Amparo Muñoz, the only Spaniard to be crowned Miss Universe, has died at her parents' Málaga home after a long battle against a disease that her family refused to disclose. She was 56 years old.
"She was surrounded by her family at all times," said her brother Pedro Muñoz. "We request complete privacy at the funeral."
Muñoz, who worked as an actress following her beauty pageant victory in 1974, had a history of drug abuse and run-ins with the law. But in the end, she asked to be remembered for her glory years, when she hobnobbed with celebrities from the film and art worlds. A painting of her dating back to this period hangs in her parents' hallway.
During the last few weeks of her life, she barely stepped outside the door, except to go to Carlos Haya hospital in the company of one of her sisters. She also spent long periods of time at the apartment of her last partner, in a run-down neighborhood called Palma-Palmilla. But for the majority of the last 18 months, she lived like a recluse at her parents' home.
Born into a working-class family from Vélez Málaga (Málaga) on June 21, 1954, Amparo Muñoz tasted early glory. Yet she appeared to be immersed in a destructive environment that followed her wherever she went.
After an early career as a model, in 1973 she was named Miss Costa del Sol and Miss Spain. A year later her ultimate dream came true when she was crowned Miss Universe in Manila. Just six months into her reign, Muñoz stepped down after refusing to travel to Japan, as the competition's organization had asked her to do.
Shortly before her death, EL PAÍS attempted to get an interview with her inside the house. But her brother said she would only agree to speak via the telephone. "She would love to talk to you, but she told me she doesn't want anyone to see her like this," said Pedro Muñoz. "She was always such a beautiful person who cared so much about her appearance ? she doesn't want people to remember her like this."
Her first steps in the world of film came in 1973 with Vida conyugal, where she shared scenes with national movie stars Ana Belén, Alfredo Mayo and José Sacristán. In 1976 she met singer-songwriter Patxi Andion, who would become her first husband, on the set of La otra alcoba.
She featured in several other films in the late 1970s, including the 1979 Mamá cumple cien años. After a seven-year hiatus in the late 1980s, the actress returned to the silver screen in 1996 as the star of Paul Naschy's werewolf horror flick Lycantropus: The Moonlight Murders.
Following an incident during a film shoot in The Philippines in 1983, the producer of the movie pressed charges against Muñoz and the actress was sentenced in absentia to four years in prison. Four years later, she was arrested in Barcelona for heroin possession.
In the early 1990s the media picked up on rumors that Muñoz was HIV positive, although the actress denied it.