Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Special Feature: The Asian Miss Universe Winners (1959 - 2015)

The Asian Miss Universe winners (19

*This blogpost was published last June 7, 2016.

Since the birth of Miss Universe in 1952, only a few Asians have managed to win and wear its most prestigious crown. Now let's take a look at some of the best women in Asia who were able to conquer and were once named, the most beautiful  in the universe. Let's start with Akiko Kujima of Japan. 

Note: I have excluded Israel and Lebanon in the group. 

Akiko Kujima - Miss Universe 1959

1. Miss Universe 1959 - Akiko Kojima of Japan - She is legendary for being the first Japanese and the first Asian to win the title of Miss Universe in 1959. Standing at 5'7'' tall, Akiko who was 22 years-old that time, bested 33 other contestants during the 8th edition of Miss Universe staged in Long Beach, California, USA. She was crowned by the outgoing titleholder, Luz Marina Zuluaga of Colombia. Akiko settled into a quiet married life after her reign. She is now 80 years old and presently lives in Tokyo, Japan. 

Apasra Hongsakula - Miss Universe 1965 

2. Miss Universe 1965 - Apasra Hongsakula of Thailand - She is the first Thai national who won the coveted Miss Universe crown contested in Miami Beach, Florida, USA. Apasra outshined 56 other delegates from around the world and succeeded Corinna Tsopei of Greece. 

She was raised in Bangkok, but was sent to learn English at a girls' secondary school in Penang, Malaysia. After her reign as Miss Universe, Apasra married a first cousin of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit by whom she has a son. The marriage ended long ago in divorce, but she remains a revered social figure in the country. 

Apasra is now 69 years old, and currently manages her own spa - Apasra Beauty and Slimming Spa. 

Gloria Diaz - Miss Universe 1969 

3. Miss Universe 1969 - Gloria Diaz of Philippines - She is the first titleholder of the three Filipino Miss Universe winners to date. She is legendary for her wit and natural humor especially in answering nerve-racking questions, which many believed to be her edge in winning the Miss Universe crown in 1969 defeating 50 other international beauty delegates in Miami Beach, Florida, USA. 

Shortly after her reign as Miss Universe ended, Diaz pursued an acting career in the Philippines, and for several decades now, she's been considered a brilliant actress within the world of Philippine cinema and television. She has starred in numerous movies as well as soap operas and has won quite a number of prestigious acting awards.

Diaz is now 65 years old and is happily residing in the Philippines. 

Margarita Moran - Miss Universe 1973 

4. Miss Universe 1973 - Margarita Moran of Philippines - Four years after the Philippines won its first Miss Universe crown, the country has captured its second win when Margarita Moran (the grand daughter of the Philippines' former President Manuel Roxas) was hailed as the winner during the 22nd edition of Miss Universe held in Athens, Greece. 

Two years after her reign, she married and managed to finish her Business Administration degree at Maryknoll College and Boston University, and took her masters at the University of London. Moran is also notable for her social and civic works especially for promoting peace and livelihood projects as part of the Mindanao Commission on Women Organization and recently as an ambassador-trustee of Habitat for Humanity Philippines. 

Her passion and experience as a dancer at the age of 18, prompt her to promote arts and culture with Southern Philippines Foundation for Arts, Culture and Ecology. She is now busy running the over-all operations of Ballet Philippines. 

Porntip Nakhirunkanok - Miss Universe 1988 

5. Miss Universe 1988 - Porntip Nakhirunkanok of Thailand - Porntip is the second and so far the last Thai woman to have won the Miss Universe crown in 1988. The 1988 pageant was notable for the fact that four of the top 5 finalists were Asians with Porntip as the winner, followed Korea, Mexico, Japan and Hongkong. Raised and educated in the USA, Porntip is fluent in the English language and her communication skills were commendable. She impressed the judges so much during the interview portion that she swept the competition, becoming the clear winner of the evening. 

Porntip is well known in Thailand for her charity work, especially her effort to help the victims of the 2004 Tsunami where she built 100 new homes, a fleet of boats and new schools. Her Charity is known as Angels Wings Foundation which aims to build and fund schools and orphanages as well as supply healthcare and other support for the underprivileged children in Thailand.

Sushmita Sen - Miss Universe 1994 

6. Miss Universe 1994 - Sushmita Sen of India - She made history as the first Indian woman who won Miss Universe since the pageant's inception. She wasn't the early favorite to win during her time, however when the final's night came, she impressed the judges with her elegant grace and stature and eventually outshone all her competitors with her wit and intelligence during the nerve-racking question-and-answer portion. She edged out 76 other delegates from around the world and was rightfully crowned the winner during the 1994 edition of Miss Universe held in Manila, Philippines. That same year, her fellow beauty queen Aishwarya Rai won Miss World 1994.

After she completed her reign, Sush as she's fondly called, went to pursue Bollywood and rose to stardom. 

Miss Universe 2000 - Lara Dutta 

7. Miss Universe 2000 - Lara Dutta of India - Barely 6 years after the victory of Sushmita Sen, another Indian beauty conquered the universe in the person of Lara Dutta and has only been the delegate from India to win the crown since. Before competing Miss Universe in 2000, Lara had her first taste of triumph in the world of pageantry overseas when she clinched the title of Miss Intercontinental in 1997, a minor international beauty pageant held annually. 

At Miss Universe 2000 in Cyprus, Lara achieved the highest score in the swimsuit competition and her finalist interview score was the highest individual score in any category in the history of the Miss Universe contest, as her interview saw a majority of the judges giving her the maximum 9.99 mark. In the same year, Priyanka Chopra and Dia Mirza won their respective Miss World and Miss Asia-Pacific titles which gave India a rare triple victory in beauty pageants. 

Riyo Mori - Miss Universe 2007 

8. Miss Universe 2007 - Riyo Mori of Japan - She is the second Japanese to win the title of Miss Universe after Akiko Kujima first clinched the title in 1959. In the last round during the competition, Riyo was asked by Elle magazine fashion director and Project Runway judge Nina Garcia to speak about the one lesson she learned as a child that still affects her life. Mori said that since childhood she has been dancing and hence she was constantly surrounded by students and teachers. Due to the interactions with them, she has learned to become always happy, patient and positive in her life. She also expressed her desire to teach these principles to the next generation. 

Riyo was the third Japanese to place in the top five at Miss Universe in the past decade. Miyako Miyazaki placed fourth runner-up at Miss Universe 2003 and Riyo's predecessor Kurara Chibana was first runner-up in 2006. Riyo aims to use her success and popularity as a springboard into humanitarian causes. "I think I have a samurai soul, I'm very patient, and I can serve others." 

Pia Wurtzbach - Miss Universe 2015 

9. Miss Universe 2015 - Pia Wurtzback of Philippines - She is the reigning Miss Universe and currently the third Filipina to be named Miss Universe, after a four-year consecutive top five finish of her predecessors since 2010. Her unconventional win became a world-wide trend when the host Steve Harvey mistakenly announced Pia's first runner-up as the winner.

It was also that same year when three other Filipinas have also won their respective beauty pageants overseas which give the Philippines the rarest multiple victory in pageantry. Angelia Ong became the third Filipina to be crowned Miss Earth during the Miss Earth 2015 edition in Vienna Austria. Ann Colis bagged the Miss Globe 2015 crown in Canada while Leren Mae Bautista won the main title of Miss Tourism Queen of the Year 2015 in Malaysia. 

Pia is set to relinquish her crown in Manila, Philippines where the 65th edition of Miss Universe beauty pageant will be contested on January 29, 2017 (January 30 in Manila). Will there be an Asian domination again this time? Well, let's see. 

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