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Tania Verstak (b. 1940), beauty queen, won the Miss Australia quest in 1961 and then Miss International in 1962. Born in Shanghai of Russian refugee parents, she arrived in Australia when she was 11 and settled in Sydney with her family. Planning on studying languages and psychology at university, she was instead spotted by a representative of the Spastic Centre while she was promoting olive oil at the Sydney Show, she entered and won the Miss Northern Beaches and Miss New South Wales contests to progress to the Miss Australia pageant. Following her win, Immigration Minister Alexander R. Downer declared in the Sydney Sun that 'the selection of Miss Verstak, a naturalised Australian, is the ultimate demonstration - if any demonstration were needed - of the way in which our new settlers have entered the hearts and lives of the Australian people'. Hailed as the first immigrant to win Miss Australia, and ushering in the era of the ‘New Australian,’ Verstak travelled to the USA, where she was crowned Miss International (not Miss World, as is often claimed) in 1962. Verstak rejected film auditions and a US tour, and refused to pose in a swimsuit. She worked for a short time as a promotional representative for Qantas airlines before marrying a Perth motor-vehicle dealer and settling down to raise a family; her home life was documented in Australian women's magazines for several years.

Details

  • Title: Tania Verstak
  • Creator: Jozef Vissel
  • Date Created: 1962
  • Provenance: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra, Gift of the artist 2005
  • Rights: https://www.portrait.gov.au/form-image-request.php
  • External Link: https://www.portrait.gov.au/portraits/2005.117

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