Wednesday, February 20, 2013


Beautiful, exotic, exotic, refreshing - these are some of the adjectives that describe the Caribbean islands and the women that inhabit them as well. Among the Big 4 Pageants, Miss World seems to have honored the women from these islands the most with 6 titleholders. This feature showcases the beauty of the girls of the Caribbean and how they helped to fortify Miss World as one of the grandest TV spectacles on Earth.

“…Feminists owe beauty contests an apology," – Jennifer Hosten, Miss World 1970

Carole Joan Crawford – The Face That Headlined Jamaica’s World Debut

The year was 1963, less than 12 months after gaining full independence, Jamaica, now free of its bonds from Spain, and now Great Britain is ready to face the world. The 2nd largest islands of the Antilles made a great entrance in the world stage when it captured the Miss World crown, through petite Carole Joan Crawford.

Short doesn’t mean helpless

Named after Hollywood actress Joan Crawford, Carole entered the local leg of Miss World upon encouragement by a member of the Jamaica Jaycees. Excited at the prospect of winning the trip to Great Britain, Carole joined and won. As Miss Jamaica she has the honor of being the host of ceremonies at Jamaica’s Independence Ceremony.

Carole was said to regularly correspond with her glamorous namesake

When she took part at Miss World, she was the shortest entrant at 5’3”. Inexperienced at modeling, she was at a disadvantage against the Nordic beauties who were the flavor of that year’s competition, Denmark’s Aino Korwa , Finland’s Marja-Liisa StÃ¥hlberg and Sweden’s Grete Qviberg. Ms. Korwa already finished 1st-runner-up in Miss Universe earlier that year.

These Nordic glamazons were indeed beauties to be reckoned with.

Remembered as a delegate with graceful movements and a face uncharacteristically Jamaican (being only part black, she looks more white), Carole stood tall amongst the other competitors, eventually capturing Jamaica’s and the Caribbean’s first Miss World crown and making history as the first “colored” Miss World. That year Chile, Colombia, Liberia, Malaysia, Mexico, and Nigeria made their debut and Brazil, Liberia and Malaysia placed for the first time. The Nordic beauties were among her runner-ups. Up to this day, Ms. Crawford claimed she won because the contrast between her and the other contests was too great.

Her high-necked, zip-up swimsuit made fashion headlines that time

Her victory gave her national icon status in her country. She met influential people at that time, such as Sir Alexander Bustamante, Donald Sangster, Governor General Sir Clifford Campbell and his wife. Upon her arrival, a ball was held in her honor and earned the distinction of being the 2nd woman being given the key to the City of Kingston, next to Queen Elizabeth II. Up to this day she wears the key as a pendant of a necklace which she wears during special occasions. Postage stamps were also printed and circulated in her honor.

Those days, beauty queens pose for stamps instead of men’s magazines.

Still an inspiration after her reign

After her reign is over, Carole still got invitations to visit Puerto Rico, Barbados and Trinidad. Fans send her samples of her commemorative stamp and she signs them and mails them back. She remained simple despite her great accomplishments and opted to settle in Ottawa, Canada with her husband and children. She is a stark reminder that all the success in the world can make you popular, but it must never change who you are inside.

This queen opted to become a wife and mother after her reign.

Jennifer Josephine Hosten - The Bougainvillea That Bloomed in the Midst of a Hurricane

“…Feminists owe beauty contests an apology," such were the words of one groundbreaking Caribbean woman who defied the odds and became one of the most memorable Miss World titleholders in history. A rare combination of beauty, intelligence, compassion and nationalism for her beautiful island nation of Grenada, she showed the world that not all products of the beauty queen culture are airheads who move on to become fixtures at cocktail parties, but are disciplined women who continue their education and work to have great careers for the benefit of their country.

The Fate of the Two Jennifers

London educated and a former BBC intern, Jennifer was already working as a flight attendant with BWIA (now Caribbean Airlines) when she entered Miss World upon the encouragement of her namesake Miss Guyana, Jennifer Wong who she met by chance. It was destiny for these two women as they would both enter the semifinals.

Did she regret that she pushed Jennifer Hosten to join? Hmm I wonder ...

The Nutmeg Princess and Miss World

Jennifer had her national costume made by Trinidadian Artist Carlisle Chang where she is depicted as a Nutmeg Princess, with dazzling copper nutmeg leaves on her hair. She was particularly proud of her costume that she had to get herself bronzed to be in character. However, the air in London was just dry her skin got blotchy and her tan started to peel away. If not for her big sister Pamela’s quick thinking and a sun lamp, she would’ve looked less of a Miss World and more of a tourist who got too much sunbathing time.

