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From the oldest to the tallest winners and backstage sabotage: 11 winning facts about Miss Universe

2020-02-20 08:44
Miss Universe 1958
Miss Universe 1958 (Photo: Getty)

Miss Universe 2019 Zozibini Tunzi recently wrapped up her week-long homecoming tour in South Africa and is preparing for her reign ahead.

The 26-year-old is using her voice to change the narrative around gender-based violence and even incorporated her passion around the subject into her Miss Universe national costume

During her reign, Zozibini will also be working with Smile Train, a nonprofit organisation and charity providing corrective surgery for children with cleft lips and palates.

While Zozibini prepares for her year-long reign and we anticipate the crowning of South Africa's next Miss Universe candidate - we take a look at some interesting facts about the famous beauty pageant. 

ALSO READ: Miss Universe has three different colour sashes and here's why

1. FIRST MISS UNIVERSE CROWNED 

Armi Kuusela from Finland was the first-ever beauty queen to be crowned Miss Universe in 1952. She was only 17 years old when she took home the title and gave up her crown shortly before her reign was to end, to get married.

2. THE LEADER BOARD 

With eight titles, the USA is at the top of the leader board with the most Miss Universe wins. Venezuela follows with six titles, Puerto Rico with five, Philippines four and Sweden and South Africa three.

3. YOUNGEST AND THE OLDEST TITLE HOLDER

Currently the Miss Universe is open to women between the ages of 18 and 26. The oldest winner was USA's Brook Lee (1997) who was 26 years and 128 days old. The youngest winner was Finland's Armi Kuusela (1953), at 17 years and 303 days old. 

4. COMPETITIVE COUNTRIES

The only three countries to compete in every single Miss Universe pageant since 1952 are Germany, France, and Canada.

5. THE TALLEST AND THE SHORTEST 

The tallest Miss Universe titleholder was the Dominican Republic's Amelia Vega in (Miss Universe 2003), who measured 188cm. The shortest winners were Miss Universe 1958, Colombia's Luz Marina Zuluaga and Miss Universe 1965, Thailand's Apasra Hongsakula, who both stood at 162cm.

6. BACK-TO-BACK WINS

In 2009 Venezuela became the first country to secure back-to-back wins, when Miss Universe 2008 Dayana Mendoza, crowned her successor Stefanía Fernández.

Special mention: South Africa's Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters was crowned Miss Universe 2017 in Las Vegas, the following year Tamaryn Green was announced runner-up at the pageant, followed by reigning Miss Universe Zozi, who nabbed the title in 2019.

7. THE LONG WAIT 

The longest wait between wins goes to France, with 63 years between wins in 1953 and 2016.

Special mention: Demi-Leigh was crowned Miss South Africa 2017, and is the second Miss Universe winner from South Africa, following Margaret Gardiner who was crowned Miss Universe 1978. 39 years apart! 

8. LIED BY OMISSION? 

Pageant rules stipulate that contestant may not be married, divorced or have children, and in 1957 Leona Gage of Maryland broke these rules. 

She wore the Miss USA crown for only a few days before pageant officials discovered she had been twice married at 14 (annulled) and had given birth to two children, the second at age 16.

She had also lied to officials about her age, saying she was 21, when she was 18.

Leona had already placed in the Miss Universe top 15 semi-finalist when the information came to light, and because it was too late for the Miss USA runner-up to replace her, she was dropped from the competition and replaced by Miss Argentina.

9. THE BIG FOUR

Brazil became the first country to have won all of the Big Four beauty pageants when its contestant won Miss Earth in 2004. Not at the same time, though. 

10. REAL ROYALTY 

The first Miss Universe crown was the only one to have belonged to actual royalty. The Romanov crown was previously owned by the now-defunct Russian royal family. It only graced the head of the first Miss Universe, Armi Kuusela of Finland. 

11. BACKSTAGE SABOTAGE 

Miss Puerto Rico Ingrid Marie Rivera won the Miss Universe crown in 2008, despite someone's best efforts to keep her from the title. 

Two days after the competition she told organisers that her gown and her makeup had caused a strange reaction on her skin. Pageant organisers claimed that someone had doused her personal items with pepper spray.

A subsequent investigation by the FSI conclusively determined that someone had indeed doused Rivera's garments with pepper spray. 

Compiled by Graye Morkel (Sources: Factinate, Angelopedia)