Back to brains and beauty

The agenda of new United States President, Donald Trump, has not only affected international affairs but his exit from the Miss Universe Organization has also brought about a change in the pageant’s outlook.

Call it the new Miss Universe, if you like.

When Trump ran Miss Universe, there was a clear mandate that the ‘most beautiful’ candidate should win. After all, it is a beauty pageant, isn’t it? During the Trump years, the dreaded interview and back stories did not matter that much.

However, under current CEO, Paula Shugart, all of that has changed. We are now back to brains and beauty or, as the theme suggests, the search is on for the “confidently beautiful.”

Paula Shugart

This is clearly spelled out by the Miss Universe Organization. “The Miss Universe Organization empowers women to develop the confidence they need to achieve their personal best. A confident woman has the power to make real change, starting in her local community with the potential to reach a global audience. We encourage every woman to get out of her comfort zone, be herself, and continue to define what it means to be Confidently Beautiful.”

It should therefore not come as a surprise that Miss Venezuela, the stunning Mariam Habach, was left out of the top 13. Yes, this sent shockwaves through the pageant world but it equally sent a strong message to the queenmakers that the days of the old formula are over for there is a new queenmaker in town with a bold and clear feminist mission, as is evident in the following statement.

Mariam Habach

“The Miss Universe Organization is a company run by women for women, built on a foundation of inclusion and continues to be a celebration of diversity. Annually, nearly ten thousand young women participate in Miss Universe pageant events. The mission of the organization is to provide the tools which help women to be their personal best. Self-confidence is the key. Every woman should have the confidence to stand up in any situation and declare, “I am secure and that’s what makes me beautiful!”

To select this new Miss Universe, France’s Iris Mittenaere, who better than three former title holders who have walked that path before: Dayanara Torres (1993), Sushmita Sen (1994) and Leila Lopes (2011).

Iris Mittenaere

In just under three hours, the Philippines put on a technically sound show and entertainment package to herald in this new era. That apart, one expected more of a showcase of that country’s culture as opposed to tired boy groups from the USA.

Also questionable was the idea of mass popular voting to select a 13th finalist. Though this was great for online and social media engagement, it begs the question as to its ultimate fairness.

All in all, the Miss Universe brand needs to make itself relevant for a new generation of aspiring models and pageant girls as its TV numbers also plummeted with the shift to FOX.

In the final analysis, our Barbados representative, Shannon Harris, did quite well with the limited preparation time she had between winning the local pageant and going off to Manila. Truth be told, our girls are always met by stiff and fierce competition.

Shannon Harris

And this is not about looks alone, we are competing against candidates with 17 suitcases of wardrobe, long legacies of pageants, lots of financial resources and an entire creative machinery behind them.

Should we wish to compete on a level playing field, we now have to pay more attention to building those authentic back stories and selecting candidates with a solid preparation that includes sincere community work that can bring about a change.

In the words of Dayanara Torres: “When you arrive at an event where the Miss Universe is going to be, you want to find a person that’s accessible and not just a robot or with an attitude. You don’t want that. You want somebody that’s more human and who’s going to touch other people. Because when they talk, people are going to listen.”

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