Nutmeg in milk makes you sleep but this nutmeg princess certainly kept the judges awake

Miss World 1970 was one of the most controversial editions as it was marred by protests from feminist groups, branding it as a cattle show, and caused several disruptions. Noisemakers and flour bombs littered the stage as host Bob Hope. Eric Morley had to intervene and had the protesters forcibly removed from the venue. Later Bob returned to the stage and remarked that anyone who tries to disturb such a beautiful event would have to be on some kind of a dope. Nevertheless, in the UK, Miss World 1970 was the single most-watched show of the entire year.

“This is a nice conditioning course for Vietnam,” – Bob Hope joked once the stage was rid of the flour bombs.

Of Bets, Favorites and Apartheid

The contest itself was not only controversial but historical and major beauties of different ethnicities were in attendance from the stunning but shy Miss Guyana, luscious and toothy Miss United Kingdom to bubbly Miss Nicaragua. Bookmakers and betters have their own favorites and the odds were mostly in favor of the Swedish bombshell, Maj Johansson. 2 days prior to the finals, Maj made unsavory comments on the pageant and told the press she would have walked out if she wasn’t under contract with the organizers. After closed door meeting with the organizers, she retracted her comments and described her participation in the pageant as a once-in-a –lifetime experience.

Maj was not only the 7-1 betters’ favorite but the press’ favorite for her controversial remarks.

At that time, the dark shroud of apartheid still loomed over South Africa and it sent two dazzling delegates, one white; Jillian Jessup as Miss South Africa and one black, Pearl Jansen; Miss Africa South. This was met with opposition from other delegates and protesters but Jillian and Pearl appealed to the press not to make a spectacle out of it. Both girls would place in the top 5, Jillian as 4th runner-up and Pearl as 1st runner-up. South Africa would keep this 2-girl policy until 1976 when withdrawals from other contestants cannot be ignored anymore.

“We’re not politicians, but beauty queens,” – Jillian Jessup and Pearl Jansen

The Crown was only the Beginning

Described as a delegate with a regal bearing and quiet dignity, Jennifer was also one of the favorites and Joyce Hopkirk of tabloid The Sun was quoted "A man would be unlikely to turn down a date with the Misses South Africa, Grenada, and Portugal. Jennifer’s victory and Pearl’s runner-up finish was the first in pageant history that 2 black women are in the top 2 positions. This feat would be duplicated later by Miss World 1993 Lisa Hanna of Jamaica and her runner-up Palesa Jacqueline Mofokeng, the first black official delegate of South Africa. Although she was considered by many as the first black Miss World, she graciously credits Miss World 1963 Carole Crawford of Jamaica as the first “colored” Miss World.

She did not only get many date invitations, but 2 marriage proposals as well.

Controversy would later ensue as it was alleged that 4 judges voted Maj as their winner and only two were in favor of Jennifer. Julia Morley stepped down as organizer of the contest and Eric Morley later released the scorecards showing that Jennifer indeed got the majority of the votes. Still it was not enough for some, citing that the presence of Sir Eric Gairy, Grenada’s prime minister in the judging panel swayed judges to vote for Jennifer. Julia was reinstated and the whole hubbub died down.

Sir Eric Gairy was later deposed due to corruption allegations

Grenada’s New Heroine

Jennifer’s homecoming to Grenada was a joyous affair and on the day of her arrival, a national holiday was declared. There was dancing in the streets and hordes of people tried to catch a glimpse of the girl from St. George who put their country in the spotlight. Jennifer would be on the cover of magazines within the Caribbean region and became a celebrity and would even be mentioned in Sparrows’ song “Miss World”.

Attention girls: her brother is a cutie. LOL

Her victory also served as an inspiration to other ebony beauties. Miss Virgin Islands and MU 1971Semifinalist Cherri Creque once said, "I began to believe blacks have a chance in beauty contests when a black girl won Miss World last year." Seven months into her reign, commemorative stamps were printed and issued in her honor. A lesser queen would have been happy with this newfound national heroine status along with a $1,200 tiara, $6,000 in cash, a wardrobe, a screen test if she wants it and the prospect of lucrative personal appearance contracts that can be worth more than $100,000 but Jennifer saw that being Miss World was just the start of a more wonderful but challenging life.

Currently, popularity is measured not by stamps but on how frequently you are featured in TMZ.
Despite the controversy surrounding her victory, Jennifer served an excellent reign as Miss World, touring different countries, and even made an appearance in Australia with the great pianist Liberace. On Christmas 1970 Jennifer joined Bob Hope in his overseas tour of the US Army camps. There she got to sing with Bob much to the delight of the battle-weary servicemen. She was surprised when, on one of the tours, she was not allowed to even talk to the injured South Vietnamese soldiers in hospitals.

