Asian winners of Miss Universe beauty pageant

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In this article, we will discuss the beautiful and diverse women from the continent of Asia who have gone on to win the Miss Universe crown from its inception in 1952 until the present day. We will celebrate their achievements during the international contest as well as their life after their reign. Overall, thirteen Asian women have won the prestigious title of Miss Universe based in New York City, United States of America.

Miss Universe 1959 Akiko Kojima (Japan)

Akiko Kojima (Japanese: 児島 明子) born on 29 October, 1936) was a 22-year-old model standing at the height of 168cm 5 feet 6 inches tall from Tokyo, Japan when she defeated four other finalists from Norway, the United States, England, and Brazil for the title of 1959 Miss Universe held in Long Beach, California. Akiko Kojima became the first Asian woman to win the coveted title of Miss Universe pageant. After her reign, Akiko worked as a professional fashion model in Tokyo and throughout the Asia Pacific. The American press had reported her going under plastic surgery to enhance her breast which she denied. In 1966, She married Japanese actor Akira Takarada who became successful after his role in the Godzilla movies in 1954. Akiko gave birth to a beautiful daughter and continued to live a simple and quiet life away from the media. Forty-eight years later after her reign, another Japanese national, Riyo Mori, won the Miss Universe 2007.

Miss Universe 1965 Apasra Hongsakula (Thailand )

Born on 16 January 1947 (Thai: อาภัสรา หงสกุล) she was raised in Bangkok city but her family send her to girl's secondary school in Penang, Malaysia to learn the English language. In 1964, during the national competition of Miss Thailand (Thai: นางสาวไทย) Apasra who was a high school student was crowned as the winner. She represented Thailand at the 14th edition Miss Universe 1965 contest which was held in Miami Beach, Florida, United States. Apsara charmed the judges with her personality despite not being fluent in the English language, resulting in her becoming the first Thai and SouthEast Asian winner of the international pageant. Before the contest, Apsara had received Royal Training and advice from Her Royal Highness Queen Sirikit about how to strike a pose and how to walk in the pageant before she went to Miami. After her victory, Apasra was appointed "cultural ambassador" by the Tourism Authority of Thailand. She married the first cousin of Queen Sirikit, by whom she has a son. The marriage ended long ago in divorce, but she remains a revered social figure in the country. In 1992, Apasra was presented a new crown by Miss Universe Organization and was crowned again at a private function by Miss Universe 1991 Lupita Jones of Mexico when Thailand hosted the 1992 Miss Universe pageant. Most Miss Universe titleholders in the old days did not get to keep the crown. Apsara returned to the Miss Universe pageant twice as a judge in 1973 and 1979.

Miss Universe 1969 Gloria Diaz (Philippines)

Gloria was born in 1951 in Manila, Philippines. She is one of twelve children (ten girls and two boys) of lawyer Jaime Diaz and model and socialite Teresa Aspillera. In 1969, at the young age of 18 years old, Gloria won the audience's and judges' hearts with her quick wit and communication skills during the national pageant and become the winner of Binibining Pilipinas 1969. She represented the Philippines at the 18th edition Miss Universe pageant held in Miami Beach, Florida, United States. During the international event, she was asked a question regarding "men on the moon" and her answer captivated the audience and the judges. On the final night, she had been crowned Miss Universe in 1969 and became the first Filipina woman to win this title. During her reign, she traveled to many countries throughout the globe to promote her advocacy through the Miss Universe organization by making several public appearances and television events. After her reign, she pursued an acting career in the Philippines where she was nominated for a FAMAS Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Lead Role. In 1986, she was married to businessman Gabriel Daza III and later separated in 1995, with whom she has two daughters, Isabelle and Ava, and one son, Raphael. After her separation from Daza, she has since been in a relationship with Michael Osmeña de Jesus, a Filipino banker.

Miss Universe 1971 Georgina Rizk (Lebanon)

Georgina (Arabic: جورجينا رزق) was born on 23 July 1953 (age 69) in Beirut, Lebanon to a Christian Lebanese father and a Hungarian mother. In 1970, she was the national titleholder of Miss Lebanon and went to compete at Miss World 1970 but she failed to place. A few months later, she participated in the 20th edition Miss Universe 1971 contest, where she made a remarkable fashion statement by wearing a very revealing top and hot pants. She became the eventual winner of the Miss Universe 1971, she was the first Middle Eastern woman to win the international title. Rizk's first husband was Muharram Fouad, the Egyptian singer, and actor whom she married for a short period in 1975. Rizk later married Ali Hassan Salameh, a Palestinian who were chief of operations for Black September and founder of Force 17. The couple spent their honeymoon in Hawaii and then stayed at Disneyland.

