Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Miss World: 60 years and counting by Lex Librea

Miss World: 60 years and counting
by Lex Librea
Well, it’s that time of the year again—another lady is about to pass on the crown to a new Miss World. Over the years this pageant has provided us with tears, thrills, and yes, surprises. What started out as a small bikini pageant is now the world's largest annual and most continuous pageant. Per history, Miss World was just supposed to be a one-time event promoting the Festival of Britain but when Catalina decided to put up the rival Miss Universe pageant, the late Eric Morley decided to continue it as well.

From its humble beginnings to the big undertaking that it is now, the pageant has clearly evolved in a big way. Miss World has been a driving force in innovation, whether it be in the establishment of the Fast Track events or the 2004 global vote which was a big success. But over the years the pageant has had the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.

Let's start with some of the lows: to the flour bombs hurled at Bob Hope in 1970, to the consecutive dethronement of the Marjorie Wallace and Helen Morgan, the 18-hour reign of German beauty Gabriella Brum, to the sub-standard productions of 1990 and 1991, to the Bangalore protest of 1996, to the Nigerian riots of 2002, up to the cancellation of the Ukraine pageant in 2008, Miss World was able to face the storms and overcome the obstacles. Some of these lows does not need further explanation but let us look at a few: the 2002 event for example provided the lowest and at the same time its finest moment since it showed the organization's ability to pull off an event with a very limited window available. The dethronement/resignation of the three winners really cast a shadow as it led to questions on the morals and standards that Miss World uses to select a winner. The protest actions in Bangalore in 1996 put a spotlight on the real issues that India are facing and was left to justify if hosting the pageant was a right move or not. Then the highest of highs: the Sun City years, Seychelles, the crowning of the first black African Miss World, and the Sanya years. The Sun City years reinvigorated the Miss World brand after the lackluster London and Atlanta pageants that threatened the pageant's existence. The Seychelles stagings proved a really tiny island nation in the Indian Ocean can put on a significant and memorable undertaking, especially in 1998.
Then there was Sanya. Prior to 2003, this city on China's Hainan Island was unknown to the world. The pageant was credited for boosting the island a couple of years after the event significant investment especially in tourism started to coming to the island. Now Sanya is pretty known around the world and boosts some of the world's finest hotels like the Mandarin Oriental on Dadonghai Bay which opened for business just a couple of years ago. Just like with the Olympics and Beijing; Sanya used Miss World to transform itself from the quiet, sleepy town that it was to the destination that it now is. 

Over the years, we have been witnesses to memorable moments, whether it be Miss Ghana falling on stage in 1998, or Priyanka Chopra's Mother Teresa response in 2000 or the sheer glamour and elegance of Venezuela's Jacqueline Aguilera in 1995. It has also given us memorable candidates that soon would become bigger names over the years: from Bond girls Claudine Auger in 1958, Eva Reuber-Staier in 1969, Mary Stavin in 1977, Michelle Yeoh in 1983 and Halle Berry in 1986, to Bollywood stars Aishwarya Rai in 1994 and Priyanka Chopra in 2000, we have been witness to some really beautiful and iconic faces of that the world has seen. Miss World also was the first of the international pageants to break the color barrier when it selected Grenada's Jennifer Hosten as Miss World in 1970. Though her victory was controversial it was still a moment worth celebrating as the first dark-skinned woman was finally enthroned just like Jackie Robinson being the very first person of color to play in Major League Baseball (the baseball fan in me kicks in here).
Since 1987, Miss World has attracted more delegates than its rival Miss Universe and that trend has continued ever since. This year, 119 delegates from all over the world will be vying for that beautiful blue crown that is not only symbolic of beauty and prestige, but also glory. Miss World titleholders and candidates through the years have embarked on great careers whether it be in the field of show business, medicine (Reita Faria), media (Patricia Janiot, Colombia 1984), business (Wilnelia Merced, 1975) or even politics (Lisa Hanna, 1993) it has clearly showed us that these competitors are not only beautiful but also complete beings—not just some pretty faces that some feminists have labeled the titleholders. Beauty clearly has a purpose and it’s just a matter of how they will use it. Judging from history, these ladies have used it well… 

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