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Date Posted: 12:29:31 03/06/03 Thu
Author: Ranny Singka
Subject: Special Feature : The Universe's Sweetest Smile Apasra Hongsakula
In 1965, American President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act. National Guardsmen quelled a five-day race riot in Watts, Los Angeles, and 1,000 riot in Chicago. Astronaut Edward White took the first American space walk, regretfully returning to his Gemini craft after his 20-minute fuel supplies run out while a soviet Cosmonaut floated in space for 10 minutes. American students demonstrations began against Vietnam and in Rome, Vatican II updated the Doctrines of the Catholic Church...
In the world of Entertainment, My Fair Lady won the Academy Award for Best Picture. Rex Harrison won Best Actor from that film, while Hollywood legendary Julie Andrews was named Best Actress from Mary Poppins.
But on the night of Saturday, July 24th, 1965 at the Miami Beach Auditorium in Miami Beach, Florida, while the world climate was tense, a little history has been made as Apasra Hongsakula, 18-year-old student from Bangkok, Thailand was crowned Miss Universe. She became the first winner from Thailand and the second woman from Asia to take the crown.
A day later, all Thai people was thrilled by the news that was flashed all over every local radio stations. Never before that the city became so wildly happy as it did when young and old, foreigner and Thai, said again and again how wonderful it was that a 'Thai girl" has made it.
Several months after being crowned Miss Universe, Apasra came back to her home as Thai people showered her with love and affection. Thousands of people lined up along the street as she was sitting in a convertible car, wearing a pink Thai traditional costume and the Miss Universe crown.
Not long after her arrival, her pictures had been appeared in almost everywhere in the form of Apasra's notebooks, the magazine cover, Apasra toy, Apsra T-shirt, even on the brown paper bag where its one side had the photo of Apasra.
Many years have passed, since we first saw her on the world of pageantry, and almost everybody who knew and met her, including myself, have said the exact same thing that her beauty has never changed at all, no matter how long it passed by.
So come along, as Apasra Hongsakula talks about her life, her memories, and her wonderful years as Miss Universe, like it was happening yesterday, including how she keeps fit and how she copes with her rumors in which will help you learn more about one of Thailand's greatest beauty queen whose life has become a legend.!
As Behind The Crown proudly presents the first and only in-depth interview of Miss Universe 1965 "The Universe's Sweetest Smile : Apsra Hongsakula."
Before coming to enter the Miss Thailand contest, you were a student back in Penang, in the South, right?
Yes, but when I won the Miss Thailand contest, I had a lot of activities. So after keeping on my duties for a while, I went back to study. Then they called me back again and told me to compete in the Miss Universe Pageant. I didn't prepare anything at all, except some clothes to be used in the contest.
But you seemed to have many clothes when you competed, where did they all come from?
Well, from many places as far as they could find in such a very short period of time. The Korn Kaw store, Pon Pen Mai Thai, Nai Noi, all of them were the most popular tailor shop at that time. My designer, the late M.J. Kraisingh Woothichai (was considered one of Thailand's all time Greatest Designer-editor) wanted to use as many Thai fabrics as possible. And we had to prepare a lot because the contest lasted for almost 30 days.
I have M.L. Kamala Sukum as a chaperone and she traveled along with me. In the old days, the Miss Universe Organization allowed the delegates to bring their own chaperone. She always kept an eye on me and advised me many things. She was like a mother, not a chaperone.
I still remember you with an umbrella.
Well, yes, and that was the Thai traditional umbrella from the North. Actually, I was told to wear the Thai traditional costume all the time.
All the time? Why was that?
Well, they thought that the period of the contest was quite short and that they wanted me to show the beauty of Thai costume. But that was quite awful.
Do you still remember who was your roommate?
Well, I didn't remember her name, but I think I stayed with Miss New Zealand. The organizers let us stay together, it's two people for one room.
I heard that Miss Thailand was a dark horse since the contest started, was that true?
Um, well, I don't know, but my chaperone, Auntie Kamala said that I was. She said she had already investigated.
And how did she investigate?
Well, she told me that she tried to pretend to talk to almost everybody in the contest, the hairdresser, the set designer, and among other chaperones themselves and she said that I had a good chance. I felt pressure, you see, and I told her may be she would hope too much. (laughing) And not just that, she kept telling me all the time. One time while I was rehearsing on stage with all the contestants, she ran to me and said "You try to get it!. I already investigate and and this time it's only you or Miss Finland." On the final night she was so excited and almost fainted.
Like she was competing herself?
