Miss Universe is an annual international beauty pageant that is run by the United States–based Miss Universe Organization. It is one of the most watched pageants in the world with an estimated audience of over 500 million viewers in over 190 territories. Along with Miss World, Miss International, and Miss Earth, Miss Universe is one of the Big Four international beauty pageants.
|Formation||June 28, 1952|
|Headquarters||New York City, New York|
|Paula Shugart (since 1997) |
|Affiliations||William Morris Endeavor|
|US$100 million (annually)|
The Miss Universe Organization and its brand are currently owned by the WME/IMG talent agency. Telemundo has the licensing rights to air the pageant for the next 5 years. The pageant's advocacy is "humanitarian issues and is a voice to affect positive change in the world."
The title "Miss Universe" was first used by the International Pageant of Pulchritude in 1926. This contest was held annually until 1935, when the Great Depression and other events preceding World War II led to its demise.
The current Miss Universe pageant was founded in 1952 by Pacific Knitting Mills, a California-based clothing company and manufacturer of Catalina Swimwear. The company was the sponsor of the Miss America pageant until 1951, when the winner, Yolande Betbeze, refused to pose for publicity pictures wearing one of their swimsuits. In 1952, Pacific Knitting Mills organized the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants, co-sponsoring them for decades to follow.
The first Miss Universe Pageant was held in Long Beach, California in 1952. It was won by Armi Kuusela from Finland, who gave up her title, though not officially, to get married, shortly before her year was completed. Until 1958, the Miss Universe title, like that of Miss America, was dated by the year following the contest, so at the time Ms. Kuusela's title was Miss Universe 1953. Since its founding by Pacific Mills, the pageant has been organized and conducted by the Miss Universe Organization. Eventually, Pacific Mills and its subsidiaries were acquired by the Kayser-Roth Corporation, which was in turn acquired by Gulf and Western Industries.
The pageant was first televised in 1955. CBS began broadcasting the combined Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants in 1960, and as separate contests in 1965. More than 30 years later, Donald Trump bought the pageant in 1996 from ITT Corp, with a broadcasting arrangement with CBS until 2002. During this time, in 1998, Miss Universe, Inc. changed its name to the Miss Universe Organization, and moved its headquarters from Los Angeles to New York City. By late 2002, Trump entered into a joint venture with NBC, which in 2003 outbid the other markets for the TV rights. From 2003 to 2014, the pageant was broadcast in the United States on NBC.
In June 2015, NBC cancelled all business relationships with Trump and the Miss Universe Organization in response to controversial statements about illegal immigrants who crossed the border from Mexico. As part of the legal settlement, in September 2015, Trump bought out NBC's 50% stake in the company, making him the company's sole owner. Three days later, he sold the whole company to WME/IMG. Following the change of ownership, in October 2015, Fox and Azteca became the official broadcasters of the Miss Universe and Miss USA pageants. The current president of the Miss Universe Organization is Paula Shugart, who has held this position since 1997.
During the CBS telecast era, John Charles Daly hosted the Miss Universe Pageant from 1955 to 1966, Bob Barker from 1967 to 1987, Alan Thicke in 1988, John Forsythe in 1989, Dick Clark from 1990 to 1993, Bob Goen from 1994 to 1996, and Jack Wagner in 1998 and 1999. During the NBC telecast era, Billy Bush hosted the Miss Universe Pageant from 2003 to 2005 and 2009, Andy Cohen in 2011 and 2012, and Thomas Roberts in 2013 and 2014. Daisy Fuentes, Nancy O'Dell, Mel B and Natalie Morales are currently the only females to have hosted the event multiple times (from 2002 to 2004, 2005 and 2006, 2008 and 2013, and from 2010 to 2011 and 2014, respectively).
During the Fox telecast era from 2015 to 2019, Miss Universe was hosted annually by Steve Harvey. The backstage correspondents include Roselyn Sanchez in 2015, Ashley Graham from 2016 to 2018, Olivia Culpo in 2019. In 2020, the Miss USA and Miss Teen USA brands were split from the Miss Universe Organization into their independent organization, run by Crystle Stewart, while the broadcast rights to the Miss Universe Pageant was split between Telemundo and FYI. Mario Lopez returned as host in 2020 (alongside Culpo) after hosting for NBC in 2007.
To gain participation in Miss Universe, a country needs a local company or person to buy the local rights of the competition through a franchise fee. The fee includes the rights of image, brand and everything related to the pageant. Often the owner of the franchise returns the franchise to the Miss Universe Organization, which resells it to a new stakeholder. The reselling of the franchise from one owner to the next is recurrently common in the history of the event, sometimes for contractual breaches or financial reasons. The number of participants is inconsistent because of the franchising of the pageant paired with problems related to the calendar.
