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Miss World 1975

By Julio Rodríguez Matute


María Conchita

                1975 was a very special year for me. At a young age I discovered an interest in topics that became my two great passions. One of these was political geography, a predilection that had been born in me months before. I was only 7 years old and I loved learning about the world, its languages, cultures and customs, thanks to the encyclopedic book “World Almanac 1974” that my parents had given me. I recited the capitals of all the nations of the world and knew the flags of each of the countries that made up the globe. The other passion, that of beauty pageants, began precisely in 1975, when the also young María Conchita Alonso participated in the Miss Venezuela pageant. I was a child, but I remember vividly when I observed at a newspaper stand in front of the building where I lived in San Bernardino, Caracas, the cover of a magazine where María Conchita appeared in a revealing bathing suit. Coincidentally, my mother bought it and as I looked at her photo over and over again, I discovered that this had become “love at first sight”, a platonic love of a child. The date of the contest was close, I had seen the commercial announcing the contest from the Poliedro de Caracas and, of course, I wanted my María Conchita to be named as the most beautiful girl in the country. Days before, I had seen her on the TV program “Sabado Sensacional”, next to compere Amador Bendayán, singing “I want to have a million friends” and that voice made me fall in love. I remember that the broadcast of the contest, through Venevision, started somewhat late and I only managed to watch perhaps the first hour of the contest before my parents sent me to bed. It was a weekday and I had to get up early because I had to go to school. I remember that, when it was Maria Conchita’s turn to parade, she shouted at the MC Gilberto Correa, from backstage, that she was not ready, and asked to go to a commercial break !!. The next day I asked my mother who had won, crossing my fingers because she would have been my beloved candidate. Well, no, she had not won, it was the taller Miss Nueva Esparta and María Conchita had been in second place, to “Miss World” and I didn’t even know what that was. Months later, my mother told me that they were going to broadcast Miss World with my María Conchita and that there were girls from many countries. My two passions in a single television program !!. The 25th anniversary of Miss World were being celebrated, an event that due to my young age I did not know at the time. Glued to the screen, I did not miss details of the contest, so much so that I memorized the 67 contestants, their faces and their national costumes, in perfect alphabetical order !!. What happened during the broadcast of the event can be read in detail later in this article. Venezuela had achieved an excellent representation with María Conchita and, from that moment, I began to watch, year after year, the Miss Venezuela, the Miss Universe and the Miss World contests. The Morley’s London pageant, which was celebrating its “Silver Jubilee” that year, became the first international beauty pageant I had ever witnessed in my life and started a passion that would make me become, years later, not just a “missologist” (a word that by the way I invented back there in the early 90’s and that today is so well known in the world, with certain grammatical variants in some countries – Reinologist in Colombia and Missiologist in Puerto Rico-), but also in a historian of this type of events and, thanks to this, you can enjoy through these historical accounts of the Miss World contest that I am happy to share with you.


                The UN proclaims March 8 as International Women’s Day. End of the Vietnam War: the Northern Communists take Saigon (South Vietnam) causing the surrender of that country. The genocide in Cambodia begins by the Khmer Rouge guerrillas and the Kingdom of Laos also succumbs to the communists who proclaim the Lao People’s Democratic Republic. Mozambique, Angola, Cape Verde, São Tomé and Príncipe and East Timor gain independence from Portugal, while Papua New Guinea becomes independent from Australia, the Comoros Islands from France and Suriname from the Netherlands. A civil war begins in Lebanon that lasts until 1990 and another in Angola that ends in 2002. After its independence, East Timor is invaded by Indonesia and Morocco occupied Western Sahara (Spanish). The Kingdom of Sikkim becomes a state of India and the Brazilian state of Guanabara disappears when it joins that of Rio de Janeiro. The Banqiao dam in China broke due to a typhoon, flooding more than 30 cities and causing some 200,000 victims. In Haicheng, China an earthquake of 7 at Richter scale occurs, the first in history to be predicted, however, it caused about 300 deaths; Another 6.7 earthquake in Lice, Turkey, leaves more than 2,000 dead. The Suez Canal reopens after the six-day war, while in Peru the military coup called “Tacnazo” occurs. A fire affects 6 floors of the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York. The IRA explodes a bomb at the London Hilton hotel in the British capital, while another explodes at New York’s LaGuardia airport without anybody being found guilty. American President Gerald Ford survives two assassination attempts and Juan Carlos is proclaimed King of Spain. Venezuelan terrorist Carlos “El Chacal” kidnaps delegations from an OPEC conference in Vienna while the Colombian government announces the discovery of the Lost City. Bill Gates and Paul Allen found Microsoft in New Mexico, USA and the first microcomputer, the Altair8800, began to be sold. Anne Marie Pohtamo of Finland wins the Miss Universe crown in El Salvador and Yugoslav Lidija Manic wins the Miss International crown in Okinawa, Japan. The Dutch song “Ding A Dong” from ‘Teach In’ wins the XX Eurovision Song Contest in Stockholm, Sweden. The films “Jaws” and “The Return of the Pink Panther” are released in the cinema; on American TV the series “Wonder Woman” with Lynda Carter (Miss World USA 1972), “Starky & Hutch”, “S.W.A.T.” and the shows “Wheel of Fortune” and “Good Morning America” started to broadcast, while the rock group Queen premieres the song “Bohemian Rhapsody” in London. At Disneyworld, it is opened the “Space Mountain” attraction. This year the American actresses Angelina Jolie, Drew Barrymore and Eva Longoria, the South African Charlize Theron, the English singer Mel B, the future Miss Universe 1994, Sushmita Sen from India, the English footballer David Beckham, the Spanish singer Enrique Iglesias and the Mexican actor and first runner-up of Mr World 1996, Gabriel Soto, were born. The Greek tycoon Aristotle Onassis, the ex-Colombian President Gustavo Rojas Pinilla, the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco, the French artist and activist Josephine Baker, the British car racer Graham Hill (who was a judge in Miss World 1968 and who was killed in a plane crash) and King Faisal of Saudi Arabia (killed by his nephew) died in 1975.


                Celebrating the first twenty-five years of a project is the dream of any entrepreneur. This year the “Silver Jubilee” of the Miss World contest was celebrated and the Morleys wanted to push the boat out for it. They invited almost all the queens who had been Miss World and had in mind to produce an opening musical number with all of them. They modified the rules of the contest, prohibiting not only the participation of married women (which had already been in effect for several years) but also those single women who had children. They also modified the residence clause, in which a girl could represent a country only if she had lived in it for the last five years (previously it was only one year). Already the previous year they had modified the crown, adding some rhinestones to the strass straps to make it a little more resistant and, at the same time, flexible, however they made a tender for a new crown. In addition, they sent invitations to more than 80 countries to be part of these celebrations. By 1975, Julia Morley had achieved the record of having directors in 79 countries and territories, who had originally confirmed their participation in the event. However, in Cyprus there was no national contest for the aftermath of the Turkish invasion of the previous year, in Madagascar they did not hold their beauty event either and Ecuador decided to send their queen only to Maja International for financial reasons. Meanwhile, the political situation in Portugal caused the contest to be canceled indefinitely, thus losing the rights to Miss World.

                Two African countries, Botswana and Liberia, had sponsor problems and, although they chose their beauty queens, they announced in early November that they would not be represented in Miss World this year. In Jamaica, the Ministry of Culture took the reins of the contest, wanting to give the contest another focus, with cultural awareness, talent and community development as a priority, so there were certain disagreements among the previous organizers. The contest was then organized by the Festival Committee, appointed by the Ministry, changing the name of the event to the ” Jamaica’s Festival Queen”. Initially, the winner, Lydia Alethia Malcolm, would go to Miss World, but the rights to the contest on the island were still in the hands of the previous managers, so their participation was not confirmed. Miss Malcolm traveled to London with the air ticket obtained as part of her awards and stayed there. When she did not return to Jamaica, the title was conferred on the first runner-up, Pamela Alvaranga. However, the contest was canceled the following year because they no longer had the rights to Miss World and it was not held again until 1985. Miss Honduras was not held in 1975 because Miss Universe would be held in El Salvador and both countries did not maintain relations due to war. But the organizer, Norma de Funes, sent the 1974 titleholder, Etelinda Mejía, to London. A total of 73 countries were confirmed for the worldwide contest until the date the program book was sent to the press on the second week of November. Among the other countries that held their national competitions we have the following:

                – Miss Colombia.- Mrs. Tera Pizarro de Ángulo, organizer of the Colombian National Beauty Pageant, decided to give more importance to Miss World. This year, it would not be the third but the first princess who would go to London. The contest was held on November 11, 1974 with 13 candidates, and young Martha Lucía Echeverri Trujillo (Miss Valle) was chosen as Miss Colombia (to Miss Universe). The Vice-Queen (to Miss International) was Alina María Botero López (Miss Antioquia) and the First Princess (to Miss World), Amanda Amaya Correa (Miss Guajira).