Exactly. (laughing) And on the last day, she was backstage and seemed to have a lot of hope. But for me, I felt a lot of pressure, you see, and I was afraid to let her down. My parents also came to support me.
And what was on your mind at that time?
Being myself as an 18-year-old girl and had never been to anywhere far away from home before, I felt nothing but I think I was in favor of other delegates as I never saw so many foreigners before. My parents and auntie Kamala always supported me. They watched me during rehearsals and suggested me what was good, what was not..
And about the gown, Auntie Kamala suggested that I should wear that dress, the dress that I won. I myself didn't want to and wanted to wear the other one, but my mom insisted. Well actually, both my mom and auntie Kamala had a very good taste in selecting costume, so I believed them. The gown that I wore was from Korn Kaw Store.
Was it made in Thai Silk?
Yes, the white elephant Thai silk. Very simple but elegance. I don't like it, but I believed them.
What about the activities during the pageant, was it the same as nowadays?
Yes, we had to rehearse walking, dancing, performing, rehearsing all the time. And there was the parade of National Costume. They practiced everything until it was perfect, very perfect I might say. We were very tired until the last day, the final day of the contest. And apart from rehearsing, each delegate had been assigned some programes to do.
I wonder about the programs, what exactly was that?
Well, some of us went for the Fashion Show, some went to take a photo session, some made special appearances in many places. And during these activities, the judges were among the audience. The delegates would not know who the judges were, but they were watching us.
And what about the on-stage programs, was it the same as nowadays?
Well, it was quite similar. The first day all delegates showed themselves on stage and introduced themselves to the judges. We were competed in preliminary rounds just like nowadays, swimsuits, evening gowns. And then they made a final cut to 15 semifinalists. Then on the other day, the will cut down to 5. But before that all delegates must met the judges.
Yes, a one-on-one interview. The judges were sitting in line and the delegates came in one by one, but they separated the interview into 3 days, because one day for 60 girls was quite tough for the judges. They interviewed 20 girls a day. While one group were interviewed, the other group went for a Fashion Show, the other 20 might went for photo sessions. The next they, the group that went for Fashion Show came to interview. They made it this way, so the judges could see all the delegates clearly.
In case the delegates could not speak English, they had to use the interpreter.
Yes, if they couldn't speak, they had to.
But you didn't use the interpreter.
Well, I can speak a little English because since I was a child, there was always a foreigner came to my house. My father was in the Air Force. At that time the American Army came to Thailand very often, so my father had a lot of American friends. He often invited them to have dinner and he introduced his daughters to get to know them and that helped me in practicing my English.
During the first round of interview, do you still remember what they asked you?
Well, some of them asked a difficult question, some of them asked a very easy one. I think they asked me why I wanted to compete in the Miss Universe pageant. I said that I want to represent my country and let it be known to the world, 'Make Friendship around the world.' Some asked me about what I loved to eat. Did I like American food? Those kind of questions like what my parents do, what was my life and what I would like to do in the future?
And what did you tell them that you would like to do in the future?
I think I told them I wanted to become a public relation personal for Thai Airways?
And later on you actually did become a presenter for Thai Airways.
Well, yes, (smile), but that was after winning the title.
After finishing the interviews, then the contestants went on for the preliminary rounds.
That's right. After that we had a lunch with the judges, in a very very closely way. The contestants would sit in line on one side of the table, while the judges sat down in line from the other side.
Oh, wouldn't you feel uncomfortable?
Yes I definitely would and I believe all of us were uncomfortable, cause no one ever touched the food (laughing). The judges did, but the contestants did only a little or hardly ever did. May be because we felt that they were watching us, so we felt full already even before we came.
I still remember auntie Kamala escorted me to the door, and she said Good Luck! It was very touching.
During the lunch, did the judges talk to the contestants?
Oh yes, they did. They asked numerous things. They even asked me why we change the name of our country from 'Siam' to 'Thailand'.
And what was your answer?
Well, I told them that we had changed the name because we have never been colonized by any other country and Thai means Free, so that's why we changed the name from 'Siam' to 'Thailand', the land of Freedom.
Wow, I see a 9.5 on that one.
(Laughing) Well, I think I owed a big thank you to the trainer. I was fortunate to have such a really good trainer like auntie Kamala.
After you realized that you were among the 15 semi-finalists, did you have any hope for yourself?
Yes, a little hope began to came along. Because the number was becoming smaller and smaller. From 65 to 15 and to 5 finalists, you see, so I couldn't help thinking that they would pick at least one Asian girl among the top 5. So I looked at Miss Philippines because she was also a strong contender and was among the 15. She may have looked at me also, but the words of Auntie Kamala came to my mind and suddenly she ran to me backstage.