If Marilyn Monroe enthralled South Korea, Jennifer charmed South Vietnam

Life after Miss World

Jennifer took up a post as customer service officer at Canada Air, and later met her first husband David Craig. They would set up base in Bermuda until 1973 when they relocated to Canada. Juggling the roles of farm wife, mother of two and customer service officer, in 1978 she got a more serious position as Grenada’s High Commissioner to Canada upon the request of Sir Eric Gairy. She was in New York with Gairy when news broke that Maurice Bishop and his New Jewel Movement had taken over Grenada. Gairy was later deposed and she would continue her work with Maurice, but she later resigned, the promises of Maurice’s revolution were still unfulfilled.

She went back to Air Canada and also went back to school. Her political science master’s thesis opened her eyes to the economic problems of the Caribbean region, and the arrogance of the “Caribbean elite” who gave advice on problems that they themselves caused in the region. She would later take posts as country manager for aid administration in the Ukraine, Pakistan, and most recently Bangladesh, managing Rural Maintenance Programme, in which destitute women worked on rural access roads. Her commitment inspired her daughter Sophia to follow her footsteps in volunteer work. She later retired with her 2nd husband and established a resort hotel, Jenny’s Place in the Grand Anse Beach. 2004’s Hurricane Ivan would damage the resort and the region, prompting Jennifer to setup a UNDP aid network for the region.

She proved that indeed there’s more to life after Miss World

In 2010, she released her memoirs, Beyond Miss World to good reviews. Despite retirement, Jennifer’s life will always be to serve the Caribbean and her beloved Grenada. Truly a woman as beautiful yet as strong as her country’s national flower, the bougainvillea, she has indeed proven her point that feminists owe beauty pageants an apology since she is an example of a beauty queen who lived a life of service during and after her reign.

Wilnelia Merced Cruz – The Sunshine During One of Miss World’s Gloomiest Years

In 1975 the whole beauty pageant enterprise was under the scrutiny of the feminist movement and learning from previous scandal-ridden years, Eric Morley decided to take the helm as chairman of the panel of judges which raised the eyebrows of some national directors and movers within the industry. Nevertheless the pageant pushed through and as the 67 delegates started arriving, the media and bookers were in a frenzy placing bets and weighing the odds on each girl.

Queens but Treated Like Commoners

To attract more positive publicity and public interest, Eric Morley decided to invite former titleholders Kerstin "Kiki" Haakanson of Sweden (1951), Denise Perrier of France (1953), Susana Duijm Zubillaga of Venezuela (1955), Penelope Coelen of South Africa (1958), Corine Rottschafer of Holland (1959), Rosemarie Frankland of United Kingdom (1961), Carole Crawford of Jamaica (1963), Ann Sidney of United Kingdom (1964), Reita Faria of India (1966), and Belinda Green of Australia (1972).

Bottom row L-R: Haakanson, Perrier, Dujim, Coelen
Top row L-R: Rottschafer, Frankland, Crawford, Sidney, Faria and Green

The women were elated that they were invited but soon realized that when you’re a former titlist, you’re regarded less than when you were still the reigning queen. They got no chauffeur service from the airport to the hotel and according to Ms. Coelen “no welcome note or flowers in our respective rooms.” What added to their dismay was that in the pageant proper, they were just given a short introduction each and a few seconds to parade on stage and then hustled back backstage, their wish to have a more significant participation unfulfilled.

Controversy ensued when it was found out that Misses Denmark, Sweden and Germany were not winners of their own national pageants but models scouted by one of the judges, noted photographer Gunnar Larssen. One of them infact just happened to walk into Larssen’s Paris shop and impressed the photographer.

Miss Denmark, Germany and Sweden with Fadil errrr Gunnar Larssen.

Mutiny on the Booty

As the preliminaries went underway, the delegates still did the quarter turns in their swimsuits. Again this was regarded by the feminists as similar to appraising women like cattle. Four French-speaking delegates staged a mutiny and refused to show their backside to the judges and the press.

They call it mutinerie in French right Misses Mauritius, Belgium, France and Luxembourg?

They were Misses Mauritius, Luxembourg, France and Belgium. It was later rumored that their placements were downgraded due to this subversive behavior. Only Miss Mauritius placed in the semifinals. Miss France clapped but a year later won the Miss International title. Due to the courage of these ladies, subsequent competitions no longer used the quarter turns and the winners were no longer crowned in their swimsuits.

Cuba says “No Thank You” to Marisela

Not to be confused with another Caribbean queen, beautiful Marisela Maxie Clark was already a naturalized American by the time she represented Cuba, her country of origin. Her presence was met with opposition by the socialist government and allegedly she was not recognized because Cuba ceased to participate in pageants since Fidel Castro rose to power in 1959. Nevertheless, the Miss World Organization let her stay and compete as representative of free Cuba or Cuba libre. On finals night she finished 4th runner-up.