                – Miss France.- On December 12, 1974, the election of “Miss France 1975” was held at the Hotel Concorde Lafayette in Paris with just over 50 candidates. The winner was Miss Lorraine, 18-year-old Sophie Perin. The finalists were Miss Gascogne, Martine Calzavera and Miss Tahiti, Mira Vahiatua.

                – Miss Austria.- Beginning in spring, Miss Austria was held in the city of Kitzbuhel, and Rosemarie Holzschuh, 21, was chosen. She represented her country in both Miss Universe and Miss World. The finalists were Brigitte Bertold and Waltraud Gasser.

                – National Beauty Contest (Dominican Republic) .- Held on April 30 at the Agua-Luz theater in Santo Domingo. The winner, as Miss Dominican Republic, was Carmen Rosa Arredondo, who went to Miss World. The Queen of Tourism was Gianina Campagna and the Queen of Merengue, Miguelina Sánchez.

                – Miss Holland.- Lynda Snippe, 18, won the “Miss Holland 1975” contest on May 5 at the Kurhaus in Scheveningen. The finalists were Cora Kitz, Barbara Ann Neefs, Nanny Nielen and the main favorite, Ellen Soeters. Following her participation in Miss Universe, Lynda had an impasse with local organizers and was dethroned, with first-place finisher Cora Kitz ascending the throne. Second runner-up, Barbara Neefs, just 17, was sent to Miss World.

                – Señorita México.- The “Señorita México 1975” contest was held on Saturday, May 17, 1975, at the Hotel Camino Real, in Mexico City. The winner was Delia Servín Nieto (Sinaloa) who went to Miss Universe, while the finalists were Blanca Patricia López Esparza (Jalisco, to Miss World), Martha Edith Morris Garza (Tamaulipas), Clara Martens Ortíz (State of Mexico), Gloria Imelda Orozco (Chihuahua), Marisela Graniel Tirado (Tabasco), María de los Ángeles Barbosa Vera (Veracruz) and Margarita Vernez Guajardo (Federal District, to Miss International).

                – Miss El Salvador.- On Friday June 6, the first “Miss El Salvador” contest in many years was held. The winner, Carmen Elena Figueroa, would host the Miss Universe pageant because the 1975 edition would be based in the city of San Salvador. Ana Stella Comas Durán, was selected to go to Miss World for the first time in the history of the contest.

                – Miss Brazil.- On Friday June 20, the twenty-second edition of Miss Brazil was held at the Presidente Médici Gym in Brasilia. The winner, Miss Santa Catarina, Ingrid Budag, went to Miss Universe as it was already traditional. In second place was Miss Brasilia, Lisane Guimarães Távora, who went to Miss International, and third, Miss Bahía, Zaida Souza Costa, to Miss World. Leila Gomes Tancredi from Rio de Janeiro and Miss Minas Gerais, Silvana da Silva Lisboa completed the Top 5.

                – Girl of the Year (Peru) .- As the military who ran the country considered it an offense to use the nation’s name for a beauty pageant, Gente Magazine organized the “Girl of the Year 1975” pageant on Wednesday June 25 in the Independencia hall of the Sheraton Hotel in Lima with 21 participants. It was the first national contest to be held since 1972. The winner, Lourdes Berninzon, was sent to Miss Universe, and the first runner-up, Mary Orfanides, was designated to go toMiss World. The remaining finalists were Lidia Zolezzi, Aurora Hornung and Pilar Galindo.

                – Miss Venezuela.- El Poliedro de Caracas was the venue, for the first time, of the “Miss Venezuela 1975” contest on Wednesday June 25, an event broadcast by Venevision and with Gilberto Correa and ex-Miss Argentina Liana Cortijo as comperes. The winner was Miss Nueva Esparta, Maritza Pineda, who went to Miss Universe. The finalists were Miss Federal District, María Conchita Alonso; Miss Carabobo, Yamel Díaz; Miss Barinas, Helena Merlin and Miss Amazonas, Virginia Sipl. María Conchita went to Miss World and later developed a career as a world famous actress and singer; Yamel went to Miss International and made news again when she was killed by her husband on June 14, 1991 when she was thrown from the balcony of her house; Helena was a semifinalist in Miss Young International and also achieved fame after falling into the world of drugs, which led her to live on the street, as a destitute, on Margarita Island. She was rehabilitated and her daughter Stefany Merlin participated in Miss Venezuela 2014, placing as a semifinalist. Virginia Sipl was 2nd runner-up of the Miss Tourism of Central America and the Caribbean and she is also remembered having a love relationship with the Spanish singer Julio Iglesias.

                – Miss Dominion of Canada.- On Tuesday, July 1, in Niagara Falls, 21-year-old Normande Jacques from Blind River, Ontario was crowned the new “Miss Dominion of Canada 1975”. The finalists were Jacqueline Wilson and Mary DuBois. The event had the participation of 16 candidates.

                – Miss Commonwealth Bahamas.- 17-year-old Ava Marilyn Burke won the title on Sunday, July 27 at the Le Cabaret Theater in Paradise Island. The finalists were Nicole Adderly, Tanya Kemp, Ingrid Symonette and Nicole Johnson.

                – Miss World-USA.- Annelise Ilschenko, Miss Ohio, won the crown on Sunday August 17 in Springfield, Massachusetts among 48 participants. Miss Indiana, Julie Jo Clifford; Miss Hawaii, Tracy Lynn Monsarrat; Miss Massachusetts, Mona Jean Tessier; and Miss Texas, Susan Schlesinger were the finalists.

                – Miss United Kingdom.- Vicki Harris, Miss England and a Miss Universe 1975 semifinalist, born in Malaysia, won the crown of “Miss United Kingdom” on Tuesday August 19 in Blackpool, with 35 candidates, being crowned by Helen Morgan. Sue Cuff and Gail Inglis were the finalists.

                – Miss South Africa.- It was held on Saturday, August 23 at the Civic Theater in Johannesburg. Helga Vera Johns, who had been elected “Miss Rhodesia” in 1972, was crowned “Miss South Africa 1975”. The finalists were Crystal Cooper and Rhoda Rademeyer.

                – Miss World Guam.- On Sunday, August 31, 19-year-old office worker Dora Quintanilla, from Agana Heights, was crowned the new “Miss World Guam”. Rhonda Labalan and Liz Montinola were chosen as finalists.

                – Miss Spain.- Olga Fernández Pérez, representative of Galicia, was chosen “Miss Spain 1975” at the gala held on Sunday August 31 at a hotel in Playa de las Américas, in the south of Tenerife. The title of Miss National went to Victoria Martín González of Tenerife, who represented Miss Atlántico and, as Maid of Honor, Teresa Maldonado, Miss Catalonia.

                – Quest of Quests.- Anne Davidson won the title of “Australia´s Dream Girl” at the Quest of Quests held on Wednesday September 10 at the Wentworth Hotel in Sydney among 12 candidates. Anne was also chosen Miss World Australia. Other winners were Julie Ismay (to Miss Universe), Patricia Newell (to Miss International), Michelle Glass (to Miss Asia Pacific) and Karen James (to Miss Young International).

                – Miss Argentina.- Lilian De Asti, “National Flower Queen 1975”, was chosen in October as the Argentine representative to Miss World. The finalists were Marta Silvia González, Patricia Sbromeda, Carmen Santoandré and María Josefina Vasoli.

                – Miss Ireland.- The event was held at the Portmarnock Country Club on Friday, October 24, with Elaine Rosemary O’Hara of Westmeath being elected.



Olga Fernández Pérez




                Other significant events happened before the 1975 Miss World rally in London. Michael Aspel, who had been the compere of the event since 1964, announced his retirement in October to pursue other projects, being succeeded by his partner David Vine. Helen Morgan continued to appear in the main headlines, but this time it was for other reasons. On Nov. 3 in the Cardiff Crown Court, her boyfriend Christopher Clode, 27, was fined after being convicted of threatening another ex-boyfriend of the Beauty Queen, nightclub manager Raymond Lovegrove. The court was told an incredible story of how Clode chased his rival in a car and tried to run him over. Both men had repeatedly claimed to be the father of Miss Morgan’s 30-month-old son. At the hearing of the case, Lovegrove ended up confessing that he had lied and that he was not Richard Clode’s father, while Christopher’s driver’s license was suspended for two years. By this time Helen had moved to Harrow, London and had ended her relationship with Chris. Meanwhile, South African Anneline Kriel traveled little due to the issue of Apartheid and was not even invited to the annual Miss World tour to Australia ussually just before handing over the title. Anneline complained about preferences from the Morleys to Helen Morgan, who as Miss United Kingdom billed much more than she.

