52nd place – Norma Nolan – Miss Universe 1962

52nd place – Norma Nolan (Argentina)

(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 an important political year for Argentina, when it broke free from a military coup and lived times of intense cultural production, Argentina, after recently conquering the Miss World title, won its first Miss Universe title with Norma Nolan.

Miss Argentina was never a press favorite, and when she was called among the top 15, Nolan was regarded as a “dark horse”. It was after her amazing national costume and evening gown performances, when she showed unquestionable elegance and poise, that Miss Argentina started being noticed.

In an year when 11 out of 15 semi-finalists were brunettes, Norma ended up being crowned, leaving behind the two favorites for the crown, who, ironically, were two blondes: Austria’s Christa Linder (for everyone’s shock, she was just a semi-finalist), who later became an actress, and Finland’s Anja Aulikki Järvinen (2nd runner-up), who marked Finland’s return to Miss Universe’s finals after it won the title in 1952, and the beginning of great success for this Scandinavian country, which had a series of runner-ups and favorites which culminated with a second title in 1975.

Exotic countries for the time, like Dahomey (currently Benin), Morocco, and Haiti (the first black Miss Universe semi-finalist), participated in the pageant. Lebanon and New Zealand had their first Miss Universe semi-finalists ever, and the USA had its first ethnic winner:  Macel Leilani Wilson of Hawaii.

If never a press favorite, Norma was very popular among the other contestants, who were very happy to see Miss Argentina being crowned as Miss Universe 1962. Not much is known about her life after Miss Universe, which she chose to keep private.

(Special thanks to Alberto Dubal for his contribution!)

Norman Nolan of Argentina was crowned by Miss universe 1961

top 5: Brazil (5th), Finland (3rd), Argentina (Miss Universe 1962), Iceland (2nd), Free China - Taiwan (4th)

Austria (l) was the favorite, but Argentina (r) won the title

53rd place – Mpule Kwelagobe – Miss Universe 1999

53rd place – Mpule Kwelagobe (Botswana)

(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)

Trinidad & Tobago hosted the last Miss Universe contest of last millennium, an edition full of surprises. To the sounds and colors of Trinidad & Tobago’s famous carnival, 84 delegates from around the globe were introduced, a record number of candidates until then. Everything ran smoothly until the semi-finalists’ were announced: and surprises among those who made it, and those who didn’t, popped up like popcorns!

Miss France, Mareva Galanter of Tahiti, later elected the most beautiful Miss Universe non-finalist until 2001, caused the major shock. She was out of contention. Others were Panama’s Yamani Saied, Brazil’s Renata Fan, Colombia’s Marianella Paccini, Slovakia’s Aneta Kuklova, Israel’s Rana Raslan (the first, and so far only, Arab Israeli to win the Miss Israel title), and Bolivia’s Susana Barrientos. It was also only that second time ever that Miss USA was left out of the semi-finals.

They gave place to surprising Ghana’s Akuba Cudjoe, Jamaica’s Nicole Haughton, India’s Gul Panag (stunning face, but completely out of shape) and the delightful Diana Nogueira of Spain (a Miss Spain finalist, the winner competed in Miss World), for many, the queen of the night.

Favorites from Venezuela, Carolina Indriago, Philippines, Miriam Quiambao (like Spain, not the original winner from her country), Mexico, Silvia Salgado, and Puerto Rico, Brenda Liz Lopez, advanced next to Misses Botswana, Mpule Kwelagobe, and South Africa, Sonia Raciti, who were expected to be semi-finalists, but nothing further than that.

A new cut, and more surprises: stunning Mexico and Puerto Rico were out. Spain, Botswana, South Africa, Venezuela and Philippines continued on the competition. After interviews and the final cut, another favorite fell: Venezuela. At that point, it looked like Miss Philippines ‘had it’, but with her contagious personality, great answers, beautiful smile and exotic looks, Miss Botswana, who two years ago had been completely ignored by Miss World judges, became the first black African to be crowned Miss Universe. Philippines was 2nd, Spain was 3rd (later elected by GB the Sexiest Woman Alive and Miss Grand Slam 1999).

