Previous Miss South Africa's world titles. 1958 Penny Coelen was crowned Miss World 1974 Anneline Kriel took over the title of Miss World 1978 Margaret Gardiner won the Miss Universe title. Pictures: Flickr Montage: Karen Sandison

Penny Coelen Rey, crowned Miss World in 1958, says she will never forget the night the crown was placed on her head. She was just 18 years old.

“It felt like I was in a trance-like state. As they placed the crown on my head I couldn’t believe that I had won. It only became a reality when it sank in days later, Rey told the Cape Argus on Monday.

Fifty six years later, the memories of her reign are still fresh in her mind as 22-year old Mpumalanga beauty Rolene Strauss brought the crown home on Sunday, beating off 124 contestants from around the world.

The competition, held at London’s ExCel Centre, saw the contestants parading in their national costumes, evening gowns and showing off their dance moves.

Strauss is in her fourth year of medicine at the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein, and is the first South African to win the title in 40 years.

The last Miss South Africa to win the Miss World title was Anneline Kriel, in 1974. Woodstock-born Margaret Gardiner became Miss Universe in the Miss Universe pageant in 1978. She now lives in Los Angeles.

Speaking from her Zimbali Estate home in Durban, Rey said: “Strauss deserves the title and will represent the country well.”

Rey, a secretary in Durban at the time, outshone her eight competitors in the eighth Miss World pageant.

The crown comes with a lot of attention and pressure to perform and look your best at all times, said Rey.

“I tried to be as natural as possible. I took it all in my stride and I did my best not to let the success go to my head.

“Strauss will now be inundated with offers and my advice to her is to read the fine print in all the contracts and be involved with making all the big career decisions.

“I was young and a free agent at the time. I had someone taking my calls and messages, but not anyone offering me professional advice.

“She is older and smart, and surrounded by people who are looking after her best interests. I trust that she will make the right decisions,” she said.

Social networks continued to buzz with good wishes and messages of support for Strauss the whole of Monday.

Cape Argus