Marisol Malaret Contreras, Puerto Rico’s first Miss Universe, died on Sunday (March 19) at the age of 73.
Malaret Contreras was 20 years old when she won the Miss Universe crown on July 11, 1970, during the 19th Miss Universe pageant in Miami Beach, Florida. During the pageant, Malaret Contreras was also recognized for a special award for being one of the Top 10 contestants in the Best in Swimsuit Competition.
Miss Universe President Paula Shugart posted a remembrance on her social media along with a black and white clip of the moment Malaret Contreras was announced the winner of Miss Universe 1970.
“So saddened to hear the news of Miss Universe 1970, Marisol Malaret’s passing,” she wrote. “She was a very special woman, the embodiment of beautifully confident.”
At the time of her Miss Universe victory, Malaret Contreras worked as an executive secretary for the Puerto Rico Telephone Company. According to an article published by the New York Times after her win, she was welcomed home by 50,000 people at the San Juan Isla Verde International Airport.
After winning Miss Universe, Malaret Contreras was featured on the covers of several international magazines and worked as a TV host, model, and motivational speaker.
Since her win in 1970, there have been four more contestants from Puerto Rico who have been crowned Miss Universe: Deborah Carthy-Deu in 1985; Dayanara Torres in 1993; Denise Quiñones in 2001; and Zuleyka Rivera in 2006.
“I always looked up to her,” Torres wrote on social media. “She was always my role model, a worthy representative of Puerto Rican women.”