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Meet Íris Telma Jónsdóttir, Director of Miss Iceland (Ungfrú Ísland)

IRIS TELMA JONSDOTTIR is the new national director of Miss Iceland (Ungfrú Ísland). She was Miss Iceland 2012 and competed in Miss World 2012 in Ordos, China. A national pageant to select the Icelandic representative to Miss World 2014 will take place on September 14, 2013 in Reykjavik.

What prompted you to be interested in pageants, and how did your interest in pageants prompt you to acquire the Icelandic franchise of Miss World? 

     My mother participated in Miss Iceland 1987 and I found it exciting when I was young. Then when I grew older in 2010, I was asked to participate in Miss Reykjavík. After that I got through to Miss Iceland and ended up as a 1st runne-up. After that experience at Miss Iceland my interest in pageants only got stronger. I got really lucky in 2012 when I was chosen to go to Miss World 2012 in China to represent my country. In China I got to know more about pageants, how differently they are organized in some countries and I learnt a lot from that experience. I saw a lot of things at the Miss World competition that I could incorporate into making the Miss Iceland pageant much better. Pageants always get better and change slowly from year to year and I wanted to make Miss Iceland a bit more similar to that.

You represented Iceland in Miss World 2012. Tell us about your experience competing with over a hundred beautiful young women and what have you learned from the pageant?

     I'm so thankful that I got to go to China 2012, that I got the opportunity to compete in a huge pageant like Miss World. That was a dream come true for me. Not only that I got to travel to the other side of the world, but I also got to travel around China and spent five weeks with 116 amazing girls. I also learned a lot from it.  For example, I got to be on my own. I had to speak English for five weeks 24/7 because there was no one speaking my language, I learned a lot in communicating and it's not always easy to be optimistic and smiling all day, every day, but I learned to deal with it and I realized that after those five weeks that I could really do more than I had thought. To participate in pageants like Miss World, you have to work hard, it's a full-time job, you have little sleep, you need perseverance and lots of energy, you try to have fun and make the best of things. I'm so much stronger as a person after my Miss World adventure.

What makes your organization different from the other pageant organizations in Europe? In other words, what makes your group stand out?

     Iceland is a little country, therefore the pageant here is a bit smaller than in many other countries in Europe. But of course, there are other small pageants in Europe as well. Iceland has always been known for beautiful women and I think what makes my group stand out is that I have an extremely strong group of participants, many young women who have a big opportunity of becoming Miss Iceland and eventually Miss World.

Tell us your strategy in recruiting potential contestants for the Miss Iceland pageant. In other words, where do you find likely candidates and what do you do to convince them to sign up for the contests?

     I advertised online that I was searching for participants and consequently I received many tips or applications. I called the girls I wanted to meet up with. I never convinced the girls to participate; they have to want it badly and be ready to work for it. The girls that I would have to convince especially are not ready for this job. So from the group that I met, I chose my official contestants who will be competing for the crown.14th of september.

IRIS (center) with some of the Miss World 2012 contestants during a photo shoot in a desert in Ordos.

What is the most challenging aspect of your job as a pageant director?

     I love my job; this is something I have a huge interest in. Now that I have been in this beauty business for 3 years it's good to be on the other side of the table and give advice to the girls. Putting a pageant like this together takes a lot of time and hard work, so I'll be really happy and proud when I have passed that challenge and when I see all of my girls doing great job on stage. 

Got any favorite beauty queens? 

     I got to know Ivian Sarcos a bit at the Miss World 2012 journey, she is a wonderful person and really beautiful but over all the Icelandic beauty queens are always my favorites. Unnur Birna Vilhjálmsdóttir, Miss Reykjavík 2005, Miss Iceland 2005 and Miss World 2005 is without a doubt my all time favorite. I remember watching Miss World 2005 crowning and how excited I was. That's probably why I had goose bumps the entire time on the stage in Ordos last year while I was competing.

Do you think pageants will still be relevant? Do you agree with critics who say that pageants are demeaning to women?

     Yes, I think the pageants will continue to be held, but of course there will probably be some changes for the better as always. No, I don't agree with critics who say that pageants are demeaning to women. As I know from my own experience in Miss World, I only got stronger as a person. But, of course, not all people are the same. Some can handle criticisms, and some cannot. If you can't handle criticisms, then you're not the right person for the job. I feel like I am the right person to run a pageant because I know how and what to respond to critics of pageants. The Miss Iceland pageant has been held for 63 years and I am sure that it will continue for another 63 years, I hope!

Is there a question that you haven't been asked that you want people to ask you, and what would your answer be?

     Many people ask me about my opinion regarding critics of pageants. My answer is simple: all of us have his or her opinion, and I have mine. And even if we disagree, we can always agree to disagree in a civilized fashion. I have experienced both Icelandic and Miss World pageants and I have learned a lot from both, and I have only good things to say about them.

Photos courtesy of  Íris Telma Jónsdóttir


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