Nudist Pageant and Miss Nude World Pageants

| January 10, 2015 | 20 Comments

An Old Anti-Naturist Tradition: Miss Nude World – the Nudist Pageant

Interview with the founders of Ponderosa Nature Resort about their Miss Nude Beauty Contest

A nudist resort in Canada called Ponderosa Nature Resort just celebrated their 50th anniversary. For episode 72 of the Naturist Living Show podcast, Stéphane interviewed Hans and Lisa Stein, who founded the resort in 1964.

The couple is originally from Germany and when they moved to Ontario, Canada, they saw a market for a year-round naturist club in their area. They found some farmland to buy and together with Hans’ sister and her husband, built the Ponderosa nudist resort from the ground up.

Nudist Pageant Naked Nude Beauty Contest

Nudist Pageant and Nude Beauty Contest

The Steins always had a goal of targeting the general public and bringing new people from the mainstream into naturism. But Hans’ sister didn’t agree with this approach. So after some time, the Steins let go of Ponderosa and went on to open a new nudist resort of their own: Four Seasons Nature Park.

This is where it gets interesting!

They set out with their new marketing approach, but found that the traditional avenues of advertising were closed to them, due to the (naked) nature of their business. So they looked for a different way to reach the public.

That’s when they came up with a new gimmick:

Miss Nude World – A nudist beauty pageant

They created a big, nude beauty pageant for nudist women to compete for the title of Miss Nude World.

The beauty pageant was open to the public and just as they hoped would be the case, the mainstream media was all over it. They got tons of press coverage and thousands of visitors went to see the live event. Their nudist beauty pageant was held annually, for 5 years, from 1970 – 1975.

It was so successful, they inspired other nudist clubs to launch similar nude beauty pageants of their own. Cypress Cove was one. And they even sent their own pageant winner to compete for the title of Miss Nude World.

miss nude world the naked peacock 1975 four seasons nature park nudist beauty pageant naturist living show YNA

Miss Nude World 1975

Though Miss Nude World was the first nudist beauty pageant to garner nationwide media attention, it was not the first naked beauty pageant held by and for nudists.

In a book called Contesting Bodies and Nation in Canadian History, authors Patrizia Gentile and Jane Nicholas have a short chapter on nudist beauty pageants and how they fit into the Canadian naturist movement.

According to this book, some clubs had started hosting “royalty pageants” in the 1960’s. Both men and women participated and the winners were elected / crowned as “king” and “queen.” The contestants were judged on their all-over tan (showed their commitment to naturism), personality, contribution to naturism and their physical embodiment of health or attractiveness.

Though these events were not open to the public, they still received media attention.

The Miss Nude World pageant resembled traditional beauty pageants in many ways. All contestants were women between the ages of 18 and 30. They were required to be a member of a nudist club, though not for any specific amount of time (One could join a club two days prior and still qualify).

Instead of being judged by other nudists, the judges were “local community members and minor celebrities, including business owners and members of the media.” It seems that most of the judges were white men.

As mentioned in the Nude Hiking podcast, below is a movie clip from The Naked Peacock, which covers a bit of the 1975 competition. While the spectators were a mix of nude and clothed, men and women, one can’t help but notice all the dressed, white male photographers and judges.

Contestants not only modeled nude, but in evening gowns and swimsuits as well (how was this “nudism” at all?).

Physical appearance was a central component and could earn a contestant the most points. They emphasized “natural” beauty which meant no wigs, no breast augmentation, no shaved pubes and no artificial suntan. However “natural make-up” was acceptable.

The other criteria were based on poise and personality. For the latter, each woman had a private interview with the judges.

In the USA, royalty / suntan / beauty pageants were being held at nudist clubs and resorts during the 1950’s, if not earlier. It must be in a history book somewhere, but I’m not sure what year they started or ended in this country.

