The success of Haiti’s first beauty queen, Claudinette Fouchard, set into motion a series of investments in pageants to promote tourism on the island nation plagued with bad press and instability. Since then, Haitian beauty queens have made the colors of Haiti shine on the biggest and brightest of international stages.
Fouchard, the daughter of Jean Fouchard (then Haiti’s ambassador to Cuba) was elected Miss Haiti in 1960i. She had the heavy responsibility of representing Haiti at the Miss World Sugar in Colombia, a competition she won. But she missed the 10th edition of Miss World in London because of conflict of dates between the two pageants. Fouchard became a darling to the Haitian people and was featured prominently on international magazine covers.
Two years later, Evelyn Miot, only 19 years old, succeeded Fouchard as the new Miss Haiti. Her participation in the Big Slam (Miss World, Miss
Universe, Miss International and Miss Earth) was a first for a Haitian beauty queen. On July 14, 1962, at the final of the 11th Miss Universe, Miot was the first black woman to be a semi-finalist by reaching the top 15 finalists at the Miami Beach Auditorium.
In 1967, Haiti was scheduled to participate in “l’Exposition de la Terre et des Hommes” in Montreal. To promote the island, it was decided to send Haitian beauty ambassadors as representatives. Luc-Albert Foucard, then-director of the Ministry of Tourism organized a national contest, “La Reine du Tourisme” (The Queen of Tourism). Women from every major school in the Port-au-Prince took part in the contest. Gladys Sylvain was elected Queen of Tourism, Jacqueline Coles (1st runner up) was Miss Grace, and Jacqueline Berrouet (2nd runner up) was Miss Elegance.
Before their departure for Montreal, the three women were received with great pomp for a gala dinner at the National Palace by the President of the Republic, Dr. François Duvalier. In Montreal, they were honored at Chateau Tremblain.
A year later, Haiti made a big comeback to the Miss Universe contest after six years’ absence. Sixty-five countries sent contestants and Haiti sent Claudie Paquin to represent Haiti at the 17th Miss Universe pageant in Miami.
Seven years elapsed before Haiti sent another candidate. In 1975, Haiti was present at the two biggest beauty contests, Miss World and Miss Universe.
The results were excellent for both representatives of Haiti. Joëlle Apollon, Miss Haiti World qualified in the Top 6 of Miss World at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Gertie David, Miss Haiti Universe 1975 nearly won the 24th Miss Universe in San Salvador, El Salvador. Gertie beat 69 candidates to win the first runner-up spot. Gertie became the second black woman to reach the place of first runner up in the history of Miss Universe.
In Santo Domingo, Françoise Elie represented Haiti at the 26th Miss Universe, where 80 candidates competed in 1977.
Haiti abandoned Miss Universe for eight years, returning in 1985 with Arielle Jeanty.
Four years later in 1989, at Djoumbala Club in Petion-Ville, one of the biggest finals of Miss Haiti was organized. The most beautiful girls of Port-au-Prince participated to the contest. The results were tight since all the candidates were able to represent Haiti very well. After several hours, the jury chose three winners. Glaphyra Jean-Louis was elected Miss Haiti 1989, Sabine Balmir,first runner up; and Yola ChantalAugustin, second runner up. The new Miss Haiti wore the colors of the Haitian bi-color at the 38th Miss Universe at the Fiesta Americana Condesa Hotel in Cancun, Mexico.For many years, Haiti withdrew from the international Big Slam scene.
Haiti did not send any candidates to a beauty contest for almost two decades.In 2010, Dominican beauty pageant guru Magali Febles, whose grandfather was Haitian, contacted the Miss Universe organization inNew York to apply for the Miss Haiti franchise. The franchise was granted and she became the national director of Miss Haiti.After 19 years of absence, Sarodj Bertin was selected as the new Miss Haiti beside nine other girls at the Karibe Convention Center in Juvenat, a suburb of Port-au-Prince. Bertin had the greatest responsibility to show a positive image of the country only a few months after the earthquake. The young ambassador of Haitian beauty made a media tour in several countries including the United States. At Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Bertin represented Haiti with distinction at the 59th Miss Universe pageant.
Anédie Lucrecia Azaël replaced Bertin the following year in a final organized during the show “Ayiti Deploge” (Haiti Unplugged) at the Karibe Convention Center. The pageant was broadcast live by TNH “National Television of Haiti.” Azaël represented Haiti beside 88 other contestants at the 60th Miss Universe in Sao Paulo, Brazil.In 2012, with the support of her good friend Chris Puesan, now the director of Miss Haiti and Miss Curacao, Azaël sent her candidacy to Miss International in Japan requesting to participate and represent Haiti. They accepted her and in October 2012 Haiti debuted at the third largest beauty pageant in the world. Azaël qualified in the Top 15 and also received for her orphanage for doing extraordinary social work in her country.
In 2013 Puesan partnered with Azaël by creating the first Organization of Miss Haiti. They acquired the franchises of Miss World, Miss International,Miss Grand International,Miss Hispano-Americana and Reina de Cafe. A casting call at the Karibe Convention Center selected candidates for Miss Haiti 2013. Ketsia Lioudy Iciena from Cap Haitian won Miss Haiti World 2013 and Clara Luce Lafond of Port-au-Prince was first runner up and Miss Haiti International 2013. Lioudy represented Haiti at the 63rd Miss World pageant in Bali, where 127 contestants competed for the crown -- making the biggest turnout in the pageant’s history. Clara Luce Lafond participated in the 53rd Miss International in Tokyo.
In 2014, Stephanie Balmir Villedrouin, Minister of Tourism, took charge of Miss Haiti. Castings were organized throughout the national territory. It was the most diverse contest ever organized in Haiti. Ten finalists were selected for the finals including Cassandra Chery (current Miss Haiti Universe 2017) who abandoned the competition due to a contract with Elite Models. Carolyn Desert, a young entrepreneur, took the place of Chéry and won the competition. She competed at the 64th Miss World in London. Miss Haiti was noticed by her signature look – her bald head.
In 2014, Lisa Drouillard, a young model living in New York, ranked in the Top 10 during a competition in Thailand. Raquel Pelisser succeeded Drouillard as Miss Universe Haiti 2015 and was first runner-up at the Miss Universe 2016 pageant in the Philippines.Twenty-one year old Chery was crowned Miss Haiti 2017 at the Marriott Hotel in Turgeau, Port-au-Prince in September. The Miss Universe 2017 pageant was held November 26, 2017 in Las Vegas, NV. Miss South Africa won that compeition.
Miss Haiti beauty queens, for 60 years, have been catalysts for promoting beauty with a purpose in Haiti,along with a powerful and positive image of the island nation on an international platform.