Vida Samadzai’s gutsy act as Miss Afghanistan has landed her death threats and a Bollywood contract.
Who would have thought that wearing a bikini in a beauty pageant would land you in the protective custody of the FBI? But that’s exactly happened with Vida Samadzai who, as Miss Afghanistan 2003, found herself in the eye of a storm when she sported a red two-piece at the Miss Earth pageant.
“There was a lot going through my mind at that moment and I was under immense pressure,” recalls Vida emotionally, as Islamic law severely forbids its women to expose their bodies. “But it wasn’t my decision; it was one of the pageant conditions: you wear your national costume, an evening gown and a two-piece bikini. So I had to! If I covered up, it wouldn’t be fair to the other girls and I wouldn’t be able to compete equally.”
This 5-foot 9-inch, green-eyed beauty grew up in Kabul, Afghanistan, and moved to the United States in 1996. Only the second Miss Afghanistan since Zohra Daoud in 1974, she entered the pageant whilst juggling a job in the mortgage business and studying towards a Bachelor’s in International Business. “Instantly I received emails and phone calls – it was a big shock in my life,” says Vida, who suddenly found herself faced with a thousand opinions – support, outrage, condemnation, from Afghans and others. “But it’s made me a lot stronger; more confident. It changed my lifestyle.”
Yes, controversy can be a strange bedfellow. Whilst Vida received death threats (“I was under FBI’s watch for three months”), she also received offers for speaking engagements, book deals, television contracts and even Oprah was calling (which eventually didn’t work out). “I also got an offer from Playboy for a million dollars,” laughs Vida. “But I was like, not interested!”
After moving to Hollywood and mingling with the likes of Sylvester Stallone and Steven Seagal, Vida is currently in Mumbai enjoying a toe-in with the fashion world. Having modelled for Suneet Verma, Abu-Sandeep and Wendell Rodricks among others, Vida’s now off for WIFW. “And Bollywood is calling too,” she says smiling, though only divulging that “it’s based on a true story, and reading it, I had tears in my eyes.”