Israel, United Kingdom and South Africa

                The contenders for Miss World 1975 had not started arriving in London to blow up the bulbs, and organizers were already praying that this time there would be no single mothers among them. Enthusiastic participants in the annual London beauty pageant had been carefully vetted to avoid a repeat of the fiasco of the previous year when single mother Helen Morgan of Wales won but soon resigned due to adverse publicity. A spokesperson for Mecca said: “We have told National Associations that there are no more married, divorced, or single mothers who have had a child.” For girls who still wanted to cheat about motherhood or marriages, there was a criminal clause in their contract that automatically disqualified them. Also, the new queen would have a stricter chaperone to try to avoid a repeat of the 1973 debacle when Marjorie Wallace was stripped of her title after romances with pop star Tom Jones and footballer George Best. Even if this year’s title contenders proved to be role models, there was always a threat that female liberation militants who condemned the contest as “cattle market” and “meat trade” might try to disrupt it.


                The Finns were delighted because their titleholder had been elected Miss Universe in San Salvador in July. The first runner-up in the “Miss Suomi 1975” contest, Merja Helena Tammi, who was due to participate in Miss World, was previously sent to the Miss Young International contest held on August 8 in Tokyo, Japan and the beautiful young woman took the crown, the second of importance for Finland the same year !!. Due to her triumph, the organization had to send to London, as a substitute, the second runner-up of the previous year’s contest, Leena Kaarina Vainio.


                The “silver anniversary” of the Miss World contest was held from November 8 to 21, with the first three days dedicated to the arrival of the contestants. However, the first candidate to arrive in Great Britain was Miss Saint Lucia, who arrived on October 28. Her flight was diverted to Manchester due to bad weather in London. Another who arrived prematurely was Miss Seychelles, who got off her plane on November 4 to walk around before the gathering of beauties began. The young woman was entertained by a commission from her country in London and traveled to Glasgow, Scotland before returning to London for the contest. Other early candidates were Miss Honduras, Miss Australia and Miss Singapore, who arrived on November 5, 6 and 7 respectively. The rest of the competitors arrived between November 8 and 10, which were the dates stipulated by the organization. The first official Miss World activity was held on November 11, with the beauties visiting the Hampton Court and welcoming dinner. On the 12th they made the already traditional walk on the River Thames and the next day they continued with the tour of the different tourist points of London, among them the famous Tower, the Cathedral of Saint Paul, Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus and had a Lunch at the Beefeater Restaurant on the St. Katherine Pier. Despite the Morleys trying at all costs to avoid placing bets on the Misses, Ladbrokes house manager Ron Pollard had gone to see the girls at the Hampton Court and had published the first bets favoring Miss South Africa with 7-1, Miss United Kingdom with 8-1 and Miss Israel with 9-1.



                On Thursday November 13, Miss Italy, Anna Vitale, had to leave the Britannia hotel, venue of the contest, and return to Milan after learning of her mother’s sudden illness. The old woman only had her daughter, so the beauty queen had to withdraw from the contest, with the promise of returning if her mother improved. This did not happen and the Italians had to send an emergency replacement.

                On the other hand, Miss South Africa, Helga Vera Johns, was officially disqualified that same day when it was discovered that she violated the contest rules. It was a journalist for the Daily Mirror newspaper who urged the directors of Miss World to make such a drastic decision. A day earlier, it had been published that Miss South Africa should be disqualified for not being South African but a national of Rhodesia, a country not recognized by the United Kingdom and that even Miss Johns had been Miss Rhodesia three years earlier. She had been born in Salisbury, the capital of that country, on April 10, 1950, where she lived her entire life and only moved to Cape Town, South Africa, a year earlier. In South Africa She took up residence, but was traveling on a British passport. At first, Julia Morley ignored the journalist’s article and after being consulted said that Vera Johns was South African for all intents and purposes, that she had checked her credentials and that everything was correct. “There will be no controversy unless you start one,” Mrs. Morley said angrily. “She is a legitimate representative and can be in the contest. Having taken up residence in the Republic, she considers herself as a national of that country.”

Vera Johns

                The journalist wanted to fan the fire by reminding Morley of the contest rules, which stipulated that a girl must reside for at least five years in the represented country if she had not been born in it and that Rhodesia was a country that had been boycotted by the British government because of racial discrimination, so the Morleys had no choice but to acknowledge the fault and communicate to Miss South Africa that she should be disqualified. The young woman was not returned to her country, but they asked the South African organizers to send a substitute as soon as possible. The two finalists for Miss South Africa traveled to London on Saturday, November 15. Initially, who would replace Vera Johns had to be the first runner-up, Crystal Coopers, but her father did not allow her to compete in Miss World because it was discovered that Vera Johns was not going to be officially stripped of her title. Crystal, 18, also said she would not like to be chosen under those conditions. “I am very sorry about what happened with Vera. She worked very hard for this.” Finally, the one who took the flag of South Africa was the second runner-up, Rhoda Rademeyer. “I think it is terrible to have come this far and be disqualified before the finals,” said Ms. Johns, after accepting that she had broken the rules imposed by the contest. “I don’t blame them, they are tied to a contract and I accept that I don’t qualify.”

Miss Venezuela, Miss Cuba and Miss Philippines

                Another candidate, whose participation was “hanging by the thread”, was Miss Cuba, who did not live on the Caribbean island but in Miami Beach and who was part of the hundreds of thousands of Cubans who had emigrated because of communism. The well-formed 22-year-old Marisela Clark admitted that she did not represent Fidel Castro’s socialist regime, but rather the anti-Castro exiles in Florida because she had been chosen at an event held in Fort Lauderdale. Her admission came after the organizers of the annual beauty event had triumphantly claimed a coup by capturing a representative of the generally puritan socialist countries that traditionally displayed disdain for beauty competitions. With her innocent look, Marisela said: “I was announced as Miss Cuba, but I really am Miss Free Cuba.” And for the reason she was missing the residency clause, the young woman had shown that she was born in the country she represented. “Before the event began, some contest officials were considering disqualifying me but they realized that I was born in Cuba and that I represent Cubans,” said the young woman who left her country when she was 6 years old. The Cuban beauty said that her participation in the contest helped exiles from her country to have an identity. “I want to be able to represent the entire Cuban people, but since Fidel Castro does not want me to represent him, I am representing the people of Free Cuba.” The young Cuban woman with British ancestors was invited to participate in the contest after having competed in Miss Tourism of the Americas held in Ecuador. Her expenses for the trip to London were covered thanks to donations from Cuban exiles in Florida. Marisela said she intended to help select a Cuban representative in exile for next year’s contest. Meanwhile, Angel Dalmau, first secretary of the Cuban Embassy in London said: “We do not like that this girl is representing us. Her title has not been recognized by the Cuban government.” “We do not hold beauty pageants in our country. It is the official policy of Cuba”, snapped a Cuban assistant, “not to give materialistic things to a girl simply because some people may think that she is beautiful.” A spokesperson for the contest said: “If there is any protest in Havana, we will have to send her back home.”

                Vera Johns remained at the event as a Morley guest and attended all other scheduled events, including the Variety Club of Great Britain luncheon at the Dorchester Hotel the next day (Friday the 14th) attended by the 61 of the 62 candidates who had arrived in London (Miss Yugoslavia had arrived just on the morning of that day) dressed in their national costumes as was custumary, with the only absence of Miss Australia, who had a cold. The young women brought their national gifts for the annual Variety Club auction and ended, as usual, climbing on the tables of special guests at the event that was held to benefit children’s charities. That same day, Eric and Julia Morley handed over the keys of the wagons that would be donated by the Variety Club to the Red Cross in various countries, for the benefit of disabled children. At the ceremony, the national directors along with their beautiful representatives received the keys. That night, the girls attended a ballet performance at the Roundhouse in Islington where the girls got to meet the cast at an after party in an upstairs rehearsal room.

