A former Miss World contestant has moved to defend herself after unveiling her new look – a hijab.
In a frank message to fans, Aikol Alikzhanova, from Kyrgyzstan, Central Asia, said wearing the garment was her choice and urged people to respect the decision.
Ms Alikzhanova, winner of Miss Kyrgyzstan 2014, used to sport long dark hair, but has now chosen to cover it up.
Announcing her decision to fans on social media, she said: “I am a happy woman. Because I am a Muslim. And you should not care about my life, you have your own.
“Some of you are laughing, some condemn, but I continue…do not hurt and afflict those who do good to you.”
Kyrgyzstan, a nation of six million, is a majority Muslim country, with around 80 per cent of the population following Islam.
While Ms Alikzhanova said she received much support, some followers wanted to know if she had been forced into wearing the conservative attire, which she denied.
“The answer to the question of the hijab subscribers: Yes, I was covered and it is a conscious choice,” she said.
“I am pleased with it and be happy! Yes, I was born Kyrgyz, but my faith is irrelevant. Let us be kind to one another, and finally learn to respect. Peace and goodness to you!”
Older photos posted during her time as a beauty queen, including some showing off her various hair styles, appeared to have been removed from Ms Alikzhanova’s Instagram page.
Islamic wear has been making some inroads into mainstream fashion.
In September, Indonesian designer Anniesa Hasibuan made history as as the first ever designer to feature hijabs in every outfit on a New York Fashion Week catwalk.
Hijabs, coloured in gold, pale pink or grey silk, formed one part of a larger garment.
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