Frontline World

NIGERIA - The Road North, January 2003

Synopsis of "The Road North"

A Chronicle of the Pageant's Troubles

Interview With Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka

Five Diverse Voices

Learn More about Nigeria

Sharia Law, Human Rights, the Role of Women




A Pageant Is Born - 1950s Decade of the Indiscreet Contestant - 1960s Feminists Attack the Pageant - 1970s Miss World’s Facelift - 1980s A Globalized Culture Clash - 1990s The Show Must Go On - 2000s

Miss World hopefuls pose in a photo session
Miss World hopefuls pose in a photo session before the 1988 contest. After its broadcast on British television that year, the contest disappeared from the prime time for a decade. (AP/Wide World Photos)

Miss World’s Facelift
The Miss World competition entered the 1980s without the support of its longtime television network carrier, the BBC. After broadcasting the show for two decades, the network sold its telecast rights to a rival British broadcaster, which transmitted the contest globally via satellite. While Miss World's popularity increased internationally, the contest's following in Britain began to shrink.

In an effort to revamp the pageant's tired image, organizers kicked off a new marketing campaign. Julia Morley, a former model and the wife of Miss World founder Eric Morley, coined the mantra "Beauty With a Higher Purpose." New elements -- including a personality and intelligence segment -- were added to the contest. Though the intelligence segment took just two minutes for each contestant, organizers marketed the revised criteria for judges as an earthshaking marker in the history of the competition.

British bookmakers tip these eight contestants as favorites to win the Miss World 1983 title.
British bookmakers tip these eight contestants as favorites to win the Miss World 1983 title. Miss World contest organizers struggled in the 1980s to maintain the event's popularity. "Beauty With a Higher Purpose" became the show's mantra, and organizers introduced a personality and intelligence segment to the contest. (AP/Wide World Photos)

While the makeover briefly helped the contest dodge controversy, by 1984 protestors had found a new cause for revolt. At the event held in London that year, radical animal rights activists campaigned against Miss Venezuela, Astrid Herrera, for her support of toros coleados ("pulling the bulls' tails"), a popular South American rodeo sport. Britain's Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals also weighed in, protesting the wearing of leopard fur by Bolivia's delegate. Yet despite anonymous bomb threats, the 1984 Miss World competition was staged with little disruption, with the exception of a few picketers who waved signs that stated "Miss World Is the Queen of Torture" when Miss Venezuela won the 1984 crown.

The protests in the latter half of the decade seemed mild compared with past years. But there was another potential danger -- the contest's antiquated feel. Newspapers and magazines declared Miss World a relic of a bygone era. In Britain, the contest lost so much favor that broadcasters stopped telecasting the event altogether in 1988. Miss World vanished from the airwaves in the very country where it had been created.

NEXT - 1990s: A Globalized Culture Clash

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