Usually a country's candidate selection involves pageants in the nation's local subdivisions, where local winners compete in a national pageant, but there are some countries who opt for an internal selection. For example, from 2000 to 2004, Australian delegates were chosen by a modeling agency. Although such "castings" are generally discouraged by the Miss Universe Organization, Jennifer Hawkins was chosen to represent the country in Miss Universe in 2004 (where she would eventually win the crown). When Australia resumed its national pageant in the following year, Michelle Guy became Miss Universe Australia 2005.
Recent countries that became involved in the pageant since the 2010s decade include Gabon and Lithuania (2012), Azerbaijan (2013), Sierra Leone (2016), Cambodia, Laos and Nepal (2017), Armenia, Kyrgyzstan and Mongolia (2018), Bangladesh and Equatorial Guinea (2019), Cameroon (2020). Nepal is the most recent newcomer to place in the semifinals in Miss Universe after making into the Top 10 in 2018, while Botswana remains the most recent first-time entry to ever win Miss Universe on its debut year (in Mpule Kwelagobe in 1999), and Angola is the most recent country to obtain its first ever national win in Miss Universe (in Leila Lopes in 2011).
Cultural barriers in the swimsuit competition have prevented some countries from participating, while others like Mozambique have not participated because of the prohibitive cost of the event. The Miss Universe has historically proven popular in regions like the Americas, Africa and Asia, especially in countries like U.S.A., Colombia, Brazil, Venezuela, South Africa, Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand, all of which have appeared in the semifinals multiple times in the last decade.
As of 2021, only two countries have been present at every Miss Universe since its inception in 1952: Canada and France. Since its inception, Miss Universe strictly prohibits age fabrication, and all contestants are not allowed to be pregnant throughout the entire competition (and for winners, up to their reign). This posts a problem, however, for several European countries, which allow 17-year-old contestants to compete in their pageants. Since Miss Universe's minimum age is 18, national titleholders often have to be replaced by their runners-up or another candidate. In recent years, virtually all Miss Universe candidates are required to be at least university degree holders or working professionals from their onset of stints in their national pageants.
Beginning in 2012, openly transgender women were allowed to compete, as long as they won their national pageants. Six years after this rule went into effect, Angela Ponce of Spain became the first openly transgender candidate to compete in the contest, in the 2018 edition. In 2019, Swe Zin Htet became the first openly lesbian woman to compete in Miss Universe. Spain's Patricia Yurena Rodríguez is currently the highest-placed LGBT member at Miss Universe, placing second to Venezuela's Gabriela Isler in 2013, but did not come out until years after the competition.
Throughout the history of Miss Universe, the main contest has varied widely in terms of annual scheduling, though it has consistently been held over a two-week period in the -ber months of the year since 2017. From the 1970s through the 1990s, the pageant was a full month long, allowing time for rehearsals, appearances, and the preliminary competition, with the winner being crowned by the previous year's titleholder during the final competition.
According to the organizers, the Miss Universe contest is more than a beauty pageant, though they are expected to participate in swimsuit and evening gown competitions. Women aspiring to become Miss Universe must be intelligent, well-mannered, and cultured. If a candidate is unable to perform well during the question and answer round, she is often eliminated.
Normally, the placements of the finalists are determined by a ranked vote, where each judge ranks each of the final candidates (3 in 2019), with the contestant posting the lowest cumulative score (thus often, but not necessarily always, the contestant with the most number one votes) becoming the winner. If there is a tie, the higher semifinal scores become decisive. In the previous editions, the results of the preliminaries are cleared for the final and the competition resumes with the finalists.
The winner then signs a contract with the Miss Universe Organization that can last from seven to eighteen months and becomes the Miss Universe of the year of the competition in question (the contests for 2014, 2016 and 2020 were held in 2015, 2017 and 2021, respectively). In some years the competition is advanced or delayed. The new Miss Universe takes office immediately and takes on a public cause in which she becomes the ambassador for a year to spread messages about the control of diseases, peace, and public awareness of AIDS (though the organization's more recent humanitarian works have included various causes such as the rights of women, people of color and the LGBTQ+ community). Aside from the job, the winner also receives a cash allowance for her entire reign, a New York Film Academy scholarship, a modeling portfolio, beauty products, clothes, shoes, as well as styling, healthcare, and fitness services by different sponsors of the pageant. She also gains exclusive access to events such as fashion shows and opening galas, as well as access to casting calls and modeling opportunities throughout New York City. Between 1996 and 2015, the winner is given the use of a Trump Place apartment in New York City during her reign, which she shares with the Miss USA and Miss Teen USA titleholders.
