A message from Angela Visser

I just wanted to leave a comment and say “Thank You!” for this great honor and for the past honors! My year as Miss Universe was so very special and absolutely unforgettable!! I will forever keep all the memories in my heart!

I have been living in Los Angeles since winning the title in 1989. I worked in show business for 10 years and then became a realtor. My partner Phil and I became parents of our sweetest Amelie Rose almost 7 years ago and I have been a full-time Mom ever since. My favorite “job” ever!

Again, thank you so much Global Beauties and to all of you for your kind words!

Much love and happiness always!




4th place – Angela Visser – Miss Universe 1989

4th place – Angela Visser, Netherlands

(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 last time GB promoted this competition, a decade ago, Angela Visser, the Dutch Miss Universe from 1989, was the winner. She was also the winner of “The Best Miss Universe Ever”, which happened in 1999.  Now Angela falls to 4th place, although with a considerable point-different to Margaret Gardiner, 5th place and next in the ranking. She also managed to keep the #1 position among the winners from the XX century.

The opening number

Before living moments of glory in Cancun, Mexico, where Miss Universe 1989 took place, Visser missed the cut in Miss World 1988: she finished the competition in 13th place, in a year Miss World had just 10 semi-finalists.

Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico, was becoming famous internationally for its beautiful beaches and great resorts, when it welcomed the 1989 Miss Universe pageant. Held at the Fiesta Americana Condessa Hotel, Miss U happened in one of the smallest stages and had one of its poorest productions in history.

The hosts’ performances (John Forsythe, Emma Sammsand and Karen Baldwin) were way below average, to the point that Karen had to take over John’s job in interviewing the semi-finalists, given the fact that he looked completely lost on stage. To compensate it, the externals were very good, showcasing the beauties and colors of Cancun and Mexico.

Australia: Miss Photogenic

Seventy-six countries participated, who for the first time in history were introduced divided into geographical regions in the parade of nations. The American organization made one huge mistake, by including Iceland in Central and North America! The Icelandic beauty, Guðbjörg Gissurardóttir, had been a semi-finalist in Miss International 1988. Preliminary swimsuit scores were also not shown to the viewers at home for the first time since 1979.

As soon as they arrived in Mexico, there were bad news for Miss France, Stephanie Zlotkowski: she was not allowed to register in the pageant for being underage, and was sent back home the next morning. She was replaced by Miss France’s 1st runner-up,  Pascale Moetti, who arrived soon after Stephanie’s departure.

Miss Germany, Andrea Steltzer, had been crowned Miss South Africa 1985, when Miss Universe stopped accepting South African candidates in protest to Apartheid. As Miss Germany, Andrea finally got to compete in Miss Universe.

Juliette Powell was the first black woman (and so far only) to win the Miss Universe Canada title.

Brazil: Best National Costume

Misses Holland, Ireland, Poland, Gibraltar, and Switzerland, had all failed to advance to Miss World semi-finals one year earlier.

Some of the favorites that year were Misses USA, Gretchen Polhemus (the 5th consecutive Miss USA winner from the state of Texas), Germany,  Andrea Steltzer, Holland, Angela Visser, Mexico, Adriana Abascal, Spain, Eva Pedraza, Norway, Lene Ornhoft, Puerto Rico, Catalina Villa, Australia, Karen Wenden (Miss Photogenic), Jamaica, Sandra Foster, Korea, Sung-young Kim, Brazil, Flavia Cavalcanti (Best National Costume), Sweden, Louise Drevenstam, Switzerland, Karina Berger, Ireland, Collette Jackson, and Israel, Nicole Halperin.

Europe had the strongest group of candidates, and most thought only Miss USA could take the title away from the Old Continent that year.

Although during the live telecast it was announced that St. Vincent & the Grenadines was debuting in Miss U that year, the information was not correct. The Caribbean nation had already competed in 1964, 1978 and 1979 as St. Vincent.