According to Cuban First Secretary Angel Dalmau: “It is the official policy of a socialist government like Cuba not to give materialistic things to a girl simply because some people may think she is beautiful.”

The Underrated Beauty Takes it All

Dusky and blessed with a rocking body, Wilnelia was one of those favored to just score a placement but not win. In fact, even Eric Morley did not vote for her. He had his eye on Miss Germany and despite his signature deadpan announcement of the winners, can’t keep a straight face after his favorite, Miss Germany only finished 1st runner-up. Later he would thank his lucky stars as Miss Germany's full-frontal nude photo would be splashed all over the papers, MW dodged another bullet. Wilnelia herself was surprised that she won.

Host: Do you like British food?
Willie: Yes

After one last hiccup on her homecoming to Puerto Rico staged by a disgruntled runner-up, Wilnelia or Willie had a peaceful reign. After passing her crown she was signed by Ford Models in 1976. In the 1980 Miss World gala she met game show host Bruce Forsyth whom she later married and had a son. In 1996, her mother Delia Cruz got the franchise for Miss World Puerto Rico and since them has produced 2 2nd runners-up and 6 semifinalists. Since 2003, she has been providing the swimsuit wardrobe for the Miss World Beach Beauty segment.

Already looking the part of a British lady

In 2011 Bruce received Knighthood and Willie was afforded the title Lady. They were special guests in Miss World’s 2011 edition and Willie still maintains good relations with the Miss World Organization. As one of Miss World’s well-loved titleholders Wilnelia Merced is indeed a burst of sunshine.

Cindy Breakspeare – One of the Fairest... and Toughest of Them All

1976 was the year when the feminist movement was in full swing and so was South Africa’s apartheid. Bodybuilder and beauty pageant veteran Cindy Breakspeare was excited at the prospect of entering Miss World after being encouraged by the organizers of the Miss Universe Bikini Contest in London. That time Jamaica, disgusted by South Africa’s two-girl policy withdrew its support. Headstrong Cindy armed with private sponsorship from Ammar's and McMillian Advertising, got the Jamaican government’s nod to represent her island country in Miss World. Tough as she already is, she participated in one of the most difficult years of Miss World.

Disheartened but not intimidated

The dark shroud of apartheid was too much to bear for many countries that 9 delegates never stayed until the finals night, as their respective governments ordered them to return home. They were Misses Seychelles, Swaziland, Philippines, Malaysia, Yugoslavia, Sri Lanka, India, Mauritius and Liberia. Trinidad and Tobago also withdrew their support but their delegate decided to stay and compete. Cindy recounts that many girls were disheartened by the withdrawals and many still threatened to quit but never got round to leaving. By finals night 60 delegates remained and the pageant resumed. The withdrawal of the 9 courageous delegates were not in vain though, as they sent a clear message to the Miss World Organization and 1976 would be the last year that South Africa’s 2-girl policy would be allowed.

The 9 courageous beauties who ended apartheid’s influence on the beauty pageant industry

Winning the contest was an entirely different affair as Cindy entered the top 5 with 4 other gorgeous women. She has always thought her fit body and her desire to win the crown got through to the judges and she was elected as the world’s most beautiful icon for the year and will embody “Beauty with a Purpose”.

According to Cindy she won coz she felt she wanted it more than the other women in the contest.

When she got home, it was a stark departure from Carole Crawford’s 1963 homecoming celebration. The government frowned at beauty pageants and her arrival was made as low-key as possible.

Despite a cool homecoming, was hot and ready to go and fulfill her duties

Despite this overwhelming disappointment, Cindy went on and had a trouble-free reign. Her tour of the 7 continents her to homes for the aged, homes for the retarded, facilities for under privileged children, charity events, fashion shows, and luncheons. She thought the current Miss Worlds have a savvier lifestyle and get more sponsorship deals where the real money is after the reign is over. Although she was regarded as one of the most beautiful title holders in history, Cindy’s life will get more interesting after she passes the crown to her successor.

Life and Love with a Music Legend

When Cindy met Bob Marley she thought he was this old school boy who lived upstairs. Later on they would talk more about life, society, her future plans. It was said that he dedicated two songs for Cindy and the first was “Turn Your Lights Down Low” as Bob always went down to her apartment at night, look sideways to make sure no one was looking and then knock. There was a sort of 3-year courtship and Cindy remembered Bob’s gentle manner and very simple, yet disarming gifts, like a mango, or he would just simply sit at the foot of the stairs at the back of her apartment and strum his guitar. It was believed that “Waiting in Vain” was composed by Bob to mirror his feelings during those 3 years. Cindy inevitably became Bob’s girl and later gave birth to their son Damian.

