Miss Universe new rules: wives and mothers to compete for first time in historic change

It is one of the greatest shake-ups in the contest since it launched more than 70 years ago

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After more than 70 years, the global Miss Universe pageant is making one of the biggest changes to its selection process.

Starting next year, the annual competition will accept married women and mums.

In an internal memo seen by The National, the organisation says it has always strived to evolve with the times and the latest 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 new rules will be effective for the 72nd pageant, to be held in 2023. Preliminary pageants have already taken place for Miss Universe 2022, which will be held later this year.

Previously, only single women, aged between 18 and 28, who have never been married or had children were allowed to apply. It wasn't immediately clear if the age bracket will remain the same.

"The Miss Universe Organisation is always the greatest and most innovative platform of its kind and now it will be more inclusive and welcoming to mothers and married women. For me, this is aligned with what I have been fighting for — breaking stereotypes and unlearning the stigma that the old society has forced on us from many many decades ago," Josh Yugen, chief executive of Yugen Group and the national director of Miss Universe Bahrain tells The National.

Based in New York, Miss Universe Organisation also owns the Miss USA and Miss Teen USA pageants, besides the global Miss Universe pageant.

The contest has been changing with the times. Last year, Miss Universe Bahrain made history by choosing to walk the swimsuit round in fully-covered sportswear.

Manar Nadeem Deyani, then a fashion student living in Dubai, was among 79 contestants who participated at the 2021 pageant. Miss India Harnaaz Sandhu, 21, an actress, was crowned Miss Universe 2021 at the event, held in Eilat in Israel.

One of Sandhu's winning answers at the pageant was when she was asked for her advice to the young women watching her on how to deal with the pressures they face today.

"I think the biggest pressure the youth today is facing is to believe in themselves; to know that you are unique and that [is] what makes you beautiful," she said. "Stop comparing yourselves with others and let’s talk [about] more important things that [are] happening worldwide. I think this is what you need to understand. Come out and speak for yourself because you are the leader of your life, you are the voice of your own. I believed in myself, and that’s why I’m standing here today."

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Updated: August 08, 2022, 5:28 AM