AFTER seven years covering up, Miss World is bringing back its controversial swim-wear round for the finals next month in Puerto Rico.
Attacked by feminists — who once stormed the Royal Albert Hall with flour bombs and placards in protest — pageant chief Julia Morley vowed to axe the “offending” section when she took over from her late husband Eric Morley in 2000.
It was dropped from the contest in 2014 to focus on “brains and personality” not “physical beauty”.
“I don’t care if someone has a bottom two inches bigger than someone else’s,” said Julia at the time.
“We are really not looking at her bottom. We are really listening to her speak.”
But now a contest spokesperson has told The Sun: “We are running a Top Model show for those who want to enter. Part of it will be a beachwear competition, held on the beach.
“Everybody is able to enter if they wish.”
So why has the lady turned? Insiders believe it’s to do with the falling viewing figures.
Head judge at Miss Great Britain and beauty pageant expert Sally-Ann Fawcett said: “For Julia Morley to renege on her decision is either a PR stunt to commemorate the pageant’s 70th birthday, or surrender in the face of indifference to her modern- day idea of a beauty contest.
“That idea is one that has been losing fans and viewers for years — ever since she axed swimsuit seven years ago, in fact.
“To put it bluntly, a pageant without swimsuits is boring, and many of the contestants agree. I know because I’ve asked them.”
Yet Miss World 1965, the UK’s Lesley Langley, now 76, told The Sun: “I’m delighted swimwear is back.
“I loved that round. It was empowering and a bit of fun. We loved showing off our figures, we’d worked hard enough to get them.
“I was disappointed when it was axed. Everything is becoming so PC these days, it’s taking the fun out of everything. I’m glad Miss World has realised its mistake to ban it.”
Another British winner, Miss World 1964, Ann Sidney, added: “I always wondered why the Miss World organisation paid any attention to those sour-puss libbers.”
Ann, now 77, continued: “Why bow to the woke brigade or any other brigade not allowing beautiful young women in their prime to parade in a swimsuit?
“Miss World was a soft target. No one forces a girl to enter. It’s a beauty contest, for goodness sake. So put the swimwear round back in and stand up to the carping cronies.
“The Miss World brand is about fantasy and beauty.”
Winners today are crowned in ball gowns but in years past they wore swimwear for the ceremony.
The competition began as part of the Festival of Britain in 1951, when 30 bikini-clad contestants battled it out at London’s Lyceum Ballroom.
As some of the entrants came from outside Britain it was soon dubbed “Miss
Winner Kiki Haakonsen of Sweden was the first — and last — title holder to be crowned while wearing a two-piece swimming costume.
The outfit caused fury around the globe, with even the Pope voicing his disapproval. After that, only one-piece swimwear was allowed.
The beauty queens were crowned in swimwear for more than 20 years, but pressure was mounting on the organisation to ban it. In 1970, members of the women’s liberation movement interrupted the live broadcast of the Miss World competition at the Royal Albert Hall, throwing flour bombs and firing water pistols.
The host, US comedy legend Bob Hope, had told the crowd: “I don’t want you to think I’m a dirty old man. I never give women a second thought. My first thought covers everything.”
The first flour bomb then hit the stage, stopping him in his tracks.
Last year the protest was turned into a Hollywood movie, Mis-behaviour, starring Keira Knightley as the protest ringleader.
The last contestant to be crowned in swimwear was Puerto Rican Miss World 1975, Wilnelia Merced, who later married entertainer Sir Bruce Forsyth. That year saw a rebellion among contestants, as some refused to turn round to show their backsides to the judges during the swimwear section. That section was then dropped from the show.
Julia Morley then demanded the winners be crowned in evening gowns, though the swimwear round remained.
Judge Sally-Ann added: “The aspect feminists hated most was the image of a woman standing in a swimsuit on stage being interviewed by a host wearing a dinner jacke. But most of the contestants loved it.”
Miss Venezuela, Tatiana Capote, had a swimwear malfunction in 1979 during rehearsals, exposing one of her breasts. There were claims ??from who?? that she was disqualified ?? was she disqualified?? as a result of this breach of modesty.
In 1986, Miss World finalist Halle Berry wore an electric blue swimsuit at the Albert Hall, paving the way for her role as Jinx in Bond film Die Another Day, where she emerged from the sea in a orange bikini.
