Aged 18 and living in Iceland, Linda Petursdottir was chopping fish in a factory. Two weeks later she was Miss Iceland. A few months later she was Miss World. Almost three decades have passed during which Linda founded and ran one of Europe’s most successful ladies only spas, Badhusid, in Reykjavik, and continued her association with the Miss World pageant as an occasional judge. Here, Country Squire Magazine’s Dominic Wightman – an old acquaintance – asks Linda about a rumoured run at the Icelandic Presidency, about her homeland Iceland since the crash and about Linda’s hopes and plans for the future.
DW: Linda, great to see you again. I have a few questions for you that readers of Country Squire and the Icelandic People would like me to ask you.
Linda: No tough questions, please.
DW: Don’t worry – at worst they’re medium rare. You’ve just returned from California and now you’ve started a PPE course at Bifrost University in Iceland where you’ve been elected The President of the Central Committee of Students. Forgive me for wildly extrapolating but winning elections and studying politics – when are you going to step up to the plate and run for the Icelandic Presidency?
LP: Of course, there were rumours that I’d run last year which took me by surprise as it was not in my plans. However I did consider it and decided I did not feel that I was ready to. My daughter is still very young and I have several commitments I must be loyal to. The incumbent is Guðni Thorlacius Jóhannesson, who I have come to know as a wonderful and brilliant man. Guðni is now in his first term as President and I, along with the Great People of Iceland, look forward to what will hopefully be many golden years of his Presidency.
Linda & daughter Isabella with Icelandic President Guðni Thorlacius Jóhannesson 2 months ago
DW: Icelandic Presidents of the past have governed for up to twenty years. If Jóhannesson decides to resign would you offer your services to the nation?
LP: Dom, you can keep trying for a scoop but I will not give one to you.
DW: Ha! OK, so hypothetically speaking, if you were President and I came over to Iceland and got horribly drunk in one of those amazing clubs in Reykjavik and let’s say I jaywalked, would you, by your Presidential powers, grant me a full pardon and amnesty?
LP: No, but I am sure I could quite quickly arrange a deportation!
DW: Harsh. So, what else are you up to these days while you bide your time, so to speak?
LP: I still offer occasional private wellness consultations. I continue to coach people that want to live a healthier life and look and feel their best. I am still engaged with the Miss World Organisation run by Julia Morley and I continue to endorse high-end products and services. Being back in Iceland I am obviously well-known and so I’m busy for it. However, these days most of my time is taken up by studying for my full-time degree in PPE.
DW: You must miss the quiet of Eagle Island in British Columbia? Being anonymous in California?
LP: Yes, I do. But it is also a fine thing being back amongst family and those with whom I have grown up.
Linda with her daughter Isabella
DW: Iceland seems to be on the rebound after a dark economic period and cancelling its bid to join the EU? Don’t mention the football.
LP: Icelanders are a proud stubborn people with more than one thousand two hundred years of history. We are of rugged Nordic stock, living in one of the most beautiful natural areas of our Earth. People took to the streets demanding fundamental change after the banking crisis. A revolutionary change in control of credit was needed to control the greediness of the private banks and we’ve since seen legislation which has turned things round somewhat. We are not there yet but we are much better placed now than we were a decade ago. Tourism has become a major benefit to our economy and is rising year on year.
DW: There’s an impressive tech sector in Iceland. I’m referring to firms like RVX Tech who have been behind the special effects on some blockbuster films.
LP: Absolutely, there’s always been an entrepreneurial passion in Iceland and there are plenty of tech start-ups doing well. In the past, they might have moved to Britain or the US but they can afford to prosper and stay put thanks to a generation of tech-minded people, who are both imaginative and business-oriented in Iceland.
DW: Do you not sometimes laugh that Iceland features as a country on tables of national statistics produced by the UN and private firms like Bloomberg when Iceland has the same population as a town like Stoke in the UK? It seems a pointless exercise, no?
LP: I see what you are getting at. Icelanders are not responsible for such tables. But if you are suggesting that Iceland is not really a country….
DW: No, I’m not suggesting that. You’re going to bring up the football now aren’t you?
LP: … then you must ask yourself whether it’s not better for the England football team to think about playing as Great Britain next time you meet us in an international competition, as 2-1 seemed a fair score to me?!
DW: Moving on…..
LP: A wise plan, Mr Wightman.
DW: How can Hákarl be an Icelandic national delicacy? (For Readers, this is shark buried in the ground and then urinated on before letting it rot for some months).
LP: For centuries, Icelanders had to smoke, pickle or dry their food to preserve it through the harsh winters. Thus, the traditional Icelandic food mainly consists of seafood and lamb that’s gone through some preservation method. I believe urine is no longer used by the way in the Hákarl process – Hákarl is not a common dish anymore, although the older generation in Iceland still eats it and enjoys it. There are some delicious Icelandic dishes which are more suited to mainstream palates of course.
With Chief Mandela (grandson of Nelson Mandela) judging Miss World finals, Washington DC. Dec 2016.
DW: Indeed. I recall sour ram’s testicles, puffin meat and a rather charming sheep’s head. But moving on again, I’d like to ask you about Miss World. It seems to have lost a bit of steam as a pageant in recent years. Is this because of the inexorable rise of Miss Universe or do you think that the Miss World format is a bit tired and needs a make-over?
LP: In front of a live audience and broadcast to 2 billion across the world, the Miss World Finals still generate huge global interest. I do not agree with you that the format is tired. The Organisation has simply been expanding into new territories of late and that means that perhaps what a Western audience expects is not always delivered. Back when I became Miss World the competition was invariably held in London at the Royal Albert Hall but if you look at recent finals they have been held in places as diverse as the Maldives, China and Indonesia. I was a judge at the last one, in Washington D.C.
DW: Linda, a pleasure as always.
LP: The same, thanks Dom.