Three Emirati models are among 25 hopefuls that have been revealed so far for the first Miss Universe UAE contest, the finals for which are to be held on November 7 in Dubai.
A total of 30 names will be announced before the main event, with the eventual winner going on to represent the Emirates in the global Miss Universe contest.
Models Ameera Alawadhi, Marwa Al Hashemi and Reem Birdette will join other UAE residents for a chance to make history and become the first representative from the country at the pageant, now in its 70th year. It will be held in December in Eilat, Israel.
"I’m shaking. I am so excited to announce that I’m one of the first Emirati women to make it to the Top 30 of the first-ever Miss Universe UAE," Alawadhi posted on Instagram. "I really want to use this platform and opportunity to redefine what 'beauty' should mean to us as women, and especially to represent Khaleeji women. My mission is to show the world what we really have to offer, and that we do not ever have to hide."
Another hopeful, Birdette, also shared her joy at being shortlisted.
"So honoured and humbled to announce that I’m one of the first Emiratis to be in the Top 30 in Miss Universe UAE," Reem posted.
Entry for the pageant was not limited to only UAE citizens, with Josh Yugen, president and national director of Miss Universe UAE, telling The National earlier that the Miss Universe Organisation had modified the rules specially “to give everyone an opportunity”.
“So many of us call this country home and it will be such a matter of pride to be able to represent it on a global stage. It’s just logical,” he said.
The Miss Universe UAE website crashed hours after it went live, with a record 15,000 applicants, said Yugen, whose company Yugen Events has been chosen to select the first UAE representative for the global beauty contest.
On October 15, the applicants were shortlisted to 300 contestants at an audition in Dubai. Casting was split into two rounds, the first being a runway show where judges looked for the “X factor”. Contestants who impressed were then invited back for a second round and asked to answer a single question: “Why do you deserve to be a part of the history of the UAE?”
Entry for the pageant was open to all female residents between the ages of 18 and 28 who have lived in the UAE for more than three years.
Following the audition, 30 contestants will make it to the Sunday, November 7 event. There, the number will be whittled down to the top 15 contestants, who will then be cut down to only five. For the top five, there will be a question and answer round, and then the top three will be announced, followed by the crowning of the winner.
At the UAE pageant as well as the main Miss Universe event, contestants are free to “wear whatever dress" they want, Yugen said.
“Miss Universe is very welcoming and open-minded and no contestant will be forced to wear outfits they are not comfortable in,” he said. “We just want to showcase a different type of pageantry and focus on their personalities and not just make it a parade of beauty. It’s more about benevolence, kindness and purpose."
The location for the UAE finals has not been revealed.
Scroll through the gallery below for behind-the-scenes photos of the Miss Universe UAE auditions: