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Vaimalama Chaves, sand and glitter

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Behind her eyes of steel grey enhanced with golden glitter, Vaimalama Chaves, elected Miss France 2019, reveals a sturdy character and luminous spontaneity.

Two oceans and a continent (Australia) separate her from her native island of Tahiti, French Polynesia. But here, on Le Morne peninsula, at the Paradis Beachcomber where she is staying, the beautiful 24-year-old is delighted to see so much that is familiar: “Sun sea, waves and coconut palms... it’s just like home.” Coming from a Polynesian family with a distant Portuguese ancestor, the young woman senses immediately that Mauritius is a land where different races come together. She knows the main stages of its history, its colonial past, tainted by slavery. “The world today is also still marked by too much compartmentalising, too many confrontations and exclusions. Our future lies in tolerance,” stresses she. “We are too focused on what we want to have and not what can be shared.” She speaks in a cheerful, confident voice, with a slight Polynesian accent, charmingly singsong, where the letter “r” sounds almost like an “l”.

 

COMMITMENT

Elected Miss Tahiti in 2018, then Miss France in December 2019, the world is her oyster. In Paris and in mainland France, the young woman is beginning “a new, exciting life, full of glitter and professional obligations – sometimes inconvenient, always worthwhile”. After this golden parenthesis, Vaimalama, who holds a Master’s degree in Management, plans to further her education with a degree in Political Science and then to teach in Paris. This will give her the necessary professional and social experience for the future she wants to build. “I dream of changing the world… I know, it’s what all beauty queens say!” she says, with a sense of self-mockery that adds to the disarming charm of this Miss France with a difference. She’s not bothering with Miss World or Miss Universe so she can help prepare the candidates in the 2020 French competition in Tahiti. “I’d like to be president of French Polynesia one day, and help my region find a better life,” she resumes, more seriously this time. “And shorter term, I also want to continue what I am doing now as Miss France, and work to help children develop through education and to combat bullying at school.” This echoes her own experience. France’s most beautiful woman talks frankly of the pain that bullying causes, and how she suffered from it, from the humiliation and the pressure that so many young people have to endure but that so few can cope with.


This young Tahitian woman feels at home on Paradis Beachcomber Beach.

 

TOMBOY

Vaimalama managed to deal with “what can sometimes be quite nasty” by forging a strong, yet modest, character, which helped to create her reputation. You just have to hear what she says in public, particularly in reply to criticism about her curves. Having been a tomboy for years, and overweight in late adolescence, she competed for the Miss Tahiti title on an impulse in 2015. She failed. Three years later, to find girlfriends, “because I only had boys in my circle of friends,” she tried again, this time better prepared, and of course, she won. Today she is glad of the fact that “beauty standards are now more based on health standards,” yet deploring both the tyranny of physical beauty that makes us forget the importance of personality, and the forms of harassment that reduce a body – female or male – to a mere object. She hopes that her Miss France crown will then have afforded her a great opportunity to convey a different image of a woman, for who she really is: beautiful and strong-minded, with her convictions, her character and the respect we owe to everyone.