With the date and location now confirmed for the next Miss Universe pageant, the heat is on for beauty queens around the world who are set to represent their countries at the global competition.
Close to 90 delegates are set to take part in the pageant, which will also mark the 71st year the contest is being held.
Contestants from more than 50 countries have already been named for the pageant, including Miss Universe Bahrain Evlin Khalifa, who was crowned on September 11. A trained pianist and dancer, Khalifa, 24, will be only the second beauty queen from her country and the only representative from the Gulf to take part in the contest.
Ahead of the glitzy event, here's everything we know so far about Miss Universe 2022.
When is Miss Universe 2022?
On Monday, the Miss Universe Organisation announced that the 2022 pageant will be held on January 14. While Miss Universe 2021 was crowned in December, the 2022 event was postponed reportedly to avoid a clash with another major event, the Fifa World Cup.
The new date means two Miss Universe pageants are likely to be held next year — the first in January to crown the 2022 winner and the second one later in the year to crown Miss Universe 2023.
The announcement also effectively extends the reign of current Miss Universe 2021 Harnaaz Sandhu from India.
The longest-reigning Miss Universe is Zozibini Tunzi of South Africa, who won the tile in 2019.
Tunzi held her title 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 only 211 days.
Where will Miss Universe 2022 be held?
The city of New Orleans will host Miss Universe 2022. Known for its history, musical traditions and festivals, including the Mardi Gras, the former French and Spanish colony is also referred to as NoLa, which stands for New Orleans, Louisiana, or The Big Easy, an ode to its laid-back culture.
“There is no place like New Orleans. This vibrant city has been at the top of our list to host for quite some time due to its rich cultural history, as well as its unique arts, entertainment, and culinary scene,” said Paula Shugart, president of the Miss Universe Organisation. “I look forward to our delegates from all over the world getting to experience all it has to offer."
New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell, the first female mayor in the city’s 300-year history, said her city and the Miss Universe Organisation "share common values of celebrating inclusion, culture and the empowerment of women.”
“Former Miss Universe delegates and winners have gone on to become surgeons, diplomats, politicians and business leaders, and they all champion social causes that are important to them," she said. "Hosting this event demonstrates the significant global impact an international city like New Orleans has on the world’s tourism and cultural stages."
New Miss Universe rules about married women and mothers
Last month, the Miss Universe Organisation made a historic decision to change qualification rules for contestants for the first time in its 70-year history. According to an internal memo seen by The National, the organisation said it will allow married women and mothers to participate.
Previously, only single women, aged between 18 and 28, who have never been married or had children, could apply.
"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.
However, the new rules will not be applicable to the January 14 pageant, as many countries had already named their delegates when the decision was made. They will be effective for the 72nd Miss Universe contest, likely to be held later next year.
How many countries will compete in Miss Universe 2022?
The number of countries participating in the pageant changes every year. At the Miss Universe 2021 pageant, 80 countries took part, including first-time contestant Miss Universe Bahrain.
Manar Nadeem Deyani, a fashion designer living in Dubai, made history last year by being the first beauty queen to represent Bahrain.
For Miss Universe 2022, organisers are expecting close to 90 countries to participate. A final number will be revealed right before the pageant.
Is the swimsuit round at Miss Universe mandatory?
While the controversial swimsuit round will still be a part of the competition, contestants are not obligated to wear them. Miss Universe Bahrain Deyani made waves at last year's pageant by walking the swimsuit round in fully-covered sportswear.
"It has been a true honour to be the first-ever candidate to represent my country, Bahrain, on an international stage. This platform has given me the privilege and the opportunity to redefine what a modern Bahraini woman is, while showcasing how beautiful Bahrain is and how deeply rooted we are in our culture," Deyani told The National earlier this year.
"I have had the chance to also leverage my platform and use my voice to educate and inspire others about causes that are close to my heart."
Deyani's successor Khalifa said she wants to be an inspiration to other Bahraini women.
"Bahrain is my soul, my heart and I see so many empowered, passionate women, and I want the universe to see their beauty and to know about them," she said.