Miss Universe Winners
The first use of the title “Miss Universe” was as part of International Pageant of Pulchritude which began in 1926. These events, the first international contests, lasted until 1935 when the Great Depression and other events preceding World War II led to their demise. This pageant had no direct relationship with the modern event.
Today’s Miss Universe pageant was founded after Yolande Betbeze, the winner of the 1951 Miss America pageant, refused to pose in a swimsuit from its major sponsor, Catalina Swimwear. The brand’s manufacturer Pacific Mills withdrew from Miss America and set up the Miss USA and Miss Universe contests. 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.
The pageant was first televised in 1955. CBS-TV began broadcasting the combined Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants in 1960, and as separate contests in 1965. In 2003, NBC-TV outbid the other networks for the TV rights.
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 2012, for the first time, Miss Universe allow their fans to post question for Top 5 finalists through microblogging site, Twitter by using hashtag #askmissuniverse.
The contest today
The Miss Universe Organization, a New York–based partnership between NBC and Donald Trump, has run the contest since June 20, 2002. The current president is Paula Shugart. The Organization sells television rights to the pageant in other countries, and also produces the Miss USA and Miss Teen USA contests with the winner of Miss USA representing the USA in Miss Universe.
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 and France.
Usually a country’s candidate selection involves pageants in major cities, with the winners competing in a national pageant, but this does not always occur. For example, in 2000 Australia’s national pageant was abolished as a relic of a bygone era, with Australian delegates instead chosen by a modeling agency. Such “castings” are generally discouraged by the Miss Universe Organization, which prefers national pageants that preserve an aura of respectability and competition. Despite being “cast”, Miss Australia, Jennifer Hawkins, was chosen as Miss Universe 2004. Later that year, Australia resumed its national pageant and chose Michelle Guy as Miss Universe Australia 2005.
Some of the most successful national pageants in the last decade have been Venezuela, USA, Puerto Rico, France etc. which command consistently high interest and television ratings in their respective countries. Recent arrivals in the pageant include China (2002), Albania (2002), Vietnam (2004), Georgia (2004), Ethiopia (2004), Latvia (2005), Kazakhstan (2006), Tanzania (2007), Kosovo (2008), Gabon (2012), Lithuania (2012) and Azerbaijan (2013); there have also been efforts to revive strong national pageants in South Africa, Canada, Spain, Philippines, Japan; Latin America (especially Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador and Brazil) among other regions. Prior powerhouses are Finland, Germany and Sweden. England is the most successful nonwinning country with nine top-five positions.
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 Mozambique, Armenia and Nepal have balked at sending representatives due to the cost (in fact, of all the major international pageants, the franchise fee for Miss Universe is the most expensive). As of 2010, only four countries have been present at every Miss Universe since its inception in 1952: Canada, France, Germany, and the United States. 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. Miss Universe also prohibits transsexual applicants and age fabrication, but beginning in 2012, transgendered women will be allowed to compete.
The main Miss Universe Pageant, as of this writing, is held over a two-week period in May and July. 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. 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. Since Donald Trump took over the pageant, the winner has been given the use of a Trump Tower apartment in New York City for use during her reign. 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 “Presentation Show”) where the field is narrowed to a select number of semifinalists. This number has fluctuated over the years. The very 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 just 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 system went through another change. Since then, are 16 semifinalists, 15 chosen by judges and one chosen by most popular by Internet votes.
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.
The Miss Universe crown used from 2002–2007 was designed by Mikimoto, the official jewellery 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 specifically for the pageant on Mikimoto Pearl Island in Japan with the Mikimoto crown and tiara being first used for Miss Universe 2002.
Since 2009, Diamond Nexus Labs has 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 musical scored has varied immensely throughout the years, lots of times depending on host country traditions, or the producing company. The 70’s and early 80’s were marked by the use of orchestra background music; while from the late 80’s to the early 90’s the pageant used a mix of current hits, as well as producing their own music for swimsuit shows and creating its own anthem for evening gown: “You are my Star”, which was used until 1995.
The following years the music was incredibly varied, but most of it custom-made alternating with current hits. When NBC and Phil Gurin took over the production in 2003, they used music from British band Bond as background for their first competition; from 2004 to 2010, the production company created a musical score that would stay with the competition until 2011, when organizers switched to Dick Clark Productions.