Remember a time when teenagers where gangly and spotty and shy? When they suffered from a terrible lack of confidence and found happiness only with similarly-affected peers? Not any more they don't.

Today's teenagers are hip and glamorous and well-styled. They eat five portions of fruits and veggies a day and wash their hair with mineral water. They know exactly what to say and when and how and they insist on saying it. Take the current Miss Lebanon, for instance.

Sandra Rizk is 19, a very confident 19. "I knew I was going to become Miss Lebanon even before they called my name. I just had this feeling because I had heard the answers of the others," she tells me, sitting straight and pretty in the Capitol Hotel's coffee-shop.

In Dubai to grace the Middle East Car of the Year 2001 awards, she has found 15 minutes for an interview within her jam-packed schedule.

So what was her question and, more important, what was her answer? "I was asked what are the most important discoveries of the last century and what do I hope we will achieve in this century. I talked about the Internet as the best communication between people and countries, cloning and the gene. I hoped in this century we will find medication for cancer and peace in the Middle East. I also hope people will use their intelligence for good things and not bad things like atom bombs," she says earnestly.

Playing Favourites

Miss Lebanon Sandra Rizk has some clear favourites. Here's a list:
Best make-up brand: Yves Saint Laurent.
Best skincare brand: Guerlain.
Best perfume brand: Kenzo.
Best clothes designer: Valentino for western wear; Bassil Soda and Robert Abi Nader for more traditional Lebanese clothes.
Best shoe designer: Maria Pino.
Best hair-style: Left loose or pulled back in a ponytail.
Best lounging clothes: Jeans.

Naturally, she won. As Miss Lebanon 2000 she represented her country at the Miss Universe pageant in May and made many good friends, including Miss India Celina. "In that contest the jury doesn't really get to know you before they announce the 10 finalists," she says.

Ever since she remembers, Sandra wanted to enter a beauty pageant. "Since I knew there was something called a beauty contest I wanted to take part in it. I was may be 11 or 12 when I looked at the mirror and said, 'I am beautiful, I can win'. Sometimes, after I had watched a contest on television I would go to the mirror and say, 'You should win. You are more beautiful than she is'," she smiles happily.

Luckily for her, Sandra grew to be 5'10", with a pleasing shape, near-perfect teeth and green eyes. A vegetarian, she keeps fit through body-building and stretching exercises. So who does she think is the most beautiful person in the world?

Outside or inside, she asks immediately. Both, I answer. "In the outside I like very much models like Claudia Schiffer and Linda Evangelista. Inside I like the Pope, Nelson Mandela and Gandhi. Inside beauty reflects on the outside," she explains.

As the reigning Miss Lebanon Sandra travels a lot and does plenty of social service and charity work. She is taking a year off studies and plans to join university once she hands over her crown to her successor. "I want to be like a normal person. I will study business management in Lebanon and work in an office," she says of her future plans.

No, she does not want to be a model, nor an actress. But she'd quite like to "do publicity" for a single product, something like a watch which is in keeping with the "image of a beauty queen". Something like Cindy Crawford championing Omega? Perhaps.

And yes, she does consider herself successful. "I think success is when you attract good attention. When people not just like you but they love you. And I think I am successful," she laughs with all the confidence only beauty and youth can bring.