Yolande Betbeze Fox, Miss America Who Defied Convention, Dies at 87

Yolande Betbeze Fox, a convent-educated Alabamian who defied convention, and set new standards, by refusing to tour the country as Miss America of 1951 in revealing bathing suits, died on Monday in Washington. She was 87.

Her death was confirmed by the Joseph Gawler’s Sons funeral home in Washington.

By the time Ms. Fox won her title on Sept. 9, 1950, in Atlantic City, pageant officials, trying to calibrate propriety and sex appeal amid changing mores, had already decided to stop crowning Miss America while she was wearing a swimsuit. That pageant staple had been confined to the swimsuit competition, an event Ms. Fox — Ms. Betbeze at the time — had already won. She began her reign in a gown.

But given that the swimsuit competition’s chief sponsor, Catalina, manufactured swimwear, Ms. Fox was still expected to model bathing suits as the reigning Miss America.

What the organizers did not expect was her response. “Yolande declared, ‘I’m an opera singer, not a pinup!’ and refused posing in a bathing suit again,” according to her official biography on the pageant’s website.

As a result, Catalina withdrew as the pageant sponsor and began the rival Miss USA contest.

“In Yolande’s words, she made a stand for ‘propriety’ that has gone down as a significant flash of pageant history and altered the course of its future,” the official biography says.

Ms. Fox put it another way in an interview with The Washington Post in 1969: “There was nothing but trouble from the minute that crown touched my head.”

Ms. Fox never fulfilled her goal of becoming a professional opera singer, though she belted out “Caro Nome” from “Rigoletto” in the talent competition. But she used her newfound fame to become a model, theatrical producer and social activist.

Yolande Betbeze Fox picketed a Woolworth’s in Times Square in 1960 in support of black sit-ins in the South.CreditNeal Boenzi/The New York Times

She participated in a vigil in 1953 at Sing Sing prison to protest the impending execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, the Manhattan couple convicted of conspiring to commit espionage. She joined civil rights protesters in picketing a Woolworth’s in Times Square in 1960 to support black sit-ins at the store’s lunch counters in the South. (“I’m a Southern girl, but I’m a thinking girl,” she said.) And she joined demonstrations against nuclear weapons.

In a 2006 profile, Smithsonian magazine said Ms. Fox’s “exotic Basque looks” — she was of Basque ancestry — and her rebellious streak may have made her “the most unconventional Miss America ever.”

Yolande Betbeze (her mother picked her given name from a book of medieval history) was born in Mobile, Ala., on Nov. 29, 1928, the daughter of William and Ethel Betbeze. Her father was a butcher.

She was educated in Roman Catholic convent schools and the extension division of the University of Alabama. She began her beauty contest career in 1949, when she won Spring Hill College’s Miss Torch pageant. She entered the Miss Alabama competition hoping to win a scholarship to study singing in New York.

After her one-year reign, she studied philosophy at the New School for Social Research in New York; married Matthew Fox, a movie executive (they had a daughter, Yolande Fox Campbell, who survives her, along with a granddaughter); and produced theater in a playhouse on East Houston Street.

She later moved to Washington, where she bought the Georgetown mansion formerly owned by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and became a fixture of the capital’s social scene.

In the 1960s, Ms. Fox criticized the Miss America pageant for its lack of ethnic and racial diversity. “ ‘How could we say it’s Miss America,’ I asked, ‘if it’s not open to all Americans?’ ” she was quoted saying in “Alabama Afternoons: Profiles and Conversations,” a 2011 book by Roy Hoffman. In the 1970s, she said the pageant perpetuated sexist attitudes.

“Today,” the Miss America website says, “Yolande feels her actions have been pivotal in directing pageant progress towards recognizing intellect, values and leadership abilities, rather than focusing on beauty alone.”

Source: New York Times, Feb. 26, 2016


Miss Indonesia 2016

The new Miss Indonesia 2016 is Natasha Manuella, representing Bangka Belitung, who was crowned in Jakarta on February 24th. She will now represent Indonesia in Miss World 2016 pageant whose date and venue have yet to be confirmed. The outgoing Miss World 2015 Mireia Lalaguna of Spain and Miss Indonesia 2015 Maria Harfanti assisted in the coronation.

Manuella's court includes 1st Princess Editha Aldillasari from Bengkulu,  2nd Princess Dian Bernika from Sumatera Utara, 3rd Princess Song Paramadita of Lampung, and 4th Princess Nabila Astrid of Kepulauan Riau. The pageant was broadcast live via RCTI.


