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 Organisation.
The 2007 Miss Universe Pageant will take place this summer. It is expected to be the biggest event yet, as 95 delegates are expected to compete.
As of February 12, 2007, The Mexican newspaper Reforma and pageant news web page GlobalBeauties.com informed that the Miss Universe 2007 will take place the 29th of May at the National Auditorium in Mexico City, Mexico. Also having as venues for some of their activities the historic cities of Cancun, Cozumel and Oaxaca.
The Popular Assembly of Models for Oaxaca (APMO in Spanish), also known as “Supermodels for Oaxaca,” says that it will protest the event.
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 in the United States until 1972, when it was held in Dorado, Puerto Rico. Since then it has usually been held in a different city each year, though Manila, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Bangkok, and Panama City have each hosted it twice.
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. The winner of Miss USA represents 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 competition was abolished as a relic of a bygone era, with Australian delegates instead chosen by a modelling 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, Jennifer Hawkins, being chosen as Miss Universe in 2004, Australia resumed its national pageant to choose Michelle Guy as Miss Universe Australia 2005.
Some of the most successful national pageants in the last decade are 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, Egypt, 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) and Kazakhstan (2006); 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 fabrication.
The main Miss Universe Pageant, as of now, is held over a two week period between May-July. In the 1970s through the 1990s, the pageant was a month-long extravaganza. This allows 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 organisers, the Miss Universe contest is more than a beauty pageant: women who aspire 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 interview rounds; although this section of competition has held less importance during recent pageants than it did in the twentieth century. Delegates also compete 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 Organisation, travelling 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 given to the winners of the best National Costume, Miss Photogenic, and Miss Congeniality. Miss Congeniality is chosen by the delegates themselves, while in recent years Miss Photogenic has 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 semi-finalists. This number has fluctuated over the years. The very first Miss Universe pageant had ten semi-finalists. The next two years, the number of semi-finalists 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 a mere 10 in 1984. This lasted until 2003, when the number of 15 was re-instated. In 2006, there were 20 semi-finalists, the highest number ever. It remains to be seen if the pageant will retain this number in the future.
In the early years, the contestants were judged in swimsuit and evening gown only. In the later years, the contestants also competed in a preliminary interview round in a one-on-one meeting with each individual judge.
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.
* In 2002, Russia's Oxana Fedorova won the Miss Universe crown in San Juan, Puerto Rico. However, she was dethroned a few months later by the Miss Universe Organization for not fulfilling the duties stipulated in her contract. First runner-up, Panama's Justine Pasek was crowned Miss Universe for 2002.
Anyone who follows the Olympic Games or other sporting events will be familiar with the concept of the Medal Table, which ranks countries based on their first (gold), second (silver) and third (bronze) place finishes. Here is a similar table of the top rankings for the Miss Universe pageant, based on all results from the first event in 1952 to the most recent competition in 2006.
* Electronic voting was introduced to televiewers in 1978 when the pageant was held in Acapulco, Mexico and for the first time in a televised pageant, the audience got to see how the judges voted. After twenty-four years, in 2003, pageant officials decided to eliminate the electronic voting system in favor of traditional ballot system.
* The USA hosted the early years of the pageant (1952-1971).
o During this period, Miss USA was crowned Miss Universe on home turf four times:
+ 1954 and 1956 in Long Beach, California.
+ 1960 and 1967 in Miami Beach, Florida.
o After this period, two more Miss Universe winners were crowned on home turf:
+ 1997 in Miami Beach, Florida
+ 2001 in Bayamon, Puerto Rico.
* In 1972, the Miss Universe Pageant was held outside the continental US for the first time, taking place in Dorado, Puerto Rico.
* Outside the continental US, only Puerto Rico and Mexico have hosted the most Miss Universe pageants, with three each. The various locations were:
o Mexico: Acapulco (1978), Cancun (1989), Mexico City (1993)
o Puerto Rico: Dorado (1972), Bayamon (2001), San Juan (2002)
* Apart from the United States, Puerto Rico and Mexico, the other territory/states to host the pageant more than once were:
o Manila, Philippines (1974 & 1994)
o Panama City, Panama (1986 & 2003)
o Bangkok, Thailand (1992 & 2005)
* The United States has performed the best throughout the pageant's entire history, with seven winners, eight first runners-up, six second runners-up, one third runner-up, three fourth runners-up, six finalists, and seventeen semi-finalists. Miss USA has missed the semi-finals only three times: 1976 (Barbara Peterson), 1999 (Kimberly Pressler), and 2002 (Shauntay Hinton). In 1957, Leona Gage of Maryland was disqualified from the semi-finals after it was revealed that she was married and a mother.
* After the USA, Venezuela is the next most successful nation in terms of overall placements in the semi-finals(33), it is followed in turn by Sweden and Brazil (both 28), Colombia (27), Germany (21), Israel (20), England (19), Finland, Greece and India (all 18), Norway(17), Peru, South Africa, Canada, Japan, and Puerto Rico (16 each). Of these countries, only England has yet to win the contest.
* The United States has been the most successful state to compete in Miss Universe in the 1950s, 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. In the 1960s, Finland was the most successful nation, and Puerto Rico has been most successful in the 2000s. 
