27th place – Miss Universe 1968 – Martha Vasconcellos

27th place – Martha Vascocellos (Brazil)

(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)

For the first time since 1965, Miss Universe candidates did not travel to Brazil before going to Miami. The Europeans stopped by in New York, and the Asians spent some time in L.A., before they all gathered in sunny Miami Beach for the 17th edition of the Miss Universe pageant.

A tribute to Brazil in Miss U 68

The 1960’s was a decade characterized by radical political and cultural changes in most parts of the world. People fought for love, sexual freedom, the end of colonialism, peace, equal rights for all genders and races, which contrasted with the non-sense Vietnam War, for instance.

In that context, Miss Universe was considered an outdated event, produced for the American mid-class. However, it kept on growing in popularity outside the boarders of the US, and in 1968 sixty-five countries, a record number that would be broken only in 1975, participated in the pageant.

For the Miss U organizers, it was of not interest to modernize the pageant or to use it to promote the revolutions and protests which were taking place everywhere. However, contestants themselves started showing a different profile from previous years. If  most of them remained conservative, at least they lost that “movie star diva” air that they carried until the early 1960’s, and started acting more like models.

Beautiful Miss Finland: 3rd place

After 1966, some sort of “fashion revolution” took place in the world, new tendencies appeared, the feminine silhouette got to be more valued. Women of most nationalities started finding more space in their societies, and when it came to fashion, they started allowing themselves to show some more skin.

The first supermodels came to life and started dictating fashion tendencies, a trend that tended to grow in the upcoming decades. Glamour magazine published the first official list of supermodels, which included Twiggy, Cheryl Tiegs, Wilhelmina, Veruschka, Jean Shrimpton, Marisa Berenson, Benedetta Barzini, and the first black supermodel, Naomi Sims.

Bob Barker and semi-finalists

Beauty queens started adopting the models way of walking, talking, posing for photos. It was something new and cool, they wanted to use the pageant to become famous models themselves. In 1968, several candidates adopted the model style: Brazil, Chile, Venezuela, Curaçao, Nicaragua, USA, Canada, France, England, Wales, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Congo, Switzerland, South Africa, Austria, Greece, Italy, and Yugoslavia. However, the most model-like candidate in the group was Miss Curaçao.


Miss France (sf) and Miss Congo, a favorite among the contestants

Miss England, one of the most charming delegates in 1968, left her job as a sales clerk, to risk everything in beauty pageants: “If I win, I will make much more money than working in a supermarket”. Miss Sweden commented about her experience: “They told me it would be lots of work! And it looks they were right! But I love it! Even if I don’t win I would like to come back here to live and work as a model”!.

Miss Greece, the sexy and sophisticated Miranta Zafiropoulou, was great in her interview with Bob Barker. Many people thought she should’ve been a finalist. Miranta became an actress in Greece, and can be seen in television shows and movies even today.

Yugoslavia, elected Miss Photogenic, Malta, and Congo (Kinshasa), participated in Miss Universe for the first time. Okinawa participated for the last time.

Miss Yu: the most photogenic

Since her arrival in Miami Beach, the bombshell from Belgrade, Yugoslavia’s Daliborka Stojsić, caught the attention of press photographers, journalists, and people in general, not only for her undeniable beauty, but also for being the first candidate from the Communist block to compete in Miss Universe in the 1960’s. She was one of the favorites for the crown, along with Misses Brazil, Wales, Finland, Greece, England, and France. Misses USA, Israel, and South Africa, followed in a second group of favorites.

Elizabeth Tavares, the first Miss Congo in Miss Universe, was considered a favorite by most other contestants. They thought she was very elegant and beautiful, and that she had everything to become the first black Miss Universe. Miss Congo, however, never believed it could happen: “I come from a country most people don’t even know exists, and I don’t think they appreciate black beauties here”. She was right about not winning, as a matter of fact, she wasn’t even a semi-finalist. However, another black candidate was about to make history in 1968…

Preliminary top 15 in ss

Miss Brazil, Bahia’s own Martha Vasconcellos, was always the #1 favorite among the Latins. Her beautiful green eyes and perfect body statistics, granted her the favorite status. She was also news in local publications for always finding a way to take a nap, whenever she sat down, leaned on some other candidate’s shoulder, or even standing up!

