Betbeze, a butcher's daughter, attended a convent school in Mobile. She won the local "Miss Torch" pageant in 1949. and her reluctance to participate in the pageants' swimsuit competitions helped steer the Miss America program toward greater recognition of achievement relative to physical attributes. Her refusal to pose in their products during her reign led Catalina Swimwear to withdraw their sponsorship of the competition. The company subsequently created the "Miss USA" and "Miss Universe" pageants to feature their swimsuits.
Betbeze used her scholarship money to study philosophy at Manhattan's New School of Social Research. She performed as an operatic soloist in New York and befriended Yankees hitter Joe Dimaggio. She married film executive Matthew Fox, who helped her launch an off-broadway theater, and had one daughter, Dolly. After his death in 1964, she moved to Washington D. C. and became involved with Algerian diplomat Cherif Guellal. She has been active in feminist, civil rights, and anti-nuclear organizations.
Betbeze's crown, sash, scepter and papers are archived at the National Museum of American History in Washington D. C.
- Bates, Kelsey Scouten (December 5, 2008) "Yolande Betbeze" Encyclopedia of Alabama - accessed August 26, 2012
- Edwards, Owen (January 2006) "American Idol: Once upon a time, Miss America reigned supreme." Smithsonian