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Miss World 1951

By Julio Rodríguez Matute


                The decade of the 50s began and Europe was just beginning to rise after World War II. In Britain, people slowly returned to normal. Herbert Morrison, a member of the British parliament, began planning the celebration of the Centenary of the Great Exhibition of 1851; but, it was not just a World Fair. He wanted it to focus rather on the achievements of Great Britain, on its technological advances. The aim was to promote British science, technology, architecture and art; a way to make the population feel that a successful recovery had been achieved after the devastation by the World War.

                In the summer of 1951, the “Festival of Great Britain” was finally born and it was located in central London, on the banks of the River Thames .


                Eric Douglas Morley was born in Holborn, England, on September 26th, 1918. He was orphaned at age 11. At an early age he was sent to enlist in the English Naval Forces. During World War II he became a Captain in the Royal Army Service Corps, participated in the Battle of Dunkirk on the French coast during the war and was responsible for the entertainment area of ​​the troops in charge. After the end of hostilities, at the end of World War II in 1945, and after serving almost 12 years in the army, Eric suddenly saw himself at the beginning of his new life as a civilian. The entertainment area always caught his attention, so he started working as an actor in Norway and made a career as an assistant to a theater company in Scotland. In late 1946, in London, he began working at the entertainment company “Mecca Dancing” as a Publicity Sales Manager. Mecca owned dance halls and restaurants throughout Britain and organized dance competitions; It was the first company of this kind that achieved success through a TV program called “Come Dancing” broadcasted on the BBC, something similar to what is now known as “Dancing with the Stars”. Morley also organized Fashion Shows and small beauty contests, created with the purpose of attracting big attendances to the dancing halls of Mecca. He also achieved the popularity of Bingo, which was played at all Mecca Dancing locations in the United Kingdom.


                The “Lyceum Ballroom”, located half a mile from the South Bank where the Festival of Great Britain was being held, crossing the Waterloo Bridge and a few steps from the famous The Strand Street in Westminster, London, belonged to Mecca Dancing. Being so close to the headquarters of the Festival of Great Britain, its organizers asked Mecca if they could contribute in any way to the Festival. Morley, who as we mentioned before, was the Publicity Sales Manager of Mecca Dancing, was responsible for finding innovative ideas for the Festival. He wanted to create some activity or event that would attract attention, not only to young people but to people of all ages. This is how he suggested creating an international beauty pageant and proposed it to the organizers of the Festival. At that time, small beauty contests created by Morley were already organized in Mecca’s salons and their popularity was increasing. Morley’s idea was to hold a beauty contest that would attract attention, not only in the United Kingdom, but internationally and that would deliver publicity to Great Britain worldwide. The contest would attract candidates from several countries and, at least, it would be possible to obtain publicity in the countries where such contestants came from.

                Morley’s suggestion was accepted by the organizers of the Festival of Great Britain and Morley immediately began to work on his idea. He saw how Bikini fashion was in full swing and decided that the contest would show beautiful women wearing that tiny garment. Initially, the event would be called “Girl Bikini Contest of the Festival of Great Britain” but due to its international character and after the comment of some journalists, Morley decided to call it “Miss World” after making sure that name had not been previously used or patented.


                The first “Miss World” contest would be held that summer of 1951, being one of the last events of the Festival of Great Britain. Morley had no experience organizing an event of this magnitude, so he had many difficulties at first. The first thing was to get that several countries of the world could be interested and send a representative. Through his contacts, he managed to send invitations to a dozen countries (United States, France, Belgium, Sweden, Denmark, Ireland, Germany, Finland, Switzerland, Holland, Turkey and Japan). Morley spent hours writing letters and making phone calls looking for people to find candidates in those nations. From all of those countries, Morley received an affirmative answer from five of them but time was running out. One of the main objections he encountered was precisely that the girls should wear bikinis, and, for that reason, Miss Ireland, Patsy O’Hara and Miss Turkey, Guler Ariman, refused to travel to London to the competition. Morley then thought it was a bad idea to plan his contest by presenting girls wearing bikinis and not the traditional one-piece swimsuit, but it was too late to change his mind.

                At that time, there were no registration fees or franchises to pay. The same candidates, or their sponsors in their respective countries, had to pay for the air tickets to London, while Morley got free accommodation for international contestants thanks to the sponsorship of some hotels.

                Although some countries had already chosen their beauty queens, they did not travel to London for the first edition of Miss World. They were, in addition to the aforementioned beauties of Ireland and Turkey, the representatives from Belgium (Lucienne Zadworny), Finland (Hilkka Ruuska), Germany (Susanna Erichsen), Japan (Takayo Subuchi) and Switzerland (Jacqueline Genton).         


                Having only five international candidates, Morley decided to make a casting call to recruit British contestants, a few days before the final, on July 24th, 1951 at the Lyceum Ballroom facilities. Applicants could be single, married or divorced, with or without children, that didn’t matter! This event was attended by one of the international contestants, the Swedish Kerstin Hakansson, who had previously won the title of “The Prettiest Girl in Sweden” and who had arrived in the British capital the day before this event, being the First of the international participants to reach the competition. “Kiki” as she prefered to be called, turned 22 precisely the day she arrived in London (July 23rd) and she celebrated her birthday during the British casting event. At the end, Morley managed to have a total of 24 contestants from all over the United Kingdom, plus a girl of Mexican origin who was studying in London and who would represent her native Mexico in the contest.

