Spies from Russia, America, and Canada flaunted their assets in covert Cold War beauty contests.
Back in 1990, when supermodels Naomi Campbell and Cindy Crawford weren’t getting out of bed for less than $10,000 a day, a new beauty queen elbowed her way onto the world stage.
Katya Mayorova, 23, newly crowned Miss KGB, was the first title-holder of ‘Security Services Beauty’ with a front-page splash in Komsomolskaya Pravda and a follow-up feature in The Washington Post. We soon learned that Mayorova wore her bulletproof vest with “exquisite softness, like a Pierre Cardin model”.
Miss KGB liked the Beatles and was certified in handling small arms should she ever need to open fire during her day job as a Moscow secretary. “They try to give us all-around skills,” Mayorova explained.
When the USSR collapsed in 1991 and the KGB was dismantled, Mayorova and the Miss KGB contest disappeared from the limelight. (For the record, SPYSCAPE contacted the KGB’s successor, Russia’s Federal Security Service, but the FSB wasn’t in the mood to share their beauty secrets.)
Some believe the Miss KGB beauty pageant was simply PR spin designed to soften the spy agency’s image in the era of glasnost. But was it really just a blushing black op?
A big, beauty pageant wave to Miss NSA
The US National Security Agency (NSA) - the electronic eavesdropping agency that’s so secretive it’s been dubbed ‘No Such Agency’ - crowned beauty queens throughout the Cold War. (So did Canada’s RCMP intelligence branch, but we’ll get to that contest one strut at a time.)
The NSA held annual pageants in the 1950s and '60s. The numbers that stood in for the contestants' real names (see above) were supposedly related to their top-secret units but the NSA is still keeping those details under their sash.
The NSA Princesses
The NSA pageants appear to have started in 1958 - six years after the Agency was formed - when 15 spy ‘Princesses’ were selected for the Fall Festival pageant, each vying to be crowned Queen or chosen as a runner-up Maid of Honor.