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Beauty with a Purpose

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Gina Swainson - Miss World 1979

Gina Swainson - Miss World 1979
The past year has surely been the most dramatic, to date, in my life. It has also been the most revealing and educational. I give up the Miss World crown with a sense of humility and gratitude, I also look forward with excitement and anticipation to the opportunity of taking the fullest possible advantage of the avenues which have been opened for me over the past year.

It will be difficult, if not impossible, to itemise each and every significant activity in which I have engaged as Miss World. However, I know it would be wrong if I did not share some of my experiences in writing at this stage.

I visited Portugal and deeply enjoyed the opportunity to explore one or two villages. During one of my walks I met a man who was reaching the end of his life - he was at least 75 years old. He was sitting quietly around a pond and at first I felt a tinge of sadness at what I thought was his obvious loneliness. I wanted to take a picture of him, largely to record that one brief moment when, with his smile, I felt a strong sense of identification with the mixed joys and sadness of solitude. Suddenly, he withdrew a live sparrow from the inside of his shirt and introduced me to this bird as his companion. He was not lonely after all. Does the bird, I asked myself, enjoy this companionship, or does it want to escape from this captivity?

The brief moment that I have just described can sum up so much of the past year. This has been a year during which I have made many friends in many diverse places far removed from my island home, Bermuda. It has been a year of new companions. Like that bird, however, I have had to fly away - not so much to escape “captivity” - but because flying to diverse places has been such an essential part of my functioning as Miss World. Every encounter which I have made, every brief companionship which I have enjoyed and every moment of tender care which has been given to me will be remembered and treasured deeply for the rest of my days.

Gina Swainson - Miss World 1979

Each year the Variety Club have held a children's party while the contestants are in London prior to the Miss World Contest.  This picture shows 'Variety at Work' during last years party.

I come from Bermuda, a tiny bi-racial island which had enjoyed tremendous success in tourism and international business. Bermuda is a small community, closely knit by many interweaving relationships and my people, despite occasional political differences, are united in their desire to further, internationally, the interests of that island. The one aspect of my career as Miss World which has been of deep and abiding significance to me has been the opportunity to be an ambassador of goodwill for Bermuda. I visited Germany and represented the Miss World Organisation and Bermuda at the International Tourism Bourse.

In Ireland, I marvelled at the lush green beauty of the countryside. It was another beauty, not necessarily like Bermuda but a beauty none the less. At the same time, the humour and wit of the Irish people and the wondrous magic of that countryside were further reminders that this is a world which can and will someday come together in common cause for the benefit of all. I had opportunity there to meet once again Grannia Hughes, the lively personality who had been my chaperone at the Miss World Contest and believed so deeply that I stood a chance of attaining this high honour.


In Belgium, there was yet another opportunity to meet yet another type of people and my spirits continued to soar to a height of hope from a sense of concern with the people of this world. Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia, presented an opportunity for me to spend time with young children, with all their visible promise and hope of a better and less complicated world. In Singapore, I saw yet another culture to which I hope to return some day so as to relive its own magic.

In Australia - where I visited the cities of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane - I was treated magnificently by a host of wonderful people, whose mentality and liveliness was anything but “down under”.

I visited several cities in New Zealand and enjoyed the singular honour of being given the official Maori welcome. This was a procession in which the Maori warrior, carrying a threatening spear and hurling abuse at me, challenged any possible negative emotion which I could have. At the end of his taunts, a leaf was placed before my feet as a peace offering. It was a leaf which, all the ceremony aside, I was happy to accept. The people of Canada whom I met in Ottawa during the Miss Canada contest provided me with the usual high quality of Canadian hospitality.

These have been only a few of the magnificent experiences which I have enjoyed thoroughly over the past year. I could never forget London, my home away from home. Like many others in London, I was an ”immigrant” I am aware of the debate which rages in the United Kingdom over the question of immigration and nationality, and I have been made aware of some of the anxieties which have been felt on all sides of this debate. I can say, without any equivocation whatsoever, that the people of London have treated me so kindly and so thoughtfully that there will always be a special place in my heart for both this magnificent city and the people of Great Britain as a whole. As my own country inches towards a sense of nationhood, away from colonial ties with Britain, I can report to them that the people of Britain are our friends - and this is a contribution which only the past year could possibly have allowed me to make.

The Miss World organisation has over the past two decades raised millions of pounds to aid charity, principally for deprived and handicapped children in association with those great children’s charities, Variety Club International and the Variety Club of Great Britain.

Via these two charities, children have been helped in many parts of the world where the Miss World contest is run. I, together with the contestants in Miss Word 1980 will have attended a lunch which we hope will raise in excess of $100,000 towards building a Variety Club Children’s Hospital at Kings College Hospital, London.

There is humility when I say that I have been given, for a time, the gift of beauty. The handicapped and the under-privileged have come into this world with what can be described as flaws. If it can be said that I have actually used my gift in raising any resources for these children in need, mine will have been a gift well received and well used. It is the sense of direction and purpose in contests such as the Miss World which above all the glitter and ceremony make it the worthwhile enterprise which it is and deserves continued and full hearted support. Beauty by itself means nothing, unless it can add to the necessary pool of positive resources used for positive good.

Obviously, mine has been an opportunity to use a talent and it is my intention to continue to use that talent. I plan to visit the USA and, beginning in New York, will carve a career in the worlds of fashion and advertising which only this contest would have given an opportunity for me to begin.  Though I cease to be Miss World, I have not ceased to be Gina Swainson of Bermuda, and from time to time, you will hear of me and you will see me. I know that I give up this crown with all of your support for my own personal future.

I want to express my feelings of companionship and joy for the next Miss World who like the sparrow in Portugal, will fly and will touch many hearts and be touched by many others. I want to encourage and thank, from the bottom of my heart, hard working public spirited individuals like Julia Morley, Terri Crozier and the tireless staff at the Miss World Office. I know that they will continue in their efforts to make the Miss World contest more than a beauty contest and to groom future holders of this title towards taking their own individual places in a world which can only survive if there is hope.

Gina Swainson, Bermuda.

Special Features

Each week, BWP will present a new in-depth report on one of the many charity projects worldwide that has benefitted from the work of Julia Morley and the support of Beauty with a Purpose. Keep watching this space for more details on these special features.



Julia Morley



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