Miss Universe contest welcomes first mother with Guatemala's Michelle Cohn

Married women are also allowed to compete for the first time this year

Miss Universe Guatemala 2023 Michelle Cohn has a son and daughter. Photo: @michellecohnb / Instagram
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For the first time in more than 70 years, the Miss Universe competition has welcomed a contestant who is a mother. Michelle Cohn, who has two children, won the Miss Universe Guatemala crown on Sunday, beating 15 others.

Cohn, 28, made history to become the first mother to participate in the long-running beauty contest.

The Miss Universe Organisation made the change to its selection process last year to accept married women and mothers. The new rule came into effect for the 72nd contest, which will be held in El Salvador in November.

In an internal memo sent to national directors and seen by The National, the organisation said it strives to evolve with the times and the decision was the natural next step.

"We all believe that women should have agency over their lives and that a human's personal decisions should not be a barrier to their success," the memo said.

The rule change is one of the biggest shake-ups in the history of the competition, which previously only allowed single women, aged between 18 and 28, who have never been married or had children.

Cohn, a model and entrepreneur, has a son and daughter with husband Andres Matheu.

"The universe gave me a chance, and here I am taking it wholeheartedly and eagerly," she posted in Spanish on Instagram soon after her crowning.

"A little over a year ago, I would have thought this was impossible and today I am here looking to be the first mother to represent Guatemala to the universe. Here I am today, once again proving what we as women can accomplish."

While Cohn is the first mother to compete, it remains to be seen if she will be the only one.

So far 39 countries have announced their representatives, but plenty more national contests are yet to take place, including in India, the US and Thailand.

Pakistan is set to send a representative for the first time, after Dubai company Yugen Group announced it had earned the franchise rights. Additionally, a number of countries that have been absent from the contest are set to return, including Egypt, Bangladesh, Guyana, Hungary, Ireland, Latvia, Mongolia, New Zealand, Norway and Zimbabwe.

A total of 83 countries were represented at Miss Universe 2022, held in January due to a postponement. Miss USA R'Bonney Gabriel, a Filipina-American fashion designer and model, won the crown at the glitzy event in New Orleans, Louisiana.

The Miss Universe 2023 contest will be held over a number of weeks with the winner crowned at the grand finale on November 18.

Updated: August 08, 2023, 9:09 AM