Unnur Birna Vilhjálmsdóttir: Miss World queen with the shortest reign

21 Jan 2024 | Priya Bhardwaj

Unnur Birna Vilhjálmsdóttir represented the country of Iceland at Miss World 2005 on 10th December 2005 at the Crown of Beauty Theatre in Sanya, China making history where Miss World 2004 María Julia Mantilla of Peru crowned Unnur as her successor at the end of the event finale. Unnur is the third Miss World from Iceland, after Linda Pétursdóttir who was crowned in 1988 and Hólmfríður Karlsdóttir in 1985. Unnur’s reign as Miss World 2005 was the shortest ever, which only lasted nine months since, Miss World 2006 was scheduled in September. 

Unnur is a daughter to former Miss Iceland and was 21-years-old when she was crowned as Miss World 2005. In January 2005, Unnur’s grandmother passed away, which led Unnur to try out for the beauty pageant as her grandmother had always dreamt of seeing her at the competition. Unnur’s desire to represent Iceland at international pageant was her way of giving a tribute to her grandmother to which her family supported.

She worked hard and participated in Miss Iceland 2005 and won the competition earning her chance to represent Iceland at Miss World 2005 stage. She expressed her emotions, “It came as a big shock to me but the feeling is incredible. I am numb.” The diva explained that her mother, being a former beauty queen advised her on how to behave during the finale night and it worked for her. Her grandmother designed the black finale gown of Unnur.


Unnur Birna Vilhjálmsdóttir: Miss World queen with the shortest reign


Unnur served as a goodwill ambassador and charity fund-raiser for the children’s cause throughout her reign as Miss World 2005. She was a student at Reykjavik who interned as a policewoman during her summer holidays while also studying anthropology and aspiring a career in the field of law. She is the chairman of the college social club and teaches dance. She enjoys acting, singing, all types of dancing, snow-boarding, hiking, camping, horsemanship and has a special talent for choreography and playing the piano.

After being crowned Miss World in 2005 in Sanya, Hainan Province, and spending the requisite year traveling the world on behalf of the pageant, Unnur gave up the glamorous life of a beauty queen to pursue a more mundane existence. "I was mostly flying from this country to another for different activities, most of which were for charity. But I found out after a year as Miss World that I'm not interested in being a celebrity or in show business. I wanted to go home and study like my friends," she said in one of her interviews.


Unnur Birna Vilhjálmsdóttir Miss World Iceland 2005


During her reign, she traveled to the United Kingdom, the United States, Iceland, Poland, Sweden, China, Brazil, and many more countries. In 2011, Unnur featured in a new ad, which promoted ‘The Blue Lagoon’, a famous geothermal spa and tourist attraction in Iceland.

Unnur started working for Iceland's World Expo project in early January. She said she got the job because of her experience in China and previous work with Iceland's foreign ministry. Describing her experience in Shanghai as busy but amazing, Unnur said that she planned concerts, shows and other events while also handling communications with the international and Chinese media. Without much work experience, the former Miss World grew increasingly independent and learnt how to coordinate a team and manage her own work. Unnur left Shanghai to get back to Iceland to start law school at the University of Reykjavík. Even though she tried to keep a low profile, Vilhjálmsdóttir still remains a household name in Iceland and a history maker as the Miss World winner will shortest reign.