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Everything You Need To Know About The Miss Universe Competition

From iconic crowns to unforgettable Q&A answers!
PHOTO: FOX via Getty Images

This year's Miss Universe competition will be held at Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta, Georgia, on Monday, December 9. Before we place our bets on Philippines' Gazini Ganados or the other 90 contestants, let's take a look back at the pageant's interesting history.

Miss Universe Philippines

Ranking third among the countries with the most number of Miss Universe titles, with four crowns, the Philippines has proven that it is truly a home to beauty queens.


It was in 1969 when Filipinos first experienced to take pride and honor in the Miss Universe title. Gloria Diaz undeniably charmed the judges and the audiences, especially during her unforgettable Q&A portion. When asked what she would do to entertain a man from the moon who lands in her hometown, she replied, "Oh just the same things I do. I think if he has been on the moon for so long, I think when he comes over he wants to change, I guess." After her victory, Gloria entered the world of showbiz and kept pace with veteran actors. She even won a FAMAS Award for Best Supporting Actress for the drama film Sagrada Familia. Aside from being a mom of three, including actress and model Isabelle Daza, she also currently stars in teleserye Pamilya Roces on GMA.

Just four years later in 1973, Filipinos rejoiced as Margie Moran brought home crown once again. Margie's highly-acclaimed confidence and poise during the pageant can be traced back to her modeling, dancing, and theater performing career before her Miss Universe stint. When asked what she would buy with a million dollars, Margie unhesitantly answered, "A house and lot because it's the most expensive thing and I can't afford it. If I had a million bucks I'd buy a house and lot and live by myself and other people I love, of course." Along with the title, she bagged the Miss Photogenic special award. Today, she is juggling the role of being a mom to her two daughters and an advocate for the promotion of the arts as a member of the board of trustees of the Cultural Center of the Philippines. True to her duty as a beauty queen, she also serves humanity in her active participation in socio-civic activities such as assisting and attending to the needs of the women of Mindanao. Remember her Miss Universe 1973 answer that made her rise to fame? She is coincidentally affiliated with Habitat for Humanity, a non-profit organization that "[builds] strength, stability, and self-reliance through shelter."

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In 2015, Pia Wurtzbach ended the 42-year title drought. By joining Binibining Pilipinas three times, Pia proved that nothing can ever stop her from winning the crown. She even decided to go on a hiatus from acting to focus on the pageant. Truly, all her sacrifices and efforts were worth it. Despite being mistakenly crowned as a runner-up to Miss Colombia Ariadna Gutierrez by host Steve Harvey for a few seconds, Pia was still hailed as Miss Universe.

Pia put her best foot forward as she answered the question, "Why should you be the next Miss Universe?" Her winning answer was, "To be a Miss Universe is both an honor and responsibility. If I were to be Miss Universe, I will use my voice to influence the youth and I would raise awareness to certain causes like HIV awareness that is timely and relevant to my country which is the Philippines. I want to show the world, the universe rather, that I am confidently beautiful with a heart." After her reign, alongside advocating for HIV awareness, Pia returned to ABS-CBN and began her acting career again as she joined Vice Ganda for The Revenger Squad during the 2017 Metro Manila Film Festival. Early this year, she was paired up with Gerald Anderson for the romantic film My Perfect You.


In 2018, Philippine rep Catriona Gray brought home the crown amidst enormous support back home. Her slow-mo turn, aka the "Lava Walk," definitely caught the internet's attention (ANTM host and model Tyra Banks was impressed!), but it was Catriona's Top 3 final answer that earned her the love and support of netizens worldwide. When asked "What is the most important lesson you've learned in your life, and how would you apply it to your time as Miss Universe?," the Miss Universe 2018 then-hopeful replied: "I worked a lot in the slums of Tondo, Manila. And the life there…it's poor, and it's very sad. And I've always taught myself to look for the beauty in it. To look in the beauty in the faces of the children, and to be grateful. And I would bring this aspect as a Miss Universe to see situations with a silver lining, and to assess, where I could give something, where I could provide something, as a spokesperson, and if I could teach also people to be grateful, we could have an amazing world where negativity could not grow and foster, and children would have a smile on their faces." 


