I chose not one, but three, women for today. The three South African women who have been chosen as the most beautiful woman in the world for that year.
In 1958 Penny Coelen became the first South African to win the Miss World contest. Later she married a sugar cane farmer, Michel Rey, and went on to become a prominent socialite much beloved by her country.
In 1974 Anneline Kriel, a girl from Witbank, became Miss World when Helen Morgan, the original winner, resigned only four days after having been crowed. In the wake of Kriel’s crowning there were some international boycotts applied against her/South Africa, for example the US and Australia refused to accept her as part of the world tour undertaken by Miss World. However, she rapidly became the South African media’s darling. There were scandals, including pictures of her sun tanning nude, a very daring thing in conservative South Africa’s seventies. Anneline Kriel married Sol Kerzner (casino magnate) in 1980, before divorcing five years later. She then married another millionaire, Phil Tucker and five years later divorced him. She then married Peter Bacon and is still regarded as one of South Africa’s foremost newsworthy socialites.
In 1978 South Africa was no longer welcome in the Miss World contest because of cultural sanctions against South Africa, but the Miss Universe contest still accepted South Africans. That was the year Margaret Gardiner became Miss Universe. Margaret Gardiner now lives in Los Angeles, USA, where she works as a journalist. She is married to Professor Andre Nel of the UCLA.
The current Miss South Africa pageant is undergoing rebranding and an acknowledgement of things that women in South Africa are currently striving to achieve – empowerment at every level. Entries for the next Miss South Africa pageant close on 31 August and the winners will be crowned in March 2014, a departure from previous years which will mean that the next Miss South Africa will reign in the year of her appointment. Sun International is one of the sponsors of the competition.
Recently the current Miss South Africa, Marilyn Ramos, was joined by Melinda Bam (Miss South Africa 2011) and Bokang Montjane (Miss South Africa 2010) as well as Pearl Nxele, the second princess in 2012 to lead focus groups to establish the relevance of the Miss South Africa Pageant in 2013. The main point of this is that the Miss South Africa Pageant is more than the presentation of a pretty face and a sexy body.
This is the second in my series on South African women in Women’s Month – August 2013.