Skip to main content

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

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Spain Wins Mister Global 2022

  Miguel Angel Lucas , 21, of Spain won the Mister Global 2022 title in Thailand on March 15, 2022. The 6'5" model and firefighter in training bested 31 other contestants.  The other four finalists include 1st runner-up Danh Linh of Vietnam, 2nd runner-up Dongwoo Shin of Korea, 3rd runner-up Juan Carlos da Silva of Venezuela, and 4th runner-up Gabriel Ortiz of Mexico. Photos courtesy of Mister Global

End Of The Year Review - Pageantry In 2021

  And the winner is... Miss Quasi-Normal. Runners-up include Miss Apartheid Universe and Miss Covid World.         2021 pageantry was characterized by a gradual return to normalcy as pageant competitions – which had been cancelled or postponed in 2020 due to the Coronavirus pandemic – succeeded in staging physical productions while paying close attention to universal safety guidelines. Even major events like the Tokyo Summer Olympics, which was cancelled in 2020, successfully took place in 2021. Miss Universe and Miss Grand International held two editions (one each for 2020 and 2021), The Miss World finals was postponed for March 2022 after several contestants had tested positive for COVID-19 in Puerto Rico which hosts the pageant. The year was also a milestone for Miss Universe and Miss World’s 70th anniversary and Miss America’s 100th anniversary. TRANS-CENDENTAL MISS:    On March 8, 2021, Filipino-American  Kataluna Enrique z made history by being the first transwoman to be crowned

Mister Global Teen 2015 will not be dethroned despite scandalous selfie with a "lady boy"

DAHAM DIAS, Mister Global Teen 2015, in a scandalous selfie with a Thai transgender and with Christian Daniel Ortiz, the current Mister Universal Ambassador 2015. Pradit Pradinunt , chairman of Mister Global Limited, issued an official statement yesterday announcing that the current Mister Global Teen 2015, Daham Dias from Sri Lanka, will not be dethroned following the release of a controversial topless selfie of him lying next to a Thai "lady boy" (pre-op transgendered woman) and Christian Daniel Ortiz , the current Mister Universal Ambassador 2015 from Puerto Rico. The selfie was taken during a swimwear photoshot, and according to Pradinunt's statement, Dias had accepted the modeling job without Pradinunt's authorization, which is a violation of his contract with Pradinunt's pageant company. You can read the entire official statement below.   Daham Dias was crowned Mister Global 2015 last October 10 in Bangkok.