ALWAYS THE BRIDESMAID BUT NEVER THE BRIDE – THE CURIOUS CASE OF THE UNITED KINGDOM IN MISS UNIVERSE

Someone asked me why I love following beauty pageants, especially Miss Universe. I could’ve answered that it’s my hobby and just dropped the conversation, instead, I answered that a beauty pageant is one of the best ways to observe history. Pageants reflect society’s ever-changing perception of women and beauty. Through the years, we also saw how beauty pageants paved the way for the breakdown of racism. We see nations to rise and fall. We saw the rise and fall of communism. We saw nations change names, assimilate other territories and change governments. Later we saw the rise and fall of major media corporations and how the beauty pageant industry has asserted itself as a big business in terms of advertising, show business and fashion. As every disgruntled non-placer claims, indeed, the beauty pageant industry was also not spared by politics.If one would analyze, several of the countries that excelled in Miss Universe were the major players in world history – USA, France, Germany, Japan and the United Kingdom. Of course we know that the United States has 8 Miss Universes, France has 1, Japan has 2, and Germany has 1. However, the United Kingdom has, so far in its successful participation rate, has … none? In this feature we will see how the English Rose has fared in Miss Universe.The most successful non-winning country with nine top-five positions, the United Kingdom (including England, Scotland and Wales) has participated in Miss Universe since 1952.1952
Delegate: Aileen Chase/England (unplaced)
Winner: Armi Kuusela/Finland

A 4th runner-up finish in Miss World the previous year inspired Aileen Chase to compete in the first edition of Miss Universe. With the line-up of delegates more diverse than Miss World, the results were different. Armi Kuusela of Finland won the crown while Aileen went unplaced. It was noted that a disgruntled Miss Italy was quoted that the contest was rigged in favor of Armi to promote the Olympics that year in Helsinki, that Miss Hawaii was given the 1st runner-up position to entice the island to accept US statehood, and Miss Hong Kong finished 3rd runner-up to assure Asians that there was no prejudice against them. Of course they were just baseless claims. Hawaii joined the union much later (1959), Hong Kong would amass a total of 6 placements before being reintegrated into the Miss China Universe pageant, and no one could contest beautiful Armi’s victory whose heart was torn between accepting her crown and going back to Helsinki to be part of the welcoming committee to the athletes.

1955
Delegate: Margaret Rowe/England
Winner: Hillevi Rombin/Sweden

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In a period where beauty was determined by numbers, Margaret Rowe’s body measurements (37-24-37) were not within the English standard. It was later quoted that the Miss England judges, hoping to get their first placement, thought that the typical, gentle English beauty paled side by side with the girls from other nations and decided to elect Miss Rowe instead. Their risky choice was worth it as Margaret was not only the most popular in parade, but one of the semifinalists as well.

1956
Iris Alice Kathleen Waller/England – 3rd runner-up
Winner – Carol Ann Laverne Morris/USA

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It was a year of achievements as Iris Waller finished 3rd runner-up and gave England its first experience in the Miss Universe podium. Germany got its highest placement as Marina Orschel was 1st runner-up to Carol Morris, who made the USA the first ever country to have more than one titleholder that year.

1957
Sonia Hamilton/England 2nd-runner up
Winner: Gladys Zender/Peru

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Silencing the recurring outbursts of discrimination from Latina contestants, Peruana charmer Gladys Zender became the first Latina Miss Universe and the youngest in history. Sonia Hamilton likewise made sure that English beauty is well represented when she finished 3rd.

1959
Pamela Anne Searle/England – 3rd runner-up
Winner: Akiko Kojima/Japan

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Akiko Kojima’s victory brought Asian beauty center stage showing that Miss Universe recognizes the diversity of beauty. The English beauty was not far behind with Pamela finishing taking 3rd runner-up and Miss Photogenic honors.

1960
Joan Ellinor Boardman/England – semifinalist
Winner: Linda Jeanne Bement/ USA

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Joan kept the flame going for England by finishing as a semifinalist. It was interesting to note that her co-semifinalist and top 3 favorite as measured by Miami Herald’s “applause meter” Stella Marquez of Colombia later became the 1st Miss International.

1961
Rosemarie Frankland/Wales – 1st runner-up
Arlette Dobson/England – 3rd runner-up
Susan Jones/ Scotland – semifinalist
Winner: Marlene Schmidt/Germany

1961

1961 started the participation of other states/principalities of England, Wales and Scotland and it was their most successful year as all 3 entrants placed. A veteran of beauty contests in her hometown, Rosemarie tried her luck in Miss World and won. In contrast to the celebration of the English beauties’ success, Marlene’s victory was received in Germany with lukewarm response. She got little press coverage and the population in general was not impressed.