Bob certainly didn’t wait in vain as he fathered the son of this West Indian beauty

Recounting her life with Bob, Cindy thought Bob was one of those guys that you never really get to see all the time, but she shared this special relationship with him. She supported him as much as he supported her in her singing aspirations and in procuring tools for her ItalCraft store. When Bob got terminally ill, she made sure she was there with Damian.

After Bob died, Cindy went on and got married twice. Still in the thick of things, being a grandmother to 4 granchildren, singer and Jamaican beauty icon. It was said that after the 70s was over, Miss World was already tough as nails and no other scandal would be able to topple it down.

No slowing down for the cool grandmother of 4

Mariasela Alvarez Lebron – Dominican Republic's Ticket to the World Stage

If the 70’s primed Miss World for protests and scandals, the 80s showed that times are indeed changing and the previous pageant superpowers are starting to find the smaller lesser countries stepping up their game. Reluctant delegate Mariasela Alvarez went on to win the blue crown and introduced her country, Dominican Republic to the world. Architecture student Mariasela’s father had to be approached four times by the organizers of the local leg of Miss World to allow her to join. When he finally agreed Mariasela has just completed a tour of Europe.

The Odds against Cleopatra and Pageant Veterans

Mariasela competed with 67 other beauties, among them Misses Indonesia and Turks and Caicos who were their respective country’s first delegates to Miss World. The year’s heavy favorite was Althea Rocke of Trinidad and Tobago who was nicknamed “Cleopatra” by the British press for her braided hair. Miss Germany, Kerstin Natalie Paeserack a photographer’s favorite was also a semifinalist in Miss Universe earlier that year.

These dazzling women gave Mariasela a scare for the crown.

The 5’10 brunette was a 20:1 odd to bookmakers but it pretty much improved 10:1 once she entered the semifinals. Her innate charm, class and beauty worked to her advantage and despite the presence of 7 pageant veterans in the semifinals, she was ultimately elected as Miss World 1982.

Class is after all in the blood as Mariasela showed them all.

Mariasela’s victory was met with opposition from Miss Germany who alleged that Miss “Virgin” World chooses virgins to “trot around the world visiting hospitals.” To which she replied with class “I’m a virgin and will remain so until I’m married. I may not be the most beautiful, but I think I am the most complete.” She had a peaceful reign and successfully passed her crown to her successor.

She certainly looks hot wearing the crown or wearing those shorts.

Maeiasela - The Complete Woman

Mariasela returned to her studies and later on as a licensed architect designed many buildings most notably one of Santo Domingo’s landmarks, Torre Cristal. She also dabbled in broadcast media with hosting and later owning her own broadcast network. She also created the Eva de Lebron Fernandez Foundation in honor of her mother and Casa Rosada to care for orphans and children with HIV. Mariasela has proven herself a beauty queen, architect, wife, mother and philanthropist – more or less a complete woman worthy of respect.

The lady blooms into a multimedia entrepreneur

Giselle Jeanne-Marie Laronde – Trinidad’s most beautiful endorser for the carnival

Giselle ‘s lifestyle never really gave away her real passion. Who would think that a 5’5 secretary who works 8 hours a day saving up for future education would even think of pursuing a career in modeling? Her friends saw differently though, they thought Giselle is a beauty and that she should join the Miss World pageant. After a hard-earned approval from her dad, her friends bought her th gown and the swimsuit that she would wear to the pageant.

Miss World to Hollywood

Come finals night she was up against two equally stunning black delegates in the semifinals, Miss Swaziland, Illana Faye who gave her country’s highest finish in any international pageant, and Miss USA, Halle Berry who’s scene-stealing antics divided people into lovers and haters. She wore a swimsuit with star and striped as her national costume which got the ire of some delegates who wore more conservative costumes, such as Miss Holland who was clothed and wearing traditional Dutch clogs. The judges loved Halle enough to send her to the semifinals however, that was as fas as she could go. Much much later she would get her own shining moment on stage, not as a beauty queen but as Academy Award Best Actress.

Less hairspray and a less glittery dress made Halle’s winning night a classy affair.

How Cliff Richard made her night memorable

Up to this day Giselle thought her victory was a complete surprise and you can’t blame her, as she’s up against not just one but two equally stunning black beauties. She recalls one moment when all delagates attended Cliff Richard’s musical and she was the one called up onstage by Richards himself to join and be interview with him. In finals night her poise and grace got her through and as was claimed by one judge, her that night was the best as she seemed to glide onstage. Before the night ended the blue tiara was rested firmly on her head and she was proclaimed the new Miss World.

From photographer’s favorite to Cliff Richard’s favorite.

