Ask most girls what they’d long to be when they grew up and half of them might say they wished to be a beauty queen. Beauty contests might be seen as quite shallow and sexist affairs in this day and age, but there’s no denying that contestants are often seen as role models by many girls and young women. In the eyes of a little girl, they’re probably the closest thing to a real-life Disney princess and if they stand up for a worthy cause or principle, all the better.
Unfortunately, though, not everyone views beauty pageant queens in the same way as an awe-inspired child does. Admiration can take on a disturbing form in some people and this has led to many tragic and untimely deaths in the beauty contest world. They often say that beauty can be a blessing and a curse, and this is certainly true in the case of these innocent young women. Their looks put them in the spotlight and simultaneously, in the line of danger.
Just as their lives and success were beginning, many of these beauty queens had their lives turned upside down by acts of violence and jealousy. Others found themselves struck down by illness, and some found the pressures of fame and attention were too much to deal with. The innocent young beauties on this list lost their lives in some of the most horrific ways imaginable and their deaths still cast a pretty dark shadow over the beauty pageant world. Here are 15 beauty queens who met incredibly tragic ends.
15. Miss International – Stabbed To Death By Her Stalker
Being the winner of a beauty pageant must undoubtedly bring plenty of unwanted attention to your door, but the worst one could imagine is that you’re hit on every time you’re out buying groceries. Unfortunately for Miss International, things were a lot more serious than this – she had a stalker who had been following her for six years and this creep ended up chasing her to her death in 1996.
Before she had the title of Miss International, Agnieszka Kotlarska worked as a fashion model in her home country of Poland when she attracted the unwanted attention of an obsessive fan called Jerzy. For the most part, Agnieszka managed to ignore Jerzy and get on with her life. She was later crowned Miss Poland and soon after this, Miss International in 1991. While her professional life was on the up, so was her love life and she soon married, but her creepy stalker Jerzy said this decision “ruined his life.” One night, Jerzy approached the couple as they were getting into their car and stabbed her husband. As she tried to help her husband, Jerzy stabbed her in the chest four times, killing her. Jerzy only got 14 years behind bars.
14. Teen Miss Hungary Driven To Suicide By Fame Pressures
Overnight fame at such a young age can have a destructive effect on anybody, but the pressure must be significantly increased if you happen to be a beauty queen. Actresses and singers may have their appearance scrutinized by the media, but as this tragic case will prove, attempting to live a normal life as a young fashion model is pretty much impossible. This is what 17-year-old Csilla Molnar found who struggled so much with her new identity as Miss Hungary in 1985 that she took her own life a year later.
On July 10th 1986, the Hungarian teen beauty queen was found dead in her parents home after taking a reported overdose of Lidocaine – a drug normally used as an anesthetic to regulate your heart beat. Prior to her suicide, Molnar confessed in a radio interview: “I don’t know whether I can bear this, everybody is harassing me.” She then went on to say that people had hounded her for winning and constantly questioned her style and her right to have been crowned Miss Hungary.
13. Miss Tourism – Shot In The Head For Protesting Against Violence
Venezuela is among the countries with the highest murder rates in the world, so it’s bitterly ironic that a young woman was murdered while protesting against the country’s high crime levels. The young beauty queen Genesis Carmona had recently been named Miss Tourism in 2013 when she decided to put her image to good use and show her support for the opposition in her state in Venezuela. Sadly, her protest was short-lived and in an instant, her life had been turned upside down.
Carmona had joined her fellow protestors in her home state of Valencia to campaign for the resignation of President Nicolas Maduro. The President had been heavily criticized for high crime rates and a shortage of goods among other things. Despite their peaceful protest, someone opened fire on the crowd of protestors and the young Venezuelan beauty queen was in the line of fire. She dropped down from a gunshot wound to the head and despite coming through surgery, she later died in hospital. She was the 5th fatality of the protests.
12. 6-Year-Old JonBenet Ramsey Found Murdered In Her Parents’ Basement
More than 20 years later, the murder of the 6-year-old beauty pageant queen, JonBenet Ramsey is still shrouded in mystery. It was the day after Christmas back in 1996 that the young beauty pageant star was found dead in the basement of their family home in Colorado and the identity of her killer remains unknown. The story rocked America to its core – an innocent child beauty pageant star – Little Miss Colorado – dead at the height of her fame. Inevitably, people quickly started to suspect her family.
JonBenet’s father found her body covered in a blanket and a cord coiled around her neck. The 6-year-old also had a fracture to the skull and duct tape had been placed over her mouth. After facing years of suspicion that they were responsible for her death, JonBenet’s family were finally cleared of responsibility thanks to DNA technology available in 2008. An in-depth documentary about JonBenet’s murder was aired on CBS this year, but this tragic case remains unsolved.
