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Miss Universe is an annual international beauty contest, and the title for the winner of the contest, founded in 1952 by California clothing company Pacific Mills. The pageant became part of Kayser-Roth and then Gulf and Western Industries, before being acquired by Donald Trump in 1996. The pageant is run by the Miss Universe Organization.
The winner of 1950s "Miss America 1951" pageant, Yolande Betbeze, refused to pose in a swimsuit from major sponsor Catalina swimwear. As a result, 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 to get married to a Filipino tycoon, Virgilio Hilario, shortly before her year was complete. Until 1958 the Miss Universe title (like Miss America) was post-dated, so at the time Ms. Kuusela's title was Miss Universe 1953.
The pageant was first televised in 1955. CBS began nationally broadcasting the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants combined from 1960, and separately from 1965. In 2003, NBC took over the television rights.
The main pageant was held
consecutively in the continental US from 1952 to 1971. Since then it has
usually been held in a different country each year.
Each year, bids are received by the Miss Universe organizers from organizations who wish to select the Miss Universe contestant for a country. This allows competition between different pageants to hold a country's license, as happened for Miss Italy and Miss France for example when the licenses for their respective traditional organizations were revoked (the usual Miss France competition returned in 2004).
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 the "casted" Australian delegate, Miss Australia, Jennifer Hawkins, was chosen as Miss Universe. In 2004, Australia resumed its national pageant and choose Michelle Guy as Miss Universe Australia 2005.
Some of the most successful
national pageants in the last decade are Miss USA, Venezuela, India, Colombia
,Puerto Rico, Lebanon, and France which command consistently high interest
and television ratings in their respective countries. Organizations attempting
to build themselves up to a higher level include Canada, Philippines, Mexico,
Peru, Miss Universe Japan, and the triumvirate of Miss Bolivia, Miss Paraguay,
and Miss Uruguay (all directed by Gloria de Limpias). Recent arrivals in
the pageant include China (2002), Albania (2002), Vietnam (2004), Georgia
(2004), Ethiopia (2004), Latvia (2005), Kazakhstan (2006), and Tanzania
(2007); there have also been efforts to revive strong national pageants
in Chile, Uruguay, Argentina, Canada, and the Caribbean, among other regions.
There are continually efforts to expand the pageant, but the participation
of some countries such as Indonesia and 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 2005, only four countries
have been present at every Miss Universe since its inception in 1952: Canada,
France, Germany, and the USA. 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
In the early years of the pageant, the ladies who make the cut are announced after the preliminary competition. From 1965 until the present day, the semi-finalists were not announced until the night of the main event. The semi-finalists once again competed in evening gown and swimsuit and a top 5 was announced. An interview portion was introduced in 1960. From there, the runners-up and winner was selected. However, in 1959 through 1963, there was no cut to 5 finalists; the runners-up and winners were called from the assembled 15 semi-finalists.
In 1964, the top 15 became a top 10, and after a round of interview, the winner and runners-up were called from the 10 finalists.
In 1965, the pageant returned to a cut to 5 finalists, and remained so until 1989. Also, in 1969, a final question was posed to the last five contestants. The final question was an on-and-off feature of the pageant, especially in the 1980s, because from 1986-1989, the final question portion was not used. In 1990, it had taken root and every pageant since the final 5 contestants have to answer a final question.
In 1990, the pageant implemented major format changes in the competition itself. Instead of five finalists, the field was reduced from 10 semi-finalists to six (in 1998, the number of finalists return to 5). Each contestant then randomly selected a judge and answered the question posed by the judge. After that, the field is narrowed down further to a final three. However, in 2001, it became a final five again.
In 2000, the interview portion of the semi-finals was quietly dropped and the contestants once again, as in the early days of the pageant, competed only in swimsuit and gowns.
In 2006, twenty semi-finalists were announced, with these delegates competing in the swimsuit competition. The number of competing delegates was then cut to ten, with those delegates competing in the evening gown competition. After that round of competition, the final five were announced, with the finalists competing in the "final question" or interview round. At the end of competition the runners-up were announced and the winner crowned by the outgoing queen.
Kept by the Miss Universe Organization to be used in the crowning of the new Miss Universe every year
Valued at $250,000
800 diamonds, almost 18 carats.
120 pearls South Sea and Akoya pearls, ranging in size from 3.0 - 18 mm
Design depicts the phoenix rising, which signifies status, power and beauty
The Crown was designed specifically for the pageant on Mikimoto Pearl Island in Japan, Mikimoto crown and tiara first used for Miss Universe 2002
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