The oldest international beauty pageant that’s still around today – Miss World – took place over the weekend. Miss China took home the crown, and China’s, as well as East Asia’s, 2nd ever title! To mark this occasion, Lomography.asia takes a look at the history of this illustrious beauty contest, from it’s founding in 1951, till present day.
The now world-renowned event, and annual television staple and “must watch”, was conceived of and founded by Eric Morley. It quickly gained recognition and London’s Royal Albert Hall became its home and venue for nearly 20 years, from 1969-1988. Did you know the pageant that broke the 19-year streak at the Royal Albert Hall was the 1989 event held in at Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre? Were you there let alone born?
The first ever Miss World winner was Kicki Håkansson, representing Sweden. As seen above in the artistic photo where she’s showing off a 50s-style swimsuit, she was the only titleholder to be crowned in a swimsuit! Interesting when you think about the fact it’s grown less and not more conservative over the years! A list of titleholders over the decades can be found on Wikipedia.
In keeping with Morely’s famous line, to announce the winners, “here are the winners, in reverse order”:
The last photo in the above gallery is of China’s Zhang Zilin, the 2007 titleholder and the first Miss World of East Asian origin. Her countrywoman Yu Wenxia took home the crown this past weekend on the 18th of August, for China’s second win.
More significantly, this large or small – depending on how much of an impact you see Miss World as having these days – pageant has put East Asian beauties on the map in the sense of recognizing them as “leading women”.
The pageant hasn’t been without its controversies, most notably during the 1970 event where Women’s Liberation activists were on protest outside Royal Albert Hall throughout the event where they threw smoke bombs onto stage. Allegations of racism and a rigged vote also clouded the event. These actions and accusations might sound extreme, given that the event was nothing more than a “beauty pageant”, but one has to factor in the changes in society, the fact the women were representing their countries and were tantamount to Olympic athletes in that a “win” meant more than its weight in diamonds and gold but signified an upper-hand.
Proceedings are generally much more smooth nowadays though, it’s interesting when you think about the 50s versus today, and an individual’s first exposure to a contemporary from another upbringing and culture such as the ladies in 1951. Were the early Miss World pageants more valuable to the contestants in terms of bridge building, bonding, learning and educating on each other’s cultures than presently? Is today all about the fast turnover, desire to be the best, and must win attitude? One would hope not, and given by the seemingly genuine sentiment these intelligent beauty queens give off it’s likely they retain their predecessors hunger to learn and make the most out of their titles.
Information for this article was taken from Wikipedia