Miss Universe 1973 Margie Moran (Philippines)

Born on 15 September 1953 in Manila, Philippines, to lawyer Francis Gonzalez Morán and Rosario McIlvain Roxas. After winning Binibining Pilipinas 1973 national contest, she went on to compete at the 22nd Miss Universe 1973 pageant held in Athens, Greece. At the young age of 19 years old, standing at the height of 5 feet 6 inches tall, her beauty help her win the Miss Photogenic award and also won the main title of Miss Universe 1973. After her reign, she married and managed to finish her Business Administration degree at Maryknoll College and Boston University and took her master's degree at the federal University of London, awarded through the School of Oriental and African Studies. She executed several private companies like a resort called "Pearl Farm" in Samal Island, Davao del Norte from 1989 to 1994, hosted "Margie on Mindanao" on TV, and produced a multi-awarded movie, Bagong Buwan. Her social and philanthropy work to promote peace and livelihood as part of the Mindanao Commission on Women Organization. Her passion and experience as a dancer at the age of 18, prompted her to promote arts and culture with Southern Philippines Foundation for the Arts, Culture, and Ecology.

Miss Universe 1976 Rina Messinger (Israel)

(Hebrew: רינה מור-גודר;) was born in Kiryat Tiv'on, near Haifa. Her father was a mechanic and pilot in the Israeli Air Force and her mother was a kindergarten teacher. Rina Mor-Goder became a lawyer and mother of two daughters. She became the first Miss Israel to win the Miss Universe crown in 1976 held at Lee Theatre in Hong Kong. After her reign, she worked in public relations for the Jewish Agency and Israel Bonds in New York. After four years she returned to Israel and continued working in public relations for a private company. There she met her husband, with whom she has two daughters. She wrote her autobiography book sharing her experience as Miss Universe in 1981. After completing her bachelor's degree with honors from the Netherlands, Rina completed her master's degree there, specializing in family law.

Miss Universe 1988 Porntip Nakhirunkanok (Thailand)

Porntip (Thai: ภรณ์ทิพย์ นาคหิรัญกนก) was born in Bangkok, Thailand. She attended Washington Irving Middle School and Franklin High School in Los Angeles. At 15 years old, she had taken part in Miss California Teen USA where she finished 1st runner-up. After returning to Thailand, she joined Miss Thailand 1988 pageant where she was crowned as the main title holder. She represented Thailand at the 37th edition Miss Universe 1988 contest held in Taipei, Taiwan. Standing at a towering height of 173cm 5 feet 8 inches tall, made the judges notice alongside her background of growing up in California helped her express herself in the English language which help her garner 9.730 points during the interview portion. Porntip became the second Thai woman to win the Miss Universe crown including the Best National Costume award. She was given the Thai Royal Medal of Honour, Most Exalted Order of the White Elephant, by King Bhumibol Adulyadej for her service in helping children in need. As Goodwill Ambassador, she addressed the UN General Assembly concerning the Convention on the Rights of the Child. She graduated with a bachelor's degree in psychology from Pepperdine University. In 2002, she married Herbert Simon, an American businessman who is the owner of the Indiana Pacers basketball team and Simon Property Group. Porntip is the president and founder of the Angels Wings Foundation. She is on the Board of Regents of Pepperdine University, the Board of the Children's Museum of Indianapolis as a Distinguished Advisor, and also is on the Board of Governors for the Dream Foundation.

Miss Universe 1994 Sushmita Sen (India)

Sushmita (Hindi: सुष्मिता सेन) attended Air Force Golden Jubilee Institute in New Delhi and St. Ann's High School in Secunderabad. At the young age of 18 years old, she participated in the Femina Miss India 1994 contest where she became victorious against fan favorite Aishwarya Rai. It allowed her to represent India at the 43rd edition Miss Universe 1994 contest in Manila, Philippines. Her grace, poise, intelligence, and charisma were reflected during her iconic question and answer where she shared about the essence of being a woman. She became the first Indian woman to win the title of Miss Universe and went on to work in Bollywood movies. Sushmita won the Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in the comedy film Biwi No.1 (1999) and was also nominated in the category for her roles in the dramas Sirf Tum (1999) and Filhaal... (2002). Her enchanting aura and feminist beliefs helped her become a role model and inspiration to many international audiences. She adopted two daughters Renee and Alisah.

Miss Universe 2000 Lara Dutta (India)

Lara (Hindi: लारा दत्ता) graduated with a degree in economics and a minor in communications from the University of Mumbai. She was previously crowned Miss Intercontinental in 1997. During the national contest, she gave a strong and fearless performance at the Femina Miss India 2000 pageant. Lara went on to compete at the 49th Miss Universe 2000 contest held in Nicosia, Cyprus. Lara earned the highest score in the swimsuit competition and her finalist interview score was the highest individual score in the history of the Miss Universe contest. After her reign, she became the recipient of several accolades including a Filmfare Award. She established herself as one of the prominent leading ladies of the 2000s. Dutta's win led to her appointment as a UNFPA Goodwill Ambassador in 2001. She later started working as an actress and recently served as the mentor at Miss Diva Universe 2020.