If the winner, for any reason, cannot fulfill her duties as Miss Universe, the 1st runner-up takes over. This protocol has happened only once as of 2021, when Panama's Justine Pasek succeeded Russia's Oxana Fedorova as Miss Universe in 2002 after the latter's dethronement later that same year. Aside from the main winner and her runners-up, special awards are also given to the winners of the best National Costume, Miss Photogenic, and Miss Congeniality. The Miss Congeniality award is chosen by the delegates themselves. In recent years, Miss Photogenic has been chosen by popular internet vote (the winner used to be chosen by media personnel covering the event).
All the contestants compete in a preliminary round of judging (called the "Preliminary Competition") where the field is narrowed to a select number of semifinalists. This number has fluctuated over the years. The first Miss Universe pageant had ten semifinalists. For the next two years, the number of semifinalists grew to 16. In 1955, the number dropped to a stable 15, which remained through 1970. In 1971, the number was reduced to 12. That number was further reduced to 10 in 1984. This lasted until 2003, when the contest reinstated the Top 15. This selection continued to be the norm until 2015, except in 2006 and 2011 to 2013. In 2006, 2018 and 2019, there are 20 semifinalists (with 2018 currently featuring the most competing contestants overall). The group was expanded to 21 semifinalists in 2020, the highest number of spots in the first cut so far in the pageant's history.
From 2011 to 2013, there were 16 semifinalists, 15 chosen by judges and one chosen through Internet votes. In the 2016 edition, there were 13 semifinalists - 12 chosen by judges panel during the evaluation phase period to the preliminary night and one chosen by Twitter and Vodi app. In 2017, 16 semifinalists were selected from 4 different groups each hailing from a different region in the world - Africa & Asia-Pacific, Europe, The Americas - and a wild card group (which was composed of all the other candidates who did not qualify in their respective continental competitions. In this group, there was also the Miss Internet). In 2018 and 2019, this number rose from 4 to 5, totaling 20 semifinalists. In the 2020 edition, the regional selection was removed. 20 semifinalists were chosen by judges and 1 through Internet votes on the Miss Universe and Lazada app, totaling 21 semifinalists (highest number of spots in the first cut so far in the pageant's history). The last time (before 2020) there was no regional selection was in 2016.
In the early years, the contestants were judged in swimsuit and evening gown only. The contestants are also judged based on on a variety of issues that vary from posture at events or interviews to your presence on social networks. The summit of the contest is the grand televised final that is held each year in a different international city, in which the semifinalists are known and progressively advance to the final stage of the questions. In this last stage, the runners-up are named and the winner is crowned as the new Miss Universe. Prior to the coronation night, the contestants also compete in a preliminary interview round in a one-on-one meeting with each individual judge (mostly closed-door sessions). The live interviews round for the semifinalists became a separate segment in 2001, and was reinstated to introduce the semifinalists between 2016 and 2019.
The 2018 edition marked the first time that the Miss Universe pageant included the live opening statements after the semifinalists have been announced, to be included in the overall results in determining the winner of the competition. The 2019 edition marked the first (and so far, only) time ever in Miss Universe pageant's history that the remaining finalists are required to deliver their live closing statements, to be included in the overall results, right before the announcement of the winner of the competition.
Crowns of Miss Universe
The crown of Miss Universe has changed nine times over the course of its 67-year history.
- Romanov Imperial Nuptial Crown (1952) as the first crown, was previously owned by the now-defunct Russian monarchy. It was used by Armi Kuusela in 1952.
- Romanov Diadem Crown or Metal Bronze Crown (1953) — When Christiane Martel of France became Miss Universe 1953, the nuptial crown was replaced by a metallic bronze crown. She was the only Miss Universe titleholder to wear this crown.
- Star of The Universe (1954–1960) — This crown was used from 1954 to 1960. It was named as such due to the star shape at the top of the crown. It is made up of approximately 1,000 Oriental cultured and black pearls set in solid gold and platinum and only weighed 1.25 pounds. It was insured for US$500,000.
- Lady Rhinestone Crown or Coventry Crown (1961–2001) — This crown was purely made from rhinestones, debuting in 1961 as part of the 10th anniversary of the Miss Universe pageant. Only Marlene Schmidt from Germany and Norma Nolan from Argentina wore this crown. In 1963, renowned jeweler Sarah Coventry reinvented the rhinestone crown which featured a female figure (holding a scepter) as its main centerpiece. The cheaper cost of its rhinestone design made it possible to create exact replicas of the crown to be given to outgoing titleholders. The design was slightly modified in 1973 for the wearer's convenience, and was dubbed as The Lady Crown. This was used until 2002, when Denise Quinones became its last crown holder before relinquishing her role as Miss Universe, and the Mikimoto Pearl company accepted the offer to sponsor a commemorative crown for the Miss Universe Organization during the same year's 50th overall edition for the pageant.