Leena Marketta Brusin, the stunning Miss Finland, when told by a journalist that she could win, responded: “Are you joking?? All those girls are prettier than me!”. Leena was destined to win the Miss Europe title, later that year.

South Africa's daring dress!

Miss South Africa, Monica Fairall, watched television for the first time in her life in Miami. It had not yet arrived in her country. The South African blonde caused sensation in the preliminary evening gown competition, wearing a daring dress “with its back cut as far below the waist as the law allows, even lower than her backless bathing suit”. Although she was one of the most applauded girls that night, her name was not called among the semi-finalists. Even Sylvia Hitchicock, Miss Universe 1967, tried to convince her not to wear it, but it was useless. “I’ve made quite a sensation, it was worth it”. Indeed, Miss South Africa’s daring move, which might have cost her a spot among the semi-finalists, was the closest thing to what the 1960’s represented in the “real universe”: she dared!

The top 15 in the preliminary swimsuit competition were  Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Curacao, England , France, Israel, Korea, Nicaragua, Norway, South Africa, Sweden, Thailand, USA , and Yugoslavia. Out of the 15, only Bolivia, Korea, Nicaragua, and South Africa would not advance to the semi-finals at the final event. Miss Nicaragua was a finalist in Miss World that same year, finishing as 6th runner-up. Miss South Africa would be a Miss World semi-finalist a couple of years later.

The theme production of Miss Universe 1968 was South American Extravaganza, but in reality, coincidence or not, it was a tribute to Brazil. The candidates sang songs like “Mais que nada” and other Bossa Nova titles in Portuguese!

Miss Brazil, Martha Vasconcellos

The names of the 15 semi-finalists were announced: Venezuela, U.S.A., Greece, Yugoslavia, Chile, Israel, Canada, Norway, Curacao, Thailand, England, Brazil, Finland, France and Sweden. Misses South Africa and Wales were the only “big misses” of that year, and it was a very competitive group of semi-finalists. Miss Japan, chosen as Miss Amity by the other contestants, cried a river when she learned that she was not in the semi-finals.

Peggy Kopp, Miss Venezuela, opened the swimsuit parade with much grace and presence. Her exclusion from the preliminary swimsuit top 15 had been a hot topic of conversation among people after the presentation show. That night, however, she gave her very best, and suddenly became a favorite for the crown. Another stand out was Miss Curaçao. The black Caribbean beauty charmed the audience (and the judges) walking the runway like a true supermodel. Miss Chile, one of the surprises in the top 15, did a very good job, and so did Misses Finland, USA, Israel, and Yugoslavia. Miss Brazil also did an excellent job, showing maximum confidence, and being applauded by over 800 Brazilians present at the Miami Beach Convention Center from the beginning until the end of her presentation!

Misses Brazil and Curaçao minutes before the final announcement

In evening gowns, the candidates from Venezuela, Greece, Curaçao, Finland, and Brazil, all did a great job. Miss England was the sexiest. Miss Yugoslavia, perhaps the #1 favorite when the pageant started, was not among the best on the runway, and at the point, many people suspected that she would not even reach the top 5. Miss Brazil wore a violet blue see-through gown, and she had to borrow Miss France’s hostess used panties, since hers had disappeared!

The top 5 finalists were announced: USA, Brazil, Finland, Venezuela, and Curaçao. For the first time in Miss Universe history, a black candidate had reached the pageant’s final stage of competition.  Anne Marie Braafheid made history that night in Miami Beach.

After the final round of questions, Misses Curaçao and Venezuela gave the best answers, while Miss Brazil could not answer hers – simply saying: “I can’t speak”. Nowadays, it would certainly have cost her the crown!

Miss USA was the 4th runner-up, Miss Venezuela was the 3rd runner-up, and Miss Finland was the 2nd runner-up.

Misses Curaçao and Brazil were left on stage, and the world wondered if a first black Miss Universe was about to be crowned! “The first runner-up is Miss Curaçao, Miss Universe 1968 is Miss Brazil!”, Bob Barker announced.

Miss Curaçao: making history as 1st runner-up

Although Miss Curaçao did not win, her placement represented a huge step stone for black women, who realized they could do well in the pageant.

