Miss World contestants returning to action

Friday, November 29, 2002

LONDON -- Prepped to perform after fleeing from Muslim-Christian rioting in Nigeria, Miss World contestants were back in action Thursday in their first day of rehearsals for the relocated pageant.

"I was a little bit sad as it was not our fault," said Miss Italy, Susanne Zuber, 19, taking a break from practicing her catwalk moves at a west London film studio. "But we should go on. It is a great experience."

The glamorous extravaganza pulled out of Nigeria last weekend after rioting in the northern city of Kaduna left more than 200 people dead. Fighting broke out after a Nigerian newspaper published an article suggesting Islam's founding prophet would have approved of the pageant.

As they brushed their hair, touched up makeup and strutted on high heels Thursday, more than 80 elegantly dressed contestants appeared unfazed by the swift change of venue.

"Some of the girls did panic and that created panic among the other girls," said India's representative, 22-year-old model Shruti Sharma.

Miss World organizer Julia Morley has rescheduled the grand finale for Dec. 7 at a north London exhibition hall.

"You have only one way to go, and that is up," said Morley, whose late husband Eric founded the pageant in 1951.

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