Some of the pageants were organized by the membership / leaders of clubs. Others were organized by the American Sunbathing Association’s (which is now called AANR) regional groups.

nude nudist beauty pageant miss spring festival 1958 american sunbathing association magazine YNA

Nude Beauty Pageant “Chairman Diane conducts contest for most attractive girl, crowns Marianne of Air-A-Tans, Los Angeles, as Miss Spring Festival.” (Held by Western Sunbathing Association.) Photo: Modern Sunbathing and Hygiene Annual magazine 1958.

nudist beauty pageant miss suntan american sunbathing association 1958 magazine YNA

Nude Beauty Pageant – The blurring over the genital area is the magazine’s work. They had to blur all the crotches because of censorship laws.

nudist beauty pageant mr mrs suntan american sunbathing association magazine YNA

Modern Sunbathing and Hygiene Annual magazine 1958. Mr. & Mrs. Suntan with all the “royal family” winners, at Sycamore Hollow during Midwest Sunbathing Association convention.

Like the royalty pageants in Canada, these contests were more of an internal affair with club members as participants and spectators. They seemed far more innocent than what went on at The Four Seasons. Miss Nude World took nudist pageants to whole new level and certainly spurred on the trend throughout Canada and the U.S.

There’s no question that a beauty pageant goes against naturist values. A contest like Miss Nude World is sexist, exploitative and sexually objectifies women. It places a woman’s value in her appearance and judges her based on how she meets society’s beauty “ideal” standards. In Miss Nude World, those standards were strictly enforced with the “natural beauty” requirements. All of this totally negates the idea of body acceptance in naturism and the concept of judging people by their character – not their appearance!

In fact, in the podcast interview, Hans and Lisa Stein acknowledge that their pageant gimmick was anti-naturism. They were naturists for ten years before starting the pageant and they knew that naturism was not supposed to be about worshiping some sort of beauty ideal. But in their eyes, the ends justified the means. They made millions of dollars in profits and gained new members after starting the nudist beauty pageants.

Did other naturists recognize that beauty pageants were not exactly in line with their ideals? It’s difficult to say how many people were for or against it, but it appears that many saw nothing wrong with it.

From looking through our small personal collection of nudist magazines from the 40’s – 60’s, people had a different mentality. Naturists felt that they should honor the beauty of the human form and that people should strive to achieve a healthy, toned physique. Health, during those days, was equated with beauty. (And still is today, with how people think thin = healthy = beautiful.)

At the same time, it’s not as if naturists didn’t recognize how naturism promoted body acceptance and offered a way of looking beyond superficial qualities.

In a 1958 issue of Canadian nudist magazine Sunbathing For Health, there’s an article, written by a female naturist, entitled: “Naturism – What’s in it for we women?”

The author writes:

“Many women imagine that they would never dare to walk naked amidst a crowd of strangers in any sun club; believe me, I did too, before I ever tried it. … ‘But my figure — I’ve lost it — I’d feel awful walking around in the nude,’ you say. The vast majority of the women (and the men too!) have probably lost their youthful contours with the passing of the years, but don’t let that worry you. Naturism is no social whirl, you are not going to try and ‘keep up with the Jones’s’ so to speak. Everyone is accepted for what they are as PEOPLE, and not what their vital statistics are!”

But then, in another article, in the same magazine, a female columnist offers exercise and diet advice to women who are worried about extra fat on their hips. And on the opposite page is an exercise guide aimed at women for “creating body beauty.”

So the naturist philosophy wasn’t entirely absent. They just didn’t seem to see it as contradictory to designate only certain bodies as “beautiful.”

Canadian History presents evidence that some nudist club owners were definitely conflicted or against the pageants. On the one hand, they were aware of the contradictions in putting young, “attractive” female bodies on display to promote naturism. On the other hand, the amount of publicity and money generated by the pageants was undeniable. It became a cost vs. benefit analysis.

Authors Gentile and Nicholas say that the nudist beauty pageants were supposed to show the public that nudity was natural, not obscene, or sexual. In Miss Nude World, that basic message was easily lost. The authors came to this conclusion:

“However, while nudist pageants were purportedly intended to encourage the public to see the body in a new light, the public appeal of these events depended on an exploitation of the taboo nature of nudity and made a spectacle of nude bodies. In doing so, these pageants were as revealing of the tensions within nudism as they were of the contestants on stage.”

