Malawian wins Queen of Hearts contest in Finland

Annie Kamthunzi-Virtanen after the crowning

A Malawian woman, 26-year-old Annie Kamthunzi-Virtanen was a shining star on Saturday night as she was crowned The Queen of Hearts 2012 at The Circus events centre in Helsinki city, Finland.

According to information sourced by Nyasa Times, The Queen of Hearts is a beauty contest for all international women in Finland. It looks for a woman who can represent the new multiethnic Finland and serve as a role model for women and girls everywhere.

The Malawian contestant beat eight other finalists originally from Russia, Estonia, Portugal, Vietnam, Kosovo, Nigeria, Iraq as well as the host country and she will be representing all international women in the European country this year.

The contest consisted of three parts namely introduction, talent and individual questions, giving the candidates a chance to showcase not only their beauty but also their intellect and giftedness in the field of culture and arts

Showcasing her talent, the Malawian participant recited a poem which described a woman´s worth regardless of cultural background.

She told Nyasa Times in an exclusive interview on Sunday that her participation in the competition was a “great feeling”, pointing out that she was chosen The Queen of Hearts because of her intelligence and compassionate to help others through charity.

The first Malawian woman to participate in the competition, Kamthunzi-Virtanen who was offered a one-year contract to work with The Queen of Hearts organisation, fundraising for the charity said: “I was excited to represent Malawi.”

“Most people don’t know where Malawi is, so am like an ambassador. It is a great feeling that I can be myself and embrace my culture and values as a Malawian woman whilst living abroad.”

Having moved to Finland from Austria eight months ago, she said she represents Malawi wherever she goes, disclosing: “When I lived in Austria, I had my photo on bill boards in Salzburg as one of the international beautiful people in Austria.”

During the Saturday night contest the Malawian contestant was dressed by her younger sister, Malawi’s well-known fashion designer Cathy Kamthunzi and according to The Queen of Hearts, “They caught a lot of attention being traditional but fashionable.”

Kamthunzi-Virtanen who is married to a Finnish man owns a travel agency in Malawi’s commercial capital Blantyre called Nqobile Tours & Safaris. In Finland she also works as a volunteer at a charity called ViaDia, which supports and empowers immigrant women in the country.

“I will use this platform to inspire Malawians either abroad or home that we can still blossom despite where we are. I consider myself as an international woman who is independent,” said the ambitious young entrepreneur, adding “God made me different.”

During her tenure, heading The Queen of Hearts Development Initiative, a charity project aimed at reaching out to the less-endowed both locally and internationally, each year the winner acts as a goodwill ambassador working with a sector she wishes to develop.

“The winner is welcome to choose her target charity and objective freely. The reigning queen will be the face of the project and coordinate the campaign together with the contest organisers.

“The Queen of Hearts Development Initiative can cover anything from development cooperation to awareness-raising and capacity-building…either in Finland or abroad,” according to the contest website

The Queen of Hearts Development Initiative offers the winner valuable experience in coordinating projects. Through coordination tasks, the winner will learn about project management and be empowered to empower others. The 2009 winner, a Tanzanian chose her motherland, which her successor continued to support the project that was established.

Meanwhile, during the interview the Malawian winner said she would make sure that Malawi benefits from The Queen of Hearts Development Initiative.

“I wish to continue helping [an organisation known as] Fountain of Life in Malawi, where I volunteered and counseled young girls that have been raped from the age of two to fifteen.

“It touches my heart to see young girls being victims and their future ruined because of rape. I want to use this title to support this organisation. I will also continue supporting the existing charity in Tanzania,” she said.

She added: “I also have plans to start community tourism in my home village Ntcheu when I move back to Malawi in the years coming and am sure this will help me a lot in building crucial connections.”

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