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With "Elvis"
Only in Las Vegas Mercedes Sorensen (left) of Venezuela and Melitza Fuentes of Puerto Rico meet the "King."

Imperial edition

Photos courtesy of Swimsuit International Magazine

By Jim Lagerstedt and Gerdeen Dyer
Special to PNB

Las Vegas -- On the first weekend of June 2001, the Garden of The Gods pool complex at Caesars Palace Casino and Hotel played host to the Swimsuit International Magazine Model Search World Finals. The lavish venue was appropriate, as the finest of the world's up-and-coming swimsuit models gathered to  compete for coveted titles, cash and prizes.

On the runway
On the runway in their two-piece swimsuits are Melitza Fuentes (left) of Puerto Rico and Jennifer Hargis of Louisville, Ky.
Natalie Abramov
Natalie Abramov of Russia walked away with the prestigious title of the Ultimate Swimsuit Model 2001 and a cash prize of $10,000. The statuesque model has a thoughtful side. She says she would like to have met Marilyn Monroe "to try to make her happy."
The event has been billed as the "Superbowl of Bikini Pageants." It continues to attract winners from around the world, including many from the ranks of the world's other top swimsuit competitions.

In 2001, the contest coincided with Swimsuit International Magazine's launch into the United States and Canada. The launch issue features Internet supermodel Cindy Margolis on the cover and inside the magazine.

Befitting a truly classic competition, the proceedings were opened by Caesar himself. Joined by Cleopatra and flanked by two of his ever-present centurions, the emperor proclaimed that not since his first meeting with the incomparable Cleo had he seen "such astounding beauty gathered in one place."

World winners
Flanked by Caesar's trusted Centurions are the winners of the Swimsuit International Magazine World Model Search. From left are third runner-up Lisa Ray of Michigan; second runner-up Piret Aava of Estonia; Ultimate Swimsuit Model 2001 Natalie Abramov of Russia; first runner-up Jennifer England of California; and fourth runner-up Jeanette Martinez of Florida.
Lisa Gleav
Last year's Ultimate Swimsuit Model winner, Lisa Gleave, is in good company at a party at Planet Hollywood Las Vegas.
On the second night of a two-night extravaganza, Natalie Abramov, 23, of Russia was chosen Ultimate Swimsuit Model 2001. The first runner-up was Jennifer England, 22, of Los Angeles, and the second runner-up was Piret Aava, 20, of Estonia. The third runner-up was Lisa Ray, 27, of Harbor Beach, Mich., and the fourth runner-up was Jeanette Martinez, 24, of Boca Raton, Fla.

On the previous night, to celebrate the magazine's launch in North America, seven finalists from the continent had been chosen for the final round. Ms. Martinez was chosen Miss Swimsuit International USA, and Ms. England was first runner-up, while Ms. Ray was second runner-up. Nicole Bigham, 24, of Astoria, Queens, N.Y., was third runner-up, and Mary Riley, 25, of Huntington Beach, Calif., was fourth runner-up. Meighen Miller, 24, of Windsor, Ontario, was chosen Miss Swimsuit International Canada, and Chantel Vachon, 23, of Niagara Falls was first runner-up.

Magazine cover
The first issue of the USA-Canada edition of Swimsuit International Magazine.
Jeanette Martinez
Jeanette Martinez of Boca Raton, Fla., was crowned Miss Swimsuit International USA and finished as fourth runner-up in the world finals.
It was not all about rivalry. Before the competition, the models spent a fun-filled week in the entertainment capital of the world. They met the Las Vegas mayor and members of N'Sync, they dined at Hooters and were feted by Planet Hollywood. They rode up the Eiffel Tower at the Paris Casino & Hotel and caught a show with Beatles tribute band Fab Four at the Flamingo Casino and Hotel. They also added some extra glamour to a celebrity opening of a brand new nightclub at Caesars called Shadow.

The judging panel included last year's Ultimate Swimsuit Model winner Lisa Gleave, Playboy's Marilyn Grabowski, Swimsuit International Magazine editor Jim Lagerstedt, Caesars Palace President John L. Shigley, Playboy Playmate Lauren Michelle Hill and Mystique Magazine photographer Mark Daughn.

The Swimsuit International Magazine Model Search finals were produced by The Creative New Yorker and sponsored by Budweiser, Body Glove, Ocean Potion, Travelscape.com, the Las Vegas Weekly, KOMP 92.3FM, The Point 97.1FM, WB Las Vegas Channel 12 and Gold 33.

The events enjoyed extensive media coverage and a number of television shows were produced on location, including one for the Travel Channel and a pay-per-view special by DPM Entertainment. The girls were also followed around by a crew from "Inside Edition."

But was that guy really Caesar?

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