Latin girls in Miss World 1975 (see identification in photo gallery)


                On Saturday November 15, the beauties spent the morning to go shopping accompanied by their chaperones and, in the afternoon, a group of orphaned children visited the Britannia hotel where they and the candidates celebrated the Annual Children’s Tea Party. That day the representatives of Sri Lanka, Tunisia and Turkey arrived in London. That Saturday, ten ex-Miss World also arrived in the British capital to join the celebrations. But when they arrived at Heathrow airport no one was waiting for them. They themselves had to move to the Europa hotel in Grosvenor Square where they would be staying. No one received them there either, and there were no welcome flowers in their rooms either … South African Penelope Coelen, Miss World 1958, commented sadly that “it would have been a nice Welcome gesture, but I suppose we can’t expect everything.”

                Sunday 16 was the arrival deadline and on that day the representatives of Denmark, Germany and the new Miss Italy arrived, completing 68 entrants. That day the Official Press Presentation was held at the Empire Ballroom in Leicester Square and where all the 68 girls posed in front of the media for individual and group photos in bathing suits. Below is the table with the data of all the participants:

01-AFRICA SOUTHLydia Gloria Johnstone 211,62Model
02-ARGENTINALilian Noemí De Asti 181,70 Agriculture student, teacher of German and classical dances
03-ARUBACynthia Marlene Bruin 181,61 Clerk
04-AUSTRALIAAnne Davidson 211,68 TV Presenter
05-AUSTRIARosemarie Holzschuh 211,71 Model
06-BAHAMASAva Marilyn Burke 171,75 High School Student
07-BARBADOSPeta Hazel Greaves 201,65 Cattle Rancher
08-BELGIUMChristine Delmelle 181,73 Model
09-BERMUDADonna Louise Wright 221,70 Cosmetologist and Teacher
10-BOLIVIAMaría Mónica Guardia 181,61 Psichology Student
11-BRAZILZaida Souza Costa 211,71 Photographic Model
12-CANADANormande Jacques 221,60 Interior Design Student
13-COLOMBIAAmanda Amaya Correa 211,70 Student and Bilingual secretary
14-COSTA RICAMaría Mayela Bolaños Ugalde 171,64 High School Student
15-CUBAMarisela “Maxie” Clark 221,71 Actress and model
16-CURACAOElvira Nelly Maria Bakker 211,69 Clerk
17-DENMARKPia Isa Lauridsen 221,72 Children Nurse
18-DOMINICAN REPUBLICCarmen Rosa Arredondo Pou 191,72 Secretary
19-EL SALVADORAna Stella Comas Durán 181,74 Architecture student
20-FINLANDLeena Kaarina Vainio 231,75 Model
21-FRANCESophie Sonia Perin 181,75 High school Student
22-GERMANYMarina Langner 221,73 Photographic Model
23-GIBRALTARLillian Anne Lara 231,66 Fashion Designer
24-GREECEBella Adamopoulou 201,70 Model
25-GUAMDora Ann Quintanilla Camacho 201,68 Secretary student
26-GUERNSEYCarol Dawn Le Billon 171,67 Student of French, Mathematics and Economics
27-HAITIJoelle Apollon 201,70 Student of Jewelry Design
28-HOLLANDBarbara Ann Neefs 171,72 Model and Ballet Dancer
29-HONDURASEtelinda Mejía Velásquez 191,70 Secretary
30-HONG KONGTeresa Chu Tsui-Kuen 221,60 Sales Supervisor and Karate Instructor
31-ICELANDHalldora Björk Jonsdóttir 191,68 Sales Assistant
32-INDIAAnjana Sood 221,65 Mass Communication Student
33-IRELANDElaine Rosemary O’Hara 201,70 Secretary Student
34-ISRAELAtida Mor 191,76 Student of Fashion Design
35-ITALYVanna Bortolini 221,76 Photographic Model
36-JAPANChiharu Fujiwara 201,60 Student
37-JERSEYSusan Maxwell de Gruchy 211,72 Telex Operator
38-KOREALee Sung-hee 191,65 Education student
39-LEBANONRamona Karam 201,70 Model Photographic
40-LUXEMBOURGMarie Thérèse Manderschied 191,69 Secretary
41-MALAYSIAFauziah Haron 191,58 Cashier
42-MALTAMarie Grace “Margie” Ciantar 181,68 Production manager
43-MAURITIUSMariella Tse-Sik-Sun 231,76 Bank Receptionist
44-MEXICOBlanca Patricia López Esparza 191,64 Student
45-NEW ZEALANDJanet Andrea Nugent 201,76 Secretary
46-NICARAGUAMaría Auxiliadora Paguaga Mantilla 191,70 Economy student
47-NORWAYSissel Gulbrandsen 231,74 Dental assistant
48-PERUMary Orfanides Canakis 221,64 Flight Attendant and Foreign Language Student
49-PHILIPPINESSuzanne Talam Gonzales 171,65 Model and actress
50-PUERTO RICOWilnelia Merced Cruz 181,71 Professional Model
51-SAINT LUCIASophia St Omer 191,73 Textile Artist
52-SEYCHELLESAmelie Lydia Michel 171,75 High School Student
53-SINGAPOREMaggie Sim Siew Teen 211,70 Property Manager
54-SOUTH AFRICARhoda Rademeyer 201,78 Computer Science Student
55-SPAINOlga Fernández Pérez 181,73 Psychology student
56-SRI LANKAAngela Seneviratne 171,64 High School Student
57-SWAZILANDVinah Thembi Mamba 251,68 Hotel receptionist
58-SWEDENAgneta Catarina Magnusson 201,73 Student and Model
59-SWITZERLANDFranziska “Franzi” Angst 201,70 Beautician
60-THAILANDRaevadee Pattamaphong 181,66 Music Student
61-TRINIDAD & TOBAGODonna Sandra Dalrymple 191,62 Bank Clerk
62-TUNISIAMonia Dida 201,64 Model
63-TURKEYHarika Degirmenci 221,68 Model and Singer
64-UNITED KINGDOMVicki Harris 221,70 Model and Potter
65-UNITED STATESAnnelise Ilschenko 171,67 Hairdresser and Beautician
66-URUGUAYCarmen Abal 221,67 Fashion designer and boutique owner
67-VENEZUELAMaría Concepción “María Conchita” Alonso Bustillo 201,67 Jazz and Gymnastics teacher. Works in an Orthopedic Hospital
68-YUGOSLAVIALidija Velkovska 191,72 Language and Literature Student

                Five other candidates were left out, who were expected until the last moment but did not arrive in London. They were Miss CHILE (Raquel Argandoña), Miss GUATEMALA (Diana Anker Chacón), Miss PANAMA (Anina Horta Torrijos), Miss PARAGUAY (María Angela Zulema Medina Monjagata) and Miss ZAMBIA (Brenda May).

                This year representatives from Curaçao, El Salvador, Haiti, Saint Lucia and Swaziland were debuting, while Bolivia, Cuba and Uruguay returned to the contest. Miss United Kingdom had been a semifinalist in Miss Universe of that same year representing England. Along with her, the representatives of Austria, Belgium, Bermuda, France and Luxembourg had competed in El Salvador. In Miss Universe, but from 1974, Miss Honduras had participated while in Miss International 1975 Miss Lebanon had done the same. The Venezuelan had won the title of Teen Princess International in 1971 at an event held in Portugal, while the Finnish contestant had just been second runner-up in Miss Scandinavia 1975. Meanwhile, the Salvadoran delegate had competed at the Miss Maja International of that same year.

                After the presentation of the girls to the journalists, the bookmakers gave new favorites. Miss United Kingdom and Miss United States led the table with odds of 7-1 to win the Miss World pageant followed by Miss Cuba and Miss Japan at 10-1, according to Ladbrokes. William Hills’ agency showed Miss Cuba as the favorite with 7-1 and Miss Australia in second place with 10-1. Meanwhile, the Mecca sportsbook continued to offer pools with juicy prizes to those who correctly guessed the winner and the first finalist of the contest. In the evening of that Sunday, the participants attended a Christmas Party sponsored by the Britannia hotel and where the ex-Miss World, who had arrived in London the previous day, also attended.


