THROWBACK: First Miss Universe winner Armi Helena Kuusela at The Manila Hotel

Published July 8, 2021, 7:12 AM

by Robert Requintina

The Manila Hotel shared a rare photo of the first Miss Universe titleholder Armi Helena Kuusela of Finland enjoying her stay at the premiere hotel.

In the photo, Armi is seen having a lively chat with the Manila Hotel’s then General Manager Mr. Hollman.
It was in the Philippines where Armi met her future husband hotelier Virgilio Hilario.

How their love story evolved: After she was crowned Miss Universe in Long Beach, California on June 28, 1952, the Finnish government asked her to attend the Olympics in Helsinki. There she met the Philippines trade delegation and invited her to attend the first Trade International Exposition in Manila.

Armi went to the Philippines with her sister as chaperone.

At a dance in Baguio City, where Armi met Virgilio. This led to a whirlwind courtship.

Armi did not finish her reign, as she decided to marry Virgilio in Tokyo, Japan on May 4, 1953. They toured Hawaii, US, and Europe during their honeymoon before they decided to settle in Manila. They have five children.

The couple were successful in their real estate business. On Sept. 7, 1975, Hilario died of a heart attack.

Armi remarried to American diplomat Albert N. Williams. They lived in Barcelona, Spain.

Here’s an interesting post from the Manila Hotel:

“From our archives, the world’s first-ever Miss Universe titleholder, Armi Helena Kuusela, seen here having a lively chat with The Manila Hotel’s then General Manager Mr. Hollman.

“Now 86, the Finnish-American charity worker and model was crowned at age 17. Since then, many beauty queens and illustrious personalities have graced the halls and enjoyed the hospitality of The Grand Dame.

“The Miss Universe pageant is the world’s most popular, and especially close to the hearts of the Filipinos. The most recent Miss Universe activity at the hotel was the first-ever Press Presentation of the Miss Universe Philippines franchise on February 14, 2019.”