood as a way to celebrate Vietnamese women’s beauty and intellect.
But instead of earning the public’s respect by being good examples for young girls to look up and empowering other women, many beauty contest winners gain the public’s criticism with scandals, from wardrobe malfunctions, smoking in public, bad English, to organizing and working in prostitution rings.
|A prostitute covers her face during a police interrogation. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
In August 2017, another ‘high-end’ prostitution ring known for offering intimate encounters with local models and actresses at prices reaching thousands of U.S. dollars was broken up by police in Ho Chi Minh City.
Before that, the municipal police officers also discovered a prostitution ring, which was led by an alleged former contestant of a singing competition, in April of the same year.
The sex-brokering woman claimed that she had also introduced several models and singers to her customers, earning between VND500,000 ($21.5) to VND5 million ($215) per deal.
‘We need fewer beauty contests’
In the wake of these prostitution crackdowns, local readers have taken to online newspapers to share their opinion on the dark side of beauty competitions.
“In the past few years, almost no year has gone by without news of prostitution rings involving models, actresses, TV personalities and winners of beauty contests surfacing newspapers,” a reader, who identified himself as Phan Nguyen, wrote in a piece sent to VnExpress.
“After all, these women are selling their bodies just like many other prostitutes. But they can take advantage of their titles from beauty pageants to make their ‘prices’ dance on the blue sky,” Nguyen criticized.
Nguyen underlined that the countless number of beauty contests held by different individuals and organizations across the country over the years are to blame for these rampant prostitution rings.
Many women have rushed to register for beauty contests, well-known and unknown alike, seeking not only the fame that awaits them if they win, but also the opportunities that will come to them afterwards.
Nguyen argued that these contestants had never thought of selling sex if they could win a title; it’s just that they eventually failed to resist the temptation of money.
“It is necessary to strictly review the pervasive beauty pageants, to strictly tighten the licensing for these contests or to put them to an end if they were only meant to promote personal brand, to push the price of sex workers,” the reader suggested.
|Members of the prostitution ring are held at the police station. Photo: the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Police|
Committed to protect images
Le Xuan Son, head of Miss Vietnam 2018’s organizing board, said the latest prostitution scandal involving beauty contest winners in Ho Chi Minh City only “upset organizers of beauty pageants”.
“It’s sad for to see [scandal] like today’s case published on newspapers,” Son said during a press conference ahead of the competition’s final on Thursday.
Amid the public pressure around controlling the images of beauty contest winners, the Miss Vietnam 2018 organizers have had their immediate response at the press conference.
According to Son, the titleholders must sign a commitment on protecting their images after the competition.
In addition, Miss Vietnam 2018 continues to apply its regulations, which were started in 2016, that the contestants are closely managed, especially on their images, throughout the course of the competition.
They must ensure the daily rules of personal schedules, social activities, learning and training procedures. Those who fail to comply with these rules will be warned.
In return, the organizers also signed a different commitment on management of candidates’ images.
“We also have to monitor the activities of the titleholder and make it possible for her to develop herself better,” Son said.
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