If there is anyone out there who is in doubt about how beautiful the Belgian women are, think about Christelle Roelandts. Back in 1994, the Belgian beauty has been the byword at the Miss Universe 1994 competition. With soft, barbie-like looks and a banging body, Christelle was tagged as the possible winner. Hardly a day goes by without her photo splashed in the news dailies of the Philippines. A year earlier, she was also a heavy favorite at Miss International so much so that she won the Miss Photogenic award. While she landed at the semis at Miss International 1993, Christelle failed at Miss Universe 1994.
That’s the Belgian Paradox. The nation of Belgium, [Big4 Rank No. 37] a small slice of low lands that straddle between the Netherlands and France, never ran out of beautiful women. The paradox is, it is yet to win a Big4 crown. Never had it won the Miss Universe crown nor bagged the Miss International title. Never had it snagged the Miss Earth plum prize nor the glory of having a Miss World winner. Never.
Christine Delit competes at the swimwear competition at Miss World 1962 contest
The country though have near misses. The highest that it had at Miss World was in 1962. Christine Delit, unsuccessful in her earlier bid at Miss Universe, finished in an impressive fifth place at the Miss World 1962 pageant. It however highlights the place of Belgium in so many things not only in pageantry. In that very year, the winner of the title was someone next door – Catharina Lodders of the Netherlands.
In many ways, pageants included, Belgium is overshadowed by its more famous neighbor. And it isn’t that the Dutch and Belgians are really different. In many ways, they are similar – beauty and language included. So while the Dutch can boast two crowns, the Belgians will just have to concede that their northern cousins have superior record in the same way that they will concede in areas like the economy, sports and armed forces.
At Miss Earth, Belgium fared ever worse. No Belgian woman has ever landed at the semis of the pageant. This will even be aggravated by the fact that the Belgian representative to the pageant are now being selected using casting calls instead of having a formal pageant.
Muriel Jane Georges Rens remains the highest achiever for Belgium at the Big4 Pageants
The Belgian near miss meanwhile at the Miss International pageant happened in 1987 when Muriel Jane Georges Rens became the first runner-up.Visibly shocked when she was called in the semis, Muriel Jane sported a signature flower on her ear matched with the 80s style loose gown.Unfortunately, she was defeated by a vastly superior candidate. Laurie Tamara Simpson of Puerto Rico won the title for being a clear stand-out candidate. On top of that Laurie was very experienced delegate as she was one of the Top at the Miss Universe pageant held months earlier.
Belgium is relatively successful at the Miss International pageant. Aside from nearly winning the crown, it can be proud of its 8 semifinalists and a 2nd runner-up. Sadly, the country is no longer concentrating on this pageant. Gone are the days, when the winner of Miss Belgie/Miss Belgique competes at the pageant. Since 2011, a new franchise holder is sending delegates to Miss International. So far, the new organization is yet to produce even just one semifinalist.
Belgium is focusing more of its energy at the Miss Universe contest but so far, its highest placement was in 1981 when Dominique Van Eeckhoudt finished as fourth runner-up. Dominique holds the distinction of being the only Belgian woman who has competed and placed in all of the major pageants as she is also a semifinalist in Miss World 1981 and Miss International 1981. In overall, there were 9 Belgian beauties who managed to make the cut at Miss Universe. In 2009 and 2010, Belgium was back in the radar with the Top 15 finish of Zeynep Sever and Cilou Annys. After that glimmers of hope, Belgium slid back to obscurity once again.
Perhaps, the main problem of Belgium is its relatively small size to the point that its sash weight carries little influence. On top of that, the country is actually composed of French-speaking Walloons and Dutch-speaking Flemish (with a small German-speaking population) with do not see most of the things in the same way. This has affected the Belgian pageantry in many instances. Cilou Annys was once dragged into controversy thanks to a Flemish far-right magazine cover where she posed atop the Belgian flag. Alizee Poulicek was booed after her difficulty to answer in the Flemish language. So, the poor girl had to spend her time polishing her Flemish, time that could have been best spent on pasarelas or interview practice.
Indeed, Belgium is a paradox. It is a nation of beautiful women yet without a single Big4 crown. By the way things are handled in Belgium, it would take decades before Belgians can realize their dream of having a major international crown. It is just so sad to see the country’s performance even more so that one of the timeless beauty of Hollywood came from this country. Indeed, who would have thought that Audrey Hepburn is Belgian and yet no Belgian woman emerged victorious at Miss Earth, Miss International, Miss World or Miss Universe?