It all started here – Miss Universe, that is. The very first pageant took place in June 28, 1952 when a beautiful Finnish beauty named Armi Helena Kuusela won the title in Long Beach, California. Her court included Elza Kananionapua Edsman of Hawaii, Daisi Mavraki of Greece, Judy Dan of Hong Kong and Renate Hoy of Germany. She was crowned by popular Hollywood actress Piper Laurie.
Do watch highlights of her win in these old footages:
The very first Philippine representative was Teresita Torralba Sanchez (right photo). She may have not placed but I reckon that it was a good experience for her. After all, she was part of the inaugural batch of thirty (30) candidates who vied for the crown. But what was more interesting to note is the eventual Philippine connection of the very first Miss Universe when – as part of her prizes – she traveled around the world.
It was during these world travels when she met Filipino businessman Virgilio Hilario who swept Armi off her feet. The romance was whirlwind to say the least. They got married in May the following year – a month before crowning her successor. Their union was blessed with five children – one of whom (Anna-Lisa) also became a beauty queen when she represented the Philippines during Queen of the Pacific 1974 (she withdrew midway, though, due to a problem with the organizers).
Below is the latest recorded video interview of Armi with husband Al during last year’s SDYS Encore Tribute 2019 in San Diego.
Armi was widowed last 1975, afterwhich she remarried an American – Albert Williams. Life brought her and the children to Barcelona in Spain and Izmir in Turkey before finally living in La Jolla, California where she was involved in several charity causes and even cancer research at the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute (now Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute), also in La Jolla.