Winning two national titles and represent the country in the big four international pageants is a rarity afforded to a very few Filipinas. The first of which is Miss Philippines Earth 2001 and Binibining Pilipinas World 2005 Carlene Aguilar.
She was only a 19-year old student of advertising and public relations student at the Assumption College when she was crowned Miss Philippines Earth in 2001. As the inaugural winner of the pageant, the 5’8″ Chinita stunner was the first Philippine representative to the Miss Earth pageant. The Kagandahang Flores trained beauty romped off with Miss Avon and Miss Ponds Perfect Skin awards at MPE. Coincidentally, she also won Miss Avon at Binibining Pilipinas when she joined in 2005 as well as Miss Philippine Airlines.
When she decided to join Binibining Pilipinas in 2005, she was one of the considered frontrunners for the title. At age 22, Carlene went on to win the Binibining Pilipinas World title. Some pageant analysts would say that in those years, the BBP would place the strongest girl in Miss World to appease the British owners who were beginning to want a separate pageant for their title. Pageant pundits to this day still debate should Carlene had been the one to break the drought in Miss Universe had she been sent there instead. Among her Binibini batch, it is only her with her fellow campmate Precious Lara Quigaman who went on to place in their international competitions.
Carlene finished among the top 10 of the first Miss Earth pageant in 2001 a same semifinals feat that she would replicate in Miss World 2005. Her stint in Miss World in China was an amazing one as she was considered as a front runner for the title. She was among the top bets to win actually as she was also number 1 in the worldwide SMS vote. Seeing her fail to make the top 5 was alluded to the urban legend that no Filipina is ever gonna win in Chinese soil even if we send a Chinese-Filipina to compete.
To her credits, she has won and placed in every international pageant she went on. From her stint at the first Miss Earth pageant to her 2nd runner up finish in Miss Chinese International 2004, her Miss World semi-final finish down to her Miss WWW Internet 2006 title, Carlene proved to be the quintessential pageant girl who is also a tough cookie to crack.
Nowadays, the 36 year old former beauty queen works as a part-time actress and a full-time mom. She has definitely blossomed more time passed.
Back in the 90’s aside from Miss Universe, there are only 2 other international competitions that I followed closely: Miss Asia Pacific Quest and Miss International. So it is no surprise that today’s post is on another Miss International winner, this time from Norway.
Froken Norge 1994 (Miss Norway) was Anne Lena Hansen. Back in 1994, the blonde 2o year old was her country’s representative to the Miss World pageant held in Sun City, South Africa. She was one of the 87 contestants that year. Unfortunately for her she didn’t manage to crack the semifinalists that year that saw Aishwarya Rai as winner.
However, she was tasked to represent Norway in Miss International the following year. The 5’8″leggy, blue-eyed beauty was a hit among the Japanese as she easily fit the mold of what the pageant is looking for. She easily sailed through the semifinalists that year and went on to bring home the second MI title for Norway. Anne Lena was named Miss International 1995 at the the Shinjuku Pension Hall in Tokyo on September 10th that year. The blonde stunner bested a chocolate skinned Miss Venezuela, Ana Maria Amorer in the pageant. The Philippines’ own Gladys Dueñas was one of the 15 semifinalists…
One special tidbit is that Anne Lena’s win was number 3 in a “four-peat” victory for Europe in the pageant (Poland-Greece-Norway-Portugal) in the 90’s. Plus another trivia is that in the decade of 1990 to 1999, six out of the ten winners in that 10 year span were all from Europe. It is also interesting to note that the blonde Anne Lena was crowned by Christina Lekka of Greece who was also blonde when she passed on her crown (despite the fact that she was a brunette when she won in 1994).
She became a model both in Japan, USA and internationally following her reign and even during her reign as she endorsed several Japanese brands and beauty products. Anne Lena later became an actress in both Norway and in Hollywood.
What does Anne Lena Hansen, Michelle McLean and Mpule Kwelagobe have in common? Well, they all failed in winning the Miss World title only to bag other prestigious international crowns on their second attempt.
