Manel Illangakoon

Miss Ceylon (now Miss Sri Lanka) identified in 1953 with Manel Illangakoon of Colombo and became the oldest national pageant in Ceylon. 1953 was the first beauty pageant era in Ceylon by its government in Colombo.

Manel was Ceylon’s representative to Miss World in 1953. She achieved Sri Lanka’s highest placement in Miss World to date as 3rd runner-up.

Due to the great success of the first two editions of Miss World and thanks to the support of the prestigious “Sunday Dispatch” newspaper, Eric Morley set out to organize the third edition of the contest. The Miss World 1953 event was held on 7th November 1953 in London, United Kingdom.

Morley was ready to receive the 15 international candidates in the English capital. The first to arrive was the candidate of Ceylon Mrs. Manel Illangakoon arrived on October 3rd accompanied by her husband.

Her husband explained that they had never left Ceylon before and that he did not want his wife to travel alone. Mr. Edwin Wijeyeratne, the high commissioner of Ceylon in the United Kingdom, received them at the airport. However, Morley did not allow the dedicated husband to stay in the same hotel where the candidates would stay, since that was against the rules of the contest. But the husband respected the conditions imposed by Morley and caused no problems to the organization.

To protect her figure, Miss Greece would eat nothing but oranges, spent a good part of the week sitting in her hotel room amid piles of peelings and half-eaten fruit. She sent down word that she had a cold, then every few minutes picked up the telephone to report to the switchboard, “I am very nearly better.” Miss Norway repeatedly tried to sneak out of her hotel to have dates—a direct violation of the contest rules—but was foiled each time by guards stationed in the lobby. She stamped her sharp heels and railed against being treated like a schoolgirl. Miss U.S.A. was actually Miss Runner-Up U.S.A., the real Miss U.S.A. being in another corner of the planet on business connected with a contest for Miss Universe of 1953. Miss Ceylon discomfited the contest director by proving, on arrival, to be Mrs. Ceylon. The director wouldn’t even let Mr. Ceylon into the hotel. “If I broke the rule in her case,” he explained, “I’d have to break the rule for all.”

Time Magazine (02 November 1953)

Reports say that Manel was very unhappy when the time came to put on bathing suits as she’s used to a sarong back home.

Then it came the night of the election of Miss World 1953, that was on Monday, October 19th in the Lyceum Ballroom of the British capital city. The event was sponsored by the “Sunday Dispatch” newspaper.

The judges were the British actress Margaret Lockwood, English actor David Niven, Viscountess Tarbat, journalist Godfrey Winn, artist Cowan Dobson and M. Pireur, a member of the Miss Europe committee. The one in charge of tabulating the votes was the editor of the sponsoring newspaper “Sunday Dispatch” Mr. Charles Eade, who was also the Chairman of the board.

The candidates paraded in evening gowns and one-piece swimsuits. Miss Egypt did it again; She refused to wear a long gown for the parade. The order was as follows: Sweden, Ceylon, Switzerland, Greece, Israel, France, Germany, Denmark, Norway, Finland, United States, Holland, Monte Carlo, Great Britain and Egypt.

It was the first year that Morley used the “Majority Vote” system for the final selection, considering it the most fair procedure, instead of points from 1 to 10.

The final result was as follows: The fifth place, and winner of a prize of £ 100 was Miss United States, Mary Kemp Griffin. In fourth place came Miss Ceylon, Manel Illangakoon, a 20-year-old won a prize of £ 150. Third place was taken by Miss Egypt, Marina Papaelia, earning £ 200 as a prize. Second place went to the 20-year-old Miss Greece, Alexandra Ladikou of Kavala, who won £ 250. The winner was, who had the approval, not only from the judges but from the audience, was the representative of France, Denise Margaret Perrier

Manel was the first Miss Ceylon went to Miss World and debuted at Miss Universe in 1955 with Maureen Neliya Hingert of Colombo.

Credit – Beauties of Universe and World, Wikipedia, Time Magazine

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