Miss Universe - From 1952 to 1959


1950s-The Golden Years!

1952 - Armi Kuusela (Finland)

For the first time in history, the host Olympic country- the Games of the 15th Olympiad were held at Helsinki in 1952-- earned the universal trophy as Armi Kuusela triumphed in the first annual contest on July 28, 1952. Despite not being considered one of the heavy-favorites, among 30 entries, she became the first Miss Universe - the world's most well-known beauty contest-- at Long Beach, CA. In the meantime, Miss Kuusela was among the national idols from Finland such as Paavo Nurmi, Harry Larva and Hannes Kolehmainen.

1953 - Christiane Martel (France)

France has won praise for its pretty girls. An evidence of this occurred in July 1953 when Christiane Martel -often referred to as one of the most beautiful queens in Miss Universe history-put France on the world map after being crowned Miss Universe by outgoing queen Armi Kuusela from Finland. Miss France 1953 was elected Miss Universe from a field of 26 entries. In fact, her win at Long Beach, inspired several women to participate in the annual pageant. She was the second native of Europe to win the event. Certainly one cannot discuss on Miss Universe without paying homage to Christian Martel.

1954 - Miriam Stevenson (SCarolina/America)

In a memorable victory that seemed difficult a few years earlier, Miss United States of America, Miriam Stevenson, a blonde from Winnsboro (South Carolina), captured the title, after beating other 33 national entries at Long Beach. USA had experienced a breakthrough year in 1953 when Mirna Rae Hansen, a native of Chicago (Illinois), came close to winning the title. The new winner was crowned by last year's winner, Christiane Martel from France. But that was not all, of course. Upon donning the crown, Miss Stevenson became the first North American beauty queen to win an international pageant in history. She is one of South Carolina's best-known beautiful girls alongside names like Shawn Weatherly and Lu Parker.

1955 -- Hillevi Rombin (Sweden)

Despite her initial popularity and personal charisma, the favorite Maribel Arrieta, who had been compared in her appearance with American actress Marilyn Monroe, did not win the trophy. Surprisingly, the judges chose Hillevi Rombin of Sweden. In one of the most memorable finals, Miss Sweden, Hillevi Rombin, was crowned MU after defeating El Salvador's Maribel Arrieta Gálvez. In fact, Sweden had its golden age in the 50s. A year ago, the Scandinavian nation had finished among the top five in the contest.

1956 - Carol Morris (Iowa/America)

After a disappointing participation in 1955, USA made history in 1956 as Carol Morris, lived up to her fame like one of the most stunning girls in the world upon becoming Miss Universe, an event which several Americans considered to be their birthright. Miss Morris successfully consolidated America's return to MU title. She was the second U.S woman to win the title in the contest's 5-year history. She, who hails from Otturnwa (Iowa), had been handpicked by a notable international jury, among them Max Factor and Dorothy Kirsten.

1957 - Gladys Zender (Peru)

Peru came to world attention when its national delegate, Gladys Zender, picked up the title. Zender's win ended North Atlantic's five-year domination of Miss Universe. Meanwhile, at that time, a Peruvian newspaper devoted an entire page in the main section of the paper to Miss Zender. She was the first woman from her region, Latin America, to win the world award. Upon winning the award, she made her first international speech and assumed the role of "Ambassador of the world" visiting a host of cities in Latin America, Europe and the States. On the other hand, Peru's Zender has preserved her image as one of the most respected Miss Universes in history.

1958 - Luz Marina Zuluaga (Colombia)

The judges chose a relatively unknown beauty queen of Colombia, Luz Maria Zuluaga, as Miss Universe. Upon her abrupt win, Colombia practically declared Zuluaga a "national treasure". Paradoxically, she came in second place to Miss Antioquia, Doris Gil de Santamaria, at the 1957 Miss Colombia Pageant. Nonetheless, Gil de Santamaria renounced her crown and was replaced by Zuluaga. She was elected Miss Universe from a field of 36 entries. In the course of her reign, she changed her residence by America, but did not changed her love for Colombia, among the most respected democracies in the developing world since the late 50s. Today few Colombians will forget Zuluaga's win.

1959 - Akiko Kojima (Japan)

Miss Japan, Akiko Kojima, pulled off one of the greatest upsets in Miss Universe history as she, who worked as a model in Tokyo, captured the title in the late 1950s. Since then, Kojima's achievement was hailed as a win for Asia. Nonetheless, Kojima's victory was not well received in Italy. While Japan celebrated her win, at Rome there were protests against the results after Italy's contestant Maria Grazia Buccella -the favorite at the 8th Miss Universe Beauty Pageant- had been eliminated in the first round. Certainly, Japan had "hurt the pride of Italy", home to a host of legendary beauties such as Gina Lollobrigida and Sofia Loren. Miss Kojima was born on October 29, 1936 in the capital city of Japan.

Alejandro Guevara Onofre: Freelance writer. Alejandro is author of a host of articles/essays about over 220 countries and dependencies (and American States as well), from ecology, history, tourism and national heroes to Olympic sports, foreign relations, and wildlife. In addition, he has published some books on women's rights, among them "History of the Women in America" and "Famous Americans"

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