By Stephen I. Diaz 

Belgium is one very interesting country to talk about.  In fact, it is even more interesting when you talk with the Belgians themselves.  During my trip to this enchanting kingdom two years ago, I could not help but notice the vast contrast of the landscapes from northwest to the southeast, and the sudden change in language being spoken as soon as I stepped from one station to another.    Later on I learned that on my journey from Brussels to Luxembourg, I passed by the Flemish (Dutch-speaking) north, passing through the Walloons’ territory, where the people spoke French.   On this edition of Beauty Talks, I will introduce to you the Belgian representative at Miss International 2013, who interestingly, is originally from Russia!   Ekaterina Sarafanova represents the new breed of dynamic and intelligent young achievers from Belgium, and it is a pleasure to be able to interview her before she leaves for Tokyo to compete at the Miss International stage.   Let’s get to know more about her and her country.


1. Please tell us about yourself, your family background and your ambition in life.

Ekaterina as a baby

My name is Ekaterina. I live in Belgium with my mother and little sister. Originally I am from Russia, and although I still go there occasionally, Belgium is my home. I have a master’s degree in biomedical science and I am currently pursuing a secondary master’s degree in pharmaceutical science. It should come then as no surprise that science is one of my passions. I also like to go out with my friends, fitness, and draw/doodle/sketch. I used to play the piano and even took classes in music theory, but unfortunately these things have faded a bit into the background. Currently I would like to become a pharmacist and of course, I want to do well in the Miss International contest.


2. Describe to us, in three words, your country, and what is something about it that you are most proud of?

The Great Coat of Arms of Belgium

I would say it is hard to define a whole country in just three terms without falling into stereotypes. In fact, there have been written whole books about Belgium, and still many would disagree about how to define Belgium, or by extension its Belgians. I could definitely say it is in general a progressive nation, but from my experience, it is mostly confusing.   Belgium is a country of contradictions, misunderstandings, but also beauty, generosity and opulence. Brussels and the region north of it is basically a city spread like butter across Flanders fields.  Ugly and yet strangely captivating, with intervals of rare beauty with late Medieval architecture. Also Belgian politics has its fair share of confusing contrasts.  Some people even say Belgium is a contradiction by itself and that it is an “artificial” state and that there is no such thing as a Belgian identity. I would rather suggest that this is a fabrication with political motives at its core. Something I am proud of is that many of the world’s revered art, architecture, literature and fashion originated from this region.  Also, Belgian scientists and engineers are among the best in the world.

3. If people wish to visit your country, where do you recommend them to visit and why?

– The centre of Brussels, which is the capital of Europe and home of the NATO. It also has some particular and even unique architecture. – Bruges, as it still has some beautiful Medieval buildings that are preserved, and the old city hosts a large art collection. – Antwerp, which is famous for its fashion, collection of paintings, the Cathedral and harbor.

Bruges is famous for its Medieval buildings


4. A lot of people criticize beauty pageants as being irrelevant in today’s society. What is your opinion about that?

Together with last year’s MI representative Alien Decock

Well, one way to look at a so-called beauty contest is to celebrate the aesthetics of a persons physical attributes in general. The same could be said about beauty. Even though I do have the feeling that most people look at it as just a contest of who has the most handsome features, I do aspire it to be more of a way to express a desire to be a more beautiful person as a whole and secondly to inspire others to do likewise.


5. Tell us about your preparation for the Miss International pageant, and what do you look forward to in Japan?

I am currently trying to set up some charity work through the sale of some cookies or cake. To prepare my stay in Japan, I researched some of the locations we would visit and events we would attend. I also contacted someone who studied Japanese culture to get some additional background.


6. The Miss International Beauty Pageant has the tradition of holding the “International Forum” where you as delegates will discuss about world problems, as well as your personal advocacy. What do you think is the biggest social problem facing women today, and as a beauty queen, what can you do to solve it?

Although there are still problems in Western society regarding the status of women, stereotypes and so forth, the main issues of today lie in the Third World. The freedom of women is still a major problem, but perhaps mostly the education of women. Educated women are less dependent (or not at all) on men, and can raise their children with better tools to do well in this world. Unfortunately this is mainly a problem in unstable regions, where readiness to address this on a political level is far and few between, both due to cultural as well as economic motives. A change of mindset will have to happen. In the case where this is part of a culture, people will have to be convinced that ignorance does not pay off in the long term.


7. In your own words, describe an ideal “Miss International”?

The cause of Miss International is mainly aimed at international cooperation and mutual understanding, especially in the context of cross-cultural relationships. From that perspective, an ideal miss international is open minded and caring. As with any beauty queen, she should have great looks and be gracious. As an additional trait I would say that her behaviour should be exemplary and inspiring.