Additionally, the authors concluded the pageants were a way for nudists to prove they were “normal” by using a mainstream type of event that adhered to sexual and gender norms. Celebrating women for their beauty and femininity, putting them on display, electing a “king” and “queen”..these were ways of showing how nudists maintained their masculinity / femininity and embraced heterosexual normativity.

Ultimately, was the Miss Nude World Pageant more harmful or beneficial to the nudist movement? That’s up for debate.

In the Steins’ view, it was a resounding success and brought more attention to nudism than any other event ever had. At the end of the interview, Stéphane asked them if they could go back in time, would they change anything? They answered with a resolute “no.”

Personally, I wish nudism hadn’t so easily abandoned its ideals for profit and publicity.

Listen to the full interview with the Steins in the podcast below. In my segment, Stéphane and I talk about the celebrity nude photo hack.


Podcast show links:

Or stream the podcast on the Naturist Living Show website.

What do you think of the nudist beauty pageant? Should it be forgiven as a relic of its time, or is it a permanent smear on the nudist movement?

Young Naturists and Nudists America

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Category: Social Nudity Blogs, Felicity's Nudist Blog, Nudism and Naturism

About the Author ()

Author of Felicity's Blog. Co-founder of Young Naturists America. 3rd-generation nudie. Avid reader. Feminist. 70% vegan, 30% vegetarian. When I'm not busy eating, I'm writing about naturism, censorship, topfree equality, body image and other fun topics. I like feedback, so plz leave a comment when you've got something to say!
  • MousesaverSomore

    The first Nudist Miss Nude World was held at 4 Season in Canada and the
    photo of Dede Nolet above was in 1970, as she was the first winner of
    the pageant ever! I was the. The following years winner was Christy
    Haron, and Dede was runner up. Dede was a great representative for the
    nudist life style and for Olive Dell Ranch, her home club in Colton, Ca.
    These pageants were all about representation of your club and the
    promotion of “Family Nudism”!!! Not like the nudism of today…..

  • FelicityJones pipermac5 I mean I’ve never told anyone they’re fat except maybe dad.  harder to think that type of negative like how a man would
    no edit button

  • FelicityJones pipermac5  Page 219 says, “none of the centenarians were ever obese.  A few were somewhat overweight (10 – 30 lbs.)
    a portion of their lives, but either lost the weight or maintained it, and did not
    let it get out of their control.” “Obesity
    is now the leading cause of preventable death in America.”  Over 2000 studies show calorie restriction =
    longer life.   The reason scientists think overweight people
    with chronic diseases sometimes outlive normal-weight people with the same
    health issues (called the obesity paradox) has to do with the fact that all fat
    is not equal.  Visceral fat, which builds
    up in organs like the liver, may be more dangerous than fat that sits just
    under the skin.  However, the proportion
    of people who are overweight and beat chronic disease may be small (p. 42 of
    TIME 100 New Health Discoveries).    The
    reason calorie restriction is important for longer lifespan is less calories = less
    free radicals that damage cells (The Machinery of Life).
    No discrimination because I’m full of fat myself, I just have
    fat in place of muscle because of low testosterone.

  • Very insightful! I think it’s important for nudists to care about their health (as everyone should) and I would like to see a return to health conscious nudism; however, I agree that beauty pageants, clothed or otherwise, are dehumanizing.

  • JohnGodfrey

    OBISerious fingersfelix
    In this present and entirely livable world the state of dress does not matter. Beauty pageants themselves are in error, not so much whether nude or dressed. A naturist may find it particularly appalling because the community ought to be supportive of a better definition of a person’s merit than submission to a third party perspective and standard of beauty. 
    I feel well assured that naturism survives at the effort of its practitioners and has, in its own merit, little or nothing to do with any detractor’s contrarian whims. As a life philosophy, it will not need to rival the popularity of major corporations to be considered successful or to “survive”. 
    Very glad to see this blog and forum for discussion. Keep up the great work!

  • OBISerious I agree!

