Mrs World to Miss Universe: what's the difference between big beauty pageants?

We break down the most popular international events for beauty queens and kings

Miss Universe Harnaaz Sandhu of India was crowned at the Miss Universe 2021 pageant in Eilat, Israel on December 13, 2021. EPA
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This year’s Mrs World competition saw 58 married beauty queens from around the world battle it out to take the prestigious crown, including the UAE’s first contestant Debanjali Kamstra.

It aims to “celebrate the uniqueness of married women” around the world, but it’s only one of the glamorous – and often controversy-racked – events on the pageant calendar.

Traditionally focusing on judging and ranking the contestant’s physical attributes, pageants have since evolved to assess inner beauty, personality, charity and, rather famously, the pursuit of world peace.

But with more bling up for grabs than an episode of Toddlers & Tiaras, it’s easy to get confused as to the hierarchy of the pageant world.

The term beauty pageant traditionally refers to the “Big Four” international titles: Miss World, Miss Universe, Miss International and Miss Earth.

Pageants typically cover Miss, Mrs and the odd Mr category, each with their own individual entry requirements.

Here, we take a look at the world’s major beauty pageants and discover what really goes on behind the sparkles and sashes.

Mrs World

The Mrs World pageant was founded in 1984 and has taken place around the world, from India and Russia to South Africa and South Korea.

This year, the new titleholder was crowned in a glamorous ceremony on January 15 at a glitzy event in Las Vegas, which was available to livestream around the world.

The winner was Mrs American Shaylyn Ford, with Mrs Jordan Jaclyn Stapp as runner-up and Mrs UAE World coming in third.

To enter, contestants must be married at the date of entry, be at least 18 years old and a resident of the country for which they compete, with organisers looking for “poised, articulate and stunning married women”.

A public poll allows people to vote for their favourite contestants, forming a top 15.

Mrs World 2021 was Kate Schneider, Mrs Ireland World, who was crowned following the resignation of the original winner, Caroline Jurie, after a bizarre on-stage fracas at a beauty pageant in Sri Lanka.

Jurie relinquished her title while defending her decision to remove the crown from the head of this year’s Mrs Sri Lanka titleholder, Pushpika De Silva, who she claimed was unqualified to take part in the April 4 contest because she was divorced.

Miss World

Miss World was launched in 1951 by Eric Morley, who became known as "Mr World″ after he founded the famed beauty pageant.

The competition was created in the UK and is the oldest-running international beauty pageant. Since his death in 2000, Morley's widow, Julia Morley, has co-chaired the event.

To enter, contestants must be unmarried and childless, between the ages of 17 and 27 and be a resident of the country they represent.

The title is currently held by Miss Jamaica World 2019, Toni-Ann Singh, whose reign as the longest titleholder in history was extended following the delay of the annual beauty pageant for the second year due to Covid-19.

The event, which was planned for December 2021, was rescheduled for March 16 after a Covid outbreak during the preliminary rounds at the pageant in Puerto Rico.

The finale, which is the 70th Miss World event, will be held at the Puerto Rico Coliseum Jose Miguel Agrelo.

Mr World

The Miss World organisation upped their inclusivity game in 1996 when they opened the pageant to men through the Mr World competition, with entrants being tested in sports, talent, popularity and modelling.

The reigning titleholder is Mr World England, Jack Heslewood, who won the coveted title of Mr World 2019 to become the “world’s most desirable man”.

The aerospace engineering graduate, who has a master’s degree in business, is a former rocket scientist for Marshall Aerospace and now works as an advertising technology manager.

Currently, there are no known plans for a 2022 Mr World competition.

Miss Universe

The Miss Universe pageant was launched in 1952, the year after Miss World was founded. The main differences between the two include the locations of their headquarters, with Miss World operating out of London and Miss Universe in New York, as well as the benefactors of their fundraising.

The Miss Universe event is also marked by its national costume segment, in which contestants showcase their creativity and personality through their country’s traditional garments.

Nothing official currently exists to rank one pageant higher than the other and both are accepted as the world’s leading pageantry bodies.

Reigning Miss Universe, Harnaaz Sandhu, was crowned in December 2021 in Eilat, Israel, and is the first Indian competitor in 21 years to take the title. She recently moved to New York to embark on her year abroad, working alongside the Miss Universe Organisation.

Details of the 2022 competition are yet to be announced, though it has been rumoured the contest will be held in France.

Mrs Universe

Mrs Universe is an international, global event to find "the most honourable married woman", first organised in 2007 in Sofia, Bulgaria.

The event is open to married women between the ages of 18 and 55 with family, a career and a charitable background. Despite the similar name, the competition is a separate entity to Miss Universe and is owned by Mrs Universe private limited.

The reigning Mrs Universe is Mrs Kazakhstan, Zhuldyz Abdukarimova, a mother of four who competed virtually to be crowned in 2020.

Mrs Universe 2021 will be announced in Seoul, South Korea on April 23, after Covid-19 restrictions delayed last year’s competition.

Miss Earth

Miss Earth, founded in 2001, is an annual international pageant that advocates for conservation and environmental awareness.

The pageant, which is owned by Carousels Productions, saw its 2021 winner, poet Destiny Wagner of Belize, crowned virtually during an online event on November 21, beating hopefuls from 79 other countries.

Each Miss Earth winner becomes the spokesperson for the Miss Earth Foundation and the United Nations Environment programme and commits to working with the World Wildlife Foundation.

As well as contributing to environmental protection programmes, the Miss Earth competition also aims to showcase various tourist destinations, while participants “compete on beauty and knowledge of environmental issues”.

The details of the Miss Earth 2022 pageant are yet to be announced, though entrants must be single, childless females between the ages of 18 and 28, measuring at least 5 foot 4 inches in height and possessing “beauty of face and proportionate body structure”.

Miss International

Established in 1960 in Long Beach, California, Miss International is a global search for the “most elegant woman in the world”.

The Japan pageant is organised by The International Culture Association under the slogan "correct understanding of Japan in the international community".

Contestants from 82 countries competed in the last pageant at Tokyo Dome City Hall in 2019, establishing the pageant as one of the world’s biggest.

The reigning queen is pharmacist and actress Sireethorn Leearamwat of Thailand. The 2021 pageant was cancelled because of Covid-19 and will be rescheduled in autumn 2022, with details to be announced.

Updated: February 01, 2022, 8:48 AM