The state of the Miss World contest is a lot like the state of the world: a mess. The beauty pageant was held late last month in London. Seventy-one countries sent representatives; nine of them walked out, two of them were locked out, and almost up to the moment that the new Miss World was announced, her own government was trying to yank her out of the competition.
The victor was Cindy Breakspeare, a hazel-eyed Jamaican phys ed teacher who is 21 and 35-24-36 (the contest sponsors report). But before Cindy was crowned in front of an estimated 28 million TV viewers, a series of ferocious international skirmishes took place.
The Republic of South Africa started the unpleasantness by sending two entries: a white Miss South Africa, Lynn Massyn, and a nonwhite Miss Africa South, Rozette Motsepe. Taking note of this maneuver, the anti-apartheid organization SAN-ROC (South African Non-Racial Olympic Committee) promptly organized a boycott. SAN-ROC persuaded nine countries—India, Mauritius, Swaziland, Liberia, the Seychelles, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Yugoslavia and the Philippines—to abandon the contest.
This brought the number of young women on the sidelines to 11, because Miss World officials previously had banned two other contestants. One was Miss Rhodesia, Jane Bird, who was rejected because everybody is mad at the Rhodesians. The second was Miss Transkei, from the world’s newest country, who was told to go home because, as a contest spokesman put it, “Britain doesn’t recognize the Transkei and neither do we.”
That left 60 contestants but still no peace. After Cindy won $8,500 and the chance to earn $25,000 more in promotion fees during her year’s reign, fifth-place Miss Finland, Merja Helena Tammi, publicly complained. Tammi charged that the day before the final judging, Cindy and three of the four runners-up were chosen to play the roles of finalists at a dress rehearsal. Passing strange, sniffed Miss Finland. A coincidence, protested a Miss World flack. Cindy also appeared in a T-shirt with her picture and MISS WORLD stenciled on the front the morning after her coronation. “Someone must have been working overnight,” explained a Miss World explainer.
The Jamaican government wanted Cindy to withdraw because of its opposition to apartheid but couldn’t because she was sponsored privately. Nonetheless the loyal Cindy said her first priority would be “to buy a bit of land in Jamaica to build a house for myself and my family.” (Her mother, Marguerite Spence, lives in Jamaica and is divorced from Cindy’s father, Louis, a welder who lives in Canada.) When asked the inevitable question, she added cheerfully of the Miss World competition: “It did not feel at all like a herd of cattle.”
And thus an event marked by controversy came to an uneventful close. Not quite. It seems that Cindy is the center of a new uproar. One of her boyfriends is Bob Marley, the 29-year-old Jamaican reggae singer (No Woman, No Cry) and Rastafarian cult figure, who has a wife named Rita. Marley, son of a Jamaican mother and a British army captain, says that he smokes a pound of pot a week and has fathered nine children by seven women. “The Bible says ye shall go forth and multiply,” he is quoted as saying, “and I like to think I am doing my bit.”
Asked about Marley, Cindy replied, “It’s private.” In New York, Marley’s manager, Don Taylor, tried to put it all in perspective. “Bob loves his kids and takes good care of his family, but he’s a bit of a gypsy.” Added Taylor, “In the Caribbean we deal with love in a much more relaxed way.”