albania&ireland.jpgLast week, The 2010 Miss Universe Pageant got a little pre-publicity when contestants were seen posing in Las Vegas in bikinis and body paint. Or, in some cases, bikini bottoms and body paint.

Is it exploitation or female empowerment? Throw in a stunning woman in skimpy clothing and the issue can get a bit muddled.

]]>Tala Raassi, who has personal experience being judged for what she wears. “On her sixteenth birthday, in Iran, while celebrating her birthday, she took off her more conservative garb and was wearing a mini dress and someone contacted the religious police,” Paula Shugart, president of the Miss Universe Organization, tells Zap2it. “And she received 40 lashes while her parents watched. “She wanted to be a swimsuit designer because they represent freedom to her. She was punished for her clothing.” See women from 82 countries help Raassi express this freedom on Monday, Aug. 23 when the Miss Universe pageant airs on NBC at 9 p.m. ET. Follow Zap2it on Twitter and Zap2it on Facebook for the latest movies, TV and celeb news.

Photo credit: Miss Universe