Miss Universe is an annual international beauty pageant that is run by the Miss Universe Organization. Along with its rival contests, Miss World and Miss Earth, this pageant is one of the most important and publicized beauty pageants in the world.It is held in more than 190 countries worldwide and seen by more than half a billion people annually. The pageant was founded in 1952 by the California-based clothing company Pacific Knitting Mills, and the Miss Universe Organization and the brand is currently owned, along with Miss USA and Miss Teen USA, by WME/IMG. Miss Universe Organization licenses local organizations that wish to select the Miss Universe contestant for their country, and approves the selection method for national delegates. The current Miss Universe logo – “the woman with stars” – was created in 1998.
In 2015, after businessman Donald Trump, then co-owner of the pageant, made statements about illegal immigrants from Mexico in his U.S. presidential campaign kickoff speech, NBC decided to end its business relationship with him and stated that it would no longer air the Miss Universe or Miss USA pageants on its networks. In September 2015, Trump bought NBC’s share of the Miss Universe Organization, becoming its sole owner for three days, then sold the entire company to the WME/IMG talent agency
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. So in 1952 Pacific Knitting Mills organised 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. John Charles Daly hosted the 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, and Bob Goen from 1994 to 1996.
Donald Trump bought the operating company, Miss Universe, Inc., in 1996 from ITT Corp. Trump struck a broadcasting arrangement with CBS for a few years. In 1998, Miss Universe, Inc. changed its name to Miss Universe Organization, and moved its headquarters from Los Angeles to New York City. In 2002 Trump entered into a joint venture with NBC, which in 2003 outbid the other networks for the TV rights. From 2003 to 2014, the pageant was broadcast in the US on NBC.
NBC and Univision dropped the pageant in September 2015 when NBC cancelled all business relationships with the Miss Universe Organization and with Trump in response to his political comments in June 2015 about illegal immigration during his campaign for the presidency of the United States. 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 broadcaster of the Miss Universe and Miss USA pageants. The current president of the Miss Universe Organization is Paula Shugart.
During the early years of the pageant, the delegates who made the first cut were announced after the preliminary competition. From 1965 to the present day, the semifinalists were not announced until the night of the main event. The semifinalists once again competed in evening gown and swimsuit and five finalists were announced. An interview portion was introduced in 1960 to decide the runners-up and the winner.
From 1959 to 1964 there were slight format changes. From 1959 through 1963 there was no cut to reach the five finalists. The runners-up and winner were called from the assembled 15 semifinalists. In 1965 the pageant returned to the original format of a cut to five finalists, and remained so until 1989. In 1969 a final question was posed to the last five contestants. The final question was an on-and-off feature of the pageant. In 1990 it had taken root, and with every pageant since the final contestants have had to answer a final question. In 1990 the pageant implemented major changes in the competition itself. Instead of five finalists, the field was reduced from ten semifinalists to six. Each contestant then randomly selected a judge and answered the question posed by the judge. After that, the field was narrowed down further to a final three. In 1998, the number of finalists was reduced to five, although there still was a cut to a final three. This continued until 2001, when the final five format was reinstated.
In the year 2000, the interview portion of the semifinal was dropped, and the contestants competed only in swimsuits and evening gowns, as in the early years of the pageant. In 2003, the number of semifinalists was increased to fifteen, with cuts made to ten, and then to five contestants. The final question varied, each coming from the final delegates themselves and the current Miss Universe. In 2006, twenty semifinalists were selected for the swimsuit competition, ten of whom went on to the evening gown competition. The five who passed that stage competed in an interview round, after which the runners-up and winner were announced. The 2007 contest followed a similar format, with fifteen contestants competing in the swimsuit stage. In 2011, for the first time, one of the sixteen semifinalists was selected exclusively by TV viewers via online voting. In the 2014 contest held in January 2015, a final question was chosen from thousands submitted by Facebook.
In 2015, the contest followed a similar format from its previous years. In the final 5, a contestant answered the question which is related to national issue of their country. After that, the field was narrowed down further to a final three who will then go on to answer one common question, the final Q and A. Finally, there will be a final vote based on overall impression and performance in the last round. For the first time, the rest of the contestants played the role of a final judge and had the chance to choose the new Miss Universe.
The pageant will once again skip a year (2016) for unknown reasons, as Miss Universe 2016 will be crowned on January 30th, 2017. The first time this occurred was when Miss Universe 2014 was held in January 2015.
Local organizations that wish to select the Miss Universe contestant for their countries must submit bids to the Miss Universe Organization for that right. Occasionally, the traditional license holder for a particular country may lose its bid, as has happened in Italy, Denmark, France, Sweden, Germany, Great Britain, Thailand, and more.
Usually a country’s candidate selection involves pageants in major cities, whose winners compete in a national pageant, but there are exceptions. 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, Miss Australia Jennifer Hawkins was chosen to represent in Miss Universe in 2004 (where she would eventually win the crown). When Australia resumed its national pageant, Michelle Guy became Miss Universe Australia 2005.
