A brief history of the Miss Universe pageant


The Miss Universe pageant started almost on a whim. In 1951, newly-crowned Miss America Yolanda Betzbe refused to do swimsuit publicity shots.

yolanda betzbe

This didn’t sit well with the pageant’s major sponsor, Catalina Swimsuits. Former Miss America Jacque Mercer suggested, “Why don’t you start your own pageant?”

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So in 1952, Catalina established the current Miss Universe as we know it. The first competition was in Long Beach, California. It was an instant hit. Armi Kuusela of Finland was the first winner. Before her reign was over, she had to give up her title to get married to a Filipino tycoon, Virgilio Hilario.

armi kuusela

The Miss Universe pageant was first televised in 1955. John Charles Daly was the original host of the pageant, from 1955 to 1966. Bob Barker took over for 20 years, from 1967 to 1987. A succession of hosts soon followed, but none served as long as Daly and Barker.

In 1962, Miss Haiti Evelyn Miot, became the first black woman to make the semi-finals.

Miss Haiti Evelyn Miot

In 1972, the Miss Universe pageant was broadcast live around the world for the first time. Televised from Dorado, Puerto Rico, this started the tradition of the pageant broadcasting from exotic locales.

Cerromar Beach Hotel, Dorado Beach, Puerto Rico
Cerromar Beach Hotel, Dorado Beach, Puerto Rico

The following year, the pageant broadcasted from the Parthenon in Athens, Greece. Many consider it one of the most stunning pageant broadcasts ever.

miss universe parthenon

The Miss Universe pageant continued breaking racial barriers. In 1977, Miss Trinidad-Tobago Janelle Commissiong became the first black Miss Universe. In 1995, Miss USA Chelsi Smith became the first bi-racial title holder.

Miss Trinidad-Tobago Janelle Commissiong

The final question was never a regular feature of the pageant. It was only in 1990 when it became mandatory for the top 5 contestants to answer a final question.

miss universe 1990

On December 20, 2015, Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach became the third Filipina to hold the title.

pia-wurtzbach

The last time the Philippines won was in 1973 by way of Maria Margarita Moran.

1973MargaritaMoranUniverse

In 1996, Donald Trump bought the operating company, Miss Universe, Inc. Two years later, Miss Universe, Inc. changed its name to Miss Universe Organization. Its headquarters moved from Los Angeles to New York City.

donald trump

For the second time in history, the pageant skipped an entire year. Miss Universe 2016 will be crowned on January 30, 2017. The first time this happened was when Miss Universe 2014 aired on January of the following year.

miss-universe-2016-logo

The Miss Universe beauty pageant has come a long way since 1952, but its ethos has remained the same: Finding the most beautiful woman in the entire universe.

For more on your favorite Miss Universe candidates, visit InqPOP!’s official Miss Universe webpage HERE!