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Date Posted: 02:34:59 04/14/08 Mon
Miss Universe is an annual international beauty contest run by the Miss Universe Organization.
The contest was 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.
Alongside with its rival Miss World and Miss Earth contests, this pageant is one of the most publicized beauty contests in the world.
The winner of the "Miss America 1951" pageant, Yolande Betbeze, refused to pose in a swimsuit from its 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 combined Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants 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, the pageant has been held in locales around the world.
In the early years of the pageant, the ladies who made the cut were announced after the preliminary competition. From 1965 to 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 were announced. An interview portion was introduced in 1960 to decide the runners-up and winner.
From 1959 to 1964, there were slight format changes. 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 the original format of a cut to 5 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 every pageant since, the final 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 6. Each contestant then randomly select a judge and answer the question posed by the judge. After that, the field is narrowed down further to a final 3. In 1998, the number of finalists was reduced to 5, although there still was a cut to a final 3. This continued to 2001, where the final 5 format was re-instated.
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 was 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.
In 2007 the format changed slightly with the top 15 moving to the swimsuit competition; from there, 10 selected contestants moved on to the evening gown competition where half were eliminated. The final five answered the final question to decide the ultimate winner.
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.
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 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, India, South Africa, and 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), 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 baulked 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 2007, 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.
The main Miss Universe Pageant, as of now, 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 becoming the winner. If there is a tie, which often happens when there are even members of the jury, 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.
Aside from the main winner and her runners-up, special awards are also awarded to the winners of the best National Costume, Miss Photogenic, and Miss Congeniality. Miss Congeniality 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).
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