Mpule is a success story from Africa. She was the first black African to win the Miss Universe title, the first woman to win two national titles in Botswana and the youngest woman to win the Miss Botswana title at the age of 17 years old.
Mpule Keneilwe Kwelagobe first won the Miss Botswana title while being barely out from high school. That year she flew to compete in the Miss World 1997 pageant in Seychelles where she failed to even crack the semis. It was India’s Diana Hayden who romped away with the blue crown.
A couple of years later, she joined the inaugural Miss Universe Botswana pageant and won once again. Competing in Miss Universe 1999, Mpule was an underdog who rarely got noticed by pageant fans. She, however, delivered consistently during the finals night which saw her besting 84 other girls for the title. Mpule’s win became the first Miss Universe to come from a debuting nation since 1958.
As Miss Universe, Mpule traveled to more than 20 countries in Africa, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean representing the official cause of the Miss Universe Organization, HIV/AIDS. She also became a spokes-model for the brand Clairol.
Mpule was also appointed by the United Nations as one of its Goodwill Ambassadors focusing mainly on youth and HIV-AIDS issues.
After her reign she had put on a number of hats including that of a human health rights activist, UNFPA Goodwill Ambassador, politician, businesswoman, model, and wife. Her government awarded her full scholarship to attend any university she wanted and took a Political Science degree (International Political Economy) at the Columbia University in New York City (Ivy league university).
Since then Mpule has been active in her advocacies and charity work focusing on developing the poor in Africa. She has undoubtedly become one of the most respected Miss Universe in history.
Today’s post is a continuation of the last week’s Miss Universe #nostalgia post on Miriam Quiambao.
Miriam was one of the girls considered to be a favorite by the MUOrg during her year in Trinidad & Tobago. If you look at the stage blocking during the finals of the pageant, Miriam was always situated at the center of the stage. Back then, this was one of the signs that you were a favorite to win. Not to mention that she was also a press favorite during that time. Even the local crowd seemed to like her as well.
During the preliminaries of the pageant held on the 21st of May, Miriam tripped onstage during the evening gown competition. At that time she mentioned that upon her recovery from the fall she needed to “do something” so she stretched her hands as if to say “I’m OK”. That drew a standing ovation from the audience but was shaken upon getting backstage where she started to cry. Miss Universe choreographer Scott Grossman comforted her backstage and told her that he never saw a recovery that fast. That trip guaranteed her a spot at the semis.
The powder blue Halston gown was hurriedly hemmed an inch shorter as it was only 3 days before the finals was to be held. Miriam later revealed that she tripped in the gown due to a loose thread at the hem.
Miriam dominated the preliminaries with scores that placed her number 2 overall behind South Africa’s Sonia Raciti. Perhaps that was an overshadowing of her eventual 1st runner up placement during the finals. She was 2nd place in both evening gown and swimsuit during the finals and despite a 9th place in interviews, her scores managed to pull her to the top 5. She easily coasted through to the top 5 when she was able to milk the instance of her fall during the top 5 q&a.
It was her nervous answer to the final question that gave lead to Mpule Kwelagobe of Botswana, and thus winning the title. Nevertheless, Miriam’s performance was to become the standard of how to pose (one foot forward then switch to the other foot forward). The year after, a number of pageant girls would copy that move. Her MU performance also drew in several clones in Binibining Pilipinas, all to no success. It was even mentioned that she would be sent to Miss World as her original title as BB. Pilipinas World. This would be a conflict as should the MU winner could not complete her reign, Miriam would have to step in.
To this day, no other Filipina queen has ever matched her poise and grace onstage. That innate queenly stature and elegance onstage is so difficult to copy and is uniquely Miriam’s.
She was supposed to be the Philippines’ representative to the Miss World pageant but destiny had other plans for her.
