Shortly thereafter, her best friend Miranda introduced her to Miss Ondine, a minor Cairo beauty pageant which she joined under two conditions: to be the minor one[clarification and that her mom Giuseppina must not find out. When Iolanda won the second prize and Miranda second runner-up, they were unexpectedly photographed and came out in newspapers Le journal d'Égypte and Le progrès Égyptien. The next day when Giuseppina found out, she forcibly cut Iolanda's hair short. Eventually, her mother gave up on her principles and Iolanda left her job to start modelling for Donna, a then famous Cairo-based fashion house. On her 21st birthday, Giuseppina gave her blessing for to join the Miss Egypt 1954 competition. Held during spring in the salons of the L'Auberge des Pyramides, she made a sensation of appearing in a two-piece panther-print bikini. The judges were overwhelmed and Iolanda won the title, automatically becoming the representative of Egypt on Miss World 1955 in London.