                On Monday the 17th, the candidates visited the House of Commons where they had the customary lunch with the parliamentarians and in the afternoon they went to the first rehearsal at the Royal Albert Hall. That day Marjorie Wallace (Miss World 1973) arrived in London, apparently for film negotiations, but she had NOT been invited to the contest. She pretended not to be upset about it during a press conference in her suite at the Dorchester Hotel. Her advice to the new winner: “Get yourself a good lawyer!” Tuesday the 18th was entirely dedicated to rehearsals. That day Miss New Zealand turned 20, a slender young woman from Palmerston North, who told the media that she was on the verge of not participating in Miss World because her sponsor was experiencing serious financial problems. She said shehe had only received her air ticket the day before the trip and that she has not received her monthly cash prize as Miss New Zealand since early October, so she had not been able to go shopping with the other contestants. On Wednesday the 19th, the Dress Rehearsal, the recording of the opening number with ex-Miss World Ann Sidney and the parade of nations of the 68 candidates in national costumes were held. During the Dress Rehearsal, Miss Swaziland was awarded as Miss Photogenic and Miss Singapore as Miss Personality. Both trophies were awarded by Vera Johns, the disqualified Miss South Africa. After this, the participants returned to the Britannia hotel where they were glamorized by a group of professional stylists to be ready for the grand final. During the morning of Thursday the 20th, election day, all the girls were briefly interviewed by the qualifying judges. In the early hours of that Thursday it was heard about the death of the Spanish President, Francisco Franco, so Miss Spain, Olga Fernández, chose to withdraw as a sign of mourning. Organizers of the contest said the 18-year-old Spaniard had been “too upset” by Franco’s death to appear in the finals. The BBC had to edit at the last minute her parade in national costume that had been prerecorded the night before.


                What does the contest mean? asked a representative of the Cuban Embassy upon learning that Miss Cuba was still in the competition. Days later, he would have a response from Mrs. Morley. On November 18, two days before the final, Julia Morley, interviewed on BBC radio by Esther Rantzen, referred to the event as “the biggest non-event of the year”. She stated that “it is purely a publicity stunt for Mecca and a very successful one. The show itself does not mean anything. It is not erotic, it is not artistic, or anything else. With so many ‘no’, it must be a non-event”, Julia concluded. Eric Morley was not pleased with those statements and said he did not know what his wife was talking about. He immediately roared: “How can it be a ‘non-event’ when 26 million people see it on television?” The Morleys returned to their hotel suite and had “a heated discussion.” Julia Morley, threateningly, was heard to say that she would find another job for next year. The couple smoothed out their rough edges at the end of the discussion. In an effort to soften the episode, Eric later stated that “somehow my wife was trying to put things in perspective. People get so excited about it, saying it’s just for the ‘dirty mac brigade’ * and things like that. She was trying to say for ‘God’s sake don’t set your knickers in such a twist’.” (* Mac’s Dirty Brigade is British lingo that identifies lewd men who delight in pornography and strip clubs.)


                As usual, the British public wagered money on their favorites. Betting-shop runners stood in the foyer of the swank Britannia Hotel and tried to determine what odds to set on the contestants. “They come right up to you,” Miss Canada complained, “look at your badge to identify the country you represent, then step back and eye you up and down before scribbling something into a notebook. You feel like a prize cow”. Ladbroke’s, the London gambling agency, gave the best odds (7-1) to two contestants: Miss USA, Annelise Ilschenko, a dark-haired beauty of a Ukrainian father, 17 from Middleburg Heights, Ohio, and the local candidate , Miss United Kingdom. Miss Australia was the next favorite at 10-1, followed by Miss Cuba and Miss Finland. In Northern Ireland, bets favored Miss United Kingdom with 7-1, followed by Miss Cuba with 8-1, Miss USA and Miss Israel, both with 10-1 and Miss Venezuela with 12-1. Alfred Patricelli, the Director of the United States, confessed that he had bet $ 200 on Miss Germany and Miss Cuba. “Naturally I have also bet on my candidate but I like to expand my bets when I compare the rest of the candidates,” he said. The Daily Mirror’s favorites were Miss Germany, Miss Venezuela, Miss United Kingdom, Miss Australia and Miss USA. The SUN tabloid chose the United Kingdom, Australia, Israel, Venezuela, Finland, Puerto Rico and Germany as the favorites. In the same tabloid, each contestant had been asked to give their choice for that night’s winner. Two of the contestants, Miss Haiti and Miss Uruguay, were the only ones who predicted the winner!


                The founder and director of Miss World, Eric Morley, was eager to save the prestige of the contest after two years full of scandals. Perhaps in an effort to help secure a suitable winner, he decided to preside over the jury for the second consecutive year, a situation that shocked several directors. Although no one doubted his honesty, several directors expressed their disagreement with the announcement. Genevieve De Fontenay, the organizer of Miss France, exclaimed: “Ms Morley would have been much more acceptable! Everyone was amazed when they discovered that he would again be chairman of the judges.” “Now you wonder who places the odds on each candidate,” said another director. Gunnar Larssen, an internationally renowned photographer based in Paris and who sponsored three girls in the contest, complained that Eric had “too many fingers in the pie”. “I am not saying that the contest is not conducted fairly, but it should be seen as a fair contest,” added Larssen. Eric claimed self-defensively that he had nothing to do with Mecca’s betting part and that he had done everything in his power to prevent them from continuing to bet on the candidates for Miss World. “I hate bets, I really do,” Morley said, further explaining why he would be Chairman of the Judges again: “We didn’t have an experienced man who could intervene. Experience is vital to get the results quickly for television”.

                In the middle of the slide so everything was on time, Julia Morley rolled down the backstage stairs and injured her leg. Her evening gown, which was white to top it off, covered the wound, and in the meantime, she would try not to hobble too much when she was on stage. At 7:55 p.m. on Thursday, November 20, a trumpet fanfare to awaken weak spirits and erase pessimistic thoughts of a possible impending disaster, heralded the start of the 25th Miss World edition at the Royal Albert Hall, completely full of spectators. Phil Tate and the Miss World orchestra gave the custom opening, followed by the British National Anthem. Eric Morley proceeded to give his words of thanks and welcome to leave the show to the Master of Ceremonies, David Vine, 40, a BBC sportscaster, who replaced Michael Aspel. The chaperones were happy to see that Aspel was gone, one of them commented that “he was all smiles in front of the camera, but outside of it he was smug and arrogant”.

                David Vine and his partner Ray Moore were the ones who introduced the 67 candidates in alphabetical order in their first show of the night, in evening dress. As they paraded, the participants went to dressing rooms to change into their swimsuits, a parade that followed and where all the candidates paraded barefoot. After the individual presentation, all the contestants returned to the stage to pose in groups of six candidates (with a last group of seven) and where they had to turn in front of the judges. This quirky twist had been removed from the finals two years earlier to avoid feminist claims, but continued in the preliminary parade that was not broadcast on television. However, four candidates, all French-speaking, staged a mutiny and refused to show their butts to the judges, always showing the front, which irritated Eric Morley who said through clenched teeth: “Of course the girls must be seen from behind”. The mutineers were Miss Belgium, Miss France, Miss Luxembourg and Miss Mauritius, who apparently had agreed not to comply with the order to turn in front of the jury. “It is degrading for a girl to have to show her butt to the judges. We refused to be treated as slaves,” said arch-rebel Miss Mauritius.

                After the swimsuit parade, there was an interval of 15 minutes, enlivened by Phil Tate and his orchestra, while the young women returned to put on their evening gowns and Eric Morley counted the votes to determine who the semifinalists were. At 9:25 p.m. the broadcast of the contest began on the BBC-1 screens, uninterruptedly for 65 minutes. The show began with the opening musical number given by the Ralph Tobert Dancers and the Mike Sammes Singers together with the ex-Miss World 1964, the British Ann Sidney, who danced to the music with the expert dancers. At first it had been thought that all the ex-Miss World guests were in the opening, but the idea was discarded because there had been no time to rehearse that choreography with all of them. Next, the parade of the 67 contestants in their national costumes that had been prerecorded the night before was shown. The live broadcast began when David Vine took the stage to introduce the nine judges. They were:

1- English actor, writer and producer, Richard Johnson.

2- Miss World 1951, Kiki Hakansson of Sweden.

3- Seychelles Prime Minister Sir James Mancham.

4- New Zealand actress Nyree Dawn Porter.

5- Eric Morley, President of Mecca and Chairman of the Judges.

6- English singer Linda Lewis.

7- English actor Oliver Reed.

8- English actress Susan George.

9- British boxer and star John Conteh.

                After the judges were met, David Vine proceeded to introduce the 15 semifinalists in their evening dress parade, whom were named in alphabetical order with comments from Ray Moore. They were:

* Miss Australia – Anne Davidson, 21, of Croydon, Victoria. Measurements 35-24-35, odds: 10-1. She’s the weather girl on Australian television, but she wants to be a model.

* Miss Cuba – Marisela Clark, 22, from Santiago de Cuba but resident in Miami Beach. Measurements 35-25-36, odds: 12-1. Speaks with an American accent.