  • mpapai pipermac5 That’s one book about a select group of people. You can’t then assume that A) None of those centenarians were ever fat over the course of their lives. B) Fat people never outlive thin people. C) No fat person has or will ever make it to 100.
    On the 2nd point, that I will agree with you. There’s also a lot of money to be made in telling people that fat kills.

  • OBISerious

    My other comments on this forum notwithstanding, I find beauty pageants irrelevant and somewhat insulting.
    To put this very subjectively, I will happily watch a contest of intelligence.  I will enthusiastically cheer a contest of athleticism and teamwork.  I will watch in awe of a contest of strength.  In each of these, I will mentally compare myself and others I know to the competitors.  And most likely, come up short.
    But I will not compare myself and others I know to a beauty contest.  Woo.  Someone won the genetic lottery.  And even if it did take a lot of work to achieve that beauty, what possible benefit could it give them, their community or humankind?
    A competition for who is the most beautiful is as relevant as a competition for who has the best hair.  Or bluest eyes.  Or best formed big toe.

  • OBISerious

    fingersfelix In a perfect world, the state of dress (or undress) should not matter in a beauty contest.
    Sadly, I don’t believe that we live in that world.
    Naturism is a fragile creature that currently survives at the whim of the powers-that-be. (authorities, politicians, etc)  The nude / lewd argument has been (and most likely, will be) fought for decades.  And when naturists aren’t involved in the discussion, I suspect that it’s wholly on the lewd side.
    I would suggest that it behooves the naturist community to operate in such a manner that no reasonable “lewd” argument could be raised.

  • OBISerious

    JohnAP I agree that we should forgive it “as a relic” as you say.  It’s obvious from Felicity’s article that it was merely a financial incentive.  I’d be willing to argue that they knew that it went against naturist philosophy, but were willing to do it to “promote” naturism.
    I don’t know if one could say that it did more good than harm.  But it happened.  And it should stay in the past where we occasionally bring it up, mumble sheepishly and change the subject.

  • fingersfelix I sincerely cannot believe you could read my article and think beauty pageants are at all compatible with naturism. As for the remark about Redskins, I’m not even gonna go there.

  • fingersfelix pipermac5 You’re completely missing the point. You can’t assume every single fat person has health issues and what health issues they have. You can’t assume what they eat or how much they exercise or WHY they are the way they are, and all of those things are also none of your business. Everyone’s body is different, and weight is waaay more complicated than people think it is.
    There are also plenty of studies demonstrating that person’s fitness level is much, much more indicative of how healthy a person actually is. Not BMI. Not weight. Fitness level.
    When it comes to health issues and weight, there is a correlative relationship between “obesity” and certain health conditions. Not CAUSAL. **Correlative.** That means being fat does not cause diabetes. There is a lot that we are still learning about diseases like diabetes. I’d encourage you to watch this TED talk by a doctor who discusses evidence that weight gain is actually a side effect of diabetes. Not the other way around. For years he was blaming his fat patients for their own health conditions, and in the video he’s brought to tears thinking about how he let his own prejudice keep him from giving those patients the care they needed and deserved. 
    The point is, when you look at all fat people thinking you know they have health problems, you’re only engaging in a form of fat shaming.

  • JohnAP

    A person of a typical nudist’s age can remember that there was a time when the Miss World and Miss Universe contests were actually taken seriously by lots of people, both women and men. It’s no coincidence that the feminist movement (we remember “Women’s Lib” too) really hit the news with a demonstration at the 1968 Miss America event. Of course it would be guaranteed to infuriate women who wanted a wider and more equal role for women in society.

    So, with the background of those things happening in the textile world, it’s no surprise that nudists might try to grab a little of the same kind of publicity. I actually would say that we should forgive it as a relic–it’s the way people thought back then, even if it makes us shudder now. The people who ran those shows weren’t evil, just affected by the times they lived in. It was better than slavery anyhow, and that was totally routine in its own day! Tempora, mores, that sort of thing.

    On a similar topic, I also think we should be very careful of letting anyone put women–especially young, conventionally attractive women, or their images–on display as some kind of emblem or trophy. That continues to be very common, and just like the beauty contests, it’s done for commercial reasons, as if they’re saying “Babes, we’ve got ’em, come get your share!” We should be rejecting that pretty emphatically (I can’t believe it reassures women about what naturism is like) but somehow most of us don’t have much to say about it.