Oh, and did she investigate again this time?
Yes, she did. She said she had been asking people around again and they said that Miss Philippines was not my competitor, only Miss Finland and me that would win. The insiders had told her that. And she kept telling me to go for it, so I said "Please Auntie, calm down, and I told her that I was afraid to let her down.
And what did she say?
She said she would have been disappointed definitely if I hadn't won. So I was even more nervous!
But you actually made it to the top 5. Have you ever thought that you would win Miss Universe?
No, I never thought that I would win Miss Universe and I didn't expect it at all. I was afraid not to enter the 15, but for the top 5, I have never hoped. During rehearsals, the organizers would make a fake announcement and let the girls walk out in front , so they would know the spot they should take during the telecast. They kept announcing all and all but they never said my name, so I think I might haven't got it, but after I was among the top 5, I think I hoped a little bit, but not for Miss Universe, just third or fourth place.
Just third or fourth place?
Yes. I don't want fifth place because it would make me rank last, right. That was what I understood at that time.
What were your feelings standing there among the top 5 waiting for the judges' decision?
Well, I had never watched the Miss Universe Pageant before in my life, but at that time, when I won Miss Thailand contest, they would announce the Miss Thailand first, and then runners-up. But at Miss Universe they would call the runners-up first and then the winner, so when they announce the fourth runner-up and she got the flowers, I was still lost and didn't know whether they called the winner yet or not. At that moment I was blurred and they did it so very very quickly.
So correct me if I'm wrong, but you thought that the fourth runner-up might be the winner?
Well, actually, everything was happening so fast and I thought to myself, please call my name, so that I wouldn't be the last! (laughing). But when they called out Miss USA, I started to wonder, why wouldn't they call me and I was left with Miss Finland, I still didn't know what to do. Everything was so quick. I was lost.
After they left you and Miss Finland, was there any moments to relieve yourself?
No, not at all. It was very fast. It's true, I couldn't think of anything. But when I was left with Miss Finland, I noticed that the crown wasn't shown, so may be the winner was not announced yet. But suddenly, the crown came and then the sash. It was so fast.
Were you shocked?
Well, as I told you that since we had been rehearsing a lot during the past several days, so when it really happened, I was confused whether it was real events, or it was rehearsed. (the audience are laughing), well what can I say, it's unbelievable, like a dream. When they put the crown on my head, I realized then but I still couldn't believe it would really happened to me because during rehearsals, the organizers would let the contestants try to wear the crown all the time. They would practice the crowning, so the contestants would know what to do if they won, where should they walk, something like that.
Did you try to wear the crown at that time?
No, never. They wouldn't let me. They never called me out, they never let me try anything. So I was not sure when I won because normally during rehearsals a strong contender would have been participated, but not for me. I was never called out.
Were you superstitious about the crown?
Well, No, but I was afraid that if I tried it, and I wouldn't win, it would be embarrassed if somebody happened to take a picture of me, wearing crown, but loose. And I never expected to win, so I didn''t know the reason why I should try the crown.
So since when did you realize that you had become Miss Universe?
(Laughing) Well, it was happening so fast, and I had a lot of things to do, so I had no time to think, you see. The next morning they asked me "Have you realized now that you are Miss Universe"?
During the final five, what question did they ask you?
They opened an envelope. Each finalists received different questions. Mine was that if I had to take someone to visit my country, where would I take him? I said I would take him to the Temple of the Emerald Buddha , The Grande Palace, and I told them about a little history on that.
The night that you won, did you ever sleep at all?
Yes, I did. Sleep very tightly. It was so tired., it's true. At that time I was very young. One of a little girl's dreams was to win a beauty contest, dream of wearing a beautiful crown, but when it actually happened to me, it was very tired. and I realized then how hard it was in order for one to be a 'Miss Universe'.
And how hard it was behind that crown?
Life was not simple like the way it used to be. People recognized you. For me, being crowned Miss Universe was not the end of it, it was just the beginning. Before that I didn't realize that in order to win something, you might have to loose something as well. You may have felt proud, but a lot of things in life changed.
Are you happy to become Miss Universe?
Well, yes I still am happy but I have to confess that at that time I didn't know whether my life would be happy or not. I was afraid about what was going to happen in the future.
But you have handled it very gracefully, I might say.
Well, Thank you.
The next morning after being crowned, what did you have to do?