Miss Universe 2007 Riyo Mori (Japan)

Riyo (Japanese: 森 理世) was born on 24 December 1986 in Shizuoka, Japan as the only child of her parents. She started dancing at the tender age of 4, she studied at Quinte Ballet School of Canada and also is a graduate of Centennial Secondary School in Belleville, Ontario, Canada.  In the final competition, broadcast internationally on May 28, 2007, Mori was announced as one of fifteen semi-finalists who would move forward to compete for the title. She achieved the highest score in the swimsuit competition, which advanced her to the top ten, and in the evening gown competition, in which she placed fourth. Mori's kimono-inspired black/floral evening gown of choice came from the Spring/Summer 2007 collection of Gucci. She was crowned as the 56th Miss Universe winner held in Mexico City, Mexico, and became the second Japanese woman to win this international pageant. After her reign, she followed her passion for creative arts and opened a multicultural dance school called I.R.M Academy where she is currently working as the artistic director. She has been actively working with Make-A-Wish Foundation, the Special Olympics, and HIV/AIDS awareness, the official platform of the Miss Universe Organization. On August 28, 2018, she married Brent Kaspar, an American attorney.

Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach (Philippines)

Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach was born in Stuttgart, Germany, to a German father and a Filipino mother. Her parents separated when she was 11 years old, and she became the family's main breadwinner by modeling and acting. Her parents separated when she was 11 years old, and she became the family's main breadwinner by modeling and acting. Pia had a memorable performance during the national competition after joining Binibining Pilipinas three times before winning the crown. In 2013, she finished as the 1st runner-up, in Binibining Pilipinas 2014 she only made the Top 15 and in her last entry, she became the main winner of Binibining Pilipinas 2015. Pia competed at the Miss Universe 2015 and she had a historical crowning moment when Miss Colombia Ariadna Gutiérrez was accidentally announced as the winner. A few minutes later, the host Steve Harvey correctly announced that Miss Philippines was the correct winner and Pia has crowned Miss Universe 2015. After 42 years, Pia became the third Filipina woman to hold the Miss Universe title since Margie Morgan. She continues her work with Miss Universe Organization as an HIV/AIDS awareness advocate. Pia has acted in several movies and is now an entrepreneur with her new business venture “BesTea Milk Tea”.

Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray (Philippines)

Born on 6 January 1994 to an Australian father and a Filipina mother in Queensland, Australia. She received a graduate certificate in music theory from Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. In 2016, she won the national title of Miss World Philippines and represented the Philippines at the Miss World 2016 and finished Top 5 finalist and won several awards including Multimedia Award, Talent Award, and Beauty with a Purpose Project award. Two years later, she won Binibining Pilipinas 2018 and participated in the 67th Miss Universe 2018 contest held in Bangkok, Thailand. During the final event, Catriona made global news wearing her iconic red lava-inspired evening gown and she was crowned the winner of the pageant. Catriona became the fourth Filipina woman to win the prestigious Miss Universe title for her country. After her reign, she has been continuously working with various charity work in her country. Catriona is an advocate for women's rights, indigenous culture conservation, and the "One Town, One Product" (OTOP) project of the Philippines' Department of Trade and Industry. She has continued to pursue her women's rights advocacies despite some incidents when military officials attempted to pressure her into limiting her interactions with certain women's rights groups. In 2020, Cariona was awarded as the Ambassador for the Arts, and for Indigenous Handicrafts in the Philippines.

Miss Universe 2021 Harnaaz Sandhu (India)

Harnaaz (Hindi: हरनाज़ कौर संधूwas pursuing a master's degree in public administration. Sandhu began competing in pageantry as a teenager, winning titles such as Miss Chandigarh 2017 and Miss Max Emerging Star India 2018. After winning the title of Femina Miss India Punjab 2019, Sandhu competed in Femina Miss India, where she was placed in the Top 12, with the winner going to Miss World. She competed at Miss Diva 2021 where she became the eventual winner and represented India at the 71st Miss Universe 2021 contest in Eilat, Israel. Harnaaz gave a powerful answer regarding advice would for young women and she was crowned as the winner of the international event. She became the third Indian woman to win the coveted title of Miss Universe after Lara Dutta's triumph in 2000. During her reign, she received negative feedback due to her weight gain but she continued to be confident and work with many charities with the Miss Universe organization.

Who is your favorite Asian Miss Universe winner? Comment below

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  1. My fave MU winners are Pia and Cat from the Philippines. IMG Universe era is the best tbh. My most favorite Q and A among the four Filipina MU winners is from 1973 because the question about the first thing you buy if you have a million dollars was a piece of cake.

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