Special Note: Although England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have had separate representatives in other international pageants, Miss World did not allow this until the creation of separate Parliaments in the United Kingdom.

1962
Kim Carlton/England – semifinalist
Winner: Norma Nolan/Argentina

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Shown here in her national costume, Kim Carlton was the first delegate to win both the Miss Photogenic and Best in National Costume awards. This is another year of firsts as Jewish-Argentinian beauty Norma Nolan was crowned as the most beautiful woman in the universe. Lovely Evelyn Miott, who loves to dance the twist, did the previously impossible by becoming the first black semifinalist in the history of the pageant. Like the earlier years, no alterations of any kind were allowed on contestants’’ appearance, even corsets and spray-on hair dyes. Times have indeed changed and contestants nowadays not only use corsets and hair dyes to alter their appearance, they can also be natural born men made women through surgery and public documents.

Special Note: In 1963, Susan Pratt of England got hit by a car and was unable to compete in the finals. That’s one less competition for Ieda Maria Vargas of Brazil as she became her country’s 1st titleholder that year, and Korea’s Kim Myoung Ja who gave her country its first runner-up finish.

1964
Brenda Blackler/England – 1st runner-up
Greece – Corinna Tsopei

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England came very close to the crown again but it was Greek beauty Corrina Tsopei’s moment as she became her country’s first and only Miss Universe to date. Meanwhile, it was reported that Miss Scotland Doreen Swan walked out of the competition, only to be discovered that she accepted a marriage proposal from her boyfriend Watt Nicoll.

1966
Janice Carol Whiteman/England – semifinalist
Winner: Margareta Arvidsson/Sweden

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Janice Whiteman managed to get into the semifinals in the year that was one of the most competitive, as Sweden got its 2nd title; Thailand got its 2nd consecutive top 5 finish as 2nd runner-up after winning the previous year and Finland’s 2nd of its 5 consecutive top 5 finishes which ended in 1970.

1967
Jennifer Lyn Lewis/England – 2nd runner-up
Denise Elizabeth Page/Wales – semifinalist
Winner: Sylvia Hitchcock/USA

1967

For the first time in the pageant’s history, delegates were allowed to wear hair extensions. Padded bras were still not allowed. Busty Miss Scotland Lena McGarvie (38-24-36) was allegedly too shy to put on a bikini due to malfunctions especially in the bikini top. Well, at least she doesn’t need to use padding to win Miss Photogenic.

1968
Jennifer Lowe Summers/England – semifinalist
Winner: Martha Vasconcellos/Brazil

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Jennifer got into the semifinalist in the year that a black beauty’s presence in international pageants was more felt. Curacao’s Anne Marie Braafheid continued what Evelyn Miott started and finished 1st runner-up (a feat later to be completed by Jennifer Hosten of Grenada, who won as Miss World in 1970). Brazil joined the elite club of multiple titleholders with Martha’s victory.

1971
Marilyn Ann Ward/England – semifinalist
Winner: Georgina Rizk/Lebanon

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Despite her measurements (36-24-36), Marilyn was too modest and thought her chances were slim. I doubt she would say that again after she was called as a semifinalist. However, her measurements were not enough to propel her to the top 5 and it was Lebanese beauty Georgina Rizk who walked away with the title.

1972
Jennifer McAdam/England – 2nd runner-up
Winner: Kerry Ann Wells/Australia

1972

While the delegates were having the time of their lives inside, outside; 400 members of the Puerto Rican Socialist Party were protesting against the pageant, accusing it of exploiting women, and measuring them like cows. Well, the pageant went through as scheduled, and Kerry Ann Wells was elected as the most beautiful “cow” that night while the English “cow” Jenny finished in 5th place. LOL
Special note: During the 1973 edition, Miss Colombia allegedly quipped that the European contestants were “pretty but smelly”. Are the British delegates among them? We don’t know for sure, but seeing that they didn’t place makes me think twice.

1974
Helen Elizabeth Morgan/Wales – 1st runner-up
Kathleen Ann Anders/England – semifinalist
Winner: Amparo Munoz/Spain

1974

English beauties came on strong again but not strong enough to get the crown. Spanish stunner AMparo Munoz won the title but later resigned. Helen, as her first runner-up was not able to take over as she was busy fulfilling her duties as the new Miss World that same year. The position was not offered to the 2nd runner-up and Ms. Munoz is still officially a former Miss Universe.

1975
Vicki Harris/England – semifinalist
Winner: Ann Marie Pohtamo/Finland

1975

Inspired by her placement, Vicki later joined and placed 3rd in Miss World 1975. Two of her fellow delegates must’ve also felt otherwise and competed in Miss International where they got successful. Miss Yugoslavia became Miss International 1976 while Miss France became Miss International 1975. Others followed suit, some placed other did not. Ann validated Finland’s beauty powerhouse status by winning the title for the 2nd time.

