Miss World, the oldest surviving major international beauty pageant, was held at the Royal Albert Hall on twenty occasions between 1969 and 1988 and transmitted by the BBC to millions around the world.
After being held at London’s Lyceum Theatre for 18 years since the competition’s formation in 1951, the event first came to the Hall was on 27 November 1969. Fifty delegates vied for the crown, which was won by Eva Rueber-Staier of Austria.
Of the 20 pageants held at the Hall, the most infamous was Miss World 1970 on 20 November 1970, at which the pageant was disrupted by Women’s Liberation activists protesting that the hugely popular competition was a cattle market.
Chaos ensued briefly when the evening’s compère, Hollywood comedian Bob Hope, was pelted with tomatoes, smoke-, flour- and stink-bombs. Chants echoing around the arena of ‘“we’re not beautiful, we’re not ugly, we’re angry”, were broadcast live across the world.
It only took a few minutes for the police to restore order and for the pageant to continue, but the women’s movement had in one fell swoop established itself as part of the seventies.
22 year old Miss Grenada, Jennifer Hosten, was eventually crowned Miss World that evening, receiving a $1,200 tiara and $6,000 in cash for her troubles, declaring, “I do not really know enough about what they were demonstrating against, all I know is that it has been a wonderful experience competing for the Miss World title”.
Did you know?
The 1976 programme cover shows Miss World 1975, Wilnelia Merced (Miss Puerto Rico), who went on to marry Sir Bruce Forsyth after meeting as judges at the 1980 Miss World competition. They are still married today.
Full list of winners crowned at the Royal Albert Hall
1969 – Eva Rueber-Staier (Austria)
1970 – Jennifer Hosten (Grenada)
1971 – Lúcia Petterle (Brazil)
1972 – Belinda Green (Australia)
1973 – Marjorie Wallace (United States)
1974 – Helen Morgan (United Kingdom); followed by Anneline Kriel (South Africa) after Morgan’s resignation
1975 – Wilnelia Merced (Puerto Rico)
1976 – Cindy Breakspeare (Jamaica)
1977 – Mary Stävin (Sweden)
1978 – Silvana Suárez (Argentina)
1979 – Gina Swainson (Bermuda)
1980 – Gabriella Brum (Germany); followed by Kimberley Santos (Guam) after Brum’s resignation
1981 – Pilín León (Venezuela)
1982 – Mariasela Álvarez (Dominican Republic)
1983 – Sarah-Jane Hutt (United Kingdom)
1984 – Astrid Carolina Herrera (Venezuela)
1985 – Hólmfríður Karlsdóttir (Iceland)
1986 – Giselle Laronde (Trinidad & Tobago)
1987 – Ulla Weigerstorfer (Austria)
1988 – Linda Pétursdóttir (Iceland)