Recent arrivals in the pageant include Slovenia (2001), China and Albania (2002), Vietnam, Georgia and Ethiopia (2004), Latvia (2005), Kazakhstan (2006), Tanzania (2007), Kosovo (2008), Gabon and Lithuania (2012) alongside Azerbaijan (2013); there have also been efforts to revive strong national pageants in South Africa, Canada, Spain, Japan, Southeast Asia and Latin America. The organization makes continual efforts to expand the pageant, but the participation of some countries such as Algeria has proven difficult due to cultural barriers to the swimsuit competition, while others such as Armenia, Mozambique, and Nepal have balked at sending representatives due to the cost.
As of 2016, only three countries have been present at every Miss Universe since its inception in 1952: Canada, France and Germany (actually West Germany until 1990, when East and West reunified). Many European countries allow 17-year-old contestants to compete in their pageants, while Miss Universe’s minimum age is 18, so national titleholders often have to be replaced by their runners-up. Beginning in 2012, transgender women were allowed to compete, as long as they win their national pageants. Since its inception, Miss Universe strictly prohibits age fabrication.
Some of the most successful national pageants in the last decade have been Venezuela, U.S.A., Puerto Rico, France, and Philippines which command consistently high interest and television ratings in their respective countries. The live broadcasts of the Miss Universe pageant (regardless of the hosting nation) proved highly popular particularly in the Americas and Asia in the recent years.
The main Miss Universe Pageant is held over a two-week period in December. In the 1970s through the 1990s, the pageant was a month long. This allowed 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: women aspiring to become Miss Universe must be intelligent, well-mannered, and cultured[need quotation to verify]. Often a candidate has lost because she did not have a good answer during the question responses rounds; although this section of competition has held less importance during recent pageants than it did in the twentieth century. Delegates also participate in swimsuit and evening gown competitions.
Currently, the final placement of the finalists is determined by a ranked vote, where each judge ranks each of the final three/five candidates, 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.
The winner is assigned a one-year contract with the Miss Universe Organization, going overseas to spread messages about the control of diseases, peace, and public awareness of AIDS. Aside from the job, the winner also receives a cash allowance for her entire reign, a New York Film Academy scholarship, a modelling 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 modelling opportunities throughout New York City. When Donald Trump owned the pageant, the winner was given the use of a Trump Place apartment in New York City during her reign, which she shared 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.
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).
The competition for the Miss Universe title has seen many changes, although there have been several constants throughout its history. All the contestants compete in a preliminary round of judging (nowadays 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 number of 15 was reinstated. In 2006, there were 20 semifinalists, the highest number ever. In 2007, the organization announced the Top 15 system would be back, which was also used in 2008 until 2010. In 2011, the results of a fan vote was shown on the screen during the swimsuit and evening gown competitions, but this did not affect the final outcome of the competition. From 2011 to 2013, there were 16 semifinalists, 15 chosen by judges and one chosen through Internet votes. The 16th semifinalist by fan vote has been dropped as of 2015, and the number has been reverted to 15 semifinalists.
In the early years, the contestants were judged in swimsuit and evening gown only. In later years, the contestants also competed in a preliminary interview round in a one-on-one meeting with each individual judge.
In 2014 and 2015, Paulina Vega and Pia Wurtzbach were decorated with a crown estimated to be worth US$300,000, produced in the workshop of Czech company DIC – Diamonds International Corporation. The whole production process, from the first sketches to the production itself, took approximately four months. The shape of the crown is reminiscent of Manhattan skyline. Its production required the work of 10 people and the crown is made up of 311 pcs of diamonds, 5 pieces of blue topaz, 198 pieces of blue sapphire, 33 pieces of crystal and 220 grams of gold. Total weight of the crown is 411 g.
From 2009–2013, 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.
The winner of the 2008 Miss Universe Pageant, which was broadcast from the Crown Convention Center in Nha Trang, Vietnam was crowned with the masterpiece which was designed by Rosalina Lydster of Jewelry by Rosalina and Ms. Dang Thi Kim Lien of CAO Fine Jewelry. The crown, valued at $120,000, is made of 18K white and yellow gold. It is 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 colors of the jewels chosen for the crown have great significance. The yellow luster of the gold represents the prosperous thriving economy in Vietnam. White, light pink and cognac are the main hues in the crown which represent inspiration and feeling. Each piece of the crown was designed to represent an important attribute of the Miss Universe Pageant. The curves of inlaid precious stones represent the strong development and potential of each country. The image of the crane (Lac Bird) symbolizes Vietnamese spirit and culture. The image of the heart represents unified breath, rhythm, and vision, which are powerful internal forces that stress faith, hope, and unity.
The Miss Universe crown used from 2002–2007 was designed by Mikimoto, the official jewelry sponsor of the Miss Universe Organization, and depicted the phoenix rising, signifying status, power and beauty. The crown has 500 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 $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.
The crown that debuted in 1963 featured a woman figure as its centerpiece. Usually, the winners would pass on the crowns to their successor, but in this pageant, a replica was made for the winner so that it would represent a souvenir from the pageant organizers. This design was the longest one to be used (38 years) until it was renewed in 2001.
In its early years, particularly 1952 and 1953, each of the crowns resembled a 19th-century crown for a queen. A designated crown featuring a distinct design was used from 1954 to 1960. It was changed from 1961 to 1962.