The first Miss Universe to ever allow married women and mothers to take part has kicked off in El Salvador – and the stunning costumed are a sight to behold.
Pageant queens stepped out in extravagant bejewelled ensembles for the costume show – with everything from an Oxford English Dictionary to tulips, and even air-planes, on display.
An array of animals such as butterflies, goats and birds graced the stage in an explosion of colour – and one entry even dressed as a cobbled street.
The final of the 72nd Miss Universe pageant will take place on Saturday, with the person coming out on top crowned by last year’s winner, USA’s R’Bonney Nola Gabriel.
After updating its eligibility rules last year, married women and mothers are allowed to compete in Miss Universe for the very first time – held at José Adolfo Pineda Arena, San Salvador.
For the last 70 years, the pageant was only available to women who had never been married or had children, but now, both mothers and married women can enter the pageant.
‘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,’ an internal memo obtained by The National said.
Josh Yugen, the national director of Miss Universe told The National: ‘The Miss Universe Organization 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.’
Likely in celebration of the new ruling, Miss Canada Madison Kvaltin was seen sporting a gigantic maple leaf costume with the words ‘Inclusivity makes dreams come true’ during the show.
Andrea Meza, 27, who represented Mexico and was crowned Miss Universe in 2020, noted the new rule was long overdue.
‘I honestly love that this is happening,’ she said in an interview with Insider. ‘Just like society changes and women are now occupying leadership positions where in the past only men could.
‘It was about time pageants changed and opened up to women with families.’
This year’s costume show saw a wide variety of outfits donned by the participants, including a train, multiple dragons and what appeared to be a money chandelier.
Possibly most peculiar of all was Miss Great Britain Jessica Page’s choice of outfit, as she stepped out as an Oxford Dictionary.
Miss Cameroon Issie Princess’s costumes honours women who have made an impact on the women’s empowerment movement in Cameroon.
Meanwhile Helena Bleicher, Miss Germany, opted to go as Rapunzel – wearing a long plaited wig and a pink and purple co-ord, while carrying a storybook.
Miss Curacao Kim Rossen went as the Olympic torch for her costume, while Miss Netherlands Rikkie Kolle stepped out as a blooming flower.
The beginning of the competition comes just days after it was announced the company behind the Miss Universe pageant sensationally filed for bankruptcy.
Anne Jakrajutatip acquired the event for $20 million in 2022 from IMG Media, adding it to the portfolio of JKN Global Group. Between 1996 and 2015, the Miss Universe Pageant was part of Donald Trump‘s business empire.
The bankruptcy comes after the company missed out on fulfilling a $12 million loan repayment. Despite the setback, JKN was bullish and maintained that the event would go ahead as planned.
Back in 2015, Trump was forced into selling the pageant after TV companies refused to deal with the then-presidential candidate over his racist remarks while on the campaign trail.
Around this time, one former Miss Universe, Alicia Machado, said that Trump called her Miss Piggy after she gained weight after winning the contest in 1996.