Cara McCollum, former Miss New Jersey pageant champion and TV news anchor, dead at 24 from injuries sustained in crash

Cara McCollum, who won the Miss New Jersey pageant in 2013 and participated in the Miss America competition, died early Monday.  DONALD B. KRAVITZ/AP

A 24-year-old beauty pageant champion and TV news anchor died Monday, one week after she was critically injured in a crash, her friends announced.

Cara McCollum, who won the Miss New Jersey pageant in 2013 and participated in the Miss America competition, died at about 4:30 a.m., according to the Facebook page "Prayers for Cara," which has been posting updates about McCollum's condition.

"Before she died, Cara made the selfless decision to donate her organs. At this very moment, she is saving lives," the group wrote.

"Although it's not the miracle that we first envisioned, it's a miracle nonetheless. In the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years."

McCollum was critically injured Feb. 15 after losing control of her Ford Mustang along Route 55 in Salem County, state police said.

McCollum — who wasn't wearing a seatbelt — was believed to have been driving too fast on the rain-slicked roadway when the crash occurred. Her car spun off the right side of the road and struck a number of trees before coming to rest at the bottom of an embankment.

She was later transported to Cooper Health Systems, where she underwent surgery.

Friends and relatives held out hope that McCollum would recover from her injuries, but her condition proved fatal.

In addition to her pageant appearances, the 24-year-old also served as a TV news anchor
at southern New Jersey’s SNJ Today. 

The Arkansas native and Princeton University grad became a news anchor and spent about six months working at SNJ Today, a Millville-based news provider, following her pageant days.

SNJ Today released a statement about McCollum's death Monday.

"Cara showed warmth to everyone she met. She was a part of our news team family and we are gratified to have worked with her — even for such a short time," her SNJ co-workers said. "We will miss her terribly."

McCollum is survived by her parents and brother, as well as boyfriend Keith Jones, an anchor at NBC station WCAU in Philadelphia. Following McCollum's death, Jones reflected on her life in a Facebook post, sharing images of the couple's happy times together.

"Words fall short of describing the pain, but I'm eternally grateful and blessed for the time I spent with Cara," he wrote. "Her enormous heart enriched my life and changed me forever."

Source: NY Daily News, February 22, 2016


Miss Universe Indonesia (Puteri Indonesia) 2016

Kezia Roslin Cikita Warouw, 24, from Manado, Sulawesi Utara was crowned Puteri Indonesia 2016 in Jakarta on Friday, February 19. She will now represent Indonesia in the 2016 Miss Universe pageant whose date and venue have not yet been confirmed.

Kezia (center) poses with two other newly crowned queens: Felice Hwang (left) is the new Miss International Indonesia 2016 and will compete in Miss International 2016 pageant to be held in Japan later this year. Intan Aletrino (right) was crowned Miss Supranational Indonesia 2016 and will compete in Miss Supranational 2016 pageant to be held in Poland in December.


New Jersey OKs $11.9 Million to Keep Miss America Pageant

Betty Cantrell of Georgia was crowned Miss America 2016 last Sept. 13, 2015 in Atlantic City.

There she is ... and she costs about $4 million more this time.
A New Jersey redevelopment agency approved an $11.9 million deal Tuesday to keep the Miss America pageant in Atlantic City for the next three years.
That's $4 million more than the previous three-year deal as the seaside gambling resort teeters on the brink of bankruptcy, the state threatens to seize control of its finances and some of its eight casinos hang on by a thread.
The Casino Reinvestment Development Authority approved the contract with the Miss America Organization and Dick Clark Productions to keep the pageant on the Atlantic City Boardwalk, where it began back in 1921. The agency collects state-mandated casino payments and approves them for redevelopment projects designed to improve the city.
The CRDA will make the payment toward the pageant's production costs. In addition to the national exposure the pageant's post-Labor Day finale generates, Atlantic City will also be prominently promoted during Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve and the Billboard Music Awards broadcasts over the next three years.
The three-year pact with the pageant did not include the other broadcast partnerships.
"It was very important to us that Miss America and Dick Clark promote Atlantic City as a destination resort," said John Palmieri, CRDA's executive director. "We didn't want to lose Miss America. We negotiated a contract we believe was a fair contract."
The extra broadcast exposure was a key part of the deal for CRDA officials. The 2016 Billboard Music Awards to be broadcast on May 22 will promote Atlantic City when the reigning Miss America presents an award and touts the September pageant competition. Similar events will take place in the 2017 and 2018 awards shows.
And live remote broadcasts from Atlantic City will be included in each of the next three New Year's Rockin' Eve broadcasts, including the name of the venue the concert is taking place in and that it is in Atlantic City.
CRDA staff estimated the pageant directly supports more than 15,000 hours of employment from building trades to support staff. City officials say the pageant generates millions of dollars of economic activity in and around Atlantic City each September.
They also note that an agency that promoted the resort to other parts of the country, the Atlantic City Alliance, is being eliminated as part of state-mandated austerity measures for the financially strapped city.
The Miss America pageant began in Atlantic City as a way to extend the summer tourist season after Labor Day. It moved to Las Vegas for six years before returning to Atlantic City in 2013.
Source: ABC News, 2/16/2016