1976
Sian Adey-Jones/Wales – 2nd runner-up
Carol Jean Grant /Scotland – 3rd runner up
Pauline Davis/England – semifinalist
Winner: Rina Messinger/Israel

1976

British enclave Hong Kong was a place where once again, all the English girls placed, with the sweet Israeli Rina Messinger ultimately winning the top prize. It was reported that some contestants, notable Miss Samoa and Miss Philippines protested to being obliged to attend parties given by sponsors of the pageant. Well, it seems Rina and the English girls don’t mind partying at all.

1977
Sandra Bell/Scotland – 2nd runner-up
Winner: Janelle Comissiong/Trinidad and Tobago

1977

Gossip mills revealed that one judge prefers the new queen to be pretty but not dumb. Incidentally, several delegates didn’t make it to New York for Miss Universe Day, as allegedly mentioned by one chaperon. Five got lost with one failing to change planes in LA and reached Tokyo by mistake. It’s a good thing Sandra was intelligent enough to correctly switch planes and get there in time to compete, get 3rd place and be a part of history as Miss Universe crowns its first black queen.

1979
Carolyn Seaward/England – 2nd runner-up
Lorraine Davidson/Scotland – semifinalist
Janet Beverly Hobson/Wales – semifinalist
Winner: Maritza Sayalero/Venezuela

1979

Despite the picketing of feminists outside asking “why can’t a female truck driver be Miss Universe?”, the pageant went through as usual and the world saw the rise of Venezuela as Maritza Sayalero won their first title. Carolyn was one of those unfortunate well-wishers who fell into the hole when the stage collapsed that fateful night. Being a beauty queen is not all glamour and I’m pretty sure a female truck drive will also find it difficult to wear a sequined gown and crawl out of a hole.

1980
Linda Gallagher/ Scotland – 1st runner-up
Winner: Shawn Weatherly/USA

1980

This year yet another English beauty came very close to the crown only to lose it to her roommate. It was reported that Linda had to switch dresses when she saw Shawn’s spectacular beaded gown delivered in their room. Despite the switch, Shawn was unbeatable in the finals and enjoyed a comfortable lead from the rest. Linda has to settle for 2nd place.

1982
Della Frances Dolan/England – semifinalist
Winner: Karen Dianne Baldwin/ Canada

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Della managed to get into the semifinals but was not able to advance further, just like early frontrunner Odette Scrooby of South Africa who was given a surprisingly low score in the swimsuit. With one less beauty to compete with, Karen won Canada’s first title and the petite Patty Kerkos got Guam’s highest placement by finishing 1st runner-up.

1983
Karen Moore/England – 4th runner-up
Winner: Lorraine Downes/New Zealand

1983

During pageant night, 200 protesters from the Coalition of Women and Supporters (COWs) did not cause the pageant a hitch as Loraine Downes claimed the title for New Zealand. Karen Moore finished 5th but sadly, this is the last time that another English beauty will be called as a semifinalist.

From 1991 to present Miss Universe Great Britain selects the delegate to Miss Universe, to no avail as they were all unplaced. Somehow, 2nd runner-up from the 2009 national pageant Alize Lily Mounter competed in other pageants and was more successful, finishing top 7 in Miss World 2011 and top 15 in Miss International 2012.

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It’s not that the magic died, but somehow it has weakened. Beauty pageants are no longer popular in the United Kingdom. Even Miss World is not shown live in mainstream TV stations anymore. What could be the reason? Was there a shift in the fickle attention of the English population?

Since the late 80s, London has become one of the fashion capitals of world and one major stopover of aspiring models from all over Europe. The modeling business became lucrative and the look that works in beauty pageants is not in sync with what the fashion industry demands. Throughout this process came the rise of the supermodel, a model with a superstar status who can sell a whole line, and who’s lifestyle can inspire a whole generation. Girls no longer dream of becoming beauty queens, they want to emulate supermodels, the way they dress, even their bodies with results in the rise of eating disorders.

So far England has produced two globally recognizable supermodels:

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Naomi Campbell

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Kate Moss

Recently Naomi and Kate led a model march as part of the closing ceremonies of the 2012 London Olympics.

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In a similar fashion, the host of the next Olympiad, Brazil, in its special presentation that night showcased their signature carnival with their own supermodel, Alessanda Ambrosio as main attraction.
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Most recently Miss Great Britain Amy Willerton advanced as fas as the Top 10 of Miss Universe 2013. Amy’s performance sure gives hope to pageant girls in her country. However, much is still to be done in terms of the girls’ training.
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Is the beauty queen’s time in the UK officially over or will it return to prominence in the future? No one knows for sure.
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