Swimwear was axed in 2014. Julia Morley said at the time: “I really don’t need to see women just walking up and down in bikinis. It doesn’t do anything for the woman, it doesn’t do anything for any of us.”
Miss England winner 2009 and Miss World finalist Kat Hodge earned the nickname “Combat Barbie” after being crowned Miss England while serving as a soldier.
Now 34, she successfully campaigned to have the swimwear round banned in Miss England and Miss World but now believes women should have the choice and welcomes its return.
She says: “At Miss World 2009 I was handed a bikini to wear which didn’t fit.
“Just stepping on stage was nerve wracking enough, let alone in swimwear.
“Most women found this round empowering, but I started to feel it should be a choice, not compulsory.
“When competitions claim they are about finding role models or charity ambassadors, I couldn’t understand why the size of your bum, orhow you looked in your skimpies mattered. So in 2009 I campaigned to have the category banned from Miss England.
“I thought this would encourage women of all shapes and sizes as well as professions to enter.
“I was successful and the contest removed the bikini element, which also meant women from different religions could enter too. I was so proud when this campaign went to Miss World level.
“In September, 12 years on from Miss World, I competed in Ms Great Britain 2021. As a proud mum of two young daughters I was five stone heavier than my Miss England days and covered in stretch marks, but somehow I felt the best I have ever felt on stage in swimwear.
“I walked on stage unapologetically and despite no longer being a size eight I felt fantastic and proud of the woman I had become.
“To my surprise, it was actually my favourite round. This made me question my decision on removing swimwear in Miss England and Miss World.
“I walked away from Ms Great Britain proud and had hundreds of messages from mums and older women saying they were so proud of me for getting on stage and being authentically myself.
“This made me realise the round is not about how your figure looks, it’s about how you present yourself. Confidence can make you stand out. I walked away from the competition feeling incredible. Nobody had judged me for putting on weight, or for not having a perfect bikini body.
“It made me change my mind on the swimwear round of all beauty pageants. Now I believe swimwear rounds are an important part of the show – but women should have a choice whether or not to compete in them. That’s true female empowerment, giving women the choice.
“So I was pleased to hear Miss World is bringing the category back as a choice for women and those who don’t enter won’t be scored down or penalised.
“After years of fighting ‘feminists’, it appears Julia Morley has finally decided to be unapologetically a beauty pageant after all.
“Sadly, I don’t think we will appease people who are anti-pageants. I always invite these feminists to watch a contest, as it’s easy to judge from the outside when you don’t understand the hard work that goes into competing in one.”
Millions will tune in next month to watch reigning queen Toni-Ann Singh, 25, from Jamaica, crown her successor in Puerto Rico.
Sally-Ann added: “I have always been a fan of the swimwear round. These women have literally worked their butts off to get into the best shapes of their lives, only for their hard earned work to be hidden under evening gowns and national costumes.
“It’s not a pageant without a swimwear section, and one good reason as to why rival contest Miss Universe is now seen as far more important.”
The gloves may be off as the contestants prepare for Puerto Rico — but the swimsuits are back on…
End of this world is nigh
By Lynsey Clarke
SUPPOSE that’s it then, ladies, let’s throw in the (beach) towel.
We should thank Miss World, I guess. They gave it a good go, persevering without a beachwear round through seven years of falling audiences.
But in the end it seems that, regardless of what might be going on in our heads, all anyone really cares about is how we look in a cossie.
In the world of pageantry that is, anyway.
And I get it – Miss World is a business, and without viewers there is no competition.
But rather than the organisers moving backwards on the 2014 decision to end the swim-wear round, isn’t it time they moved on?
Look what happened over at lingerie brand Victoria’s Secret.
The televised annual fashion show of burger- starved models parading around in frilly undies peaked in 2001, with millions tuning in.
But in 2019, amid plunging ratings, declining sales and criticism both for objectifying women and a lack of diversity, it was axed.
Since then the brand has had to diversify its marketing strategy, as today it takes a whole lot more than a pert pair of boobs to sell something.
Maybe, just maybe, pageants have had their day?
Or if these events must continue, let’s just admit it – it’s a body contest.
Spare us the spiel that donning a swimming costume with a pair of heels is somehow “empowering”, or that because competitors now have “the choice” it makes it inclusive.