Dubai company acquires rights to host Miss Universe New Zealand

Yugen Group already owns franchise for choosing representatives in Bahrain, Egypt and Pakistan

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After four years of absence, New Zealand will once again be represented on the Miss Universe stage, thanks to one Dubai company.

Yugen Group has acquired the rights to the Miss Universe New Zealand franchise and will be responsible for selecting the country's representative at Miss Universe 2024, set to be held in Mexico later this year.

A date for the beauty pageant has not yet been announced.

The company, headquartered in Dubai, already owns the franchise for Miss Universe Bahrain, Miss Universe Egypt and Miss Universe Pakistan.

Founder Josh Yugen, who will also be national director for Miss Universe New Zealand, said he bid for the rights because he's “passionate about empowering women”.

“New Zealand is one of the most beautiful countries because of its landscapes, pristine beaches and vibrant cities as well as its diverse culture and innovative spirit. I firmly believe that the Miss Universe platform offers a distinctive opportunity to inspire and uplift women from all backgrounds,” he tells The National.

“In my role as the national director, I aim to cultivate a supportive and inclusive environment for contestants to exhibit their talents, intelligence and inner beauty. I am committed to providing a platform where women can showcase their strengths and aspirations, ultimately fostering a sense of empowerment.”

Now in its 73rd year, the Miss Universe pageant is one of the oldest and most popular beauty contests in the world. Since its acquisition by Thai media and content company JKN Global Group in 2022, it has made a number of historic rule changes, including allowing married women and mothers to compete and abolishing age restrictions.

At last year's competition, Miss Universe Nepal Jane Dipika Garrett made waves as one of the first plus-size contestants in the pageant's history.

Ownership of national franchises is open to anyone.

“Miss Universe is a truly international platform that disregards one's nationality when it comes to leadership,” says Yugen, whose company includes public relations and publishing arms. “A Filipino entrepreneur with ventures in Dubai has the power to inspire individuals regardless of borders.”

New Zealand won top honours at the Miss Universe pageant once, when Lorraine Downes was crowned the winner in 1983.

Sheynnis Palacios of Nicaragua, who won the Miss Universe 2023 crown in El Salvador in November, will crown her successor at the next event.

Updated: February 21, 2024, 7:55 AM