Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Armi Kuusela

Armi Helena Kuusela (born 20 August 1934 in Muhos) is a Finnish beauty queen. In 1952 she won the national beauty contest Suomen Neito and was presented with a trip to the USA to participate in the first-ever Miss Universe pageant, becoming its first titleholder in history.

When Kuusela won her country's national pageant, Suomen Neito, on May 24, 1952, she was awarded a box of chocolates, a gold bangle, and a two-way ticket sponsored by Pan American Airways to the United States. On June 17, Kuusela took a flight to Long Beach, California and the first Miss Universe contest.
Thirty contestants participated in the first Miss Universe pageant in 1952. The pageant was held on June 28, 1952, and Kuusela, as Suomen Neito, captured the crown. At her crowning she was only 17 years old. At the time she weighed 49 kg (108 lb), and her height was 1.65 m (5 ft 5 in).
Immediately after her winning there was a Finnish movie made of her, called Maailman kaunein tyttö (World's most beautiful girl) where she played herself, and Tauno Palo acted Jack Coleman (opposite role). It was directed by Veikko Itkonen, with writing credits going to Mika Waltari.

On February 22, 1953, Kuusela took a journey round the world, during which time she met Filipino businessman Virgilio Hilario. Less than a year after being crowned, Kuusela chose to give up her Miss Universe crown on May 4, 1953 to marry Hilario in Tokyo after a whirlwind courtship. They had met in March at a dance in Baguio, the summer capital of the Philippines, when Kuusela as Miss Universe had gone to the Islands for the International Trade Exposition. They honeymooned in the Hawaiian Islands, toured the United States and then Europe, before settling in the Philippines where they had five children.
Kuusela briefly managed several apartments in Metro Manila, one of them being the (now-demolished) Gilarmi Apartments and Suites in Makati, where she and Hilario lived before moving to the exclusive community of Forbes Park. Their house was on a road informally known as "Millionaire Street". She was also in one film in the Philippines around this time.
Hilario died of a heart attack on September 7, 1975, and Kuusela remarried, this time to American diplomat Albert Williams on June 8, 1978. First they moved to Barcelona, then to Izmir, Turkey, before settling in La Jolla, a community in San Diego, California. As of 2011, she and her husband were still living there.
Kuusela is still active in her community, participating in charities and involved in cancer research at the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute.


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