Corinna Tsopei: From Beauty Queen to Charity Queen

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Greek City Times had the pleasure of chatting with former 1964 Miss Universe, Greek actress, model, and beauty queen Corinna Tsopei. After completing her reign as Miss Universe, she went on to pursue a movie career, making five appearances, including Girl in Cage (1967), and  Tennis Girl (1968),  before appearing in her only prominent role as the love interest of Richard Harris, the protagonist in A Man Called Horse (1970). Tsopei also guest-starred in a 1967 episode of the television series Lost in Space (“Castles in Space”) and a 1968 episode of Daniel Boone.
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Tsopei was married twice. Her first marriage was to Beverly Hills plastic surgeon, Dr. Steven Zax, from 1968 to 1978 with whom she has three sons: Andrew, Steven, and Paris Zax.

Her second marriage was to Hollywood theatrical agent and movie producer Freddie Fields, brother of band leader Shep Fields, from 1981 until his death from lung cancer in December 2007.

Although she resides in Los Angeles, California, she often travels to Greece to visit relatives and friends. Currently she is serving her second term as the president of SHARE; a children’s charity.

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Tell us about your childhood years.
I was born in June 1944, just a few months after the Germans left Greece and during the civil war. My parents were very young and poor, but very loving. They were also very, very strict. Ever since I can remember, I dreamed of a better tomorrow. Every Sunday at two o’clock, I would go to the movies and fantasize about the American dream with images of Rock Hudson, Doris Day and Tony Curtis. I was with them every night in my dreams. In one dream, I was walking around Hollywood in the rain. I went up to a house, knocked on the door and Rock Hudson opened it and said to me, “My darling, come in.” I wouldn’t go into the house, because I knew better. This fantasy world kept me wishing and dreaming every single day of my life until my ticket to Hollywood revealed itself: winning Miss Greece and then winning the Miss Universe title. That was my plan. And it came true. My mother, at twenty years old, had three children. My father, who was in the army, was born in Mani in the Peloponnese. He had a huge impact on my life. I always wanted to make him proud. These were the rules: no speaking with boys and no dressing scantily (nothing above the knee). He gave me love and fear at the same time.

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After your title Miss Star Hellas 1964, we all know that you were given many job offers in acting, commercials, and theater but what was the reason you left Greece for the USA?
I got a lot of offers, but my dream was always to go to America. So, that is the motivation behind my leaving Greece.

If you had to define beauty before your win as the crowned Miss Universe 1964, would you give the same definition after the title you won?
I personally believe that every girl knows about herself and her limitations. They know how attractive they are. I was terribly insecure about my looks. So, I felt that my smile and personality were equally important. A friend told me that before I left for America, I was going to be around extremely beautiful women and that every one of them had a chance to win the title. That pissed me off. He also gave me the best advice I could have had. He told me to be myself. He said to look at people in the eyes and talk to them the way you always have. Most of the non-English speaking girls would look mostly at the translators when they were talking with people. I never looked at the translator. I looked at the person to whom I was speaking and, even though I was speaking Greek, engaged them in the conversation.

What is family for you?
Loving, caring, and forgiving.

What makes you happy in life apart from being a mother and a grandmother?
Helping others – especially children – gives me the most pleasure. That’s why I’ve been involved with an organization of wonderful ladies called SHARE, since 1985.

Do you believe that people in our society don’t love each other and some of them don’t even love themselves? Have people lost their values?

I disagree. I believe our society tends to focus on the negative and the suffering of people. To a great extent, social media and the internet fan the flames of this.

Are there any funny mistakes you have made?
Two years after I won Miss Universe, I was in Miami as a guest of the show. At the after-party, I sat with several people, including an older man. The man asked me to dance. He was the most wonderful dancer. He twirled me around the dance floor with ease. I was so impressed. I told him over and over how good he was. When I sat down, I said to my date, “Wow, this old guy is a great dancer”. My date said, “Are you kidding? That’s Fred Astaire!”

Would you do things differently in your life if you had a second chance?
No. I would follow the same path.

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You are the President of SHARE.  What is your contribution, vision, and mission?
The mission of SHARE is to assist children. We help kids with special needs, those who are abused, and those who are developmentally or physically disabled.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement, what would that be?
I would like mothers to teach their children to respect one another. Girls respect boys and boys respect girls. Treat people like you want to be treated.

You’re an active person. What are some of your future plans?
I learned to live one day at a time. So, right now I’m having a great time.

What’s your favorite life lesson quote?
Nothing lasts forever.

If I asked you to take a trip down memory lane what would be your favourite memory?
There are so many wonderful memories, I cannot choose one. Someday, if we meet in person, I can tell you.

Make a wish.
No more pandemics!!!


IG: @vassiliosvitsilogiannis


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