Israel cancels national Miss Universe beauty pageant for first time in 70 years

Competition called off a year after southern resort city of Eilat hosted global event

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For the first time in seven decades, Israel will not send a beauty queen to the Miss Universe pageant, which next takes place on January 14 in New Orleans, US.

The Miss Israel organisation released a statement, saying it would not participate in the pageant, which was founded in 1952.

Local media announced the move on Sunday, with The Times of Israel reporting that opinions in the country were divided on whether or not beauty pageants remain relevant in 2022.

The announcement was made a year after the Israeli southern resort city of Eilat hosted the global pageant, where Miss India Harnaaz Sandhu took home the crown.

Scroll through the gallery above to see the moment Miss Universe 2021 was crowned

Sella Sharlin, who was Miss Israel 2019, told Israel's Radio 103FM on Friday that the competition “gives a lot of tools to anyone who is chosen”, adding that since winning she was able to give lectures to youth and found a “group of associations that deal with financial education for youth”.

She said that while changes could still be made, such as removing the swimsuit segment of the competition, “at the end of the day, this competition gives a platform and a place for women to lead, to initiate, and not necessarily to talk about beauty”.

Sivan Klein, the winner in 2003, meanwhile, said in a video post on the country's Channel 12 website, that she backed the cancellation.

“Queen Elizabeth has died, and now the beauty queen contest is buried,” she said.

Overall, she believes the contest to be “shallow”.

“It asks smart questions of smart women, in a bikini. It places a crown on the head and, at the same time, a ceiling,” she said.

Miss Universe made history in August when it announced it was making one of the biggest changes to its selection process. Starting next year, the annual competition will accept married women and mothers. Previously, only single women, aged between 18 and 28, who had never been married or had children, were allowed to apply.

The new rules will not be in place for the 71st Miss Universe, which has been postponed until January 14, as preliminary pageants have already taken place.

The new date also 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 extended the reign of current Miss Universe Sandhu. But 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.

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.

For Miss Universe 2022, organisers are expecting close to 90 countries to participate. A final number will be revealed before the pageant.

Scroll through the gallery below for some of the Miss Universe 2022 contestants crowned so far

Updated: November 14, 2022, 8:38 AM
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