Angela and her "little sister"

Right before the top 10 announcement, scenes of a historical moment could be viewed by the 300 million people watching the pageant: the crowning of the first Miss USSR, days before Miss Universe’s final. The winner, who wasn’t crowned in time to compete in Miss Universe, wished all the contestants good luck, and said she hoped in the near future Miss Universe would be hosted by the Soviet Union (which has never happened).

Then the top 10 were announced, and they were: Germany, Chile, Jamaica, Venezuela, Holland, USA, Sweden, Poland, Finland, and Mexico.  As predicted, the Latin beauties did not come across strong in Mexico, and both Chile and Venezuela were considered “surprises”. Five Europeans were also fighting for the crown, and in addition to the two South Americans, one Caribbean and Miss USA also moved on. Asia, Africa, and Oceania, were all left behind.

As the three semi-final competitions progressed, Holland’s Angela Visser became the clear #1 choice for the crown, topping all of them with the highest combined scores, always followed by Miss Sweden, Louise Drevenstam, in 2nd.

Osmel Souza, the famous national director of Miss Venezuela, said the moment he first saw Angela in Cancun, that she was going to become Miss Universe. “She was the most beautiful one, no doubts”.

Miss U 89

In addition to Holland and Sweden, Poland, Mexico, and USA, who almost missed the cut in a neck-and-neck dispute with Miss Germany, advanced to the ‘top 5′. There was no ‘final question’ that year, so the judges had to rank the Top 5 from #1 to #5, and the combination of such votes, would result in the election of the last Miss Universe of the 1980’s.

Miss Mexico was 5th, Miss Poland was 4th (she had also competed in Miss World 1988, and was not even a semi-finalist), Miss USA was 3rd, Miss Sweden was 2nd, and the odds maker from Holland, Angela Visser, had just gone from a Miss World reject to Miss Universe 1989! The results were greatly accepted by the international community, and Angela was a superb titleholder.

Angela Visser became a TV presenter (she was an excellent Miss Universe commentator from 1991 to 1994) and actress, who appeared in some of America’s hottest TV Shows, such as Blossom, Boy Meets World, Baywatch, Beverly Hills 90210, Friends and USA High. She remains the only woman from the Netherlands to have been crowned Miss Universe.




 The Top 3: 2002-Oxana, 2004, 2008

See great photos from Miss Universe 1989 at El Anecdotario

Miss Universe 1989

Top 5: USA (3rd), Sweden (2nd), Holland (1st), Mexico (5th), Poland (4th)

Miss Universe 89, from the Netherlands


5th place – Margaret Gardiner – Miss Universe 1978

5th place – Margaret Gardiner, South Africa

(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 Convention Center of Acapulco welcomed 75 candidates and the 27th edition of Miss Universe, in 1978. The event was hosted by Bob Barker, with comments by Helen O’Connell and Corinna Tsopei (Miss Universe 1964). Lesotho and  New Hebrides (current Vanuatu) debuted that year, and never returned after that. It was also the last time Morocco sent a representative to Miss Universe.

Miss U 1978 delegates

It was the first time Mexico hosted the pageant, and beautiful Acapulco was chosen as the host city: it was the perfect venue for the event with its beautiful and worldwide beaches and resorts. The Mexican government invested over USD 1 million in Miss U 78, hoping to show the world the best the country had to offer to its visitors. Mexico would host Miss Universe again in 3 other occasions.

Miss South Africa, Margaret Gardiner, almost had to stay home. Mexico did not recognize the white-minority government of South Africa. After much negotiation, she got a special permit to enter the country and compete.

Misses with Bob Barker

For many pageant followers, 1978 presented the overall weakest group of candidates in all times. Most women were visibly out of shape and the pageant was criticized even by the Mexican press, frustrated with the lousy “class of 1978″. However, there were some great exceptions, like Miss USA, Hawaii’s Judi Andersen, the one to beat, South Africa, Margaret Gardiner, the face of the competition, Colombia, Mary Shirley Sáenz, Costa Rica, Maria Fernandez Garcia,  chosen as Miss Photogenic, Miss Spain, Guillermina Ruiz, Israel, Dorit Jellinek and Miss Reunion, the exotic Evelyn Pongerand.

