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Beauty with a Purpose

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Astrid Herrera - Miss World 1984


Miss World & Beauty with a Purpose

- By Astrid Herrera

Visits to a Home for blind children in Bali
Visits Bali
Visits to a Home for blind children in Bali

Hello, I am Astrid Herrera. I would like to share with you some of my experiences during my year as Miss World. Immediately after being crowned in London so many things happened all at once, that it makes a clear, short explanation impossible.

One aspect that springs to mind was my return to Venezuela. My country organised the most incredible welcome home for me. From the moment my plane touched down at the airport in Venezuela there were crowds of well-wishers and airport workers, everybody surrounded me with applause and smiles. I was literally carried across the tarmac to a helicopter which took me first on a complete tour of Caracas eventually landing at Paseo Los Proceses, a special place normally reserved only for the visiting President and leaders of other countries.

Eight white horses took me by carriage to where eight hundred cadets stood with swords crossed making the most beautiful archway over a long red carpet for me to make my honour walk to receive my official welcome home.

Many things that were said during this welcome will remain with me forever. In particular the moment when I received my Red Beret making me a fully fledged parachutist and an honorary member of the military academy team This, plus the military academy award prize presented to me, made me so proud.

During all this time live television coverage was following me for all Venezuelans to see and was to continue without a break for the next seven hours.

It was amazing going from the first reception and welcome straight on to the television studios where I suddenly came face to face for the first time with every member of my family.

I felt such deep emotion, for so much had happened to me - a student one minute, a celebrity the next and it was at this moment, seeing all these familiar faces, that I started to cry. It was suddenly impossible to say anything, especially when my dear father expressed my family’s feelings about me and he told me in front of all the TV audience and all of Venezuela, how proud he was.

Caracas was the first place I was to start my understanding of my responsibilities as to the real meaning of my title, in helping the underprivileged children of the world. The place was Caracas Children’s Orthopaedic Hospital, where I participated with all the children in our National Telethon which raised many thousands of Bolivares.

The people of El Salvador were most warm and kind to me. The wife of the president showed me one of her projects which is housing orphan children in little villages with ten children to each house, and a new mother. Ten houses had been completed and were in use, but at the time of my visit, two more houses were completed but awaiting finances for furnishings. They held a charity fashion show which everybody helped to make a great success. It raised thousands of Colores for their children.

I made three visits to Guatemala for a very special reason. I have met many people there in business, medicine, art, socially and mothers and fathers all of whom have a common purpose to use their expertise in raising funds to furnish their first National Children’s Hospital in Guatemala City. I am very proud to support this project. One of the activities in which I participated was at the city’s outstandingly beautiful National Theatre. It was packed to capacity for the Miss Guatemala World show. The spirit and determination of Guatemala will, I am sure, realise their hopes for their little ones.

I want to tell you about a group of little clowns, wearing orange, blue, green, red, many different coloured wigs, various clowns outfits imaginatively created and the most heavily coated clown make-up, waving balloons and singing a welcome song. They were some of the happiest children I have met in my travels. With great excitement they took my hands, literally pulling me through their front door and after showing me around we all went into an inner courtyard where special clown acts and games entertained me. These dear little children did everything to make me welcome. I received so many kisses and cuddles and looked so funny with my make-up and by now most of theirs, all over my face and clothes. We were all laughing so much. All these little clowns were terminally ill with cancer. That day will remain with me for the rest of my life. Later that evening I appeared in a charity fashion show which raised a lot of money for a lot of happy little clowns.

My visit to Jamaica was fantastic. I really enjoyed working with such an enthusiastic young group of models and dancers with Miss Jamaica. I was appearing in a charity fashion show at the official residence of the Governor-General. The show was a big success for the Bustamante Children’s Hospital. The Governor- General and Lady Glasspole invited me to visit the hospital where the money raised would be put to good use. While visiting the children I was deeply moved seeing at first hand an example of how the links with the Variety Clubs International work. This happened when Julia Morley asked why one man standing alone looked so sad. The doctor explained that the man’s one-year-old son was dying because he required urgent heart surgery and for this there was no facility. Right there in the doctor’s office, Julia telephoned New York to the Variety Club International Medical Advisor at North Shore University Hospital. After the doctors consulted by phone, Julia told the father his son would get the operation needed. We all stood together with tears of relief. The little boy, with his father, left for New York. The operation was more complicated than expected but father and son are now safely back home in Jamaica.

Thank you Colombia, the tremendous support of a hard-working group enabled me to:

Get through 10 charity fashion shows in eight days, all across Colombia. It taught me, too, the discipline and responsibility needed in achieving the objective of Beauty with a Purpose. I have visited so many places with something positive to learn in each. There is not enough space for me to cover all of my visits in detail, but I want to say how very kind, generous and helpful everyone has been to me in Switzerland, Chile, Costa Rica, Panama and the United Kingdom.

Before I completed my year my last tour was of Asia. It has always been a dream of mine to visit the Far East.

Asia It is the first time Miss World has visited Thailand. Here I had an amazing task of cutting the tallest cake in the world, 71 tiers standing 45 ft high. It was tremendous fun and it was shared between all the children’s centres and homes in Bangkok. The Miss Thailand contest was a great success, raising a lot of money. The people were very sweet and gentle - I had a fabulous time.

In Malaysia, I visited many schools and homes. In Kuala Lumpur, a beautifully run school for spastics is one place I would like to mention. The children acted in a play. It was such a tender and sensitive performance, many visitors were looking very sad. But by now I know the children do not want our sadness, they deserve our smiles of encouragement, for they posses an infinite will and spirit to do their best, if we let them. Malaysia is such a beautiful country, everywhere you go people are so gracious, especially when visiting a home for the elderly. The way I was looked after made me feel I have many grandfathers and grandmothers.

Singapore is so exciting, the hustle and bustle and shops are unbelievable and spectacular . The Miss Singapore show which I attended was very well organised.

In Indonesia I received a most friendly welcome. There are many fascinating stories to tell, but I wish to convey to you one with an extra special meaning for me. It was during a visit to Bali. I made am impromptu call on a small home for 30 blind children. They very quickly gave me a traditional Bali musical concert. One of the children asked me if I minded her touching my face, all the children were smiling as if they could see quietly clearly. It was yet another lesson taught to me. The blind girl touched my face, but we both knew she had also touched my heart. As I said, it was a dream of mine to visit the Far East, and it was truly a dream come true.

Beauty With A Purpose -  I hope my selecting some of the examples of working with the ‘purpose’ theme does not lead you to believe that is the only aspect. Everywhere around the world it has been red carpet treatment, first class travel, meeting lots of famous people, earning more money that I ever dreamed of - with fashion, pictures, commercials and opening stores - it is very glamourous and I received many beautiful gifts wherever I went, all in one year.

I would like to close with a message to all the contestants participating in this year’s contest : make the best of the chance to meet, share, laugh and work together, and whoever is entrusted with my crown, may I ask two favours. Call me if you need me and say hello to all my little children as you travel around the world.

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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