Her name was Růžena Brožová and she was the first person to win a Czech beauty pageant.
Růžena was crowned the first Czech beauty queen in 1910 far away from her home country. This is her story.
First Czech Beauty Queen Was Born
The girl who was to become the first Czech winner of a miss pageant was born in Brno in 1892. Being the daughter of actors she had plenty of space to show her artistic talents – she performed with her father’s theatre company.
In 1909, Růžena’s father read a newspaper announcement for a beauty contest that looked for the Ideal Czech Girl. He signed his daughter up.
The Ideal Czech Girl
Selection of contestants
This was long before any online contest or any online possibilities whatsoever, so the selection of the finalists was based on the photos sent by post and an interview with the jurors performed, in Růžena’s case, in a restaurant in the Main train station in her hometown Brno.
However, the Czech authorities weren’t willing to help out financially with acquiring her gala dress. It were the authorities of Prague who decided that Růžena wouldn’t receive any financial support because the officials didn’t want to approve anything that might rise Czech patriotism within Austria-Hungary.
However, the patriotism among Czech people was rising anyway (the independency was just around the corner) and so it was the common people who financed her dress in the end. As a proud Moravian she wore a Moravian kroj and a sash with the Czech lion.
Beauty contest of 1910
Back then, when local pageants were just starting and no one even though of pageants like Miss World, the rules of the competition were quite different. First of all, the ideal girl was rather plump than thin and didn’t wear layers of makeup. The times were much more modest and so there was also no miss swimsuit title.
The important characteristics were the face, clothes and grace.
Beauty Pageant Finals
Růžena, although used to being on stage, had to step out of her comfort zone. More than 1200 kilometers out of it, to be precise, since the beauty contest took place during the Mi–Carême festival in Paris, France. The contest was established by two Czech emigrants and brothers who were proud patriots.
Her position wasn’t easy – not only did she have to compete against girls who were also young and beautiful but they were local – many Czechs had emigrated to France. Also most of the jurors were Czechs living in Paris. Among them the then already famous painter Alfons Mucha (author of the Slav Epic) who voted for her. It is said that she resembled the girls portrayed in his Art Nouveau paintings.
At the time the Czech lands were the Far Far Away for the Parisians and Růžena was considered exotic. She was welcomed by many curious people who wanted to catch a glimpse of the girl from Eastern Europe. Le Figaro newspaper wrote about her arrival to Paris:
The Czech beauty queen from the land of La Bohéme, a land that is romantically portrayed as a wild and less civilized country where people live the free lives of nomads, arrived to Paris yesterday. However, she didn’t arrive in a green histrionic carriage with orange window shutters, no old bearded man was holding the bridle of a skinny jade. She is beautiful like a Parisian.
There was no pack of gypsies in army coats at the front of a procession that would accompany an old tattooed woman mumbling mysterious words. The queen wasn’t wearing any copper bracelets or a scarf on her head and she wasn’t dancing barefoot. Růžena Brožová came from Prague to join the court of the queens.
Růžena Brožová was crowned the first Czech beauty queen in 1910 when she was just 18 years old.
She is more than beautiful, that beauty queen sent to us from Prague. Miss Růžena Brožová is a redhead with fresh skin and blue eyes whose features have the heroine’s purity.
– Le Petit Parisien, 1910
Her life after the contest
It turned out that Růžena wasn’t just a girl with beautiful eyes and pretty smile, she also had a beautiful soul. She received many valuable gifts in Paris and her victory in the beauty pageant helped her social status. She became a sought-after theatre actress.
Although she received several marriage proposals, she remained modest and married for love. Her husband was Antonín Opravil, a soldier, and Růžena Brožová became Růžena Opravilová, a housewife who only occasionally came back to the theatre to recite poetry. She died in 1976.
All of the pictures except from the postcard, the pageant poster and the theatre play cover come from the archive of the family of Růžena Brožová.