* The nations that have competed every single year of competition (from 1952 to date) are France, Germany, USA and Canada. Sweden lost this distinction when it failed to send a contestant in 2005. Israel missed the pageant in 1953, while Greece was absent in 1988 (its delegate withdrew because of illness).
* Before becoming states in 1959, Alaska and Hawaii both sent delegates to the pageant during the 1950s. In fact, Miss Hawaii was 1st runner-up in 1952 and 2nd runner-up in 1958 (before winning Miss Universe as Miss USA in 1997), while Miss Alaska reached the semi-finals in 1957.
* After the USA, Venzuela ranked second in terms of consecutive placements in the semi-finals: 21 years, from 1983 to 2003, nearly beating the United States' 22-year streak between 1977-1998. While Alicia Machado has been the only Venezuelan Miss Universe in the last decade, of the nine following pageants, four have seen Venezuela's representative place first runner-up (1997, 1998, 2000, and 2003).
* Other than the USA and Venezuela, the countries that have made the semi-finals the most in a row are India (who in recent years has emerged as a pageant powerhouse) with 11 (1992-2002) consecutive placements; Germany with ten (1952 to 1961); and Finland with 8 (1962-1969).
* Colombia had three first-runner up placements from 1992-1994, a streak that has been unparallelled in competition history.
* Finland has had the most consecutive runners-up. For five years, from 1965 to 1969, its delegates placed among the five finalists without interruption (1965: Virpi Miettinen, first runner-up, 1966: Satu Ostring, first runner-up, 1967: Ritva Lehto, third runner-up, 1968: Leena Brusiin, second runner-up, and 1969: Harriet Eriksson, first runner-up).
* Puerto Rico has had at least 1 winner in each of the last 4 decades, the only country to accomplish this feat: Marisol Malaret in the 70s (1970), Deborah Carthy-Deu in the 80s (1985), Dayanara Torres in the 90s (1993), and Denise Quiñones (2001) & Zuleyka Rivera (2006) in the 2000s.
* Miss Universe 1957, from Peru, Gladys Zender is the youngest Miss Universe in history. She was 17 when she won the title. The Miss Universe Organization let her keep the crown because it was found that a woman in Peru is declared her approximate age once she passes the 6 month duration of the current age.
* The very first Miss Universe (from Finland), the very first Miss Asia (from Taiwan), and the very first Miss International (from Colombia) all married Filipinos.
* On three occasions, contestants that did not place in Miss World: Georgina Rizk, Angela Visser, and Mpule Kwelagobe, won Miss Universe. However, no contestant who failed to place at Miss Universe have ever gone on to win Miss World.
* Eight Miss Universe delegates placed as runner-up or semifinalist in that pageant and later won the Miss World title. They were: Carmen Susana Duijim Zubillaga - semi-finalist, Venezuela 1955; Corinne Rottschafer - semi-finalist, Holland 1958; Rosemarie Frankland - First Runner-up, Wales 1961; Madeleine Hartog Bell - semi-finalist, Peru 1966; Eva Von Rueber-Staier - semi-finalist, Austria 1969; Helen Morgan - first runner-up, Wales 1974 (dethroned); Gina Ann Casandra Swainson - First Runner-up, Bermuda 1979 and Agbani Darego - semi-finalist, Nigeria 2001.
* At 5'4" tall, Miss Thailand 1965, Apasra Hongsakula is the shortest Miss Universe ever crowned.
* In 1957, Miss USA Mary Leona Gage was disqualified for being married, though she had qualified for the semi-finals. She was replaced by Miss Argentina.
* Amparo Muñoz of Spain, Miss Universe 1974, was dethroned shortly before her reign ended and did not crown her successor, but she was not formally replaced. Amparo's runner-up, Helen Morgan of Wales, went on to represent the United Kingdom in the Miss World pageant later that same year. She won, only to resign a few days later when she was revealed to be an unwed mother.
* Irene Sáez, Miss Universe 1981, ran for President of Venezuela in 1998 (losing to Hugo Chávez), after having been elected mayor of Chacao in 1992 and governor of Margarita Island in 1999.
* Trinidad & Tobago's Janelle Commissiong became the first woman of black descent to be crowned Miss Universe, in 1977 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. The first black African to win Miss Universe of was Mpule Kwelagobe, of Botswana, crowned in 1999 at Chaguaramas, Trinidad & Tobago.
* Only once have black women won Miss Universe in succession. Wendy Fitzwilliam of Trinidad & Tobago won the title in 1998, followed by Mpule Kwelagobe of Botswana in 1999.
* Andrea Stelzer was Miss South Africa in 1985, but pulled out of Miss Universe because of anti-apartheid demonstrations. She competed in 1989 as Miss Germany, and was a top 10 semi-finalist.
* Miss Lebanon 2001, Christina Sawaya, pulled out of the 2002 Miss Universe competition because of the participation of Miss Israel. She went on to win the rival Miss International competition in the same year.
