55th place – Gloria Diaz (Philippines)
(Our judges are: Greg Borowski, Willian Prendiz de Jurado, Edwin Toledo (Times of Beauty), Ricardo Guiraldes (Chilean Charm), Julio Rodriguez (Belleza Venezolana), Alberto Dubal (Miss Memorabilia), Jimmy Harris (Beauty School), Pepe Medel, Jean-Marie Vandecasteele, Andre Sleigh, Rose Foulger, Luis Trujillo. From GB, Ed Dominguez, Henrique Fontes, and Chris Kuntz)
In the year when the man first landed on the moon, the Woodstock Festival changed concepts of fashion, beauty, and behavior around the world, 18-year-old Gloria Diaz of the Philippines beat the odds and was crowned Miss Universe 1969, in Miami Beach, Florida, USA. It was the end of an era, and the beginning of a new one, and in that sense Miss Philippines’ election was very emblematic.
When the semifinalists were called, the major surprise was Gloria, the exotic underdog from the Philippines. Nobody could’ve predicted that she was moments away from being elected Miss Universe. The crowd and press huge favorite was Miss Australia, Joanne Barret, who finished as 2nd runner-up. In addition to Miss Australia, among the most applauded candidates were Misses Finland, Harriet Marita Eriksson, Brazil,Vera Fischer (a future actress who would perhaps become the most famous Miss Brazil of all times), Peru, Maria Julia Mantilla Mayer (aunt of Miss World 2004, Maria Julia Mantilla), Israel, Chava Levy (3rd runner-up), Chile, Monica Larson, Yugoslavia, Natasa Kosir, and Colombia, Margarita Maria Reyes Zawadsky.
When it was announced that Miss Finland, Harriet Marita Eriksson, was the 1st runner-up, and the short and odd beauty from the Philippines was Miss Universe 1969, there were more protests than applause among the shocked Miami Beach crowd attending the pageant. The international media heavily criticized Miss Philippines’ victory, but the Filipinos couldn’t care less, and celebrated their first Miss Universe victory for days.
For some, it was a political victory. The people of the Philippines were mostly unhappy with their participation in the Vietnam War (the government of the Philippines supported the US and sent troops to Vietnam) and showed it in public protests. Gloria’s Miss Universe victory could be a way of “calming their nerves”, once the Philippines is a nation with great appreciation for its beauty queens and their achievements.
For others, like our judge Alberto Dubal, Gloria’s victory came in good time, to break formerly established patterns and to give Miss Universe a more democratic and truly “universal” face. Dubal nicknamed Gloria “Miss Woodstock”.
Because the man first landed on the moon just a few days after the election of Miss Universe 1969, the pageant that year did not get as many newspapers’ headlines and magazine covers around the world as in previous years.
Diaz, the first Filipino and third Asian beauty to be crowned Miss Universe, became a major celebrity and a talented actress in her country. After 1969, the world (and Miss Universe) would never be the same…