Her year was full of activity and she became a celebrity in her native Trinidad and Tobago. The new Miss World wasted no time in inviting the world to the Carnival festivities. In her honor commemorative stamps were also printed and released, as she was her country’s first and only Miss World. Seeing many of her family members and friends succumb to the dreaded C, she became active in supporting her country’s Cancer Society. When she passed her title to her successodr she already has goals set in her mind.

Those days stamps were a measure a honoring someone’s accomplishments. Now it’s being in a reality show. LOL

After completing her reign, she used her prize money to finish her studies at Goldsmith's College, University of London in England. When she got home, she already had a job waiting for her. Being a 2nd degree black belter, she has also competed in the SKIF 10th anniversary karate world championships in Athens and placed fourth, just missing the bronze in the kata division in my age group. She was also a founding Board Member of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) of Trinidad and Tobago, and past president. The IABC promotes best practices in new media, social media and writing skills. Currently her family is her focus and her experiences at Miss World helped her a lot to understand her 2 sons in explaining the issues facing the told. She’s still a celebrity in the Caribbean region and will continue to be as she still lends her glamorous presence to events and even magazine covers, truly a memorable queen to be loved and respected.

She still looks good to land magazine covers.

Lisa Hanna – The Miss World in Action

Lisa joined the Miss Jamaica pageant upon finishing high school and completing her A-levels. Already a TV-presenter and a black-belt karate instructor, she never thought of herself as beautiful or fashionable. Upon the prodding of friends she joined and won and represented Jamaica at Miss World.

Confident but under heavy competition

She went to Sun City not just to represent her island country but to conquer her fears. She was up against the articulate Palesa Jacqueline Mofokeng, South Africa’s first black official delegate after its return to the Miss World stage, and Victoria Silvsvedt, a Swedish blond who would crack the Top 10 but would be more famous later in a different facet of the beauty business as she became a fashion model and 1996’s Playboy Playmate of the Year and reality TV star.

From Miss World to Playboy to her own reality show, Victoria has come a long way

Not backing out, Lisa pushed through, her inner charm and determination showing trough as she advanced through the stages of the competition. She though Miss South Africa would win, as the victory would be an entry in the history books, but when she was announced as the winner, she thought she got it in the Q&A where she felt she spoke in a way that made people feel at ease and could relate to her. Miss Philippines came in 2nd runner up and heralded the return of the Asian country in the Miss World stage and Miss South Africa was 1st runner-up. There were rumors that Jacqueline stepped down due to allegations of pregnancy; however it was not officially confirmed.

The West Indian beauty was just regal in her white dress

Lisa wasted no time in fulfilling her duties as Miss World, appearing as an honored quest in establishment openings and visiting charitable institutions. She had the honor of meeting world leaders Nelson Mandela and Fidel Castro. During this time she was able to identify the problems plaguing her beloved Jamaica and Caribbean.

I wonder if she uses the red car she won on official functions

She was one of those beauty queens who did not stay as beauty queens. She felt that she would be of better service as a voice not just of women but of her constituents. She ran for a parliament seat in Jamaica and is now a Member of Parliament of South East St. Ann. She claims her Miss Word experience taught her that the world is full of opportunities. She is a visionary, and she is working on continuing as her people’s representative in Parliament and dreams that someday Jamaica would grow out of its debt and that the Caribbean integration as one economy would be a reality. She is indeed not just a woman of beauty but a woman of substance.

Dayum! She looked classy in that yellow dress

We have to give credit to these Caribbean queens since they reigned at Miss World’s most difficult times and they helped prime the Miss World Organization on future controversies and challenges. They also broke the race barrier in Miss World and the monopoly of European countries winning the crown. They are living testaments that you don’t have to be a model, or a delegate from a large, influential country to be a Miss World titleholder. These women had serious competition when they joined the pageant and may not be the most beautiful, but the judges saw what others failed to see. It’s really the inner personality that always shines through, a woman’s inner beauty, her innate class and her sincere desire and commitment to make a difference in the world and be the bridge between the people and the Miss World Organization.

Indeed feminists owe them an apology, for they are not stereotypical beauty queens, they are beauties with a purpose.

Thank you. Happy reading!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Miss International – India’s Achilles Heel or Just a Case of Misdirected Priorities?

"If I’m a beautiful woman, I am beautiful in many ways." – Nafisa Ali, Miss International 1976 2nd Runner-up

Since its inception in 1959 as a separate pageant from Miss Universe, the Miss International Beauty Pageant aims to select Goodwill Ambassadors who would advocate its vision of achieving world peace through mutual understanding by promoting people-to-people and cultural exchanges.