In the pageant that saw all odds being broken, Mpule Kwelagobe, also the first woman from her country to compete in Miss Universe, emerged as an extraordinary titleholder, recognized and honored as a human health rights activist, especially for her fight against HIV/AIDS and advocacy for youth and women to have greater access to sexual reproductive education and services.

Among the favorites who did not please the 1999 judges, at least two went on to achieve great success in their countries: Mareva Galanter became one of the most popular television presenters in France, and a singer; Renata Fan became the first woman to lead soccer discussions in Brazil, where she remains a successful tv hostess.

On a sad note, Russia’s Alexandra Petrova was brutally murdered a few years after Miss Universe 1999.

After Mpule, no other black woman won the Miss Universe title.

In 1999, the recently born Global Beauties website covered Miss Universe for the 1st time, and from then on, it has been regarded by most as one of the best and most respected pageant-related websites in the world.

Miss Universe 1999: Goodwill Ambassador by the United Nations, focusing on youth and HIV/AIDS

Philippines (2nd), Botswana (Miss Universe 1999), Spain (3rd)

France: Miss Universe did not want her, but Galanter returned home to achieve great success

 


54th place – Georgina Rizk – Miss Universe 1971

54th place – Georgina Rizk (Lebanon)

(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)

1971 was the last of the Miami Beach years, after that, Miss Universe would take on the world, being held in different countries every year, mostly in Latin America, the Caribbean and Asia. To close the “Miami Beach era”, the Middle East elected its first Miss Universe, Lebanon’s Georgina Rizk.

Georgina had competed in Miss World 1970 and failed to advance to the semi-finals, so the press covering Miss Universe did not pay much attention to her in the beginning, favoring the candidates from France, Finland, Brazil, Israel and Philippines. The latest one, chosen as Miss Photogenic, surprisingly was not even a semi-finalist. Other press favorites who stayed behind were Colombia and Portugal. Both were expected to advance, but failed to do so.

Tribute: the Lebanese government issued stamps to honor its first (an so far only) Miss Universe

Speaking of surprises, there were a few good ones among the candidates who  did make the cut, like the lovely Cherrie Raphaelia Creque, Miss Virgin Islands, or yet another beautiful Caribbean, Beba Franco, coming from the country which had won the title one year earlier, Puerto Rico.

After a great swimsuit presentation, Miss Lebanon was even more impressive and daring in the evening gown parade, when she hit the stage wearing a very revealing top and hot pants. She made an unforgettable fashion statement and bagged the Miss Universe crown, the first (and so far only) won by Lebanon, and the 4th won by an Asian beauty.

The other finalists were Australia, Tony Suzanne Rayward (1st runner-up), Finland, Pirjo Aino Laitila (2nd) Irene Laitila, Puerto Rico, Beba Franco (3rd), and Brazil, Eliane Parreira Guimarães (4th ). The exclusion of Miss France from the “top 5” was widely commented by the press and people in general, after all, she was considered by many the #1 front-runner for the crown that year.

Never before a Miss Universe needed so much security to attend her activities, but Georgina did a good job fulfilling her duties. However, after a few months she put on some considerable weight, making headlines around the world.

In the 1972 Miss Universe pageant in Dorado, Puerto Rico, Rizk was not allowed to crown her successor due to government restrictions because of fears of a terrorist attack. Such fears were triggered when, two months prior to the pageant, bombings occurred outside the hotel in which Miss USA, Tanya Wilson, was then staying. In addition, a group of Japanese hired by Arab terrorists, attacked the international airport in Tel Aviv and killed twenty-two Puerto Rican tourists. The Puerto Ricans were en route to the Holy Land when the massacre occurred. Lebanon did not compete in 1972 and Georgina could not be there to crown Miss Universe 1972.

She was married in 1976 to Ali Hassan Salameh, a Palestinian national with Black September, who was assassinated in 1979 by the Mossad. Georgina Rizk is currently married to renowned Lebanese singer Walid Toufic, with whom she has two children.

Georgina as Miss Universe (left) and in her daring evening "gown" (right)

top 5: Brazil (5th), Puerto Rico (4th), Lebanon (Miss Universe 1971), Australia (2nd) and Finland (3rd)

Favorites: France (left) stopped in the "top 12"; Philippines (right) won Miss Photogenic, but was not even a semi-finalist

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