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Beauty with a Purpose

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Hofi Karlsdottir - Miss World 1985


Miss World & Beauty with a Purpose

Hofi Karlsdottir






When you enter a competition such as Miss World, you do not realistically believe you are going to win. When, on the evening of Thursday November 14th 1985, I heard my name called as one of the final 15, like all the other fourteen girls, I was excited. Some twenty minutes later, those of us who were chosen for the final seven became even more excited. There was a feeling that we had done well and could go home and be proud that we had represented our country. Then came the final interviews and to my astonishment, I suddenly heard my name called out as Europe’s Queen of Beauty - in front of over 700 million people watching world-wide. As I looked at the Queen of Beauty Trophy, I vaguely remember Miss USA being announced as second runner-up and Miss UK first runner-up. I remember Eric Morley announcing the Miss World 1985 is…

There was a pause… suddenly Miss New Zealand who realised that if UK was runner-up and I was Europe’s Queen of Beauty, I must be the winner, screamed at me ‘it’s yours, it’s yours!’ At that second I heard the words ‘Miss Iceland’. My mind went totally upside-down and I threw myself into the arms of Miss Israel and Miss New Zealand before I walked in a dream towards the throne to be crowned.

Each contestant brings with them a book about their country, a type of world library. One of the first things I did after the contest was to present the books to Ashmead School in London. The children sang a song from their play for me and showed me their costumes. They cheered me and I got a lot of kisses. I had questions like ’how much money have you got?’, ‘How much is the crown worth?’ and ‘Is it real?’.

When I came home the first time after the contest, it was the happiest moment in my life; when I saw all my family and friends again, particularly the children. I wanted to kiss and hug everyone which, of course I did. I want to thank all the people that made my home-coming so wonderful and warm.

I live in a small suburb of the capital of Iceland and some children even came to my house to get my autograph. I have been home quite often because of the contract the Miss World Organisation made with Iceland, who wishes to use me to promote trade. Each time I went to see my children at the nursery school where I worked, I got the hang of my old job again. I enjoyed that very much.

During a visit one day in January, I went to see an old people’s home named ‘Dalbraut’. One of the old men said to me ‘I am blind and I can’t see you so I would like to ask you for a kiss’. I kissed him, all the others clapped and cheered.

The children I went to see in the hospital in Iceland were all very excited to see me, and also looking forward to Christmas. Through the year I have had many letters from children as well as adults. I have enjoyed the children’s letters very much because children don’t lie, they are honest and sincere. I have always tried to answer all their questions. I have also had many lovely presents from all the countries I have visited, including my own. I thank all the people who gave them to me.

A big newspaper in Iceland chose me as ‘The Woman of the Year’, and on Channel 2 of The Iceland State Radio, I was chosen both as ‘Woman of the month of November’ and as ‘The woman of the Year’. It was a lovely feeling to be so honoured. Everyone in Iceland has been wonderful. I have not been able to practice my music as much as I would have liked, but when I could, I played the clarinet and the anvill, and even sang with an Icelandic band that plays traditional Icelandic folksongs.


The first country I travelled to was Switzerland doing promotional work for Iceland. Then on to Paris where I met Peter Ustinoff and an American pop group called ‘Huey Lewis and the News’. We were all in the same TV show.

On then to Norway where I took the opportunity of visiting my sister and her family in Oslo. It is so nice to have a family or friends in a foreign country. It was wonderful to see them.

It was a thrill visiting New York where I also have relations. After my official duties I managed to spend some wonderful hours with them.

Back across the Atlantic to Denmark to take part in an exhibition. How difficult it is to live out of suitcases and to maintain the image of Miss World. I am so pleased that the itinerary allows me frequent visits home. In most countries I visited, I have met the girls who were with me in the Miss World 1985 competition. It was always a wonderful reunion. We have had a lot of fun doing charity fashion shows and such things together and chatting over old times.

I have always been very shy, so when I had to say a few words to all the people who had been so nice to me, it was a bit difficult for me to stand up and speak. Julia Morley helped me through that like she did everything else. She has been wonderful to me, both
as a friend and a professional International President of the Miss World Company.


Each country was so different. In Jamaica, I met Miss Jamaica and Miss Venezuela and we did two charity fashion shows together. I also met the very charming Governor General and his wife. Julia and I met some really beautiful children. They were fascinated
by my blonde hair and, during the fashion show, people came up to me to look at my blue eyes. In one store, where I was signing autographs, a group of children, with their teacher, came over and said to me, ‘Hello, Miss World, welcome to Jamaica, we
love you’. They were so beautiful I got tears in my eyes.

We flew to the Cayman Islands in a private plane, and Miss Cayman and some people came to greet me at the airport. They took very good care of us. We met the Governor and visited a Rotary Club there and we did a charity fashion show outside the hotel we stayed in. In keeping with the Miss World policy and slogan ‘Beauty with a Purpose’, I opened a fete at the Lighthouse School for handicapped children. I was rewarded with a kiss from one of the boys. On then to the children’s hospital and still more beautiful children.