Oh, a lot, just like every Miss Universe, I gave interview, had breakfast in bed and changed to swimsuit and went out for the beach photo session.
What about the awards? It seems a lot different from these days.
Yes, there was three money packages. One as the prize for winning, one as my salaries for traveling around the world, and one for the clothes. They let me sign the contract right away. Besides, there was a mink coat, a watch, a jewel necklace.
What about the crown? Didn't you have to give it back after your reign was over?
Yes, during that time Miss Universe didn't get the crown. But nowadays they gave it to all. Well, actually the organization had two crowns, in reserve.
But you finally got the crown back right?
Yes, in 1991, when the Miss Universe Organization came to Thailand to sign the contract for hosting the 1992 pageant. Miss Universe President, then Mr. Michael Walker (was resigned in 1993-editor) arranged to surprise me. But this is the new one, not the same one that I won.
And they present it for you?
No, they let Miss Universe 1991 Lupita Jones crowned me again in a little lunch reception. It was quite refreshing.
Did they arrange a suite or a condominium for you like nowadays?
No, during that time, Miss Universe stayed in a hotel, The SHELBORN Hotel in South Miami Beach. But it was like a home for Miss Universe. In front of the hotel, there was a sign read "Home of Miss Universe"
After relinquish your crown, you went back to judge the pageant right?
Yes, two times. (Apasra was a judge in 1973 and 1979 pageant -editor). Being a judge was a lot funnier than being a contestant, very fun experience indeed.
If a judge can not speak English, would that be a problem?
No, they arranged an interpreter for them, both the judges and the contestants.
And did they gave you any money for judging, I mean like a compensation for giving up your time?
No, they only sent the air ticket, and an invitation card of being an honor to become a one of the judges panel. It was a lot of fun, refreshing some good memories.
As a judge, what do you think about Porntip, another Miss Universe from Thailand?
Well, when I found out that Thailand won again, I felt so very proud because I really wish that to happen after we have been waiting for so long, and finally we got one. She was a very young intelligent and energetic woman. It is an honor to let the world know that a Thai woman can accomplish something which is benefit for her country. I am very proud of that.
Back to talk about your life now, a lot of people keep asking me how can you still be beautiful after all these years?
Well, thank you, thank you so much.
But how do you take care of yourself? I mean was there any tips for young girls who is reading this right now?
Well, maybe sleeping. Sleeping is very important and also the food is very important. Fruits and vegetables are my favorites. You can eat it in a big bowl without getting fat. Exercise also plays a good deal in keeping fit.
How do you exercise yourself?
Well, I would walk on the trade mill at my home, swimming sometime. But I haven't done it in the past few months because I was quite busy.
For how long did you walk on the trade mill?
Three kilometers a day. In 45 minutes. I did it for the past ten years, almost everyday.
Do you feel that because you are Miss Universe, it's your responsibility that you have to take a really good care of yourself? Would you consider beauty as an important factor in your life?
No. Never. Because we have to accept the fact that the world never stops turning and that everything is changing all the time. But I will try to handle it the best way that I can, it is not so bad, isn't it?
This is a big question, and forgive me for asking, but a lot of people want to know, Have you ever done a cosmetic surgery?
Um..Well, a lot of people expected that I did, but No, I didn't do it. But in the future, may be. Do you know any good surgeons around? Just kidding. Well, because I am afraid that after doing it, my face won't be the same, and then my friends wouldn't recognize me. It would be ridiculous.
So you use the natural way of keeping fit.
In the past years, you have been facing a lot of rumors, some were good and some were not quite very good. How do you cope with that.?
Well, (sigh) I think that it's normal to have rumors since you are in the public eye and you are the public people. So I tried not to think much about it and go on with my life. I have always tried to make my mind clear from bad things, I don't care what other people would think, they have their own judgment. Only God and I know, and that's it.
Do you have anything to say or deny about the news?
No, I don't have anything to deny. But as I don't have anything to say, it does not mean that every rumors are true.
One final question. Untill today, do you still think that you are Miss Universe?
Well, a "Former" Miss Universe, not for now because that was happened a long time ago. But I would considered myself more as a mother these days. I love my children very much and because of them that make my life happy. I have no regrets.
Thank you so very much Ms. Apasra, not only for sharing your time with us, but also for your generosity and kindness that we can hardly forget. You have made Thai people proud and you will always be.
Your Welcome and thank you so much.
Please note that Ms. Apasra gave her interviews in Thai.
Translated into English by Ranny Singka
Produced and created by Ranny Singka.
C & P 2000 Anurun Production, Inc
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