The spectacular performance of Maria Thattil at the 69th Miss Universe shows that height is not necessarily a might. Standing at 5 feet and 3 inches, Maria is one of the short candidates in the pageant. Leading up to the finals night, various pageant analysts have written her off their lists. Nevertheless, she showed that a bubbly personality and confidence can thrust a contestant way up to the Top 10.

Why is height an issue at beauty pageants especially at Miss Universe? First, numerous national competitions put height limits to potential candidates. Secondly, a study of Miss Universe winners’ heights reveals that current titleholders, in average, are three to four inches taller when compared to the winners of 1950s and 1960s. (READ: This is apparent when we compare the height of the first-ever Miss Universe Armi Kuusela of Finland who stands at 5’5” to that of the current winner Andrea Meza of Mexico whose height is 5’11.9” (a hair thin away from 6 feet!).

Nevertheless, there are nuances to these data, which makes Maria’s height perfectly a non-issue. It could be true that Amelia Vega of the Dominican Republic may have been crowned as Miss Universe 2003 because of her impressive 6’2” height. But there were numerous titleholders who can be considered as “short”. For example, both Miss Universe 1958, Luz Marina Zuluaga of Colombia and Miss Universe 1965, Apasra Hongsakula of Thailand stand at 5’4”! And while they were winners decades ago, two recent titleholders Miss Universe 2012, Olivia Culpo of the United States and Miss Universe 2017, Demi-Leigh Nel Peters of South Africa are both just 5’5” tall.  

Maria Thattil was able to rise above the occasion despite her perceived height disadvantage. That’s an affirmation that you don’t have to be very tall to win the crown. On top of that, she represents the shifting dynamics of Australia’s demography. When she was crowned as Miss Universe Australia 2020, it became a two-year consecutive win for Aussie women of Indian descent. Her predecessor Priya Serrao made headlines in 2019 for being the first Indian-Australian winner. This is a strong sign that Miss Universe Australia – long dominated by Caucasian winners – is beginning to embrace diversity.

Australia may have not won the Miss Universe title this year but Maria Thattil opened so many doors for many young Aussie women who aspires to become the next Miss Universe. She gave hope to those who think they are not tall enough or to those who are conscious that they are not white enough to become a beauty queen. Indeed, she embodies the positive change that is needed at the Miss Universe Australia pageant.  Missosology.Org