45th place – Marisol Malaret (Puerto Rico)
(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)
The 19th edition of Miss Universe, and the first of the 1970’s, happened at the Miami Beach Auditorium, in Miami Beach, USA, with 64 participant countries. Puerto Rico, a territory which up to that point had not had a single semi-finalist in Miss Universe, surprisingly won the title with Marisol Malaret. It was the beginning of a history of success for the Caribbean island in the American based international pageant.
Before arriving in Florida, all contestants visited the Expo 1970, in Osaka, Japan. When they finally arrived in sunny Miami Beach, one delegate popped out as the evident winner for 1970: Debbie Shelton of the United States. With her incredible looks and radiant personality (she was loved by all and considered a huge favorite even among the delegates themselves), the American stunner was “the one (impossible) to beat”.
Others immediately noticed by press photographers who covered the pageant were Sweden, Australia, Czechoslovakia, Argentina, Denmark and Holland. Miss Czechoslovakia caught a lot of attention for being the first delegate from behind the “heavy Iron Curtain” to compete in Miss Universe. She was also very tall and outgoing.
After the preliminaries, the 10 contestants with the highest swimsuit scores were announced: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Czechoslovakia, Holland, Japan, Malaysia, Sweden, USA, and Puerto Rico, who up to that point had passed unnoticed. With perfect body statistics and great runway skills, Miss Puerto Rico suddenly became another option for the semi-finals. However, the favorite for the crown remain untouched: USA.
When the final event began, and the 15 semi-finalists were announced, there were two major surprised among those who did not make it: Miss Bermuda, elected ‘Miss Photogenic’ by press photographers, and Miss Holland, a favorite since the very beginning. Others who were somehow missed in the select group of semi-finalists were Spain (later elected Miss Europe 1970), Portugal, Peru, Colombia, Germany and France. ‘Powerhouses’ of the 1960’s, such as Finland, Israel, and Philippines, were also ‘left in the ice’.
Looking at those who made it, there were delightful “surprises” hailing from exotic lands for those times, such as Malaysia (only woman from Malaysia to have ever placed in Miss Universe up to date), Guam, Czechoslovakia, Puerto Rico (first ever from Puerto Rico to advance to the semi-finals) and Hong Kong. Completing the ‘top 15′, we had USA, Venezuela, Australia, Switzerland, Japan, Sweden, Argentina, Italy, Brazil, and Greece – 5 from the Americas, 5 from Asia/Pacific, and 5 from Europe.
Miss Japan was a prelude to what the Japanese delegates would be from the late 1990’s on: modern and ahead of her time, with great sense of humor and witty. Puerto Rico, who looked much better in person or on tv (she is possibly the least photogenic Miss Universe of all times) conquered the local crowd, and became a favorite, next to USA and Argentina.
The ‘top 5′ was a good one: Japan, Puerto Rico, USA, Australia and Argentina.
When Miss Argentina was announced as 4th runner-up, the Miami Beach Auditorium reacted badly. They expected more for Beatriz Martha Gross, considered by many the most beautiful Miss Argentina Universe of all times. Lovely Japan, Jun Shimada, was the 3rd runner-up; Australia, with Joan Lydia Zealand, was once again very close to the crown, but ended as 2nd runner-up. Puerto Rico and USA were left on stage, hand in hand.
“The 1st runner-up is… Miss USA, and the new Miss Universe is Miss Puerto Rico!”, announced Bob Barker. At first, not even Marisol could believe it, but the impossible had happened, and she was indeed Miss Universe 1970, nailing the first of 5 victories (so far) for her island, an unincorporated territory of the United States.
As for Debbie, bigger things expected her: the belle from Virginia made frequent guest appearances on television shows such as Fantasy Island, The A-Team, T. J. Hooker, The Fall Guy, Cheers, The Love Boat, Riptide, and Get a Life, until she played the role of her life, which made her famous around the globe, Mandy Winger, one of J. R. Ewing’s more memorable mistresses in Dallas. In 2008 she was cast to play a rich housewife in the American TV series Nip/Tuck.
After completing her reign as Miss Universe, Malaret became and still remains a very popular public figure in Puerto Rico, becoming a TV show host, radio personality and magazine editor.
Two things are for sure: Marisol is, and probably will be, the most natural beauty from Puerto Rico to win the Miss Universe crown, and, had Debbie Shelton won, she would certainly be on the top of this list!
Special thanks to Alberto Dubal for his valuable contribution!