                Among those 24 beauties of Great Britain were Aileen P. Chase, 20, of Southwick, Sussex, who would later be the representative of Great Britain in the first edition of Miss Universe the following year; Marlene Ann Dee, 19, of Weston Road; Brenda Mee, 18, of Derby; Elaine Pryce, 22, of Bolton; Sidney June Walker, 18, of Fleetwood; Nina Way, 21, from Edgware; Ann Rosemary West, 18, of Ilford; Fay Cotton, 18, from East Midlands, Maureen O’Neill, 19, from Palmers Green; Sylvia Wren of 20, of Dagenham, Norma Kitchen of 21, of Leeds; Margaret Morgan, 22, of West Kirby; and Thelma Kerr, 19, of Belfast, Northern Ireland. Also, Pat Cameron from Glasgow, Scotland; Margaret Mills of Middleton; Jean Worthe of Teddington; Mary McLaney of Clydebank, Scotland; Margaret Turner of Birmingham; and Jean Sweeney of Liverpool. With those twenty-four Britons and the six international beauties, Morley already had thirty women enrolled and the contest promised to be a success.


                The following day, July 25th, it was the arrivals of the last contestants from France, Jacqueline Lemoine, who presented herself with the title of “Miss Bikini France” and the girl from Denmark, Lily Jacobson, an 18-year-old student from Copenhagen, who had been elected “Miss Bikini Denmark” just last Wednesday, July 18th. The previous day, two more foreign beauties had joined the competition, the Dutch Margaret van Beer and the 20-year-old American Annette Gibson from Louisville, Kentucky.

                On the afternoon of Thursday, July 26th, a day before the finals, Morley gathered his candidates in the halls of Empire Rooms, on Tottenham Court Road, along with the judges, executives of Mecca Dancing, sponsors and organizers of the Festival of the Great Britain. It was the day of the preliminary judging, and 27 of the 30 girls originally registered were presented. Mary Akroyd and two more beautiful married ladies, decided not to show up due to their husbands’ objection to showing themselves wearing bikinis before the eyes of other men.

                The twenty-seven contestants appeared on the night of Friday, July 27th at the Lyceum Ballroom in London, before the judges for the final qualification, all dressed in tiny bikinis. The young women arrived on stage wearing a cape, and a woman, dressed in a pixie uniform, was there, behind them, to remove the cape so that the judges could better observe their physical attributes. Then, each of the participants was placed on a pedestal with their contestant´s number.

                The voting system in the first Miss World contest was very simple. The judges rated 50% by figure, 20% by facial beauty, 20% by pose and 10% by acclamation of the audience.

                The judges selected five contestants as finalists, including the British Aileen P. Chase (she came fifth place, although that position was not officially awarded. She only received a bouquet of flowers at the end of the event).

                The fourth place and winner of £ 150, was the blonde and glamorous Miss France, Jacqueline Lemoine, 19, born in Bayeux but resident of Paris, wearing a leopard bikini. Jacqueline subsequently became a recognized actress in her country and adopted Ventura as her last name. (She died in 2017 at the age of 85).

                 The third place and who obtained 250 sterling pounds, went to the British Doreen Gaffney-Dawne, married, 28, of the Chelsea neighborhood in London, later recognized as an actress and who died in 2005. The second place, with a £ 500 prize, turned out to be also a Brighton: Laura Ellison-Davis, who was also married, 26, of Hammersmith, London.



                And the winner, with the title of “Miss World” and who got a check for £1000, was the most beautiful girl in Sweden, Kerstin “Kiki” Margareta Hakansson, a model from Stockholm of 22 years of age, 5 feet seven inches in height and measurements 37-23-36. The brand new Miss World not only shone by her personality but also looked great in a bikini! Without a doubt, it was a very popular choice. Kiki also won a pearl necklace and officially reigned for 475 days, becoming the Miss World with more time in office. Still many years later, Eric Morley claimed that Kiki had been the most shocking Miss World he has seen in a bathing suit (and in fact the only one to date that has won wearing a tiny bikini).

                The charming Swedish woman and her first three finalists toured several British cities, performing in dance halls and casinos of Mecca Dancing, in order to promote the contest. During her reign, Kiki traveled a lot through England, Scotland, France, Italy, Germany and the Scandinavian countries. She modeled for Christian Dior, Jacques Fath and Hermes in Paris and made a series of programs for the Danish TV giving beauty tips. Being Miss World, she was offered a contract for 7 years as a film actress by Carlo Ponti in Rome, but she rejected it because she was too young to commit for so many years.

                She married the Norwegian Ole Hartner in June 1952, but got divorced soon. She did not give the title to her successor, because at that time, the winners were not crowned. She studied Haute Couture in Europe. Years later she met Wisconsin’s Dallas J. Anderson during a dinner in Lillehammer, Norway, where she was for a photo shoot. Dallas was studying at the University of Oslo and was on vacation skiing at a Lillehammer resort. They fell in love and married in 1962 in Copenhagen, Denmark and, in 1967, they moved to the United States, first to Provo and then to Orem, and Pleasant Grove in Utah where she worked as a teacher. She later lived in Neenah, Wisconsin, her husband’s hometown.

               Kiki had three children, Orell Christian, Leif Erik and Linda Kristina. In 1975 she was invited as a judge of the Miss World contest in London, an event that was celebrating its 25 years of existence. She was widowed in 2009 and currently, with 90 years of age, resides in the Pacific Northwest.



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