5 Miss Worlds, 2 Miss Universes, 1 Miss Earth, – India’s achievements in the international beauty pageant scene are stellar, thus pageant experts classify it as one of the Beauty Pageant Powerhouses in the world. Owing to their Aryan and Dravidian lineage, with a sprinkling of British, French and Portuguese ancestry, Indians have a look which is uniquely their own. Indian beauty queens are known for their exquisite faces, their runway skills and their eloquence which makes them formidable opponents once they enter the latter stages of a competition. Such was the success of the Indians in the 1990s that they were able to accomplish a back to back victory in Miss World (1999-2000) and they were able to win 2 big 4 crowns in the same year, 1994 and 2000, respectively. Magali Febles, the National Director of Miss Dominican Republic Universe allegedly said in an informal interview “if you want to win, never let an Indian girl enter the top 5.”

Oddly enough, despite its participation in the Miss International Pageant since 1960, it seems that the title is proving to be very elusive to the beauties from the Indian sub-continent. Currently, 3 1st runners-up, 3 2nd runners-up and 12 semifinalists make up India's tally at Miss International. Despite designating a titleholder to compete since 2010, India is still searching for that special girl who will win the fur-trimmed coronet and enter the elite club of countries who have won all of the Big 4 crowns at least once. So far, only Brazil and Venezuela are in this club. Here are the 11 countries that are on the verge and the title that they need to secure:

Australia - Earth
USA - Earth
Finland - Earth
Germany - Earth
Argentina - Earth
Netherlands- Earth
France - Earth
Puerto Rico – Earth
Greece - Earth
Philippines - World
India - International

However, we should remember that India did not send delegates to Miss International in 1963 -1967, 1972, 1977, 1989 and 1990. In their absence in 1964, Philippines won the title and earned the distinction of being the first Asian country to capture the title. Oddly enough, there was no pageant in 1966, when India won its first Miss World through Reita Faria.

Here are India’s Miss International top 15 placements over the years:

A kaleidoscope of beauties represented India through the years.

1968 Sumita Sen
1970 Patricia D'Souza
1984 Nalanda Ravindra Bhandar
1987 Erika Maria de Souza
1991 Preeti Mankotia
1993 Pooja Batra
2000 Gayatri Joshi
2001 Kanwal Toor
2004 Mihika Verma
2006 Sonali Sehgal
2010 Neha Hinge
2012 Rochelle Maria Rao

Now let’s give a sharper focus to India’s top 3 finishers:

1960 – Iona Pinto – 1st runner-up

The smile-a-thon silver medalist

Winner – Stella Marquez Zawadsky – Colombia
Miss Photogenic – Sigridur Geirsdottir - Iceland

Stella captured the price with her unwavering smile.

India created a stir on its first participation by sending the elegant Iona Pinto. The judges were so enamored by her beauty she was locked in a tie with pageant veteran Stella Marquez of Colombia who was a semi-finalist in Miss Universe earlier that year. The judges decided to let the top 5 stand on the stage form 10 minutes and try to observe flaws. In the end they saw Iona very briefly stop smiling, and decided to deduct half a point from her score. As Victor Melling said in Miss Congeniality “Smilers wear a crown, losers wear a frown.” In the end of this “smile-a-thon” Miss Colombia was victorious and was crowned as the first Miss International and everything else was history.

RIP Miss Pinto

Iona became a household name in her native India as a very successful model and had a very fruitful married life as well. On June 2012, Ms. Pinto succumbed to cancer, but is forever remembered as one of India’s beauty icons.

1975- Indira Maria Bredemeyer 2nd RUNNER UP

Indira was a knockout in a printed swimsuit
Winner: Lidija Vera Manic – Yugoslavia
Miss Photogenic: Isabelle Krumacker – France

Pageant veterans Lidija and Isabelle reigned supreme that night.

In 1975, Indira had to contend with a tough year, when she competed with several pageant veterans:

Miss Germany
Miss Austria
Miss Malta
Miss France
Miss Yugoslavia

In the end, the judges elected brown-haired Lidija as Miss International 1975, getting her country’s first Big 4 crown. Indira did her country proud by finishing 3rd, getting the highest placement among the Asians in the top 15.

1976- NAFISA ALI 2nd runner up

Many thought that she was robbed of the crown.

Winner: Sophie Sonia Perin – France
Miss Photogenic: Elvira Botempo - Austria

3rd time’s the charm for Sophie

India had another year to celebrate as the stunning Nafisa Ali brought the country back in the top 5, placing 3rd. Miss France Sophie Perin, a veteran from Miss Universe and Miss World the previous year, finally had her major title.

Still stunning even with graying hair

Perhaps the most popular Miss India to International to date, Nafisa later became famous in India not just for being an actress and wife to Col. RS Sodhi and mother to 3 children, but for her social advocacies. She worked tirelessly in HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness campaigns and started Ashraya –a care home for HIV/AIDS and TB infected patients. She was also was a major part of the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi and was the official government delegate for the 49th UN summit on the Status of Women. She was also a one-time congress candidate from 23 South Kolkata Parliamentary Constituency.

