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Miss Universe to reportedly allow mothers, married women to compete—Here are beauty queens once caught in similar controversies

By AYIE LICSI Published Aug 08, 2022 6:30 pm

After previously dethroning beauty queens who were pregnant, Miss Universe has reportedly made a huge rule change that would allow women who are single mothers, pregnant, married, and divorced to compete in the pageant.

The new eligibility requirement came in a memo from Miss Universe CEO Amy Emmerich forwarded to national directors. Pageant pages MISSUUPDATES and Missosology shared a snap of the email.

"Effective with the 72nd Miss Universe competition and national preliminary competitions leading up to it, women who are or have been married, as well as women who are pregnant or have children, will be able to compete," the email from Emmerich read.

According to Emmerich, this change came after the organization conducted surveys with the audience and its directors.

"The feedback was overwhelming that we all believe women should have agency over their lives, and that a human's personal decisions should not be a barrier to their success," she continued.

Research by the organization found that the average age women get married and pregnant for the first time globally begins at 21. In 2015, the World Bank found that women first marry at the age of 24.

Emmerich added that this change is part of the organization's next step in its evolution to represent and support women globally.

Since the email, Miss Universe Colombia, Honduras, and Dominican Republic announced that new eligibility requirement for their next local pageant.

Pageantry and pregnancy

The new rule allowing mothers and married women will be a huge change for the pageant since previously, the organization stripped titleholders of their crowns for bearing a child.

The Miss Universe organization previously provided eligibility requirements for competitors, which include: "They must not have ever been married, not had a marriage annulled nor given birth to, or parented a child." Titleholders are also "required to remain unmarried throughout their reign."

In 1999, Philippine candidate Miriam Quiambao was infamously asked: "If Miss Universe would become pregnant during her reign, should she be allowed to continue as Miss Universe?"

“I believe that Miss Universe, if she ever gets pregnant, I believe she should continue her reign if she's been a good role model to be a Miss Universe, if she has pursued all the goals she had in the first place, and I think she should continue," the Pinay answered.

However, this wasn't the case for previous beauty queens.

Miss Universe Guam 1999 Tisha Heflin had to pull out of the race after she fell ill and was found to be pregnant.

Another delegate from Guam, 2011's Vanessa Torres, had to surrender her crown due to getting pregnant during her reign.

In 1994, Miss Puerto Rico Brenda Robles was stripped of her title upon getting pregnant, leaving her unable to compete in the pageant's top 10 in Manila.

Fast forward to 2002, Oxana Ferdova from Russia bagged the Miss Universe title but was dethroned four months later after rumors started circulating of her pregnancy and marriage. However, the Miss Universe organization said that crown was passed on to Ferdova's runner-up because she failed to fulfill her obligations. 

In 2019, Miss Universe Bolivia Joyce Prado had her title taken from her after becoming pregnant during her reign. The organization said her title was stripped due to "breach of contract" but days later the beauty queen confirmed her pregnancy. 

"Becoming a father or mother may be the most important challenge that comes our way in life, but just as it can be difficult, it can also be the most rewarding thing in the world," Prado wrote in an Instagram post announcing her pregnancy.

In different pageants, Ukraine's Veronika Didusenko took legal action against the Miss World Organization after her crown was taken from her in 2018 because she had a child.

"I don't want the crown back. I want to get the rules changed for wider society. These rules are a systemic, widespread, and international policy that results in discrimination on a large scale across many countries," Didusenko wrote in 2019.

Miss Universe and Miss Universe Philippines have yet to announce the rule change publicly, as of writing.