The first warning shot came days before Miss Universe 2022 R’Bonney Gabriel was crowned. Many pageant related websites who had decades of good relationship with Miss Universe were denied of press access and were awarded instead to upstart and “friendly” bloggers most of which have small following. The message was clear: new owner means new policies. Miss Universe organization wants to turn over a new leaf.
The recent developments at Miss Universe however is putting a huge question mark on its prestige. First came the issue regarding franchise fees. Khun Anne decided to open the national franchises up for bidding which critics said could go to the ones with lots of money but with zero experience in running a beauty pageant. The first victim of the new policy is Puteri Indonesia which is considered as the most prestigious beauty pageant in Indonesia. The organization felt blindsided and decided to let go the franchise.
The new policy also created some legal problems. UNIMedia, the Miss Universe franchise holder in Vietnam for almost a decade, is also one of the national organizations that were blindsided by the new franchise policy. However, the company still owns the trademark Hoa hậu Hoàn vũ Việt Nam (Miss Universe Vietnam) and has no plans of giving it up even after a request from Khun Anne. Some observers think that a legal battle could ensue.
Policy changes at Miss Universe seem to pop up suddenly and as if not much thought was put into it before being revealed publicly. In her recent trip to Indonesia, Khun Anne – without any warning – said that she “prefers to have just one stage for one beauty pageant brand. No other [beauty pageant] brands [can] be involved on the same stage.” Her statement appears to come from a position of strength but critics said that this is a form of insecurity.
Stephen Díaz, Marketing Director of Miss International summed it best when he posted the following on social media: “The Miss Universe that I knew was confident. Confident with its brand. Confident on what it could deliver. It was never threatened, provoked nor affected by the other pageants. It was not afraid to lose its prestige even when standing next to another pageant winner. That’s the Miss Universe I once knew, and I don’t think that this “banning” thing is a reflection of a confident organization”.
However, some national pageants seems to defy the new policy. Miss South Africa announced yesterday that it is sending its runner-up to Miss Supranational 2023 and it appears its winner this year will compete at Miss World. Miss Universe Philippines on the other hand, may still have two additional titles for its 2023 edition.
There is no question that Khun Anne has the best interest of Miss Universe in mind. As a successful self-made billionaire, she should know that a brand’s value is dependent on its prestige and marketability. Her recent moves however will put the Miss Universe brand in jeopardy. Khun Anne could end up breaking the very thing that she meant to fix.