How did “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” influence baby names in 1984?

The Most Beautiful Girl in the World Pageant, 1984

In January of 1984, a one-of-a-kind beauty pageant called “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” was broadcast live on television from Oahu, Hawaii.

What made it unique? The fact that viewers at home could participate in picking the winner!

Back in 1984, this was a novel idea — so novel that, even though creator Dick Clark had come up with the concept back in the late ’60s, he wasn’t able to garner any interest in it until decades later.

The show was hosted by Jayne Kennedy and David Hasselhoff. In fact, the Hoff was featured in the TV commercial for the pageant:

The Most Beautiful Girl in the World tv commercial, David Hasselhoff

Twenty-one young women from around the globe were chosen as contestants. Here are their names and the regions they represented (in order of introduction):

  • United States: Susanne Ashley Trimble
  • India: Safira Afzaal
  • Great Britain: Debi Brett
  • Japan: Yoko Ami
  • Swaziland: Zanella Tutu
  • Denmark: Lene Nyholm Jensen
  • Spain: Maria Jose Bustos
  • Italy: Antonia Dell’Atte
  • Brazil: Carmen Carolina Baldelli
  • Germany: Birgit Wiemann
  • Saipan: Zelma Tomokane
  • Puerto Rico: Deborah Carthy Deu
  • The Philippines: Yoraidyl (YOR-ah-dil) Diaz Stone
  • Canada: Elizabeth Stimson
  • Mexico: Jaqueline De La Vega Pineda
  • Singapore: Julie Nickson
  • Morocco: Nadia Bahy
  • France: Patricia Talazac
  • Hong Kong: Tracy Chan
  • Australia: Melanie Ivanhoe
  • Israel: Yarden Levinson

I want to draw your attention to two of these contestants, Safira Afzaal and Yarden Levinson, because the rare names Safira and Yarden both debuted in the U.S. baby name data in 1984 specifically:

Safira usageYarden usage
1986unlistedunlisted
1985unlistedunlisted
198418 baby girls6 baby girls
1983unlistedunlisted
1982unlistedunlisted

(Safira may be based on the Arabic name Safeerah, meaning “messenger”; Yarden, the Hebrew name of the Jordan River, is derived from a Hebrew word meaning “descend” or “flow down.”)

Here are Safira and Yarden introducing themselves at the start of the program…

Safira:

Safira Afzal, The Most Beautiful Girl in the World, beauty pageant, 1984

Yarden:

Yarden Levinson, The Most Beautiful Girl in the World, beauty pageant, 1984

Over the course of the two-hour program, the field of contestants was reduced three times: from 21 to 10 (by a panel of judges), from 10 to 3 (again by the judges), and finally from 3 to 1 (by popular vote).

Both Safira and Yarden survived the first cut. The second portion of the show featured the ten remaining women modeling in swimsuits, modeling in evening gowns, and, rather unusually, doing aerobic exercise. (How ’80s is that?)

Here’s Safira doing aerobics:

Safira Afzal, The Most Beautiful Girl in the World, beauty pageant, 1984

And here’s Yarden:

Yarden Levinson, The Most Beautiful Girl in the World, beauty pageant, 1984

Before the three finalists were announced, David Hasselhoff explained that each of the three would be assigned a specific “1-900” phone number.

To cast a vote for your favorite girl, you simply dial her phone number. It’s that easy. Your vote will automatically be registered in the phone company’s computer in Kansas City, Missouri, and there’ll be a telephone charge of 50 cents. The total number of calls received at the end of the ten-minute period by the phone company’s computer in Kansas City will be transmitted to us, five thousand miles away, in Hawaii, and we will know our winner.

The three finalists? Debi, Jaqueline, and Yarden. (Not Safira, sadly.)

Here’s Yarden, right after being named a finalist:

Yarden Levinson, finalist in The Most Beautiful Girl in the World, beauty pageant, 1984

During the next ten minutes, viewers saw (among other things) clips of the finalists talking about themselves. Yarden mentioned that, in Israel, every girl goes into the military and “learns how to fight,” and that she “served in a rescue unit in the Air Force.” She also said:

I come to the competition and they look at me and they say, ‘You’re Israeli? You’re blonde, I mean, how can that be?’

Alas, Yarden finished in third place with just 17.48% of the vote.

The winner was Debi Brett, the Brit, with 53.46% of the vote. (She received over $100,000 in cash and prizes, including a 30-day round-the-world trip, a full-length mink coat, a grand piano, a diamond ring, a Dodge 600 convertible, and a Ricoh 35mm camera.)

So, neither Safira nor Yarden won the pageant. But their names live on the U.S. baby name data, which is arguably far cooler. :)

I’m not sure what became of Yarden after the pageant, but I can tell you a bit about Safira (whose last name is actually spelled Afzal). She was born in Pakistan, raised in England, and went on to earn a law degree and become a barrister.

(Other post-pageant careers: Debi became photographer; Antonia became a model/TV personality; Deborah won Miss Universe 1985 and became an actress/TV personality; “Jaqueline” (actually spelled Jacqueline) became a model/TV personality; and “Julie” (Julia) became an actress — in fact, she played the female lead in the second Rambo movie.)

So what are your thoughts on the names Safira and Yarden? Which one would you be more likely to use for a baby girl?

Sources:

4 thoughts on “How did “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” influence baby names in 1984?

  1. So a quick search (in Hebrew) found a really recent article about Yarden Levinson, who lives in the US and runs a Mediterranean restaurant in New Jersey. Unfortunately because of the paywall, that’s all I can add.

  2. Thought I’d pass this along…

    I was just doing research for my blog and I learned that Yoraidyl Diaz Stone is a famous and very prolific Filipino actress who goes by the name Maria Isabel Lopez. She has over 120 acting credits on IMDb and was also the 1st Runner Up for the title of Miss Philippines before appearing on this special.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.