Miss Puerto Rico

* Miss Finland – Leena Kaarina Vainio, 23, from Helsinki. Measurements 35-23-35, odds: 14-1. Elegant looking model who speaks Swedish, English, French and some German.

* Miss Germany – Marina Langner, 22, from Dusseldorf. Measurements 35-23-35, odds: 20-1. She stands out from the rest. She has a wonderful face and figure, charming long hair, and true balance.

* Miss Haiti – Joelle Apollon, 20, from Port-au-Prince. Measurements 33-26-35, odds: 100-1. Joelle is studying jewelry, but she wants to be a model.

* Miss India – Anjana Sood, 22, from Shimla, Himachal Pradesh. Measurements 33-25-35.5, odds: 66-1. Anjana is studying mass communication and wants to be a journalist. “

* Miss Lebanon – Ramona Karam, 20, from Beirut. Measurements 36-24-35, odds: 100-1. Fabulous and very sexy figure. A model who likes to dance.

* Miss Mauritius – Mariella Tse-Sik-Sun, 23, from Port-Louis. Measurements 34-23-34, odds: 100-1. A tall and serious bank receptionist.

* Miss Puerto Rico – Wilnelia Merced, 18 years old, from Caguas. Measurements 34-24-36, odds: 16-1. A dark beauty that could win a place. She has been featured in television commercials.

* Miss Saint Lucia – Sophia St. Omer, 19, from Castries. Measurements 35-24-37, odds: 20-1. A super attractive girl. She is a textile artist who enjoys painting, poetry, and popular music.

* Miss South Africa – Rhoda Rademeyer, 20, from Pretoria. Measurements 36-24-36, odds: 33-1. She has a great figure and beautiful long legs.

* Miss United Kingdom – Vicki Harris, 22, of Great Yarmouth, Norfolk. Measurements 34-24-35, odds: 7-1. Model girl Vicki has a good face and figure, and a warm personality. Reached the last 12 in Miss Universe contest.

* Miss Uruguay – Carmen Abal, 22, from Montevideo. Measurements 32-23-34, probabilities; 20-1. A lively girl who looks great in tight jeans.

* Miss Venezuela – María Conchita Alonso, 20, from Caracas. Measurements 35-23-35, odds: 16-1. Very vivacious.

 * Miss Yugoslavia – Lidija Velkovska, 19, from Skopje, Macedonia. Measurements 36-23-36, odds: 66-1. A shy girl, not a likely Miss World.

                * The comments of each of them were published by THE SUN newspaper.

                Once the parade in evening dress ended, Ray Moore immediately proceeded to present them in swimsuits, again in alphabetical order and with ‘off’ comments by David Vine. After the individual parade, the 15 semifinalists appeared before the judges in a group and returned to the dressing rooms. David Vine returned to the stage to announce the 7 finalists, whom he interviewed as he named them. This time he called them randomly. The 7 finalists were: Miss HAITI, Miss UNITED KINGDOM, Miss PUERTO RICO, Miss YUGOSLAVIA, Miss CUBA, Miss VENEZUELA and Miss GERMANY. The funniest interview was, without a doubt, that of Miss Haiti due to the language barrier. However, many lamented the fact that David’s technique for interviewing the contestants had been somewhat “stint”. After sending off the 7 finalists, who had to wait for the results behind the scenes and while the judges placed the final position for each of them, David Vine introduced the ten invited ex-Miss World, who were sitting in a VIP box. They were Belinda Green (Miss World 1972 from Australia), Reita Faria (Miss World 1966 from India), Ann Sidney (Miss World 1964 from the United Kingdom), Carole Crawford (Miss World 1963 from Jamaica), Rosemarie Frankland (Miss World 1961 from United Kingdom), Corine Rottschäfer (Miss World 1959 from Holland), Penny Coelen (Miss World 1958 from South Africa), Susana Duijm (Miss World 1955 from Venezuela), Denise Perrier (Miss World 1953 from France) and Kiki Hakansson (Miss World 1951 from Sweden, who was also part of the judges). Susana Duijm got her dress tangled in her heel and almost fell when introduced. Incidentally, many of them were angry that they had envisioned a more significant role in the contest. “It was a total waste of time,” exclaimed one of them. Immediately, Vine called on the scene to the 60 candidates who had not managed to reach the Top 7 to interpret the song “Una Paloma Blanca” (A White Pigeon) to entertain the audience.


                The outgoing Miss World, South African Anneline Kriel, was practically ignored overnight. She was barely named before the coronation ceremony perhaps because she had previously threatened to appear in “blue jeans” before asking for a last-minute truce. Anneline was happy to get rid of her title, declaring that she would never go through the experience again: “And age another twenty years?” … David Vine called Julia Morley on stage for the awards ceremony and Eric Morley to announce the final result in reverse order. This was the following:

                In fifth place, Miss YUGOSLAVIA, Lidija Velkovska, who won £ 250; fourth, Miss CUBA, Marisela Clark with a £ 500 award; in third place, Miss UK, Vicki Harris with £ 1,000; Second place and runner-up for Miss World 1975, Miss GERMANY, Marina Langner, winner of a £ 1,500 prize. They all received their tiaras behind the scenes and their silver trophies from Julia Morley on stage. Backtage were Miss Haiti, Miss Venezuela and Miss Puerto Rico, waiting impatiently and who were accompanied by a good group of contestants. They mostly supported Miss Puerto Rico.

                Then Eric Morley announced that MISS WORLD 1975 was … Miss PUERTO RICO !!, trying to hide his displeasure, since he had voted all the time for Miss Germany, who was his favorite. He was surprised that Miss Puerto Rico, Wilnelia Merced, who he did not vote to rank in the top seven, had accumulated enough votes from the other judges to do so. Perhaps they were impressed with her final interview, and with his nod to British cuisine. During the interview, she replied “I don’t understand” to almost everything that host David Vine asked her. When asked by the Master of Ceremonies if she spoke English, she said, “A leetle Eenglish” and when he asked her if she was enjoying London, she replied, “A leetle Eenglish.” When he asked her in Spanish if she liked English food, she replied: “Yes” ….

                Behind the stage there was a shout of joy from the losers who were supporting Miss Puerto Rico. Wilnelia opened her mouth in surprise and jumped a little before the hectic crowd harassed her. She was pushed back and forth several times and nearly lost her balance. Due to all the commotion, it took the “sash bearer” three attempts to place the newly won Miss World sash on Wilnelia’s right shoulder. However, once he did, he quickly pushed her away and she stepped out onto the stage under the glare of the spotlights to receive the silver cup from Julia Morley, sit on the throne and receive the royal cloak from one of the Pages before being crowned by the outgoing Queen, Anneline Kriel. The brunette Wilnelia Merced Cruz, a model and 18-year-old student from Caguas and 5 feet 7 and a half inches tall, who had appeared in television commercials and was soon to start a public relations course, had won a check for £ 3,000 as a prize and the ability to earn a guaranteed minimum of an additional £ 10,000 and up to £ 50,000 during your reign year for personal appearances and advertising. After being crowned, she took her triumphal walk, still barefoot, to the rhythm of the Miss World march and then returned to sit on the throne, being congratulated for her finalists and almost be overwhelmed by a crowd of photographers. At the conclusion of the broadcast, the brand new Miss World was taken to the backstage while Julia Morley brought order to the stage.


                After the required photos, the winners and the rest of the participants were transferred to the Coronation Party, which this year was held at the Grosvenor House Hotel, and where even the security guards danced with the beauty queens. At the event, checks were delivered to each of the winners. The semifinalists received £ 50 each, while Miss Haiti and Miss Venezuela received their silver trophies accompanied by £ 150 and £ 100 respectively for sixth and seventh place. Wilnelia stated that she was “very surprised to be chosen Miss World”. Her first thought was to come home to her mother, father, and sister to tell them of her success. Her father ran a sporting goods store. “I can’t believe it. It’s a complete surprise.” “The whole town (of Caguas) will jump tonight with joy.” She was so sure that she would not win that she had already booked a flight for 8.13 a.m. the next day to return to her home in Puerto Rico.

                Eric Morley said he was at least happy because no one had claimed this time that the contest had been rigged. But he spoke very soon. Miss Gibraltar, who thought her 36-23-36 figure gave her a shot at the title, complained that she should have been among the semifinalists and that the contest “must have been rigged”. Julia Morley said scornfully, “Even a pretty face is ugly when you complain”.

