UH recalls 'Vanity' beauty competition
By Jacqueline Gil
Daily Cougar Staff
This is the first in a series of stories meant to highlight certain
individuals, dates and events in UH history as the University prepares
celebrate its 75th anniversary.
This week, we look at Vanity Fair, a campus-wide search for attractive
coeds sponsored by the Houstonian yearbook until the mid-1970s.
UH will hold its celebration April 10.
In the early 1940s, the Houstonian yearbook began a tradition that lasted
more than 30 years.
One of the most eagerly anticipated events in the UH calendar was at
its core — a beauty contest.
The yearbook lured some of Hollywood's lesser-known names to serve as
judges — Perc Westmore, who served as makeup artist for The
Maltese Falcon, Walter Wagner, who helped produce Cleopatra, and Billy
de Wolfe, a comedian who went on to guest-star in That Girl.
Hundreds of female students would submit their photos, taken in casual
attire, to the Houstonian. The publication would then mail entries
to celebrities and fashion model agencies.
Ten Vanity Fair beauties and 14 school favorites were then selected
and introduced to the campus community at a gala reception.
Traditionally, judges picked one student to be "Miss Houstonian."
But it wasn't just outward appearance that garnered participants praise.
Elsa Rosborough, class of '46, was heavily involved around the
campus, even serving as president of the Student Association in '46.
Rosborough, a former Vanity Fair beauty from 1943 to '46 and high fashion
model, said she was "very privileged to remain active (in
modeling) and (have) a chance to model for designer Victor Casta."
Being named Miss Houstonian in '46 may have led to Rosborough's appearance
in advertisements as a coffee hostess and fashion model
for Foley's in Vogue magazine in the '60s and '70s.
Though the 1970s saw the introduction of a bathing-suit portion to the
competition, the feminist movement — and quite possibly a
decreased interest — lessened the importance of Vanity Fair.
It was even made light of by a male student in the mid-'70s who decided
to throw his name in the ring for the title of Miss Houstonian.
It was replaced by an "Honors" section, one devoted to both sexes —
and one based more on accomplishments than on beauty.
Nevertheless, Vanity Fair remains as a memory to those who participated
— and to a University that's had more than its share of "beauties"
pass through its halls.