Fresh Faces

Vida Samadzai


Vida Samadzai is an Afghan-American actress, model and beauty pageant titleholder who was Miss Afghanistan in 2003. As the first Afghan woman to participate in an international beauty pageant since 1974, her appearance in a red bikini in the 2003 Miss Earth pageant created controversy in her native country.


Ms. Samadzai, an ethnic Pashtun, was born and raised in Kabul, Afghanistan, and moved to the United States in 1996. She graduated from California State University at Fullerton and became an American citizen. She also helped found a US-based women's charity that seeks to raise awareness of women's rights and education in the Afghanistan.

Ms. Samadzai was the second Miss Afghanistan to take part in a beauty contest since Zohra Daoud was crowned Miss Afghanistan in 1974. Her participation in the Miss Earth beauty pageant in 2003 was condemned by the Afghan Supreme Court, saying such a display of the female body goes against Islamic law and Afghan culture. In particular, traditionalists objected to her appearance in a red bikini during the pageant's press presentation. She was given a special "Beauty for a Cause" award at that year's Miss Earth competition.


The following year, Ms. Samadzai returned to the pageant and was among the 11 jurors who helped choose Priscilla Meirelles as Miss Earth 2004. On coronation night, the young women's rights activist wore a gown, saying: "I don't know if they'll have a problem this time because I'm not showing any skin or wearing a swimsuit."

She also entered in the fifth season of the Indian reality television show "Bigg Boss."


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