Sometime ago, I have written about how it seems that height is no longer might in the IMG|WME era of the Miss Universe organization. The crop of the current set of winners (Demi Leigh Nel-Peters, Sarah Rose Summers and Hailey Colborn) were all 5’7″ below in height. So in contrast to that feature, I thought it would be a great idea to list the tallest Miss Universe winners.
In the pageant’s history, only 3 winners stood at 6’0″ or taller, they are Michelle McLean (Namibia), Wendy Fitzwilliam (Trinidad & Tobago) and Amelia Vega (Dominican Republic). Michelle and Wendy both stands at 6’0″ and Amelia is the tallest winner at 6’1″. The average Miss Universe winner stands around 5’7″- 5’8 1/2″ so these three women are really heads above the rest of other Miss Universe winners, specially with the late Luz Marina Zuluaga (R.I.P) who only stood 5’4″ tall, the shortest Miss Universe winner.
Will the next Miss Universe be on the taller end of the spectrum or will she be around the shorter side?
19 year old Michelle McLean was an international model when she joined Miss Universe and was already a 6-year-veteran of the modelling world. Standing statuesque at 6’2″, she is considered as the tallest winner of the pageant (Wendy Fitzwilliam is 2nd at 6’0″).
Held in Bangkok, Thailand, The 1992 Miss Universe pageant was a lavish production that included elephants, a gorgeous stage and the little sisters of Thailand. That year, it was Venezuela’s Carolina Iszak, Colombia’s Paola Turbay and USA’s Shannon Marketic were the favorites for the title. Michelle, who was fresh from her top 5 placement in Miss World the year prior was considered a darkhorse due to her country’s weak sash factor. That didn’t stop her from doing her best in the competition though as she was #2 overall in the preliminaries.
Did you know that Michelle placed second in the preliminaries of both Miss World and Miss Universe behind a Venezuelan? In 1991, Michelle tied at second place with the South African delegate to 1st placer Ninibeth Leal of Venezuela. Ninibeth later went on to win the Miss World title that year. Then in 1992, at the preliminaries of Miss Universe, Michelle also placed 2nd to Venezuela’s Carolina Iszak.
At the finals, she consistently performed in all three rounds and was #4 overall which boosted her into the top six. She then delivered well during the question and answer segments which earned her the MU crown. In one of the q&a in the finals she said, “my priority would be with the children, because they are the foundation of every nation.” It is that same promise that she kept after her reign when she founded the Michelle McLean Children’s Trust in 1992 and built the Michelle McLean Primary School in Windhoek, Namibia in the year 2000.
In 1998 Michelle was recognized by Donald Trump, then owner of the Miss Universe Organization, and presented with The Life Time Achievement Award for her philanthropy work.
One of the biggest criticisms that the Miss Universe gets is that its charity/ philanthropic arm isn’t as wide or as strong as that of its other international counterparts. Today we list down a few Miss Universe winners that have been doing their part in special charities and advocacies that is close to them. Meet 7 Miss Universe Winners that Matter…
Wendy Fitzwilliam, Miss Universe 1998 – after her reign, she pursued and continued her law studies and passed the bar exams. She was also involved in the Trinidad Guardian’s Guardian in Education: Making a Difference project, a series of motivational school tours that aims to promote the development of her country’s diversity. She was also appointed the Red Cross Ambassador of Youth for the Caribbean.
Mpule Kwelagobe, Miss Universe 1999 – has been recognized and honored as a human health rights activist in her country, especially for her fight against HIV/AIDS. For which she was honored with the Jonathan Mann Health Human Rights Award by the International Association of Physicians in AIDS Care (IAPAC). She advocates for youth and women to have greater access to sexual reproductive education and services.
Michelle McLean, Miss Universe 1992 – founded the Michelle McLean Children’s Trust in Namibia, which focuses on the education and care of under-privileged children. The Trust built a primary school in her name and provides education for 900 children. She was presented with The Life Time Achievement Award for her philanthropy work by the Miss Universe organization in 1998.
Gabriela Isler, Miss Universe 2013 – launched the Universe of Blessings Fund, where she is also CEO, which seeks to empower young women and girls and decrease the rates of adolescent pregnancy and maternal mortality, issues which are especially problematic in her native Venezuela. Deeply concerned about the victims of human trafficking and its devastating impact on young women, Gabriela is an ambassador for the Scalabrini International Migration Network.
Leila Lopes, Miss Universe 2011 – involved in raising awareness about HIV/AIDS and the discrimination that people with the disease experience. As Miss Universe she used her title to champion HIV/AIDS prevention and works with organizations such as YouthAIDS/PSI, Latino Commission on AIDS, Gay Men’s Health Crisis, among others. She was also named Drylands Ambassador by the United Nation Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) in an effort to combat land degradation – an issue that affects not only her country but the entire continent of Africa.
Pia Wurtzbach, Miss Universe 2015 – is an HIV/AIDS awareness advocate who was named a UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador for Asia and the Pacificafter her reign. She been actively involved in humanitarian affairs, speaking out against cyberbullying and supporting people living with HIV, as well as the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community.
Jennifer Hawkins, Miss Universe 2004 -she has donated not only her time but also auction items to many Australian charities including Sydney Cancer Foundation, The Sydney Children’s Hospital, Canteen and Make-A-Wish Foundation as well as being a patron for HCRF (Hunter Children’s Research Foundation). She also has worked to raise awareness for heart disease she also participated in the Red Dress campaign. On 6 January 2010, Hawkins appeared naked on the February cover of Marie Claire Australia magazine to support the Butterfly Foundation and encourage positive attitudes to body image.
There are several countless other winners who have lent a hand to their favorite charities and other advocacies that we haven’t listed here. Almost all of the recent MU winners of the psat 20 or so years have lent time and effort to the HIV-AIDS advocacy of the pageant, as well as women empowerment and child education initiatives. Which only goes to show that the Miss Universe organization and its winners are truly living up to being confidently beautiful with a heart…