El Salvador was very special to me. There I got a little god-daughter. Holding that little baby, knowing I would be able to help her a little bit, was really something special. I would have loved to take her with me. The children in that orphanage did everything themselves, and after a fundraising show with Miss El Salvador, the children gave me a dress they had made themselves. It really was beautiful. When we left, some of the children came to the airport with us and we sang together. I sang once one Icelandic song for
them. We had tears in our eyes saying goodbye to the children and the nuns who take care of them.


I loved Guatemala as soon as we landed on the ground. We had a lovely welcome from Miss Guatemala and her sponsor, Ernesto Villa. There was some special music for me. We visited a lovely children’s hospital which was not operating at anything near its
capacity due to lack of funds. The Lions Association is doing a good job sponsoring them but they need more help. Seeing all those sick children I wanted to stay and help get them better. I saw the President of Guatemala and had a nice interesting talk
with him. There were a lot of autographs and a big commercial for Max Factor. We have to earn money as well to pay for our visits. There was an American boys’ school where boys do everything themselves, including running a shop.


On to Vienna for an IBM Convention. We had time to look around, take a boat ride and walk in the streets. It is a beautiful city and I enjoyed the visit.

How beautiful Greece is with its Acropolis and other historic buildings. One of my treasured memories was a visit to a home for handicapped children . They sang a specially composed song for me. I kissed and hugged them all. One of them spoke English, so
I had a young interpreter who could convey my feelings to the children.

On the first day of May I flew to Lanzarote to join the Miss England finalists on board the Russian ship, Leaonid Brezhnev, during a Canary Islands cruise. There was some judging on board to reduce 32 finalists to 16, and I was one of the judges. We had a pirate night and a Russian show with lots of dancing and singing. It was great fun.

On return from the cruise it was back to Reykjavik for the Miss Iceland Show, following which I did a commercial with Miss Scandinavia to get people to join the non-smoking team. Next I ran in the ‘Aid to Africa’ run with all the girls from the Miss Iceland
contests. All the children were trying to be as close to us as possible.

On third of June I celebrated my twenty-third birthday which coincided with my parents’ silver anniversary. All the family and friends got together for a big celebration. Only at this time did I begin to
realise what had been achieved during the first six months of my reign as Miss World. Celebrations over, it was back to work and on to Hong Kong and Macau. We were pretty jet-lagged and the airport was full of Press. They were very nice and understood and
we went straight through. We had a wonderful time in Macau visiting the children’s hospital, the home for handicapped people and an old people’s home. When we left the handicapped boys
we saw one of them kissing my picture with tears in his eyes. In a home for the elderly there was a lady of 101 years who wanted to make my visit a special occasion for her too. When she was a young girl she was very poor and never had the chance to wear
anything special, not even for her wedding. So a special wedding outfit was hired for her to wear when she met me. It was, for both of us, a happy but emotional meeting and the lady looked very beautiful in her wedding dress. We met the Mayor and I tasted
natural Portuguese and Chinese food for the first time and took a boat trip on Pearl River.

Watching a children’s drawing exhibition with the Mayor and giving flowers to the winner of a cycling race were just a few of the small but important tasks I enjoyed doing - it gave so much pleasure to those we performed the tasks for.

In July I went to Stockholm to promote Iceland in a fair and a fashion show in our woollen clothes. We also got to see the beautiful city of Stockholm. We were very well taken care of. A lovely visit.


At the end of July our travels took us to Poland. We had a wonderful time with the children we saw there, particularly those who were unfortunately in hospital. They sang for us and we held their hands and got lots of hugs and kisses. At the Miss Poland Show
I sat with Miss Poland. The people were so nice when asking for autographs. They gave me a wonderful reception when I walked on stage. Some children from the children’s home came to me at the show and presented me with toys to give to the children in my
nursery school in Iceland.


Charlie Hankins is a man who, during the last world war, suffered terrible injuries, including the loss of both legs. In August, I went to officially ‘send off’ Charlie who was to travel in his hand-operated, pre-war ‘bath chair’ from John O’Groats to Land’s End, almost one thousand miles, the length of Great Britain. Charlie did this to raise money for the Star and Garter home where he lives. He was very determined and it was a real privilege for me to meet such a great man.

Across to the lovely Isle of Man where, in Douglas, I met Miss Isle of Man and Miss New Zealand - both former competitors in Miss World. We simply did not have enough time to talk together. It was a lovely show when they chose the new Miss Isle of Man. I met the Mayor and his wife. I would to go again to see the Island. Once more to London, where I attended, as a judge, the Miss United Kingdom Contest. It is nice to know that this year the contest was sponsored by Svali, which is a fruit drink made with pure Icelandic spring water.

Looking Back This year as Miss World has been a wonderful experience for me and, in fact, I think it is the best schooling I have ever had. Travelling to so many places and seeing so many people. Visiting children has been my favourite experience throughout the year. I always wanted to stay on with them. Seeing some of the poverty in the world, I have learned to appreciate my own country more. We are so lucky. No unemployment and hardly any crime. Our handicapped and underprivileged are well cared for and everyone has a home. We have no poverty. Besides all that, Iceland is clean and has little pollution. How lucky we are and that is why it has been such a privilege playing a small part in helping those less fortunate.

May I say to Julia Morley and everyone else I have worked with or  met during a most fascinating and enjoyable year, thank you for everything.

It has been a joy and a pleasure being Miss 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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