Yolande Fox

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Yolande Fox
Yolande Betbeze NYWTS.jpg
Betbeze in 1950
Yolande Margaret Betbeze

(1928-11-28)November 28, 1928
DiedFebruary 22, 2016(2016-02-22) (aged 87)
Alma materNew School for Social Research
Occupation(s)Opera singer, activist
TitleMiss America 1951
PredecessorJacque Mercer
SuccessorColleen Kay Hutchins
Matthew Fox
(m. 1954; died 1964)
PartnerCherif Guellal

Yolande Margaret Betbeze Fox (November 28, 1928 – February 22, 2016) was an American singer and beauty pageant titleholder who was crowned Miss America 1951.

Early life[edit]

Betbeze was born on November 28, 1928 in Mobile, Alabama, to William, a butcher, and Ethel Betbeze.[1][2] Betbeze was raised in a Catholic family of French Basque descent, and she attended convent schools.[3]


She captured her first crown in 1949 when she won Mobile's "Miss Torch" pageant.[3] In 1950, Fox (then Betbeze) entered Miss Alabama for the scholarship opportunities the pageant presented.[4] As Miss Alabama, she traveled to Atlantic City, New Jersey, to compete in the Miss America 1951 pageant. Having been educated in a convent school, she was reluctant to pose in a swimsuit and refused to do so after she won Miss America.[5] That led the swimsuit company, Catalina, to withdraw their sponsorship of the Miss America pageant and eventually brought about the creation of the rival Miss USA pageant.[2]

Aboard the USS Monterey in 1951

Fox's Miss America title, although won in 1950, was for 1951 and is the first Miss America title to be "postdated" in this manner. Due to the change, there was no Miss America 1950. The Miss America Organization has claimed that Fox's (then Betbeze's) actions were pivotal in directing pageant progress towards recognizing intellect, values, and leadership abilities, rather than focusing on beauty alone. From then on, the Miss America pageant concentrated more on scholarship than beauty.[2]

Fox was active in the feminist movement. After her one-year reign as Miss America, she was active in the NAACP, CORE (Congress of Racial Equality), and SANE (The Committee for a SANE Nuclear Policy); and studied philosophy at the New School for Social Research in New York City.

Fox was an opera singer and did gain a reputation in that area. She continued to sing, appearing with the Mobile Opera Guild (now the Mobile Opera), and helped found an off-Broadway theater.[3]

Fox's home in Washington, D.C.

Personal life[edit]

She married movie magnate Matthew Fox, the former president of Universal Pictures, in 1954.[6] They had one daughter, Yolande "Dolly" Fox Campbell.[5] Her husband died after 10 years of marriage.

After her husband's death, she moved to Georgetown, Washington, D.C., purchasing the Newton D. Baker House from Michael Whitney Straight and his then wife Nina Gore Auchincloss. The home had previously been the residence of Jacqueline Kennedy after the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963.[7]

Fox had a relationship with Cherif Guellal, with whom she raised her grandchild, Yolande Paris Campbell, until Guellal's death in 2009.[8]

In the early 1990s Yolande Fox was contacted by the writer Philip Roth, who was researching the Miss America beauty pageant for his novel American Pastoral. Roth studied Fox's scrapbooks and interviewed her about the culture surrounding the pageant in the late 1940s; he later said, "She was very smart, very funny....She just opened up whole ideas for me that I couldn't have had on my own."[9]

Fox died on February 22, 2016 in Washington, D.C. of lung cancer.[1] She was survived by her daughter and granddaughter.


  1. ^ a b Bernstein, Adam (February 25, 2016). "Yolande Betbeze Fox, a Miss America who rebelled, dies at 87". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved February 26, 2016.
  2. ^ a b c Ericson, Sally Pearsall (April 17, 2014). "A famous Mobilian you should know: Yolande Betbeze Fox, an outspoken beauty queen". Press-Register. Mobile, AL: Advance Publications. Retrieved June 10, 2015.
  3. ^ a b c "Yolande Betbeze". Encyclopedia of Alabama. Retrieved August 24, 2013.
  4. ^ "Miss Alabama History". Miss Alabama. Retrieved June 11, 2015.
  5. ^ a b Watkins, Mia (September 9, 2014). "Yolande Betbeze Fox: Alabama's first Miss America reflects on title more than 60 years later". The Huntsville Times. Huntsville, AL: Advance Publications. Retrieved June 10, 2015.
  6. ^ Tauber, Michelle; Neill, Mike; Russell, Lisa; Fowler, Joanne; Dam, Julie; Tresniowski, Alex; Miller, Samantha; Dougherty, Steve; Yu, Ting (October 16, 2000). "American Beauties: 80 Years". People.
  7. ^ Staff (December 7, 1975). "Mrs. Onassis, 'Gracious Full of Pep,' D.C. Socialite Says". The Cincinnati Enquirer. Retrieved March 14, 2016.
  8. ^ "Society News from Across the Nation".
  9. ^ Sykes, Christopher. "Researching Miss America," Web of Stories, Mar. 18 2013.

External links[edit]

Awards and achievements
Preceded by Miss America
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Freida Roser
Miss Alabama
Succeeded by
Jeanne Moody