The Brazilian themed-pageant ended with a Brazilian winner.

In Brazil, especially in her native Salvador, capital of Bahia, the second woman to be crowned Miss Universe was welcomed like a true queen.

Martha was a controversial woman. Anamaria Cumba, the Brazilian  chaperone (actually from Bahia, Martha’s state) who wrote the book “The World of Miss Universe”, did not have many good things to say about Vanconcellos. In Cumba’s own words, Miss Brazil was still sleeping when all other contestants were up for registration in the first official day of competition: “”Miss Brazil is a spoiled brat – wait till you see her. The first thing she did after she arrived was to order a big meal and wash her long hair; then she took one of the beds for herself. There is a woman who came with her (the daughter of the Governor of Bahia), and she has been bossing me around. She is driving me crazy!”, Cumba was told by another chaperone.

The winner

Cumba said that Martha was a very difficult Miss Universe to work with, who gave Miss Universe organizers many headaches. She ended the chapter on Miss U 1968 by saying: “Martha joined the pageant strictly to market her beauty. She needed money to get married and the only way to get it was to take advantage of her merchandise. That was her then… If you got it… flaunt it!
On July 20, 1969, when she crowned Gloria Diaz from the Philippines as her successor, it was the happiest day of the year for me!”.

Conversely, the Brazilian press always described Martha as an intelligent woman, who spoke fluent English, and was always friendly and ready to make new friendships.

Vasconcellos today leads a quiet and private life, practically disappearing from the public eye. She has two children from her first wedding to Reinaldo Loureiro: Leonardo and Leilane. She is currently living in the Boston, USA, where she studied Psychology.

Special thanks to Alberto Dubal for his valuable contribution!


Martha Vasconcellos: a 2nd crown for Brazil!

Top 5: Venezuela (4th), Curaçao (2nd), Brazil (1st), Finland (3rd), USA (5th)

Miss Universe 1968

53 comments to 27th place – Miss Universe 1968 – Martha Vasconcellos

  • Ken

    Look at who give out a 8.00 again (!!) Anyway, it is a fair ranking to Martha. It is very tough to rank these winners, so GB is doing the daring gutsy job that nobody else will probably want to do. Peace.

  • Jay

    Another South American down:(, anyway, Martha was fairly ranked, I’m glad she is in the upper half.

  • Leo

    Wait she actually said she couldn’t speak when she was interviewed?. I had always defended her but I’m going to have to agree with her detractors and say is she very overrated!

    • Lily

      I suppose she’s okay… but I didn’t think she was all that and thought this ranking of hers was pretty high. That is my opinion.

  • Kate

    Martha Vasconcellos ranked 7th in GB’s 2001 contest.

  • Elmonje88

    bonita pero X…..como esta mujer va a ser más bella que Irene Saez o Yvonne Ryding???…

  • Anaxagoras

    Would’ve loved Curacao had won!!! People would be having a hard time ranking her and Janelle Commisiong for sure, both are exquisite women!!! Martha was and still a great beauty!!!
    Loved Venezuela, a REAL beauty, she was gorgeous !!!

    • Baron of the Plumblake

      Martha is one of my favourites for Miss Universe winner, ranked 14th on my list. What`s your point of making comparisons between Miss Curacao and Janelle Commissiong?

      • Anaxagoras

        I do love Martha. She’s gorgeous and a real natural beauty. I’m not comparing her with Anne Marie Braafheid neither with Janelle Comissiong ( and I forgot to mention Mpule and Wendy, because they are already ranked). I was just trying to imagine what would it be if Anne had won in 1967 and if history had kept it’s way, there would be another gorgeous ebony godess and surely people would had found difficult to rank them. I didn’t make an comment of showing any dissapointment or anger about her winning !!!



  • dilip indian

    i think due to her brazil never again won mu crown.and now i am sure that 2 ranking will go to justine pasek and 1 place will go to oxana,so that gb has to give only one anecdote notes.theres no reason of justine still being in the race

  • Eloy

    Curaçao should had being the first black Miss Universe !!! REGAL!!
    BEAUTIFUL Finland as second option and just recently fell in love with the beauty and sparks of Miss Venezuela!!
    Brazil didn’t even answer the question…NO NO NO.
    Hopefully the next ones to go will be: Corina Tsopei, Anne Marie Pohtamo, Justine Pasek, Mona Grudt

  • Felipe

    I guess this 27th place to Martha is fair. I agree that Corina should be the next in line together with Cecilia. I particularly don’t like Shawn and would also rank her right after.