5’8″ tall Miriam Quiambao was originally crowned as Binibining Pilipinas World on February 20th 1999. But a technicality over Bb. Pilipinas Universe Janelle Bautista’s citizenship rendered her a dethronement (Janelle was an American citizen). This was the second consecutive year that the top winner of the Bb. Pilipinas pageant was dethroned (Tisha Silang of 1998 was also dethroned due to citizenship issues, it was found out that she was Canadian). Instead of naming the 1st runner up the new winner like the case of Jewel Mae Lobaton, BPCI named Miriam to assume the vacated title.
In a rush, that is how best to describe Miriam’s training for Miss Universe. Her local training was cut short in order to move up all her preparations for the MU pageant which was just less than 2 months away. While she trained locally for several weeks with Dale Carnegie, Abbygale Arenas and Anthony Pangilinan, it was Miriam’s stint in Venezuela that got people talking. She first arrived in LA before taking a connecting flight to Miami. It was there in Miami that she received the Halston gown that she will be wearing for the pageant from SMA’s brother Arturo Marquez. (The team of designer Alfredo Barraza were the ones responsible for doing the beadwork on the Halston gown.)
Here below is a snippet of how her training went with Osmel’s team (taken from a Channels Magazine interview):
“I left Miami for Caracas, Venezuela. I was billeted in a suite, kaya feeling-wow! The next day, May 1, I met up with Osmel Sousa, the president of La Quinta Miss Venezuela, as well as his other colleagues: there was Gerardo who trained me in speech, Maria who helped me with walking, Miguel for hair and make-up, and Gabriel, assistant of the president. Everything was personalized. I was training the whole day, two to three hours per teacher. It was just me and Miss Venezuela, so we became really close. We were together for a week before all the other contestants.”
Miriam wasn’t an instant hit with the locals upon her arrival in Port au Prince, Trinidad & Tobago. As per her training, she was told to be seen photographed with early favorites Silvia Salgado of Mexico and Carolina Indriago of Venezuela. Feeling like a fish out of water, she got depressed in the early days of the competition. Add to that is not being able to communicate with her family. Miriam later revealed that she felt the pressure specially after her training in Venezuela.
Thankfully a conversation with one of her UST professors lifted her spirits and removed the weight off her shoulders. Her luck changed later when she was able to gather strength from her family and the Filipino community in the host country. During the Parade of Nations, one of the local MU events, she was seen dancing on a float (with the delegate from the host country nonetheless) and that got her recognized by the locals. That was the start of her getting more media mileage in the competition.
It was rumored that Osmel got nervous upon seeing Miriam train in Venezuela. She absorbed the training very quickly despite being there in Caracas for only one week.
Part 2 coming next week…
She was one of the most gorgeous women to ever walk the Miss Universe stage and her name is Verna Vasquez.
I remember I did a post on Verna back in 2016 on the old blog. Unfortunately data from the old blog could no longer be retrieved, so I thought I should do a new one for her with updated photos. It is quite difficult to find good resolution photos of her and I don’t know why since her face is loved absolutely by the cameras. It is not surprising that she was Miss Photogenic during the Miss Curacao pageant.
A number of pageant fans thought that this girl should have been in the top 3 of Miss Universe 1997 and most of us who followed the pageant in the 90’s thought the same. She should have won Miss Universe on face value and sheer physical beauty alone. That is why a number of beauty pageant experts at that time had her as the most likely winner in their predictions that year.
Verna had the highest preliminary score that year in Miami only to settle among the top 6 finalists during the coronation night. She also had the highest swimsuit score (9.62) and evening gown score (9.79) during the finals. And here is another trivia, among the televised evening gown scores ever published Verna was in the top 10 highest evening gown scores of all time!
Some pageant fans said that had she used her native language for the q&a she would have easily coasted through the top 3. Back then, the top 6 q&a was the sole basis if a girl makes top 3 in Miss Universe. Only when you made top 3 that the judges weight in the overall performance of the girls in their scoring/ ranking on who wins Miss Universe.
Curacao has yet to send a delegate as strong as Verna in Miss Universe. Earlier in 2015, they managed to make top 10 with Kanesha Sluis. I hope that one day in the immediate future someone like Verna Vasquez would be seen representing the lovely country of Curacao…
When you are blonde, green-eyed and stand 5’11” you hardly could go unnoticed.