Diya Abraham 1st RUNNER UP

Beautiful Dia almost got the crown

Winner: Consuelo Adler –Venezuela
Miss Photogenic: Consuelo Adler - Venezuela

Her photogenic face soon earned her campaigns in New York

The night was a date with destiny indeed for the fabulous Consuelo Adler of Venezuela. Already a winner as Miss Photogenic in her national pageant, Consuelo also won the same award and later the Miss International title. However, copper-skinned runner-up Diya is also another interesting story. Coming from a middle-class family, Diya was discovered while accompanying her elder sister to photoshoots. Upon her parents’ encouragement she entered and became a finalist at the 1995 Femina Look of the Year and later placed 4th in the 1997 Femina Miss India earning the right to represent her country in Miss International. Her winsome smile, elegant stance and long legs helped her win 2nd place and $10,000 which she placed in a fixed deposit.

She is Nick’s one and only Miss

Since then Diya became one of Bangalore’s successful models. In 2004 she married graphic designer Nicholas Boney in Sydney.

1998 Shvetha Jaishankar 2nd RUNNER UP

Her long legs wowed the judges

Winner: Lia Victoria Borrero – Panama
Miss Photogenic: Daniela Kosan Montcourt - Venezuela

Defenitely it was Lia's night

Shvetha may have grabbed the headlines in her country after finishing 3rd behind Miss Universe 1997 Top 5 finalist Lia Victoria Borrero of Panama and Miss Photogenic Daniela Kosan of Venezuela but her personal life later would grab more of the media’s attention as it got intertwined with another beauty queen, Miss Universe 2000 Lara Dutta.

Shvetha got the Bangalore flat, Lara got the guy.

After her 7-year marriage to Indian tennis star Mahesh Bhupathi formally ended in mid-July 2010, it was said to be one of the costliest celebrity divorces. As part of the deal, Shvetha got to keep their flat in the upmarket Langford Gardens in Bangalore. Later Shvetha would speak for the first time about the failed marriage and divorce, claiming that Mahesh met Lara as a client in their sports and celebrity management company Globosport and she believed their relationship started before their marriage ended and started going out publicly even when their divorce was not yet finalized. After her divorce she stayed with her parents in Chennai where she met her future husband, businessman Raghu Kailas, whom she married last year, a day after ex-husband Mahesh and Lara’s well-publicized wedding.

2003 SHONALI NAGRANI 1st runner up

Stunning in red sari

Winner: Goizeder Azua Barrios – Venezuela
Miss Photogenic: Goizeder Azua Barrios - Venezuela

It was Goizeder's revenge after Miss World 2002

Delhi-born beauty Shonali finished 2nd in the 2003 edition behind Miss World 2002 Top 10 finalist Goizeder Azua Barrios who was also the night’s Miss Photogenic awardee.

Shonali later on became an actress and TV presenter. In 2012 she got engaged to musician Shiraz Bhattacharya.

Happy with a Bengali

Personal Analysis

If you would look closely the Miss India top 3 finishers lost only to these women:

• Previous entrants to other big 4 pageants
• Miss Photogenic winners

Clearly, Miss International has always crowned a beautiful face no matter what ethnicity the girl has and it is something that India has to take note when choosing their Miss International representative. In the Miss International arena, you don’t need a fierce catwalk, or a fashion forward gown. Claims of Miss International being a “racist” pageant is out of the question. If it were racist, there would have been no non-caucasian delegates to be allowed to compete. Recent winners Precious Lara Quigaman, Jeymmy Vargas and Elizabeth Mosquera are testaments that Miss International also crowns non-Caucasian beauties. IMHO, there has been a conflict of priorities as India has been fixated in getting its third Miss Universe title and in the process the other girls who would have found success in other pageants such as Miss International have been “wasted”. Since Shilpa Singh already ended India’s very brief dry spell in Miss Universe, the greater task should be to win Miss International, where the India’s REAL drought is.

The future holds hope as 2013 year marks the 50th anniversary of Femina Miss India. It is projected that there will be 7 regional winners and 27 other girls who will come from auditions in Mumbai. With a better understanding of the sensibilities of the International Culture Association, it won’t be too long than an Indian stunner would be wearing the fur-lined pearl coronet. I believe that the Indian woman is truly beautiful in many ways, and coming from a multilingual and multicultural country, would be a great ambassador to promote cultural exchange and worldwide understanding.

2 girls who IMO might win India's 1st MI crown

I see the MI judges responding positively to her beauty

I've heard so much about her. I believe she can win this title for India


These are just my personal views. Clarifications were welcome.
Special thanks to Roopesh for his insights on Femina Miss India.