  • fingersfelix

    FelicityJones pipermac5  Sources for statistical weight information on study of persons infected with H.I.V. and/or A.I.D.S.:
    Kathleen Mulligan, PhD, University of California San Francisco
    Morris Schambelan, MD, University of California San Francisco

  • fingersfelix

    FelicityJones pipermac5  I love you Felicity and I think you already know that.  And I also have been involved with plus sized women and one was the mother of my only 2 daughters.  I say “was” because she also realized that her plus size was directly related to health issues as are most anyone with any stage of obesity (including myself).  Unfortunately, for some of us, if not most of us, it is a losing batle to effectively do anything about it.  The mother of my children had surgery (gastric bypass) and is now amazingly slendor and looks great!  Since her tremendous weight loss, she is no longer diabetic and many other health issues have disappeared.  I have heard others also make claim that there are manmy unhealthy thin people and while this may be true statistic do show that the large percentage of obese people are with health problems than those thin people.  At the same time, statistic also show that those who have contracted H.I.V. or A.I.D.S. lose their appetite and with the weakening of the immune sytem, do have incredible weight loss to the extent that it is quite safe to say it is a rare thing to find anyone with meat on their bones (compared to skinny bones) who has H.I.V. or A.I.D.S.  Don’t take my word for it, check the statistics.

  • fingersfelix

    Let’s not become as rediculous as the uproar over the name of Washington Redskins. Beauty pagents are only just that… beauty pagents. Having a nude beauty pageant is no different than those with clothes. While it is true that being a nudist is not a fashion statement but the acceptance of ones’ own body, any other beauty pageant also is not to defame those not in it. Miss Ohio beauty pageant is not to say others from Ohio not in the pageant are not beautiful, just as the same goes for all the states as well as Miss America and Miss Universe, etc. Miss Nude is only the winner of a pageant she entered. That is not to say that other nudists are not beautiful also, or perhaps even more beautiful. Perhaps if some other nudists who had not entered the contest, had entered, they may have been the winner. It is only a contest game as are the other many pageants. If anything, nude pageants are a great exposure for the nudist lifestyle. After all, do not nudists do the same things as anyone else except without clothes? Well then???

  • livefyrebob

    Perhaps at future gatherings of naturists we could all applaud each other for being ourselves.

  • pipermac5 I think you are confusing a few different issues here. No one is saying you have to think everyone’s body is “beautiful.” Everyone has a different idea of what’s beautiful, and that’s perfectly okay. What’s not okay is putting one singular body type on stage and saying that’s the beauty ideal..the body that everyone should compare themselves to and aspire to. We are all seeing firsthand the sort of negative effect that is having on people’s, and especially women’s, body image in mainstream society.
    Secondly, you’re confusing health and appearance. Weight does not equal health. There are healthy fat people, and there are unhealthy thin people. You can’t tell what sort of health problems anyone has just by looking at them. You cannot decide what a “healthy” weight is for any individual. You’re not a doctor, and not only that, but a person’s health is none of your business. 
    The health concerns brought against fat people’s bodies are really just another way for people to say, “I think your body is unacceptable.” It has nothing to do with health and everything to do with fat prejudice.

  • ChristopherJudson

    I don’t understand nudist beauty pageants. I can’t say they’re doing anything sexual or gross in nature, but this does not represent nudism. Oh, and all these women look the same to me; that mold we put on women.

  • pipermac5

    I don’t think that nudist beauty pageants are a smear on nudism, because we are confusing the issues of aesthetic and acceptance. Nowhere in the nudist “code of regulations” does it say that we have to dump our ideas of beauty and aesthetics.
    Given my choice, I would prefer to see women and men who are closer to healthy weights than people who are 200 pounds overweight. I accept them, but they are not my idea of “beautiful” people.
    I have been married to two plus-size women, and I have seen first-hand what problems their excess weight has caused. Acceptance doesn’t mean condoning it.