  • Felipe

    I do not know the judges’ ages , but my intuitio says that most of them are over their 40’s , then I’m expecting to see a bunch of MU from the “old times” in good positions in the rank.

  • MikeDS

    Anne-Marie Braafheid is one of my all-time favourite Miss Universe contestants and my pick for the 1968 crown. Martha Vasconcellos is beautiful, but to be honest I prefer Brazil’s other Miss Universe (Ieda Maria Vargas) over her. I also really like Misses Finland and Venezuela in 1968. And I agree with the people who felt that Greece should have been among the top 5 – she was a stunning beauty and I loved her interview with Bob Barker.

    Of course, I would have loved to see my own country’s delegate (South Africa) among the semi-finalists. She was really beautiful and I applaud her boldness in the evening gown competition. It’s funny to think that some 30-40 years later, low-cut backs would be praised on delegates like Diana Nogueira and Cindy Nell! On a sad note, I should point out that South Africa’s delegate to Miss Universe 1968 passed away in 2009 from myeloma (cancer of the blood). May she rest in peace…

    Once again, thank you to Global Beauties for bringing us this contest and for all the interesting tidbits of information in your write-ups for each year. Sure, we may not all agree on the rankings all the time, but that’s one of the things that makes being a pageant fan so much fun! :-)

  • Edison

    Totally agreed with Dominguez, I give her 8.00. Where is Panama 2002, again?

  • KL

    Miss Curacao should have won, but the judges back then just didn’t have the guts to pick her.

    And where did that picture of Marta (third next to last) came from? The quality is fantastic, looks like it could’ve been taken yesterday.

  • prinpoleon

    now i see this pictures from martha vasconcellos and is more beautiful than i remember i my ranking she place 37 the 27 place is for mona grudt from norway :)

  • Aster21


    • licenciado

      y Ximena Navarrete debio haber aparecido igual, Ivonne Ryding es mucho mejor y ya salio…creo que el hecho de que aun no salga es por que es la actual Miss Universo.

  • Antorcha

    Beautiful Martha Vasconcellos from Brazil!! Congratulations to her for finishing 27th but from her elimination, this means that Australia is the only multi-winning country left as Kerry-Anne and Jennifer could both be in top 25 – fantastic placing for the great Land Down Under!!

    I still think Oxana, Natalie, Angela, and Anne-Marie will be the final 4 but Shawn is flying under the radar as she hasn’t been mentioned much. I would be surprised if Oxana is not Most Beautiful MU but would not be surprised if gorgeous stunning Shawn is in top 5. Go USA!!

    • Jason

      Antorcha, what do you mean with Australia is the only multi-winning country left?. Venezuela has 4 winners left. I really hope Oxana does not win, my bet is on Natalie :).

      • Melinda

        Oxana is light years more beautiful than Natalie. No question about it.

        • Jason

          Hi Melinda…I disagree, I think they’re both gorgeous, but Natalie has a more endearing, sweet charm to her.

          • Melinda

            I disagree. Aside from her eyes, I find Natalie’s face awkward. She has had multiple facial surgeries and her face still comes across as odd in some angles (mainly the cheeks, nose, chin area). I thought she was one of the least photogenic women crowned this decade. She will forever be my Miss Unviverse from the neck down.

  • Elmonje88

    estoy de acuerdo con Aster21……………………………………………………………..

  • Jason

    With Martha out, that makes 3 top ten finalists in GB’s 2001 ranking out of the competition. Back then, Yvonne was #3, Sushmita #5 and Martha #7.

  • Antorcha

    Jason – Natalie certainly is a great bet to win. I clarify by multi-winning countries, who haven’t had a winner eliminated yet. Shawn, Janelle, Denise, Lara, Ieda Maria, Margaret A., Anne-Marie, and the 4 Venezuelansalready have had countrywomen winners eliminated , except Australia.

