15th place – Kerry Anne Wells, Australia
(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)
When it celebrated its 20th anniversary (and 21st edition), Miss Universe was held outside of the continental U.S. for the first time in history. Puerto Rico hosted it, and the final event happened at the Cerromar Beach Hotel, in the city of Dorado. 61 international beauties competed, and one country debuted: Iraq. Wijdan Burham El-Deen Sulyman remains the only woman from Iraq to have ever competed in Miss Universe. Miss Iran was also expected to join the pageant, but it did not happen (Iran has never competed in Miss Universe).
It was once again presented by Bob Barker, and co-presented by Helen O’Connell, who debuted that year. She would remain as Miss Universe’s co-host until 1980.
The governor of Puerto Rico at that time, Luis A. Ferré, had invited the Miss Universe Organization to actually move to Puerto Rico. A man who brought great progress to the island, he was a promoter of American statehood for Puerto Rico. Things started out well, and Miss Universe 1971, Georgina Rizk, spent most of her year of reign living in San Juan.
In 1972, a few months before Miss Universe, also the Miss USA pageant took place in Puerto Rico, which generated a series of protests by locals, led by the Socialist Party. The night when Miss USA was crowned, a bomb exploded at the Cerromar hotel, destroying two rooms and scaring everyone, especially the American delegates.
In addition to that, the Japanese Red Army, trained in Lebanon, killed 24 tourists in Israel, 15 of whom were Puerto Ricans. The island governament then prohibited Georgina Rizk to return to Puerto Rico, not even to crown her successor, and Miss Lebanon was not allowed to compete in Miss Universe 1972.
Protests mounted during the days of Miss Universe, forcing the delegates to spend most of their time in the host hotel, under heavy security.
It was the only time in the 60 years of Miss Universe that the winning announcement could not be seen. Allegedly, a Socialist Party activist managed to cut the imagine off, leaving only the sound on, right when the name of Miss Universe 1972 was about to be announced. When the image returned, Miss Australia had already been crowned Miss Universe 1972.
Not long after Miss Universe 1972, accused of corruption, Luis A. Ferré, was defeated in the local elections, and the new governor practically expelled the Miss Universe organization from Puerto Rico. Kerry Anne Wells, Miss Universe 1972, spent most of her year of reign living at a hotel in New York, as Miss Universe organized its new HQ in the Big Apple.
The Europen, Asian, and African beauties, first met up in New York, where they spent 4 days sightseeing, appearing on tv shows, and doing some shopping. The Latin American beauties were taken to Lima, Peru, where they spent 10 days filled with activities.
Four candidates were considered as front-runners when the whole group finally arrived in Puerto Rico: Miss Germany, Heidi-Marie Weber, Miss Venezuela, María Antonieta Cámpoli, Miss Israel, Ilana Goren (considered the most beautiful face in the competition), and Miss Brazil, Rejane Vieira Costa.
Miss Venezuela, although only 17 years old, was considered the best prepared delegate, and one of the most elegant around. Misses India and Philippines were also often noted for their elegance and stunning wardrobes.
Other favorites were the candidates from the USA, England, Peru, France, Austria, Bahamas, and Portugal.
Miss Australia, Kerry Anne Wells, was one of the last girls to arrive, and even though she was the tallest in the group, the Aussie beauty passed unnoticed in the first days of the competition. Kerry designed all her wardrobe, including the gown she wore the night she was crowned Miss Universe.
Ombayi Mukuta, Miss Zaire, was always smiling, and it was not surprising that she won the Miss Amity award. The very charming Miss Belgium, Anne Marie Roger, was chosen as Miss Photogenic, and Miss Peru won the Best National Costume Award.
It was the first time that a pre-taped swimsuit segment was seen in Miss Universe, something that would happen until 1989.
The Top 12 semi-finalists were announced in 3 groups of 4: England, Brazil, Japan, and Venezuela; Australia, Peru, Belgium, and U.S.A.; Israel, Germany, Philippines and India. There were no major surprises, as most favorites advanced to the semi-final stage of competition. The exceptions were Portugal, Austria and Bahamas, who had been left behind.
Miss Puerto Rico was also not among the semi-finalists, but that was expected.
Miss Australia’s spotless presentation and unquestionable beauty, had made her a favorite after the Presentation Show. She looked just as amazing at the final night, and gave one step further towards the title by becoming a finalist, along with Misses England, Venezuela, Brazil, and Israel.
Five brunettes, and one of the best ‘Top 5s” in the history of the pageant. All 5 were absolutely stunning, and truly anything could happened at that point.
Miss England was announced as 4th runner-up, Miss Israel was the 3rd runner-up, Miss Venezuela the 2nd, Miss Brazil the 1st, and Miss Universe 1972 was Miss Australia, Kerry Anne Wells!
After four straight finalists in Miss Universe, between 1969 and 1972, Australia finally had its first Miss Universe title. In that same year, Australia would conquer the Miss World title and place 2nd in Miss International. It remains the greatest Grand Slam performance by a country in one year in all times.
Kerry Anne was a great Miss Universe, and after her reign was over, she pursued working as a news anchor. Prior to entering the pageants, she worked as a weather bird. She was also a top model.
Miss Universe 1972 is now a successful fashion designer, writer and commentator who speaks out about positive realistic body image and self-esteem. She is involved with BodyThink, a healthy lifestyle program designed for Australian schools.
KERRY ANNE WELLS, AUSTRALIA
MOST BEAUTIFUL MISS UNIVERSE FROM OCEANIA (1952-2010)
(still competing: 1953, 1961, 1974, 1977, 1978, 1987, 1989, 2000, 2001, 2002-dethroned Oxana, 2004, 2005, 2008, 2010)
Special thanks to Alberto Dubal for his valuable contribution!