05 July 2013

A Tribute to deceased Miss Universe contestants

“It is a curious thing, the death of a loved one. We all know that our time in this world is limited, and that eventually all of us will end up underneath some sheet, never to wake up. And yet it is always a surprise when it happens to someone we know. It is like walking up the stairs to your bedroom in the dark, and thinking there is one more stair than there is. Your foot falls down, through the air, and there is a sickly moment of dark surprise as you try and readjust the way you thought of things.” - Lemony Snicket, Horseradish: Bitter Truths You Can't Avoid.

Hillevi Rombin - Miss Universe 1955 

Born and raised in Uppsala, Sweden, Hillevi Rombin would've never have guessed she'd bring the 4th Miss Universe crown back to her home country. Hillevi was considered a tomboy where she was a national decathlon champion and excelled in gymnastics, track and field, and downhill snow skiing.

On July 22, 1955 in the Long Beach Municipal Auditorium in Long Beach California, USA, Hillevi was crowned the 4th Miss Universe and the first Miss Universe from Sweden. After winning Miss Universe, she left Sweden for Hollywood to begin an acting career, part of her prize package. While she was Miss Universe traveling around the United States, she met her future husband G. David Schine. She later discontinued her acting career to focus on her life with David. They had six children and were married for almost 40 years.

In 1996 on a flight with her husband and one of her sons after take off, there was a failure in the engine resulting in a plane crash where they all died. She, her husband and son are buried together at Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Westwood Village, California.

Hillevi will be remembered as the 1st Miss Universe who was ever deceased and the first Miss Sweden to ever win Miss Universe.


Carlene King Johnson - USA 1955 

Born and raised in Rutland, Vermont, USA, Carlene King Johnson is the first ever Miss USA to pass away. After winning the Miss Vermont USA title, Carlene earned the right to represent Vermont in Miss USA where she won and earned the right to represent the USA in Miss Universe 1955 where she placed in the Top 15.

Unfortunately, 13 years after she competed in Miss Universe, when she was only 35, she passed away due to an illness related to diabetes.

Leona Gage - USA 1957

One of the more recent deaths, Leona Gage is the only one on this list who actually didn't compete for the title of Miss Universe. When she was 14 years old, she married Gene Ennis an airman in the US Airforce and had their first child. Their marriage ended very quickly. Forced into entering the Miss Maryland USA pageant which she later won, Gage wanted to be in the pageant in hopes of becoming a successful model.

After she won, she told her agency she couldn't go to the Miss USA pageant because she had kids and was divorced but one of the pageant officials told her to lie to the public. After she won Miss USA, while competing in Miss Universe, Gage was among the 15 semifinalists. But however, rumors began to appear that she lied to the public which she confessed a day later. She was replaced by her first runner up Charlotte Sheffield, Miss Utah, by the time she was stripped of her title, Sheffield couldn't compete in Miss Universe because Gage competed in the preliminary competition where she had one of the 15 highest scorer. Her replacement to the top 15 was Mónica Lamas Miss Argentina who was originally #16.

Just recently in 2010, Gage died due to heart failure at Sherman Oaks Hospital in Sherman Oaks, California

Adalgisa Colombo - Brazil 1958 

Here is another recent death. As Miss Distrito Federal in Miss Brasil 1958, Adalgisa won the Miss Brasil crown and earned the right to represent the fifth largest nation in the world in Miss Universe 1958 where she placed only second to Luz Marina Zuluaga of Colombia but bringing home Brazil's third 1st runner up placement in 6 years.

After Miss Universe, Colombo resigned her title as Miss Brasil to get married but there was no replacement for her. In 2004 she was honored by the site Misses do Brasil as the Unforgettable Miss Brasil.

She died very recently on January 17th, 2013 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She was burried in the Jewesh Cemetery of Vilar dos Teles in Rio de Janeiro with her cause of death unrevealed by her family.

Rogelia Cruz Martinez - Guatemala 1959 

Rogelia Cruz was a Guatemalan Left-wing activist who was chosen to represent Guatemala in Miss Universe 1959. A student of architecture, she was a member of the Juventud Patriotica del Trabajo part and the girlfriend of Leonardo Castillo Johnson the Guatemalan Party of Labour commander.

She was kidnapped in December 1967 just a month before her death was announced and was found dead on January 11, 1968 by a bridge near Escuintla, Guatemala. Her murder was very visible to the world and ended up resulting in retaliatory murders. After being released from jail for traffic violations, she was not seen until her body was found, naked and dead. She had been tortured and raped, the Guatemalan military responded by murdering her ex-boyfriend Leonardo Castillo Johnson.


Amparo Muñoz - Miss Universe 1974 

After winning her city title for the Miss España pageant, she went on to compete at Miss España and later Miss Universe 1974 in the Philippines where she won. After only 6 months of her reign, she resigned to pursue a show/business career. Just recently in February of 2011, she died of Heart Problems in her native hometown of Málaga.