* 2002's winner, Oxana Fedorova of Russia, became the first Miss Universe who officially did not finish her reign, making first runner-up Justine Pasek the first Panamanian to hold the title. Fedorova was crowned in Puerto Rico in mid-May, and was replaced by Pasek in late September. It is unclear whether Fedorova was fired for failure to perform her duties (the official version), or chose to resign because she had not expected the heavy workload.
* The strong rivalry between Puerto Rico and Venezuela is so well-known in Latin-American popular culture, that their struggle has been immortalized in several Spanish-language television commercials in the United States for such companies as MasterCard and Budweiser. In the latter, former Miss Universe winners Dayanara Torres of Puerto Rico and Alicia Machado of Venezuela cause mayhem in a sports bar as they compete to win the admiration of the men present.
* A new trend of delegates representing countries they were not born in has developed. Miss Universe 2002 Justine Pasek was born in Kharkiv Ukraine, where her Panamanian mother was completing her University studies. Miss Israel 2005, Elena Ralph was also born in Ukraine and moved to Israel when she was 18 years old. The most famous country-swapper was probably Natascha Borger. After placing 12th in the 2000 Venezuelan pageant she moved to Germany where she easily won the crown of Germanys Universe. Other notable contestants who represent countries other than their birth place include the Miss Universe Canada and Miss Universe 2005 Natalie Glebova who is Russian by birth and Miss Germany Universe 2006 Natalie Ackermann who is Colombian by birth and Venezuelan born Francis Barraza Sudnicka representing Poland. Such is also reflected in the growing number of delegates from different parts of the world being sent to a third country (almost always Latin American) for further training before going on to the host country and compete in the pageant proper.
* In 1999, Botswana sent its first ever delegate to the pageant and she won.
* Natalie Glebova of Canada, Miss Universe 2005 reigned for the longest period in Miss Universe history: one year and two months from the time she was crowned on May 31, 2005 in Bangkok, Thailand.
* In April 2006, a reunion of former titleholders took place in New York City to celebrate the launch of the book "Universal Beauty" by Cara Birnbaum. The reunion included Sylvia Hitchcock (1967, USA); Margaret Gardiner (1978, South Africa); Yvonne Ryding (1984, Sweden); Deborah Carthy-Deu (1985, Puerto Rico); Barbara Palacios Teyde (1986, Venezuela); Porntip Nakhirunkanok (1988, Thailand); Mona Grudt (1990, Norway); Lupita Jones (1991, Mexico); Michelle McLean (1992, Namibia); Brook Lee (1997, USA); Wendy Fitzwilliam (1998, Trinidad & Tobago); Denise Quiñones (2001, Puerto Rico); Justine Pasek (2002, Panama); Amelia Vega (2003, Dominican Republic) and Natalie Glebova (2005, Canada).
* Six contestants of Far Eastern descent have won the pageant: Akiko Kojima of Japan in 1959, Apasra Hongsakula of Thailand in 1965, Gloria Diaz and Margarita Moran of the Philippines in 1969 and 1973 respectively, Porntip Nakhirunkanok of Thailand in 1988, and Brook Mahaelani Lee from the state of Hawaii in 1997.
* Miss Universe 2000, Lara Dutta's (India) finalist interview was the highest individual score in any category in the history of the Miss Universe contest, as her perfect interview saw a majority of the judges giving her the maximum 9.99 mark. It was the last year such scores were televised (Something that most viewers miss a lot.
* Highest Televised Scores in the Semi-Finals:
Swimsuit competition - 9.88 by Oxana Fedorova of Russia in 2002.
Interview compeititon - 9.843 by Milka Chulina of Venezuela in 1993.
Evening Gown competition - 9.897 by Carolina Gomez Correa of Colombia in 1994.
* The Philippines has won the Miss Photogenic award six times, followed by England and Puerto Rico, both with five. Puerto Rico won its five awards during a six-year period (1999-2004, did not win in 2000).
* Colombia has won the Best National Costume Award six times.
* Guam has won the Miss Congeniality award four times.
* No Miss Congeniality has ever gone on to win Miss Universe. The closest was Miss El Salvador 1955, who was 1st runner-up.
* The only Miss Universe to win 3 other awards on pageant night was Denise Quiñones (Miss Puerto Rico), who in 2001 also won Miss Photogenic, Bluepoint Swimsuit Award, and Clairol Best Style Award.
* Four Miss Universe winners were awarded Miss Photogenic: Margareta Arvidsson (Sweden, 1966), Margarita Moran (Philippines, 1973), Janelle Commissiong (Trinidad/Tobago, 1977) and Denise Quiñones (Puerto Rico, 2001)
* Three titleholders have also won Best National Costume: Porntip Nakhirunkanok (Thailand, 1988), Wendy Fitzwilliams (Trinidad/Tobago, 1998) and Amelia Vega (Dominican Republic, 2003)
:The Miss Universe Creed
From 1960 to 1990, the Miss Universe Creed was read at each pageant:
"We, the young women of the universe, believe people everywhere are seeking peace, tolerance and mutual understanding. We pledge to spread this message in every way we can, wherever we go."
* Design by Mikimoto. The official jewelry sponsor of the Miss Universe Organization.
* 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.