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What does the most beautiful woman in the world look like in 2023? As the definition of vanity changes with time, so does people’s perception about the woman with a crown on her head, and a sash across her body. But what intercepts the outward discernment is the reminder that behind the dazzling smiles, elegant strides and bejewelled gowns, lies a young girl with dreams and a woman adamant on making her mark. The second Polish woman to be crowned Miss World after 1989, Karolina Bielawska was crowned Miss World 2022 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. A television presenter, model, and beauty queen, Karolina went on to bag the title after her win at Miss Polonia 2019. Known for her humanitarian work back in her home country Poland, Karolina has contributed to causes of homelessness, breast cancer, and crises related to the Covid-19 pandemic.
On her first visit to the UAE, Karolina opens up about her experiences prior to winning the title, the weight and blessings of the crown, the challenges she faced as she prepared for the pageant during the unknown of the pandemic, and an insight into the human behind the beauty.
How did winning the crown change your life?
It changed my life completely, to be honest. I am so happy to be able to travel the world, to meet wonderful people, to do good. In every country we visit, our mission is to leave places a little bit better than we found them and I think that’s the biggest blessing, so every time I do something we look for a purpose. We serve people who need it, but we also have a lot of fun. It’s a beautiful journey.
You were preparing for the pageant right in the middle of the pandemic. How did that affect your preparation?
That is true; it was the middle of the pandemic so everyone was locked at home. However, it absolutely didn't stop me with my purpose and journey. It was slightly more difficult, but in my main preparation, I really focused on my project in which I was and still am supporting people struggling with homelessness in my hometown. I remember one of the things that we were really focused on at that time was to provide them with vaccination because they often don't have ID cards, and were not able to get to the hospital so that was one of the parts that was really challenging. But, you know, when we face challenges in life, we make ourselves stronger and I remember with my whole team, with all the volunteers united, I made many beautiful memories even though it was a tough time.
The first year of winning the crown is a very memorable year, but after that, you have to live up to certain expectations that winning the crown brings with itself. What can you tell us about the person behind the crown?
Of course. When everyone sees that the most beautiful woman in the world is entering the room, they expect someone unreal, like a goddess or something like that, but it’s really not. I would never say that I’m prettier than any of the other contestants who were with me during my preparation in Puerto Rico for the Miss World pageant, but it’s really special to be able to give people time to value you and that's when they fall in love with you. You learn about them and then the expectations disappear because I’m just a human being. I’m normal. I’m as every other woman in the world. I have my bad days; I have my good days. I’m Miss World, but I’m also a sister, a daughter, and a friend, and that’s the most important thing to look at with every single person. Doesn’t matter if they're famous.
Can you recount one moment in your Miss World journey where you felt like you were impacting someone's life?
There were plenty of those moments, to be honest, but I always love to come back to the one time in Singapore when we met a very special girl. I can't stop thinking about her; she was struggling with cancer with a brain tumour and she was very young. We spent the whole day together, and when we do beauty with a purpose, we raise lots of funds. We support hospitals, we support children, but sometimes, it’s also about giving our time, and for that little lady it was so special that we went there, shared a meal, played together. I believe that was one of my most beautiful days.
Winning Miss World definitely changes a person’s life. Even though you had been a TV presenter before, how did you handle the fame that came with it?
Well, I think the most important part is to be yourself. Always, whatever you do, and even if you make mistakes. People actually relate to you even more because we all make mistakes. It’s been great. I enjoy what I do, I love being on stage and in front of the camera, and I love talking to people. I’m an extrovert so when I’m surrounded by everyone I feel happy and alive. So, for me, it’s been a huge blessing. Of course, sometimes, you get tired when you’re at event after event. You change time zones all the time while travelling. However, as I mentioned, I can’t complain because I feel like I’m extremely blessed to be able to do that.
How has your experience been in the UAE?
Absolutely amazing. This is my first time here, we spent some time in Abu Dhabi, then we moved here to Dubai. They are two different places, which means double history and culture and it's beautiful. Dubai is more lively, more modern, and more international, but I love them both, and I haven’t seen the UAE as much as I wish to. So, there is always a reason to come back.
What does a day in the life of Miss World look like?
I get this question very often. However, it's impossible to answer that because every single day looks completely different. I never know what I am going to do, and with Miss World we always say, ‘expect the unexpected’. I go somewhere and we do something completely different than what I had in mind, so I am always prepared for everything. I remember we went to Lebanon and I packed my dresses and high heels. I was ready for the day and they came to me and asked “You are ready for climbing, right?”, and I was like not really, however, you always find a solution. You go with the flow. When you have nice people around you, it's always very nice.
What does beauty mean to you?
I don't look at beauty only as what you see with your eyes, but as what you feel with your heart, which is much more important. There are so many beautiful people out in the world and how you treat others is the most important value. It shows who you really are and that will never change, because beauty is fleeting. One day we look like this, in 10 years, you will look different. Even in a month, I can look different, or tomorrow if I have an accident. But who I am as a person, and how I treat other people, will stay with me forever, and no one can take that away.
What is your definition of feminism?
For me, feminism — especially empowering other women — is to not try to take away from others, but to build upon what we have. We are all different, but when we work together, we support each other. This is real feminism. That we are proud of being women. There are also plenty of men who are feminists and they support their friends, wives, daughters, and other women at work. It’s beautiful because I never see feminism as women being better than men, but I see women as being equally important as men. It’s very good to emphasise that. We are different but we are all beautiful.
What was your childhood dream? What did you want to be when you grew up?
It was always changing. My first dream was to be a spy because there was a cartoon on TV that had three girls who were spies, and they had lots of fun. They were travelling, visiting different places, and making the world a better place. I ended up in a similar position, but maybe I’m not doing it very physically. I’m not great with all the sports that they used to do, but I am travelling and I’m making the world a better place as much as I can.
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