                Of the four rebels who had mutinied and decided not to show their butts in the swimsuit semifinal, only one, Miss Mauritius, was chosen into the 15 semifinalists. Madame de Fontenay, the organizer of Miss France, stated that “all four were penalized and down-graded by Mr. Morley”. Eric replied, “The judging was made in a hall with 4,000 people watching. It is absolute rubbish to say that Miss France, or any of the other three girls who refused to turn their backs on the judges were penalized.” However, in capitulation to the mutiny, the Morleys said that the turn would not be included in future pageants. 1975 also turned out to be the last year in which the winner would be crowned in her swimsuit. Both the mutiny and the Morley capitulation could be interpreted as a sign of the times. At that time in the 1970s, women’s movements around the world were gaining significant strength and advocating for equal rights. In the United Kingdom, the Sex Discrimination Act and the Equal Opportunity Act had entered into force in 1975.

                Subsequently, one of the judges, actress Susan George, supported the four rebel girls and said: “They were justified in making a demonstration”. Another of the judges, Oliver Reed was infuriated when he discovered that his evaluation fee was sent directly to the Variety Club of Great Britain (the charity chosen by Miss World), which had been distributing the money raised by the contest. He complained out loud that his payment should have gone to a less prosperous children’s charity. Morley replied saying that he had already sent the payment to Variety and said: “You cannot ask a charitable cause to pay you back.”

                Miss USA, Annelise Ilschenko, said that she was surprised that she had not entered the 15 semifinalists. “I was shocked when they didn’t name me among the semifinalists, it was a matter of politics.” “The judges deliberately chose small countries that were competing for the first time and was booed by the girls when they went backstage,” added Miss USA, who also said that the winner deserved it and that everyone had applauded her. But Eric Morley did not agree very much with this. He confessed not being happy with the victory of Miss Puerto Rico. “I don’t think Puerto Rican beauty, Miss Wilnelia Merced, fits the bill.” Now he faces the task of averting the controversy that has haunted the contest in the past two years, with a winner who did not even speak English. He confessed that, as Chairman of the Judges, he tried to vote Wilnelia out from the 7 finalists. But six other judges voted for Wilnelia and of them, four had placed her as the winner when Morley had placed her in sixth place. He explained that Miss Germany had also had four winner votes (including his vote) and that both Miss Puerto Rico and Miss Germany had obtained the same number of second places (4 votes each). Morley was defeated for the third time in a final round of the tiebreaker, when Miss Puerto Rico got the extra vote she needed to become Miss World. “I have never been so far-out in my life. My judgment was based on international experience in beauty contests.” “I don’t think Miss Puerto Rico had a good enough figure to be Miss World,” said Morley. He also added that he used his tiebreaker vote as Chairman of the Judges to remove Miss Australia, one of the favorites, from the seven finalists. He justified the use of his authority by saying, “I always handle this contest with integrity.”

                The Miss World “Silver Jubilee” setup cost around £ 100,000 but still paid off well. The BBC paid a package for the exclusive broadcast rights and the ticket sales at the Royal Albert Hall had left thousands of pounds sterling. With those dividends, some 25 wagons for disabled children would be purchased worldwide. Over all these years more than £ 1 Million had been raised for the benefit of charities run by the Variety Club of Great Britain. “This makes all the grievances worthwhile,” Morley said, still annoyed by “The Observer” magazine comment that suggested that all of this Morley charity work was a mercenary operation on his part to gain a degree of respect in English society.


                When reading the newspaper “THE SUN” the next morning, Eric Morley must have let out a big sigh of relief because Miss Germany had not won after all … the voluptuous Marina Langner brazenly appeared half naked in that tabloid. Her photograph was submitted to THE SUN by photographer Gunnar Larssen before the finals in the hope that her photo would have been worth more money if she had been chosen Miss World. “That photo should have been taken when I started my modeling career and it doesn’t bother me,” said Miss Germany. “Having finished second gives me a consolation prize: I can have absolute freedom of movement in the next 12 months,” added the German beauty. The headline for DAILY EXPRESS that morning was “Island Girl’s Sunniest Day,” an obvious reference to Elton John’s song, “Island Girl,” which was at number 25 and was on the radio’s list of best songs on the United Kingdom.


                Two days after the contest, the SUNDAY MIRROR newspaper revealed that the three contestants sponsored by Gunnar Larssen, Miss Germany, Miss Sweden and Miss Denmark, were professional models based in Paris and had never won national titles. One of them, Miss Germany, had walked in the door of his Paris studio and Larssen liked her looks so much that she asked if she would like to compete in the Miss World contest. “There is nothing in the Mecca rules that says a girl should be crowned beauty queen in her own country”, Larssen explained. “Anyone can sponsor a beautiful girl”. Julia Morley in an effort to control the damage claimed that there was indeed a competition to choose Miss Germany in a photo contest. “Many countries organize their competitions in the same way,” she explained. “Miss World is without a doubt the most international beauty pageant, and the fact that this photographer was a sponsor of three of the girls does not mean that they did not represent their own countries”. Even Wilnelia Merced was chosen by photography by three judges in Puerto Rico. “I don’t know why Mrs. Morley was under the impression that I had run national competitions because I really thought she knew I hadn’t”, Larssen said. “We thought these girls had been chosen through photographic contests. Gunnar Larssen signed a contract that said this”, said Morley. Larssen was amazed that he had upset Mecca. Julia Morley hissed: “Next year there will be national competitions in these countries, I will personally vouch for it.” Larssen, who had paid £ 240 for each of his candidates to travel to London for the contest, dropped another bomb: Miss Denmark had married just before the contest, but “forgot” to mention it. Julia raised her hands and said that Larssen had broken the contest rules not once, but twice !!. Madame De Fontenay (organizer of Miss France), declared that the contest “had been nothing more than a charade” and demanded that it be carried out again with duly accredited national beauty queens.

                Another stir caused the accusation that Miss Lebanon had not been chosen as such and that she was an impostor because her country had not held a beauty pageant in the wake of the civil war it was experiencing at the time. However, Miss Lebanon denied the allegations, saying that she had won her title in a national competition in February, before the war began.


                Meanwhile, Wilnelia had breakfast with orange juice, two eggs, bacon, sausages and fried tomato, a plate of pastries, jam and coffee, all accompanied with champagne in her bed the next day, surrounded by about 30 journalists and photographers as was traditional. Later she posed for outdoor photos and went shopping. Leaving behind the dust that formed after the contest, on November 25, the day of her return to Puerto Rico, Wilnelia lost her plane after arriving late at Heathrow airport, blaming the taxi driver for not driving fast. Fortunately, she was able to board the next flight and Wilnelia returned to her homeland that same day. When she arrived, she received a great reception in her honor in San Juan and was later received by the people of Caguas, who applauded and cheered her as her float circulated through the streets of her city. Everything was wine and roses until the local model, Kary Molina, claimed that the title should be for her because she assured that in the vote count of the photo contest from which Wilnelia came out, she had been in first place. Wilnelia said: “I want my reception to be happy and not to be punctuated by a controversy like this.” Wilnelia returned to London after the Christmas holidays to fulfill her commitments as Miss World. She enjoyed a fairly calm reign, without much controversy. In 1976 she was invited as a Miss World judge and gave her crown to her successor in London.


                Wilnelia Merced Cruz was born in the Cañas neighborhood in Caguas, Puerto Rico on October 12, 1957. Daughter of Enrique Merced and Delia Cruz. Her siblings: Enrique and Elsie Merced Cruz. Wilnelia won her first beauty pageant at the age of eight. She was chosen as Miss Sympathy in Río Cañas, Caguas, at the age of 10. At 16, Wilnelia was already working as a model in New York. In 1974, the young woman was selected as the best model in Puerto Rico, and won the title of Miss Latin American Mannequin. She also did many television commercials before being proclaimed “Miss World of Puerto Rico 1975” through a photographic casting. At that time she was studying fourth year at the Manuel A. Toro school. Her mother decided to ask for a loan in a financial company in Caguas to send her daughter to participate in the Miss World contest in London. Mrs. Delia could not go because the money was not enough, but Wilnelia was accompanied by the Goyco couple, parents of the former senator and former beauty queen Ana Nisi Goyco.