Alongside being a spokesperson for issues such as HIV awareness and LGBTQIA+ rights, Catriona also remained passionate about pushing for better access to higher education among the less fortunate. She was also chosen to be the first Filipino celebrity voice on Waze!

Aside from these four beauty queens, several Filipinas also secured a spot as runners-up: first runner-up Miriam Quiambao (1999), fourth runner-up Venus Raj (2010), third runner-up Shamcey Supsup (2011), first runner-up Janine Tugunon (2012), and third runner-up Ariella Arida (2013).

Miss Universe Colombia

Just like the Philippines, Colombia has also produced a number of unforgettable beauty queens, including two Miss Universe titles


The country won its first crown in 1958 with the showmanship of Luz Marina Zuluaga. Luz may have lost to Doris Gil Santamaria in bagging the Señorita Colombia title, but she had to replace Doris by default because of a rule the latter did not abide by: Doris got married before the coronation day. After winning the pageant, Luz stayed in the United States, where she met her husband and had three sons and a daughter. She then returned to Colombia in 1966 and stepped into the role of director of the state's institute of tourism. Luz died at the age of 77.

In 2014, Paulina Vega ended the 56-year crown drought of Colombia. At that time, she was just a 22-year-old business administration student and a newbie to pageants.

During the Q&A, she was asked, "Probably all the time, people have asked you, what can men learn from women, but I'd like to know what could women learn from men?" Her short yet striking answer won the hearts of the judges, "I do believe in equalityand I believe that is what women should learn from men. We continue fighting for what we want to accomplish." Paulina's advocacy was for the awareness of humanitarian issues and HIV/AIDS. After her reign, she ventured into acting, modeling, and hosting.


Aside from Luz and Paulina, first runners-up Paola Turbay (1992), Taliana Vargas (2008), and Ariadna Gutierrez (2015) also made a name in the pageant industry.

Miss Universe Crowns

Aside from the title itself, pageant fans have loved the different Miss Universe crowns over the years. As of 2018, 11 crowns have already circulated over the past six decades.

The first crown was named after Miss Universe Finland Armi Kuusela, the first ever woman to win the pageant in 1952. The Armi Kuusela Crown is of Romanov style with over 1,500 diamonds, a total weight of 300 karats. This once belonged to the Russian czar and was previously insured for $500,000 (P26.2 million).


A year after, the second crown was named after Miss Universe France Christiane Martel. The crown was made of bronze and was simple compared to the rest of the crowns for it didn't have any crystals or diamonds on it.

Starting in 1954, the Star of the Universe crown was passed over for six years. Miss Universe USA Miriam Stevenson was the first queen to wear the crown, with 1,000 black pearls and a star on top of it as features. No woman was allowed to wear this crown, except only during the coronation and crown turnover.


The rhinestone-decorated 10th Anniversary Crown was only worn by Miss Universe Queens Marlene Schmidt from Germany and Norma Nolan from Argentina in 1961 and 1962, respectively.


Filipino pageant fans are certainly familiar with The Miss Crown because the country's very own Gloria was the last one to wear this in 1969. From 1963 to 1968, Brazil's Ieda Mara Vaga, Greece's Corinna Tsopei, Thailand's Apasra Hongsakula, Sweden's Margareta Arvidsson, Sweden's Sylvia Hitchcock, and Brazil's Martha Vasconcellos were also given this crown that has a woman holding a scepter as its design in the middle.


The New Miss Crown was the only one that was used for 31 years, the longest in the history of Miss Universe crowns. The so-called "chandelier crown" was worn by titleholders from 1970 to 2001, including which is Philippine's Margie. Just like The Miss Crown, its features still include the logo of the Miss Universe organization. However, the shape was a little bit modified to appear like extended wings.


The 2002 to 2007 Mikimoto Crown is known to be one of the most luxurious and elegant crowns. It is said to be valued at $250,000 (P13 million) and has 300 diamonds and 120 different-sized South Sea and Akoya pearls. However, pageant enthusiasts speculated that this crown brings bad luck because Russia's Oxana Federova was dethroned after a few months being crowned as Miss Universe in 2002.