Maria Rosario Silayan - Philippines 1980 

In 1980, Maria Rosario Silayan became an overnight star when she won Binibining Pilippinas Universe 1980 and earned the right to represent the Philippines in Miss Universe 1980 in Seoul, South Korea. competed against 69 other contestants for the Miss Universe 1980 title in Seoul, Korea where she eventually placed 3rd runner up. Silayan was a favorite for the Miss Universe 1980 crown snatching the heart of the Korean locals.

Her husband Mike Bailon described her death by saying she closed her eyes and never opened them again. She was declared deas at past seven o'clock at the St. Luke's Medical Center where she had been confined for the past 3 months during which Rosario was battling Colon Cancer.


Maye Brandt - Venezuela 1980 

After winning the title of Miss Venezuela 1980, Maye Brandt earned the right to represent Venezuela in Miss Universe 1980 in Seoul, Korea where she was the non-finalist. She has had one of the shortest or if not the shortest life of everyone on this list. Sometime in 1982 (the month and date are unknown) she died in the result of a self-inflicted gun-shot wound at only 22 years old.

Solange Magnano - Argentina 1994 

Solange Magnano represented Córdoba in the Miss Argentina 1994 pageant where she won and earned the right to represent Argentina in Miss Universe 1994. On November 29th, 2009, Solange passed away from a pulmonary embolism due to complications following a cosmetic gluteoplasty she had undergone in Buenos Aires.

Viveka Babajee - Mauritius 1994 

After winning the title of Miss Mauritius 1994, Viveka represented her country in both Miss Universe and Miss World 1994 where she didn't place in either. On June 25th, 2010 exactly a year after Michael Jackson had died, she committed suicide by hanging herself from a ceiling due to depression. The last page of her diary, she wrote a message saying ''You killed me, Gautam Vohra'' Unofficial reports say that she became depressed after she broke up with her boyfriend who was Gautam Vohra.

Nafisa Joseph - India 1997 

In 1997, Nafisa Joseph entered the Femina Miss India pageant representing the state of Karnataka where she was crowned Femina Miss India Universe 1997 and earned the right to represent India in Miss Universe 1997 in Miami, Florida, USA. Nafisa barely made the cut that year by a small margin of .01 against Miss Philippines Abbegaile Arenas.

Only 7 years later, Nafisa decided to commit suicide in her flat in Mumbai, India by hanging herself. She was supposed to marry businessman Gautam Khanduja in a few weeks time but she eventually found out that he was still married so therefor she hung herself. Her parents filed a police report accusing Khanduja of causing her death. In November 2005, the trial against Khanduja lasted till January 2006.


Eva Ekvall - Venezuela 2001

At age 17 in 2000, Eva Ekvall was crowned Miss Venezuela 2000, giving her the right to represent Venezuela in Miss Universe 2000. As a buddhist, Eva was the 1st ever non-christian to hold the Miss Venezuela title. She eventually placed 3rd runner up in Miss Universe 2001 in Puerto Rico.

In 2010 after giving birth to her only child, Eva was diagnosed with Advanced Breast Cancer and underwent eight months of treatment that included chemotherapy, radiotherapy and a double radical mastectomy. She released a book titled Fuera de Foco released in 2010 about her experience. Eventually, Eva moved to the United States and checked into University General Hospital in Houstan Texas. Despite extreme medical treatment, she passed away on the afternoon of December 17, 2011.

On March 1st 2012, her husband John Fabio Bermúdez launched the Eva Ekvall foundation.

Anna Litvinova - Russia 2006 

Another very recent death. In 2006, Anna entered the Miss Universe Russia pageant representing Novokuznetsk where she earned the right to represent Russia in Miss Universe 2006. Anna wasn't a heavy favorite in Los Angeles but still managed to make some lists and in the end she managed to make top 20. About a year prior to her death, she was diagnosed with melanoma and to cure it, she was taken to a clinic in Germany. She eventually died on January 22nd, 2013 at the age of 29.

Mofya Chisenga - Zambia 2006 

In 2006, Mofya Chisenga won the Miss Universe Zambia contest giving her the right to represent the African nation in Miss Universe 2006, but previously represented Zambia in the Miss Tourism Queen International Pageant in China and just before her death, she represented Zambia at the Miss Leisure World 2008 pageant also in China. Her official cause of death was due to pregnancy related health complications.

Karol Castillo Pinillos - Peru 2008 

The most recent death of a former Miss Universe contestant is when Karol Castillo Pinillos Miss Peru Universo 2008 passed away in her sleep. After winning Miss Peru, she earned the right to represent Peru in Miss Universe 2008 in Nha Trang, Vietnam.

Karol was bashed a lot for her introduction at Miss Universe 2008. Not surprisingly, she didn't make the Top 15 after the preliminary competition.

Karol traveled to Australia for a teen beauty pageant where she died in her sleep in Australia. Former Miss Peru's such as Claudia Ortiz de Zevallos, Natalie Vertiz and Maju Mantilla Miss World 2004 have grieved about her death to the media.