While Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach is the 64th Miss Universe title-holder, back in 1952, Miss Finland Armi Helena Kuusela bested 30 contestants in the first-ever Miss Universe pageant held that year in Long Beach, California.
But before Kuusela, Lisl Goldarbeiter of Austria was the first beauty queen accorded with the title “Miss Universe” she was announced winner in the International Pageant of Pulchritude in Galveston, Texas in 1929, the world’s first international contest, forerunner of the Miss Universe beauty pageant.
The 1929 International Pageant of Pulchritude was the 4th edition of the contest and took more contestants from outside the USA like Russia, England and Turkey. Winners of the first three years were Misses USA Catherine Moylan (1926), Dorothy Britton (1927) and Ella Van Hueson (1928) who were all given the title of Beauty Queen of the Universe.
Goldarbeiter, in a recorded black and white video, said after her win, “I’m very happy and I hope I succeeded in giving the proud American people, who I learned to love and know, a good impression about Austrian women and Vienna.” Goldarbeiter was offered by film director King Vidor a two-year Hollywood contract.
The International Pageant of Pulchritude continued up to the early 30’s before it was aborted in the Depression period in America. Two were crowned in 1930, Miss USA Dorothy Dell Goff and Miss Brazil Yolanda Pereira. Miss Belgium Netta Duchateau won in 1931 and Miss Turkey Keriman Halis Ece in 1932. No contest was held in 1933 and 1934 but was revived for the last time in 1935 with Miss Egypt Charlotte Wassef taking home the title.
Seven years after the Second World War ended in 1945, the first ever edition of the Miss Universe pageant was held at The Municipal Auditorium in Long Beach, California on June 28, 1952. Kuusela, a 17-year-old, blonde Finnish beauty won over 29 contestants from around the world and was crowned by Hollywood actress Piper Laurie. Her runners up were Miss Hawaii Elza Kananionapua (1st), Miss Greece Daisy Mavraki (2nd), Miss Hong Kong Judy Dan (3rd) and Miss Germany Renate Hoy (4th).
Four months before her reign ends, Kuusela decided to give up her Miss Universe crown to marry Filipino businessman Virgilio Hilario after a whirlwind romance. They settled in Manila in Forbes Park where they were blessed with five children.