  • Tina

    Martha’s missing panties are probably dangling from the finial of Armi Kuusela’s trophy in William Prendiz de Jurado’s house! lol jks

  • Lily

    Jason, I was about to say the same thing. 3 top ten finalist in GB’s 2001 ranking are out of the competition. They did not even make it to the top 20 this time. What can this tell us? Maybe, this time there is more judges, different judges, judges who are less or more biased, who knows? I must say that the positions that Yvonne, Sushmita and Martha got this time are more deserving than a top 10 spot. Specially for Sushmita and Yvonne.

    Justine and Mona need to be out the competition next.

    • Lily

      Huh? Another “Lily”? Interesting…
      The difference in the rankings this time compared to the 2001 contest is definitely attributed to the fact that the panel is made up of different people (thereby, different tastes) and also the fact that ten winners (including Justine Pasek) is now included in the mix. For most of these MU pageants, the winner will be different with a different set of judges due to individual tastes. This is why the judges’ caliber is so important.

  • Jason

    Diva Supreme comeback, we miss you!!!

  • DIM

    I’m glad Martha left this competition because I think she was the most ordinary finalist that year. The next should be Justine Pasek, Kerry Ann Wells and Margareta Arvidsson.

  • Jorge do Carmo

    Like 70% of white people in Brazil, both Marta and Ieda have African ancestry. In case of the former:hair, nose and legs. As for the latter: hair and nose. People were so overwhelmed about Miss Curaçao, but other African looking had won the title at that time, among them, Misses Argentina and Colombia, what is very positive. See Miss World pageant, far more liberal when race and forms are concerned. Even though, Brazilians are still racist towards black skinned ones!

    • Jason

      I don’t know about Colombia’s Luz Mariana Zuloaga, but there was nothing black about Miss Argentina’s Norma Nolan, she was a direct descendant of Irish and Italians.


    Often judges are accused of bias in their scores! Three judges are from Brazil: Fontes, Kuntz and Dubal. Neither gave the highest score to Martha Vasconcellos; Dubal’s score was the third, Fontes’ the tenth and Kuntz’s the eleventh.
    Bias I think is in the mind of some people that do accept different tastes and thinks that this voting is a war between some countries and regions. Watch and like Miss Universe is a way to expand horizons and understand that what make our world fantastic is exactly the differences.

  • jacobson

    it took almost 10 yrs before the judges had the guts to elect a black girl as miss universe. Truth to be told, Curacao should have the first black girl. Brazil did choke a the end.

  • dilip indian

    i think thispageant was fixed.brazil did not answer the question and still won.see the colour of her gown and the colour of the throne, no coincidence

  • dilip indian

    and miss finland is looking like paris hilton in the photo

  • Eric

    This has to be longest article from GB I have read so far… I couldnt even finish it. BTW, I do think of her as “pretty gir;”, a fair winner, but someone that should have been lower in the ranking. I mean, a lot of better girls have been eliminated… Anyway, that is my opinion.

  • JH

    “I can’t speak.” That’s it? That was her final answer? And she won? Even if she was more beautiful than Elizabeth Taylor she should have lost with that kind of an answer. I am in total disbelief that the judges gave her the crown. Of all the Ms. Universe winners, she is the only one who does not deserve the crown! Shame on everyone who made her win.

    • KL

      If the pageant was held today, Miss Curacao would have won hands down. Who were the judges? They must have been high. Then again, back then, the final question probably didn’t weight so much as today.

      Again, the judges were just gutless idiots. Honestly, Vasconcellos’ beauty is rather ordinary and conventional as oppose to the exoticism of Braafield’s. Curacao was robbed of the Miss Universe crown, TWICE.

    • AlexRio

      The final question was not so important in that Era as it is now, just that.

  • pop

    Miss Universe 1968, for me, she is the 31st place in my ranking with the score 9.27 .

  • tropicalBoyc

    The Crown was from Miss Curaçao. she was nice, intelligent spoke 6 language….
    But the world was not prepare for a black MU :( pffffff Anne Marie Braafheid you are great… now a day she is still elegant.

  • AlexRio

    Does anyone here know the birth date of Martha Vasconcellos?

  • Paulo

    She had aged appearance. Definitely, I do not like.

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