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'Fairy queen' first Thai to be crowned Miss Universe

Ms Apasra Hongsakula (left) at a press event in Bangkok for the 2005 Miss Universe pageant. She was just 18 (far left) when she took the title in Miami in 1965.
Ms Apasra Hongsakula (above) at a press event in Bangkok for the 2005 Miss Universe pageant. She was just 18 when she took the title in Miami in 1965.PHOTOS: THE MALAY MAIL, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Ms Apasra Hongsakula at a press event in Bangkok for the 2005 Miss Universe pageant. She was just 18 when she took the title in Miami in 1965.
Ms Apasra Hongsakula at a press event in Bangkok for the 2005 Miss Universe pageant. She was just 18 (above) when she took the title in Miami in 1965.PHOTOS: THE MALAY MAIL, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

"The 'Fairy' From The East Beats The Blondes", declared The Straits Times on Page 1 on July 26, 1965.

The news was that Apasra Hongsakula, 18, had become the first Thai beauty queen to be crowned Miss Universe.

The report noted that "the raven-haired beauty" - one of the most petite contestants at 1.6m - outshone four blondes during the pageant finals, which were held at Miami Beach in Florida.

Her name, Apasra, means fairy, and she was the first Thai in the annual contest. She took part to help promote tourism in her country.

She said she had been taught how to act and walk and do her hair by Queen Sirikit of Thailand.

"My queen will be very happy. I can't believe it at all," said the former student of the Penang Convent.

Malaysia's representative in the international pageant, dental nurse Patricia Augustus, did not make it past the early rounds.

It led a Straits Times staff writer to lament: "Malaysia does not suffer from any lack of feminine beauty. But why does she continue to suffer the humiliation of not having the ghost of a chance at one international beauty contest after another?"

Fifty years on, Ms Apasra remains a familiar face in Thailand, where she runs a spa chain that is named, well, Apasra.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 26, 2015, with the headline ''Fairy queen' first Thai to be crowned Miss Universe'. Print Edition | Subscribe