Sunday, 2 January 2011

Tracing the regal existence of ‘Miss Universe’






‘Miss Universe’ has been one of the most esteemed beauty contests in the world for past the 50 years. The renowned pageant, as an annual international competition, has been showcasing culture, talent and beauty with entries from more than 80 countries on the map. Organised by the ‘Miss Universe Organization’, the contest stands a rival to ‘Miss World’ and ‘Miss Earth’ crowns.

Emergence of the pageant

The prestigious contest evolved in 1951 by a California clothing company ‘Pacific Mills’. The pageant became part of ‘Kayser-Roth’ and the ‘Gulf and Western Industries’, before being taken over by ‘Donald Trump’ in 1996. The ‘Miss Universe Pageant’ amended its title from what it was previously known as - ‘Miss America Pageant’, when Yolande Betbeze, the winner of ‘Miss America 1951’ refused to pose in a swimsuit from its major sponsor, Catalina swimwear. Retaliating to this, the brand manufacturer ‘Pacific Mills’ withdrew itself from ‘Miss America’, and established the ‘Miss Universe’ and ‘Miss USA’ contests.

From 1952 to 1971, the main pageant ‘Miss Universe’ was successfully held consecutively, in the continental US. In the present scenario, MUP is held over a two-week period in every May and July, as compared to 1970s to 1990s, when the contest used to be stretched over a month long period.

Variations in the Contest Format

In the few initial years of the pageant, the semi-finalists used to be announced instantly after the preliminary competition. The arrangement was such that the runners-up and winners were announced from the short listed 15 semi-finalists, after the preliminary round. But in 1964, the top 15 was reduced to top 10, and the format incorporated a round of interview, whereby the winner and runners-up were selected from the 10 finalists.

But a year later, in 1965, the pageant adapted ‘cut to 5 finalists’ concept, in accordance to which, the semi-finalists had to compete once again in ‘evening gown and swimsuit’, post the preliminary round, to make it to the final 5.

In 1969, the format introduced ‘a final question’ concept, whereby one last question was posed to the top 5 selected contestants. But earlier this was an on-and-off feature of the pageant. While in 1990, the concept became a norm, and it was mandatory for the final contestants to answer ‘a final question’ put up to them.

The year 1990 brought a lot many variations in the competition format. Now, instead of the count reducing from 10 semi-finalists to 5, it got down to 6. Each contestant was then made to randomly select a judge to ask her a question in the finale of the contest.

Later that year, the contest underwent frequent changes, when the finalist count was reduced to 3, and after that in 1998, it increased to 5.

Surprisingly, in 2000, the interview round of the semi-finals was dropped and the contestants once again, as in the early days of the pageant, began to compete only in swimsuit and gowns.

Two years back, in 2006, Miss Universe contest settled on the announcement of 20 short-listed semi-finalists, to further compete in the swimsuit. After this round, the selected contestants were brought down to 10, those for competing in the evening gown. This round allowed the final 5 to be declared and initiated the ladies towards the final fight in the ‘final question’ or ‘interview’ round. At the end of this final stroke, the runners-up were announced and the winner was crowned by the outgoing queen.

But in 2007, the format again underwent some changes with the top 15 in the swimsuit round; thereafter the 10 selected ones moved on to the evening gown round, where 5 faced elimination. The final 5 answered the final question, allowing the judging panel to decide on the ultimate winner of the crown. Since then, till date, the trend has been on the similar lines – graceful and exciting, leaving no room for foul play.

A majestic crown to take you places

The crowned beauty is awarded a one-year contract with the Miss Universe Organization, with opportunity for going across borders to spread social awareness about the control of diseases, peace. Since the time Donald Trump took over the pageant, the winner is even awarded a Trump Tower apartment in NYC for use during her reign. Along with the main crown, special awards are also awarded to the winners in the category of the Best National Costume, Miss Photogenic, and Miss Congeniality.

Miss Universe has now turned out to be the biggest glam show, where the most beautiful women from across the world compete with each other to earn pride and honour not just for themselves, but also for their countries.


- Bhavna Khullar

Saturday, 1 January 2011