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The Independent Online
1952: in the innocent days before the advent of political correctness, a brilliant idea is born at Long Beach, California. The promotors, helped by sponsors Pan Am, fly in pretty girls from around the world, put them in swimsuits and name one of them Miss Universe. Here, before anyone thought it might be demeaning, is Finland's Armi Kuusela.

1999: Botswana's first ever entrant carries off the crown. Mpule Kwelagobe now looks forward to a year as an ambassador for beauty, during which time she will "focus on AIDS research". In the hands of the New York property king Donald Trump and the television channel CBS, the contest has gone back to basics "to give the people what they want".