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Armi Kuusela
Beauty pageant titleholder
Birth name Armi Helena Kuusela
Birthdate August 20, 1934 (1934-08-20) (age 75)
Birthplace Muhos, Finland
Height 5 ft 5 in (1.65 m)
Weight 108 lb (49 kg; 7.7 st)
Title(s) Suomen Neito 1952 (winner)
Miss Universe 1952 (winner)
Major competition(s) Miss Universe 1952
Armi Kuusela at IMDb

Armi Kuusela (born Armi Helena Kuusela on August 20, 1934 in Muhos) is a Finnish beauty queen. On May 24, 1952 she won the national beauty contest Suomen Neito and was presented with a trip to the United States to participate in the first-ever Miss Universe contest. She was the first winner of this beauty pageant originally created to sell swimsuits for Catalina swimwear.




Childhood and early life

Armi Kuusela's parents, Aarne Kuusela (father) and Martta Kyrö (mother) met each other in Ontario, Canada, where they also were married. Their first baby was also born there. After several years in Canada, they returned to Finland to settle in Muhos.

Martta gave birth to five girls and one boy; one of the girls died when only two-and-a-half years old. Armi was born on August 20, 1934, she was the fourth oldest of the children. Armi lived her childhood in welfare and happiness along with plenty of friends.

She went to middle school in Muhos, and in 1951 she started attending the women's college in Porvoo. Armi liked swimming, skiing, gymnastics and after successfully completing her Abitur, she intended to apply to the University of Helsinki Gymnastics Institute.

Miss Universe

When Armi Kuusela easily won the national Suomen Neito pageant on May 24, 1952, she was awarded with a box of chocolates, a gold bangle, and a two-way ticket sponsored by Pan American Airways to the United States. On June 17, Armi took a flight to the United States and the first Miss Universe contest.

Thirty contestants participated in the first Miss Universe pageant in 1952, held in Long Beach, California, U.S.. The pageant was held on 29 June 1952, and Armi Kuusela, as Suomen Neito, captured the crown. Born 20 August 1934, at her crowning she was only 17 years old. At the time she weighted 49 kg (108 lb), and her height was 1.65 m (5 feet 5 inches).

Immediately after her winning there was a Finnish movie made of her, called Maailman kaunein tyttö (World's most beautiful girl) where she acted herself, and Tauno Palo acted Jack Coleman (opposite role). It was directed by Veikko Itkonen, with writing credits going to Mika Waltari.[1]

Even though a part of winning the pageant was a contract with Universal Studios, she chose not to take advantage of it after refusing the first part they chose for her (in a movie with Abbott and Costello) and arguing over the contract (by way of her sister Sirkka since she was a minor and did not speak English), probably because they suggested she should marry Tony Curtis to avoid issues with her work permit.

Post-Miss Universe

On February 22, 1953 Armi took a journey round the world, during which time she met a Filipino businessman, Virgilio Hilario. Less than a year later after being crowned, on 4 May 1953 Armi chose to give up her Miss Universe crown before her year was complete to marry Hilario. They were married in Tokyo, but then lived in the Philippines where they had a family of five children:

  • Arne Hilario, married with 3 children, lives in Chile
  • Anna-Lisa De Gari, married with 2 children, lives in Spain
  • Jussi Hilario, married, lives in Canada
  • Eva-Maria Hess, married with 2 children, lives in California, U.S.
  • Mikko Hilario, lives in the Philippines

Their house located near Manila in a rich community called Forbes Park, on a street which was nicknamed "Millionaire Street".

She was also in one film in the Philippines around this time.

Later life

Virgilio Hilario died of a heart attack on 7 September 1975, and Kuusela married an American diplomat Albert Williams on 8 June 1978. First they moved to Barcelona, then to İzmir, Turkey before moving to La Jolla, a community in San Diego, California (two hours' drive from Los Angeles).

As of 2003, she and her husband were still living in San Diego. She is still active in her community, actively participating in charities and involved in cancer research at the Burnham Institute.

See also


  1. ^ - Maailman kaunein tyttö (1953)
Awards and achievements
New title Miss Universe
Succeeded by
Christiane Martel


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