Other options were Mexico (hometown girl), Peru, Belgium (a local favorite), France, Ireland and Wales.

Peru: accused of being married

Miss Universe 1978 started in Mexico City. The candidates also visited Taxco, Cuernavaca, Guadalajara, and Merida. They also got to see the Mayan ruins of  Chitchen Itza and Tulum.

It was the 1970’s, so many candidates joined the feminists and complained that they were being portrayed as sexual objects, with no respect being paid to their intellectual qualities. Miss Canada, for instance, said she was disgusted with the amount of photos of candidates wearing swimsuits published in the Mexican newspapers and magazines. “They really don’t care about what we think”, she said.

Miss Curaçao added to that: “If we are judged solely on what we look like, women around the world will see us as objects. We can do better than that”.

USA: the one to beat

Controversies did not end there: the black candidates, especially the ones from Africa, menaced to withdraw because Mexican journalists and reporters would never photograph or interview them. Miss Lesotho mentioned: “Mexican are really racist people. They ignore all the black beauties”. Lesotho participated for the first and last time in Miss Universe that year.

Miss Peru,  Olga Zumaran, was another focus of controversy: she was accused of being married, and a cosmetic company even offered USD 3000 for anyone who could show proof of that (which never happened).

The judges were among the most memorable in pageant history: Ursula Andress, Robertop Cavalli, Milos Forman, Melba Moore, Whilelmina, Dewi Sukarno, Line Renand, Cantinflas, Anna Mofo, David Merrick and Christiane Magnani de Aleman (Miss Universe 1953, who received a trophy in tribute of the 25 years of her election).

Crowning moment

The 12 semi-finalists were: Ireland, South Africa, Israel, Spain, Holland, Mexico, Sweden, USA, Colombia, Belgium, Peru and Chile. The non inclusion of Misses Reunion, Costa Rica, and France was a huge upset.

For the first time, the audience at home could see the average scores of the 12 semi-finalists in the 3 competitions: interview, swimsuit, and gown. Those were also the lowest scores ever seen in a Miss Universe edition. Miss Holland, for example, receive a 2.890 in her swimsuit presentation! Miss USA had, by far, the highest scores of the night (7.831 average).

The top 5 were USA (7.831), Sweden (7.391), Spain (6.972), South Africa (6.685), and Colombia (6.491). Miss Belgium, a crowd favorite, would end in 6th place.

The winner

Not only for her relatively semi-finals low scores, but also because the world was against the South African regimen of Apartheid, and the fact that it would be ironic that, one year after a black beauty had finally been crowned Miss Universe, to see representative of “Apartheid” being crowned by her, nobody expect Miss South Africa to win.

When questioned about the political situation of her country during the days she spent in Mexico, Margaret Gardiner answered that she hoped Mexicans could see that South Africa was not as bad as it was pictured by the international community, that she thought it would be possible for a black woman to win the Miss South Africa title, as long as she was beautiful, intelligent, and charming, and that her best friend back in Cape Town, where she lived, was a black woman.

Papua New-Guinea

Sweden was announced was 4th runner-up; Colombia was the 3rd runner-up; then came Miss Spain, the 2nd runner-up. It looked like Miss USA had it in the bag, but no: she was the 1st runner-up. Margaret Gardiner, Miss South Africa, was Miss Universe 1978, beating all the odds.

Her victory was not welcomed by many, especially African publications, which thought it represented a victory of racism and the approval of a brutal discriminatory political system. Gardiner’s beauty, nonetheless, was unquestionable: many consider her one of the most beautiful faces in the history of the pageant. She returned to Miss Universe in 1990 to be a commentator and to celebrate the pageant’s 50th anniversary in 2001. She became a journalist and still works on tv.

Special thanks to Alberto Dubal!

(Still competing: 1989, 2002-Oxana, 2004, 2008)



Miss Universe 1978

Top 5: Spain (3rd), USA (2nd), South Africa (1st), Colombia (4th), Sweden (5th)

South Africa's Miss Universe

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