All the Shine

The Miss Universe Organization (MUO) recently announced a change to its annual competition. Now in its 65th year, the Miss Universe competition has long been considered the most glamorous of all beauty pageants. With representatives from 86 countries, many women have worked their entire lives fighting for the opportunity to strut across that stage.

However, this year, each contestant will not have her own moment to revel in the experience of completely owning the Miss Universe stage. Each contestant will no longer have the full attention of the audience. More importantly, each contestant will no longer be able to lock eyes with each judge, as he or she will likely be distracted.

While contestants will still compete in the coveted evening gown portion of competition and highly anticipated swimsuit competition, contestants are now made to share the stage. Instead on coming out on stage individually, contestants enter the stage in groups of three.  The MUO claims that this change will decrease the competition's emphasis on  “women walking on the stage in swimsuits and gowns ." However, I think it does just the opposite.

As a pageant competitor, I have always believed that when on stage I am not competing against the other contestants, but rather am striving to present the best version of myself. Pageant directors and coaches have often shared the same sentiment, reminding contestants that we are each judged individually--based on our own strengths and weaknesses.   However, forcing each contestant to share the stage and stand next to two other contestants while being scored forces comparison. Instead of judging Miss Angola based on her swimsuit presentation, you become forced to compare her presentation--face, body, hair, wardrobe choice, and modeling--to Miss Albania and Miss Argentina with whom she shares the stage.

Furthermore, when walking in groups of three, who determines the speed at which the group walks? For me, the modeling portion of the competition is EVERYTHING! When I step on stage, Desi transforms into Davina Iman (a stage name given to me by Thomas Barnette), and I cannot be touched. And similar to Kenya Moore, I love my twirls. So when it's time for me to model, I certainly can't be slowed down by the contestant next to me who failed to practice walking in her six-inch heels.

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Finally, the last-minute announcement is devastating. I'll never have the opportunity to compete at Miss Universe, so I'm not heartbroken. However, I know the time, commitment, and sacrifice I put into preparing my body for competition; I can only imagine what these ladies have done to prepare for this international pageant. I'm never the tallest nor thinnest competitor, but I know when I'm on stage that none of that matters. But, if forced to walk out alongside a six-foot tall Amazon, my shorter stature may have been highlighted, hindering my pageant success.

This announcement was made just days before the competition date (scheduled to air on Fox on January 29), similar to WME/IMG's last minute announcement to replace the Teen USA swimsuit competition with activewear in July. MUO officials continue to argue that,“we want to empower women to get away from [stereotypes like] ‘you look like a beauty queen.’”  Personally, I'm not sure when looking like a beauty queen--IN A BEAUTY PAGEANT--became a problem.

With the organization being so determined to make a statement against its beauty pageant roots, it's becoming painfully apparent that MUO is suffering from an identity crisis. But is walking in groups of three or taking 13 year olds out of a bikini really going to save--or even augment--the pageant industry? With three hours to spare, it seems MUO has more than enough time for each of its top 12 contestants to grace the stage independently.

Sound off below! I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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