- Mikimoto Crown (2002–2007; 2017–2018) — used from 2002 to 2007 for the 50th commemorative anniversary of the Miss Universe organization, this crown was designed by Tomohiro Yamaji for the Mikimoto Company, the official jewel sponsor of the Miss Universe Organization. The crown depicted the phoenix rising, signifying status, power and beauty, as stipulated in their sponsorship deal. The crown has 500 natural colorless diamonds of almost 30 carats (6.0 g), 120 South Sea and Akoya pearls, ranging in size from 3 to 18 mm diameter and is valued at US$250,000. The crown was designed for the pageant on Mikimoto Pearl Island in Japan with the Mikimoto crown and tiara being first used for Miss Universe 2002, which was unveiled by former proprietor Donald Trump. Among pageant connoisseurs, the Mikimoto crown is reputedly the most sought among beauty title holders, before finally being retired for use after Catriona Gray became the last Miss Universe winner to ever use the crown on her reign until 2019.
- CAO Crown (2008) — In 2008, Dayana Mendoza of Venezuela was crowned with a tiara designed by a tandem of Rosalina Lydster and Dang Kim Lien of CAO Fine Jewelry. The crown was valued at US$120,000, was made of an 18 karat combination of white and yellow gold and composed of over 1,000 precious stones, including 555 white diamonds (30 carats), 375 cognac diamonds (14 carats), 10 smoky quartz crystals (20 carats) and 19 morganite gemstones (60 carats). The yellow lustre of the gold represents the prosperous thriving economy in Vietnam as symbolized by a Vietnamese Crane heron. However, Mendoza declined to use this crown and thus insisted on the Mikimoto crown when she crowned her compatriot, Stefanía Fernández as her successor.
- Diamond Nexus Crown (2009–2013) — From 2009 to 2013, Diamond Nexus Labs made the Miss Universe crown. The crown is set with 1,371 gemstones, weighing a total of 416.09 carats (83.218 g). It contains 544.31 grams of 14k and 18k white gold as well as platinum. The crown features synthetic rubies to represent Miss Universe's HIV/AIDS education and awareness platform. Diamond Nexus Labs is the first ever eco-friendly Official Jeweler of Miss Universe and was selected as part of NBC Universal's "Green is Universal" initiative.
- DIC Crown (2014–2016) — From 2014 to 2016, Paulina Vega, Pia Wurtzbach, and Iris Mittenaere were decorated with the DIC Crown, estimated to be worth US$300,000 and produced by Czech company Diamonds International Corporation (DIC). The whole production process took approximately four months and required the work of ten artisans. The crown is reminiscent of the Manhattan Skyline and is composed of 311 diamonds, 5 pieces of blue topaz, 198 pieces of blue sapphire, 33 pieces of heat—fired crystals, and 220 grams of 18k karat white gold. The grand total weight of the crown is 411 grams. This crown was retired in 2017 due to a copyright infringement and subsequent payment issues between DIC and the Miss Universe Organization.
- Mouawad Power of Unity Crown (2019–present) — On December 5, 2019, the new jeweler of the Miss Universe Organization, Mouawad Jewelry, revealed the Mouawad Crown that is estimated to be worth US$5 million, making it the world's most expensive beauty pageant crown on record. The crown consists of Golden Canary Diamond that weighs 62.83 carat. According to Pascal Mouawad, the crown symbolizes Ambition, Diversity, Community, and Beauty.
Gallery of Miss Universe crowns
|Edition||Country||Titleholder||National Title||Venue of Competition||Number of Entrants|
|2020||Mexico||Andrea Meza||Mexicana Universal||Hollywood, Florida, United States||74|
|2019||South Africa||Zozibini Tunzi||Miss South Africa||Atlanta, Georgia, United States||90|
|2018||Philippines||Catriona Gray||Binibining Pilipinas||Muang Thong Thani, Nonthaburi Province, Thailand||94|
|2017||South Africa||Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters||Miss South Africa||Las Vegas, Nevada, United States||92|
|2016||France||Iris Mittenaere||Miss France||Pasay, Manila, Philippines||86|
Gallery of winners
Miss Universe Organization
The Miss Universe Organization is the organization that currently owns and runs the Miss Universe pageant. Until 2020, the organization also ran Miss USA and Miss Teen USA, until the licenses were purchased by Crystle Stewart.
Miss Universe Organization titleholders
The following is a list of all Miss Universe Organization titleholders from the founding of each pageant until the separation of Miss USA and Miss Teen USA into a separate organization in 2020.
- Inherited the Miss USA title after the original titleholder became Miss Universe
- In 2002, Fedorova was dethroned by the Miss Universe Organization.
- Inherited the Miss Universe title after Fedorova was dethroned.
- Inherited the Miss USA title after Gage was stripped of the crown
- In 1957, Gage was stripped of her Miss USA title when it was revealed that she was married and the mother of two children.
In other media
Electronic Arts was reportedly developing a video game based on the pageant, but development status is currently uncertain due to the closure of EA Black Box, the studio allegedly developing the game.
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