One year after Manar Nadeem Deyani made history by becoming the first beauty queen to represent Bahrain at the Miss Universe pageant, seven other hopefuls are waiting in the wings for their moment in the spotlight.
Organisers of Miss Universe Bahrain have revealed the finalists for the 2022 pageant, who were chosen from more than 300 applicants across the country. The winner will be named on Sunday and compete in the international contest next year.
Scroll through the gallery above for pictures of the finalists for Miss Universe Bahrain 2022
Josh Yugen, chief executive of Yugen Group and the national director of Miss Universe Bahrain, says the competition's main aim is to "celebrate women".
"More than the physical beauty, it is our utmost goal to celebrate a platform that gives voice to the empowerment of women, to highlight their incredible and innovative contribution to our society and to inspire other women to break stereotypes not only in GCC but all throughout the world," he tells The National. "These women are graced with passion, cocooned with courage and armoured with their pursuit of love, sisterhood and kindness."
Applications for the Miss Universe Bahrain 2022 competition opened in June, inviting aspiring beauty queens aged between 18 and 28, who are single and who hold a Bahraini passport, to enter the competition.
The more than 300 applicants were shortlisted to 15, which was then whittled down to the final seven. The finalists have been taking part in a number of workshops and photoshoots, which included a trip to Dubai last week.
Scroll through the gallery below for pictures of Miss Universe Bahrain 2022 finalists in Dubai
The Miss Universe Bahrain 2022 finalists
Ahead of the winner being announced on Sunday, here's an introduction to those who are competing for the crown.
Evlin Khalifa, 24
Khalifa is trained in music, dancing and taekwondo. She is passionate about education and believes it's never too late to learn something new in life. A graduate in finance and banking, she is currently pursuing online classes to master her Arabic and English skills, as well psychology.
Ghadheer Alshayeb, 24
Alshayeb is currently studying web media while juggling different jobs. She is also a fitness coach, a paddle board instructor, a model and trains children in martial arts. She wants to empower girls of every age to be their best because she believes women are fighters and wants them to have the opportunity to experience everything they want without limits.
Lujane Yacoub, 18
The youngest contestant, Yacoub is a senior at Bahrain High School where she has been serving as president of the Student Council. She is a longstanding member of the National Honours Society, has earned a gold medal and other accolades for her theatre work and has been invited to represent Bahrain at Creative Connections in Germany. She has also been voted by her peers as Prom Court Princess for the past two years.
Maria Malalla, 20
A professional fashion and beauty model, Maria is a social media influencer in Bahrain and has been a role model to young girls in her community by propagating kindness and modesty. For her, sisterhood is one of the most valuable things that she has learned throughout her journey at Miss Universe Bahrain.
Maya Malalla, 18
A young model, Maya is already the face of many beauty campaigns and fashion shoots. She likes to volunteer and to help others, especially for children with special needs and says her advocacy is to promote Bahraini culture, especially women.
Maryam Naji, 25
A former member of the Bahrain National Fencing team, Naji's motto in life is: “You will only live once, live it right.” She believes in trying everything she is afraid of and is passionate about promoting mental health, especially her personal experience with depression.
Shereen Ahmed, 27
Half Filipina and half Bahraini, Ahmed is a presenter for a weekly show called Emirates Draw. She has been writing for digital publications and local brands, as well as modelling since she was 15. Her greatest accomplishment was sharing her personal story in a photo project called Rock Your Ugly, which resonated with people who dealt with, or were still dealing with, inner child traumas. An advocate for single mothers, she works closely with Hope-Amel UAE to assist in spreading awareness about the challenges single mothers face.
'Not about physical beauty'
Current Miss Universe Bahrain Deyani, who is a fashion designer living in Dubai, has been mentoring the finalists along with a team of experts. She will soon pass on her crown to her successor.
"Miss Universe has never been about physical beauty," she previously told The National. "If you are an aspiring Miss Universe, you have to find your purpose. Develop your confidence and identify the key messages you want to advocate for. It is also important to take care of your mental health because it can sometimes be hard with everyone watching but you need to embrace your power within and find your voice."
Deyani's successor will have plenty of time to prepare for the global pageant. Sources confirmed to The National on Monday that the 2022 pageant would be held early next year, and that an official announcement would be made soon.
While no reason has been given for the postponement, two Miss Universe pageants will likely be held next year, with the 2023 winner being crowned later in the year.
The news effectively extends the reign of Harnaaz Sandhu from India, who was crowned Miss Universe 2021 in December. But the Miss Universe winner who has reigned for the longest amount of time is Zozibini Tunzi of South Africa, who won the title in 2019.
Tunzi reigned for 525 days after the 2020 pageant was cancelled owing to the Covid-19 pandemic. She crowned her successor Andrea Meza from Mexico in May 2021, in turn making Meza's the shortest reign in history. Meza passed on her crown to Sandhu at a pageant in Israel in December last year, after 211 days.
More than 50 countries, from the UK to Ukraine and Guatemala to Ghana, have named their representatives for the 71st Miss Universe, the location for which is yet to be revealed.
Early in August, the Miss Universe Organisation made history by introducing a major rule change for eligibility. Starting with the 72nd pageant, the annual competition will accept married women and mothers.
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.
Previously, only single women aged between 18 and 28, who have never been married or had children, were allowed to apply.