11. Miss Venezuela – Murdered On Holiday
A month before the death of the other Venezuelan beauty contestant on our list, the former Miss Venezuela was killed while on vacation with her ex-husband and young daughter. The Venezuelan beauty Monica Spear was taking time out in her hometown of Carabobo when her car broke down in the middle of the night in January 2014. While Spear and her ex were having their car towed, a group of men arrived at the scene and things took a dark turn.
The gang of men ordered the breakdown service team to stop what they were doing. Frozen in panic, Monica and her ex hid in their car, hoping the men would leave. Sadly, the gunmen shot Spear and her ex-husband dead. Her 5-year-old daughter was in the backseat of the car and managed to survive despite a gunshot wound to her leg. This horrific and unprovoked attack is yet another reminder of the fact that Venezuela has the second highest murder rate in the world.
10. Miss Russia – Wrong Place At The Wrong Time
At 20 years old, the stunning Alexandra Petrova had her whole life ahead of her. After being crowned Miss Russia in the 1996 beauty pageant, Alexandra’s career was just beginning when she was unexpectedly shot dead by members of the Russian mafia. Petrova was not thought to be an intended target in the shooting, this was simply a tragic case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time and the young beauty queen paid the ultimate price for it.
The newly-crowned Miss Russia had been standing outside her apartment building chatting with two other men when the group was sprayed with gunfire. The men who gunned Petrova and her friends down were crime bosses who were engaged in a turf war with the two acquaintances of Alexandra. The two men standing with her were Radik Akhmetov and Konstantin Chuvilin – both of whom died instantly in the shooting. Although Petrova survived the attack at the scene, she died from her wounds on her way to the hospital. Grim.
9. Miss Honduras – Killed By Her Sister’s Boyfriend
19-year-old Maria Jose Alvarado had not long been crowned Miss Honduras 2014 when she was witness to her sister’s murder before being shot to death herself. The teen beauty queen was supposed to catch a flight to London for the Miss World pageant the following day, but a psycho killer had other plans – a killer who happened to be her sister’s boyfriend. On the night she was murdered, Maria was out celebrating her soon to be killer’s birthday with her sister and some friends, but fun and celebrations soon turned tragic.
Plutarco Ruiz was said to have been having a heated argument with Maria’s sister Sofia about the fact that Sofia was dancing with another man at his birthday party. In a jealous rage, he murdered Sofia in front of Maria and went after her next. Traumatized and frightened for her life, beauty queen Maria tried to escape from him but was shot twice in the back and killed. Disgustingly, Ruiz tried to help Maria’s family file a missing person’s report after the murders.
8. Miss Hollywood – Prostitution Led To Death
Jill Ann Weatherwax – forever known as Miss Hollywood – was thought of as a true American Sweetheart. She could sing, she had girl-next-door good looks and she was the winner of multiple beauty pageants. But her glamorous Hollywood life turned sour when she dabbled in drugs and prostitution. With a recording contract on the horizon and the proud owner of the Miss Hollywood pageant sash, Jill Ann had it made in California but she sadly let herself get in with the wrong crowd.
On March 25, 1998, Jill’s body was found, and she had been stabbed and dumped behind an animal shelter in an area that was popular with sex workers. In the months before her death, Miss Hollywood was arrested for being in possession of drugs, but despite the evidence that she was mixed up in prostitution and drugs, her family strongly refute the idea that this is how she died or even that she was involved in these crimes. Nearly 20 years after her murder, the suspects have yet to be identified.
7. Miss Ireland – Strangled In Bathtub Of Her Honeymoon Suite
The murder of Irish beauty queen, The Ulster Rose of Tralee, Michaela McAreavey was not only shocking because it involved a beauty pageant champion, but because her husband was also in the limelight – the Gaelic footballer John McAvearey. The young celebrity couple was well-loved across Ireland, but their coupling was to be painfully short. Her husband John found himself carrying her coffin into the very same church he married her only a fortnight before.
The couple had been celebrating their honeymoon in Mauritius when 27-year-old Michaela was strangled to death in the bathtub in their honeymoon suite at their hotel. Michaela had reportedly returned to their honeymoon room and came upon a break-in. Rather than drop what they’d stolen and vanish, the thieves made sure Michaela wouldn’t tell by strangling her there and then, killing her instantly. The newly-wed beauty queen was tragically buried in her wedding gown.
6. South Carolina Beauty Murdered By Halloween Intruder
Leslie Ann Mazzara aka Miss Williamston, South Carolina was enjoying Halloween night with two other friends in 2004. Little did she know that she’d be murdered by a home intruder that night. After finishing the candy run, Leslie and her friends returned to their home in Napa Valley, when one of the girls realized there was an intruder in the house. In the middle of the night, Leslie’s friend Lauren sensed an intrusion and ran outside in fear for her life. When she came back inside, she found both Leslie and her friend Adriane had been brutally stabbed.