                “I arrived in London with 7 suitcases, including a wooden trunk that took two people to carry when I arrived in London. Nothing I was carrying was really mine (most of her clothing was from the Puerto Rican designer Osvaldo Morales). In the end My mother had to pay for my tickets and that of the Goyco couple whose daughter had previously competed in Miss World. She thought that they could help me in the event if I needed to sign some document or assistance in the competition”, said Wilnelia. She did not speak English and was still a naive but smart girl, as she demonstrated when she thought about breaking the stereotypes of white swimsuits and put on one with Zebra design that she saw in the window of the Lilly Whites store in London. “I commented to my chaperone, Teresa Gómez, that if from a distance where we were on the street that swimsuit could be distinguished, it would have the same effect on stage”. Teresa, a Spanish national, was Wilnelia’s best ally. After the contest they became friends. “Since I came to the contest Teresa saw me as a winner, like many people in the organization but I did not know until I won. I found out because there were people who made a lot of money with the bets that were held in London at the time in the big bookmakers … I never had the backing of any organization, or any surgery or training, just a simple modeling course and without finishing my fourth year I launched into the world”. On November 20 of that same year, Miss World was crowned at the Royal Albert Hall in the British capital. She was received in Puerto Rico on November 25 and later returned to London to fulfill her commitments as world queen. The triumph was so important and she left so much money in contracts for the Miss World Organization as a model of great world fashion designers, -she even worked in Paris-, that she was only able to travel to Puerto Rico twice in her year of reign. She was the first Puerto Rican and the only one until 2016 to win the Miss World title.

                She traveled extensively during 1976 and was invited to El Salvador by the Salvadoran military government before the civil war. Wilnelia fell in love with England, a place she would later call home. After handing over her crown, she was signed by Ford Models in New York City and modeled for international designers such as Yves Saint Laurent, Valentino, and Dior. In 1978, a giant Wilnelia Merced poster was displayed in Times Square. She was introduced to British television artist Bruce Forsyth at the 1980 Miss World gala in London. The couple fell in love and married in New York on Saturday, January 15, 1983. Bruce was 54 years old at the time. While still a public figure in Puerto Rico, Wilnelia retired from modeling after her marriage to Forsyth. Her only son, Jonathan Joseph “JJ”, was born on November 10, 1986. Her chaperone Teresa became the godmother to her son.

                Wilnelia has been the Miss World winner who has been invited more times as a judge of the contest. She was judge in the editions of 1976, 1980, 1983, 1990, 1999, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2013, 2016 and 2019. In addition, she was accompanying her husband Bruce who was judging Miss World 1995 in Sun City, South Africa as a special guest. She also attended the 2007 and 2011 editions as a special guest. In 1994, in gratitude for her good fortune, the Wilnelia Forsyth Foundation, Inc. was created. Wilnelia affirms that during her childhood she learned that helping begins in the heart, and that her heart was always in Puerto Rico. With the motto “Reconstructing lives”, the foundation helps needy children in Puerto Rico and other countries, for which it organizes charity dances. In June 2011 Wilnelia became the first Puerto Rican of the British nobility, after her husband, Bruce Forsyth, received the Knight of the British Order Medal, which confers the title of “Sir”. In 2016, a hall named after her was inaugurated at the Caguas Mayor’s Office. Wilnelia remained married to Bruce Forsythe until she became a widow on August 18, 2017. Her mother Delia has been the president of the Miss World of Puerto Rico pageant since 1996. In 2002, during one of her visits to Puerto Rico, her house was raided by thieves, who injured one of the domestic workers.

                A portrait of Merced is exhibited at the National Foundation for Popular Culture, with others, in her exhibition “Women with their own style”. Graduated in art appreciation, Miss World 1975 currently owns a firm called “Wilnelia Forsyth London” which is a luxury fashion and home accessories brand. Influenced by the beauty of the multicolored colonial houses of Old San Juan in Puerto Rico, Wilnelia has created an original work of art that she uses throughout her collection. Inspired by her childhood, Wilnelia has turned to the beautiful fragrances of the Caribbean to create her range of scented candles, working in partnership with the best creative fragrance designers, she has distilled the essence of the tropical sun in beautiful jars that sparkle with evocative scenes. of Old Colonial San Juan, whose design is taken from Wilnelia’s own works of art. She currently lives with her son on the Wentworth Estate, Surrey, England.


              Representatives from Argentina, Aruba, Canada, Ireland, Malta, Mauritius and Spain competed in Miss Universe the following year in Hong Kong. Of these, only Miss Argentina was chosen as one of the semifinalists. Miss France won the 1976 Miss International contest in Japan in which Miss Malaysia also participated. In the 1976 Miss Europe, the Irish and the Spanish girls took part. The Dutch won the unofficial Miss Europe of 1978 and competed in the 1977 Miss Ambar World where she managed to be 4th runner-up. In this contest, Argentina was a semifinalist and Miss Costa Rica competed without success. Miss Nicaragua participated in Miss International 1978 and Miss Iceland in Miss Universe 1979. Miss Bahamas was a candidate in Miss Universe 1982 in Lima, where she was Miss Photogenic. Miss Cuba was 2nd runner-up at the 1977 Miss Bikini International held in Caracas, Venezuela.

                María Conchita Alonso, Miss Venezuela, began an ascending career as a model, debuting on television as an entertainer of the RCTV program “Cuéntame ese chiste” in 1977, then beginning her career as an actress, with supporting roles in soap operas such as “Mabel Valdez, Journalist”,”Estefanía” and “Natalia from 8 to 9”. Becoming the protagonist in series such as “Claudia”, “Marielena”, “Luz Marina”, “Angelito”, among others. She then debuted as a singer under the name Ámbar in 1979 supported by Rudy la Scala. In 1982, she decided to move to the United States, with the intention of making her way in the mecca of cinema, beginning to take dance, singing and acting classes at the Lee Strasberg Theater and Film Institute in Los Angeles. Her first roles were as a guest actress on television series such as “Fantasy Island” and “Knight Rider”, both in 1982. Her first film appearance in Hollywood was in Abel Ferrara’s film “Fear City” (1984), being herstarring debut that same year, opposite Robin Williams in director Paul Mazursky’s film, “Moscow on the Hudson” (1984). From that moment on, she began to develop an important cinematographic career in which titles such as Dale y vete (1986), El gran enredo (1986), Betrayal without limit (1987), Perseguido (1987), Colors (1988), with the Heart in the Hand (1988), Kisses of the Vampire (1989), Predator 2 (1990), and The House of the Spirits (1993). Her last appearance as an actress was in the Netflix series “The I-Land” in 2019. In 1984 she released her album “María Conchita” with the songs “Acaríciame”, “Noche de copas”, “La loca” and “Entre la espada y la pared” that catapulted her to stardom throughout Latin America. With this album, she obtained her first nomination for the Grammy Award for Best Latin Pop Performance at the 27th Annual Grammy Awards. She was elected “Queen of the Festival” of Viña del Mar in 1985. She was a judge in Miss Universe in 1993 and 1998 where she supposedly did not vote for the Venezuelan delegates as a bill for the lack of support from Osmel Sousa in Miss Venezuela 1975. María Conchita was the first Latin American actress, not born in the United States, to star in a musical on Broadway, “The Kiss of the Spider Woman” at the Broadhurst Theater in 1995. Alonso, as a Cuban exile, is a staunch opponent of the Castro regime of Cuba. In the same way, she has expressed her opposition to the governments of Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro, and her support for Venezuelan students in their fight against the government, even filing a motion in the United States Congress, requesting sanctions against the Venezuelan regime. In retaliation, the Venezuelan government initiated a legal process to revoke her Venezuelan nationality in 2014. Since the 1980s, María Conchita has been a standard-bearer in the defense of LGBT rights, and in the fight against AIDS, as well as a lover of animals, has worked with many animal protection groups around the world, until finally she has created for this purpose the non-profit organization “Vee Fauna”, with the aim of raising funds for associations to help animals, the elderly and the sick HIV in Venezuela. Despite being engaged several times, she has never been married. She became an American citizen in 2007 and currently lives in Los Angeles, California, USA.

                Miss Germany continued working as a model in Europe, did many nudes and appeared in Playgirl magazine. In addition, she made an erotic film. Miss Yugoslavia became Miss Macedonia National Director for Miss World between 2001 and 2015. Miss Swaziland was the National Director of her nation’s beauty pageant from 1995 to 2011. Miss Uruguay became a famous fashion designer in her country and Miss United States made headlines in 1986 when she was accompanying Congressman Charles Wilson of Texas and was denied permission to fly aboard a Defense Intelligence Agency plane in Pakistan.



Thanks to Donald West, Neil Craig, Daryl Schabinger, Mario Jérez, Ramón Araya, Orlando Ospina, Mills Aldorino, Rafael Mirabal-Linares, Pedro Rojas, Jon Osborne, Andrés Carmona and Glamour Argentino.


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