That is Miss Venezuela Internacional 1996, Consuelo Adler. Born Consuelo Adler Hernandez on the of 6th October 1976, she brought home one of the three consecutive international wins of Venezuela from 1995 to 1997. Crowned together with Miss Venezuela Marena Bencomo and Miss Venezuela Mundo Ana Cepinska, that was the year of the blondes in the MV pageant. She was Miss Miranda in the 1996 edition of the pageant where she won the special awards of “Most Beautiful Skin” and Miss Photogenic. It is the latter award that she would also win in Japan in 1997 aside from the main title.
The Miss International pageant was held in Kyoto Kaikan, First Hall in Kyoto on September 20th 1997. Consuelo became the 37th woman to win the MI title and the 2nd of 7 Venezuelans (so far) to win the title. It also helped that her whistle-bait figure of 25-24-35 was a hit among the Japanese judges.
After her MI stint she went on to become a successful model having worked with Clairol, Erika, Fuchs Schmit, Johnson & Johnson, Nivea, Playtex, Samuel Adamn’s, Wonderbra, and Wenz Notes.
PS. Consuelo is one of the 9 Miss International winner who were also named Miss Photogenic. As well as one of the three blond Miss International winners in that decade.
If one door closes, somewhere is an open window… or so that saying goes. But for Senorita Panama 1996, Lia Voctoria Borrero, she found a floodgate…
Standing at 5’9″, Lia was crowned Señorita Panamá 1996 on September of that year. Later in May of 1997, she found herself competing in Miss Universe in Miami, Florida. She was the second highest overall scorer during the preliminaries behind Verna Vasquez of Curacao. But luck didn’t shine for her during the finals as she only ended up as one of the top 6 finalist that year.
In 1998 though she would find redemption in Miss International. Lia bested top favorites for the MI title which included 1st runner up Daniela Kosan of Venezuela (who won Miss Photogenic) and Adriana Hurtado of Colombia (who won Best in National Costume).
As Miss International, she worked for the International Culture Association (ICA) during her year-long reign, helping the One Love Fund, a foundation that gives donations to people who suffer from natural disasters, through the creation of goodwill activities.
After her reign she opted for a quiet life away from the limelight. She then became a sales manager and had a family of her own with her husband and son. Several years ago, she was honored by the Señorita Panama for her achievements in Miss Universe and Miss International.
One of my favorite Miss Universe winners from the 90’s is Chelsi Smith. And today, we are featuring her with photos from Miss Universe 1995 in Windhoek, Namibia.
Chelsi made history twice in 1995: first when she became the first African-American to win Miss Texas USA and when she became the first African-American Miss USA to win Miss Universe. The bi-racial beauty stood 5’8″ and was my favorite to win Miss USA back then. Her win as Miss USA became the 7th title for Texas. She was also my personal favorite in Miss Universe. She was a 21 year old Education student when she won the title in Namibia.
Chelsi’s background didn’t hinder her to become a success story. Despite being a child of divorce (both her parents and then grandparents were got divorced when she was growing up), pushed for her dream to become a beauty queen. She grew up in a predominantly Caucasian town of Deer Park, Texas. Her landmark win in both Miss Texas USA & Miss Universe were heralded as a breakthrough for African-American women in pageants during the 90’s.
As Miss USA, she received cash and prizes worth US$207,000. Her Miss Universe prize totaled to the amount of US$220,000 plus the honor of an ownership of an African elephant to be named after her.
When we speak of luxury heritage brands in fashion, we speak of the history, craftsmanship and tradition of long withstanding brands like Louis Vuitton, Hermés, Chanel, Dior or TAG Heuer. Some of these brands have been in existence since the 1850’s to the 1950’s and carries with them a sense of timelessness and longevity.
For international pageants, only three has come close to be called such: Miss World, Miss Universe and Miss International. Among the most popular international pageants, these three has withstood the test of time being in existence for at least 50 years. Continue reading “MU, MW and MI: The Heritage Brands of Pageantry”