At the time of calling 911, the girls were still clinging on to life but tragically died from their horrific stab wounds by the time the police had arrived. Astonishingly (and heartbreakingly for the families of Leslie and Adriane) it was nearly a year before the suspect was found. Eventually, police caught up with the killer – an ex-boyfriend of one of the girls, whose defense for the cold-blooded murders was that he was “too drunk” to remember what he did. Unbelievable.
5. Miss India Universe Committed Suicide
When 19-year-old Nafisa Joseph won the title of Miss India Universe back in 1997, the future looked rosy. But sadly, a personal tragedy meant that she would end her life at the tender age of 26. In 2004, the stunning Indian beauty was engaged to be married to businessman Gautam Khanduja, but her new fiancée was keeping something from her – he was still married, despite lying to her that he had long been divorced.
When you’re engaged to be married to the most beautiful woman in India, how dumb do you have to be to cheat on her? The revelation that her fiancée was still married and clearly unable to commit to her was too much for the beauty queen and Nafisa was reportedly found to have hanged herself at her flat in Versova, Mumbai on July 29th, 2004. Seems like a classic case of the rich a-hole thinking he can have his cake and eat it too.
4. Zambian Beauty Died Within Hours Of Giving Birth
In the mid-noughties, the 22-year-old stunner from Zambia was living the high life. The model and frequent pageant contestant Mofya Chisenga shot to fame when she represented Zambia at the 2006 Miss Universe pageant. In between winning and taking part in many beauty pageants over the years, she was also known for her charity work for orphaned children and her role as a TV presenter. Mofya was blessed with further joy when she fell pregnant in 2010, but this sadly had a tragic outcome for the beauty queen.
During her pregnancy, Mofya had fallen ill several times and contracted malaria at one point, but she was later discharged. A matter of weeks later, however, the young South African beauty was taken to hospital in a critical condition and died from complications several hours after giving birth. She died on October 14th, 2011 at the age of only 28.
3. Life Of Brazilian Beauty Cut Short By Horrific Infection
In life, Mariana Bridi da Costa was a stunningly beautiful woman, but her death was certainly not a pretty sight. The Brazilian stunner began modeling as young as 14 years old and continued to find success in beauty pageants and other contests. At 18 years old, Mariana reached 4th place in the Miss World Brazil pageant in 2006 and took part in a Miss Bikini International contest in 2007. Tragically, a sudden vicious infection was to cut her life ambitions short and eventually end her life in 2009.
At the age of just 20 in 2008, Mariana developed a urinary tract infection that eventually became septic and her health sadly deteriorated from there on in. Heartbreakingly, the sepsis led to her hands and feet needing amputation to save her life, but this made little difference. She also needed part of her stomach removed and she eventually died of multiple-organ failure. You just don’t expect someone to die from a UTI, especially someone so young. Tragic.
2. Texas Sweetheart Raped And Murdered by Priest
The pretty brunette teacher Irene Garza was crowned Miss All South Texas Sweetheart at the age of 24 in 1958 – little did she or America know that she would be found dead only two years later. The murder of the Texan beauty queen has puzzled America for decades and has yet to be fully solved, but evidence has always pointed to John Feit. Feit was a Catholic priest and is thought to have raped and murdered Irene after hearing her confession.
When Irene’s body was found in a canal near McAllen in Southern Texas, a portable photo slide viewer belonging to John Feit was found near her corpse. Despite this creepy discovery, the authorities had no real evidence to go on until as late as 2002, when a second Catholic priest told detectives that Fiet had confessed the murder to him, explaining that he placed a bag over Garza’s head and left her to suffocate to death in a bathtub. Feit’s murder trial is still ongoing.
1. Gay Beauty Contestant Mutilated And Brutally Killed In Homophobic Hate Crime
23-year-old Thapelo Makutle was crowned Miss Gay Kuruman as he was found to be the most beautiful contestant in his South African home town of the same name. Sadly, simply because he was gay, Thapelo’s happiness was short-lived when he became the victim of a brutal attack during a night out. South Africa is well known for its violent hate crimes towards gay people. The LGBT community faces discrimination on a daily basis, in fact, but this particular attack was something else.
In a horrific act of violent homophobia, a man named Sizwe Tajini verbally assaulted Thapelo about his sexuality before murdering him in his home. Tajini burst into the young beauty queen’s room and cut off Thapelo’s genitals before forcing them into his mouth and slitting his throat. Later in court, Tajini confessed to his barbaric murder of the young gay beauty queen but reportedly showed no remorse for his actions. Sickening.
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