In 2008, the crown that was unveiled was named after the host country of Miss Universe. The  $120,000-worth (P6.3 million) Vietnamese Miss Universe Crown was made of yellow gold. It is recognizable for the crane image design that represents the rich culture and abundance in Vietnam.

From 2009 to 2013, titleholders wore the rarely unique The Peace Crown. Aside from the value itself and the bragging rights for wearing the crown, it also has synthetic rubies that symbolize that pageant's advocacy for those yearsspreading awareness about HIV/AIDS.


This $300,000 (P15.7 million) crown, passed on from 2014 to 2016, is most recognizable to Filipinos because it was last by Pia. Its design is based on the Manhattan skyline and is a nod to the Miss Universe Organization's New York headquarters.


For the first time in the history, we witnessed the comeback of the prominent Mikimoto Crown in 2017. Although, Pia was the first one to wear this crown again after 10 years for a photo shoot, the first titleholder to wear this is Miss Universe South Africa Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters.

Miss Universe Gowns

There's no doubt that one of the most awaited segments in the pageant is the evening gown competition. Here are some of the most notable gowns worn by Miss Universe 2016 and 2017 candidates.


1. Miss Universe 2016: Iris Mittinaere, France, Miss Universe

The 25-year-old French model and TV presenter was crowned as Miss Universe 2016, a second time for the country since 1953. Her red ombré couture gown with Swarovski crystals was designed by Filipino pride Michael Cinco.

2. Miss Universe 2016: Raquel Pelissier, Haiti, first runner-up


Raquel, first runner-up, wore this shimmering gold gown designed by Colombian designer Diego Mendoza for her evening gown.

3. Miss Universe 2016: Mary Esther Were, Kenya

The red mermaid-cut gown of Mary was designed by our very own Benj Leguiab IV. Miss Kenya placed sixth during the pageant.


4. Miss Universe 2017: Davina Bennett, Jamaica, second runner-up

Yellow was Davina's color from her embroidered gown to her cape. It was designed by Uzuri International.

5. Miss Universe 2017: Maria Poonlertlarp, Thailand

Maria was wearing Polpat Asavaprapha, the creative director of Asava Thailand. Her gown caught the attention of many for its black fabric full of silver sequins, not to mention her tulle cape which was really unique.


6. Miss Universe 2017: Kara McCullough, USA

Kara wore America's very own Sherri Hill. Her gown that had intricate embroidery, Mandarin collar, and upper torso keyhole design flaunted her perfect shape.


Miss Universe Q&A Portion

What comes along with beauty? Definitely, brains! Here, we listed down for you five of the most memorable winning answers from the past decade.

1. Here's what Miss Universe 2003 Amelia Vega from the Dominican Republic has to say about the most precious gift she has given to someone, "According to my grandma, it's a letter that I wrote for her when she was sick and she has always thanked me for it and makes me emotional always because it's not what you write, but the feelings you put behind it."

2. In 2008, Miss Venezuela Dayana Mendoza pointed out the difference between men and women in achieving an easier life, "Actually God made us to share and to have difference but the big difference between women and men (it doesn't matter what kind of life they live) is that men think the faster way to go to a point is to go straight but women know that the faster way to go to a point is through the curves and fixing every curves."


3. How was the youth affected by the proliferation of unsupervised internet in 2010? For Miss Mexico Ximena Navarrete the internet is powerful as it can both be beneficial and harmful, "Well, I do believe that the internet is an 'indispensable, necessary tool' for the present time. And we must be very careful and watch over what our children watch and see, [what] our teenagers watch and see, and we must be sure to teach the values we learn as a family so that they may use internet properly. Thank you."

4. For Miss Angola 2011, acceptance is the key to be satisfied with one's physical appearance, "Thank God I’m very well satisfied with the way that God created me and I wouldn't change a thing. I consider myself a woman endowed with inner beauty, I have my principles, I have acquired many wonderful principles from my family and I plan to follow these through the rest of my life and now I want to give all of you a piece of advice: Respect one another."


5. Miss Universe 2013 Gabriela Isler of Venezuela is not fazed by fear. She treats fear as something that is surpassable, "Fear is not negative. We should overcome all our fears and this, in turn, would make us stronger. As soon as we overcome our fears we can face any challenge."

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