Ariadna Gutierrez Under Fire for Being Overdressed? Colombian Beauty Queen Steals Spotlight During a White House Event

Miss Universe 2015 first runner-up Ariadna Gutierrez is stealing the spotlight once again after the Colombian beauty queen was criticized for her dress choice when she attended a White House event on Friday.

Gutierrez was one of the delegates who accompanied Colombian President Juan Manual Santos during his meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama to discuss the future political relations between the two nations after signing the peace agreement with militant group, FARC, Latin Correspondent reported. The 22-year-old stunner was also joined by Miss Universe 2014 winner Paulina Vega.

Gutierrez was one of the delegates who accompanied Colombian President Juan Manual Santos during his meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama to discuss the future political relations between the two nations after signing the peace agreement with militant group, FARC, Latin Correspondent reported. The 22-year-old stunner was also joined by Miss Universe 2014 winner Paulina Vega.
While Vega was smartly dressed for the occasion with her white blouse, black pants and blazer ensemble, Gutierrez opted to wear a floor-length mauve Oscar dela Renta gown. Unfortunately, Colombian media weren't happy by her choice of gown, claiming her attire was inappropriate for a formal meeting between heads of state, ministers, senators and other officials.
In addition, the press also claimed Gutierrez was "too overdressed" for the event. They even claimed the beauty queen looked like a "cake," and noted that the gown was more appropriate for a gala or red carpet event, according to Pulzo.
Aside from Gutierrez and Vega, Santos' sons Martin and Esteban, actor John Leguizamo and journalist Luis Carlos Velez were also present during the event.
Meanwhile, Gutierrez also recently made headlines when she reportedly received $135,000 (450 million pesos) for her interview with Steve Harvey that aired on Jan. 19. Her Tom Ford dress and shoes during the interview also raised some eyebrows because they cost more than $6,800 (23 million pesos) and $740 (2.5 million pesos), respectively.
In other news, Gutierrez's Miss Universe rival and the pageant's 2015 winner Pia Wurtzbach of the Philippines was recently spotted with a hot date during the fifth annual National Football League (NFL) Honors at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco on Saturday night.
Wurtzbach was spotted on the red carpet with fellow Miss Universe candidate Olivia Jordan of the U.S.A., PhilStar Entertainment noted. She was also one of the presenters along with New England Patriots player Rob Gronkowski at the NFL Honors awards.
Aside from turning heads on the red carpet, the 26-year-old Miss Universe 2015 winner also charmed the audiences as a special correspondent for "Inside Edition's" coverage of the recently concluded "Super Bowl 50."
"Super Bowl" host Levi's Stadium even posted a short clip featuring Wurtzbach and Jordan in the stands, GMA News Online revealed.
"Hope you're enjoying the Levi's Stadium experience Miss Universe!" the Twitter post read.
For Wurtzbach's "Super Bowl 50" experience, check out her Twitter account.

Source: Latin Post, 2/9/2016


Former Miss Universe Alicia Machado named Mariachi Queen in Mexico

Venezuelan actress and former Miss Universe Alicia Machado was named Mexico's new Mariachi Queen during a ceremony in the capital.
The 39-year-old Machado said during her coronation on Saturday that mariachis had been a "constant" in her life.
Machado said she once ran away from home and her father brought some mariachis to the house to cheer her up and keep her from running away again.
The actress said mariachis had been a part of her life since then, performing at parties, birthdays and other events.
Machado said that after living in Mexico for 20 years, she now felt "very honored" to be named Mariachi Queen.
Mexico's mariachi organization started naming an annual Mariachi Queen more than 25 years ago. EFE
Souce: Latino Fox News, Jan. 31, 2016

Nuestra Belleza Mexico 2016 (Miss Universe Mexico 2016)

 Cristal Silva, 23, representing the state of Tamaulipas, was crowned Nuestra Belleza Mexico 2016 on Sunday, January 31st. She will represent Mexico in Miss Universe 2016 pageant whose date and venue have not yet been confirmed. Her court includes 1st runner-up Irma Miranda of Sonora, 2nd runner-up Geraldine Ponce of Nayarit, 3rd runner-up Naomi Garza of Nuevo León, and 4th runner-up Yaris Cháidez of Yucatán.