Sushmita Sen keeps making a sign of cross after winning the Miss Universe 1994 crown. She reportedly converted to Islam
In many instances, one may be told to leave religion out of the conversation. This reflects the sensitivity of religion as a topic where history is abundant of many wars and conflicts in the name of religion. That is why perhaps it would be rather odd for the many to point out that since 2008, the winners of Miss Universe pageant comes from predominantly Catholic states.
Venezuela which won the Miss Universe crown in 2008, 2009 and 2013 is 92% Catholic. Angola which was triumphant at Miss Universe 2011 is 56% Catholic and although USA – which is overwhelmingly Protestant – won the 2012 crown, its candidate came from a state which boasts the largest percentage of Catholics in the country! Rhode Island is 63% Catholic which puts it as the only state in the entire United States which is dominated by Catholics. On top of these, last year’s Top 5 finalists all came from Catholic majority nations – Venezuela (92% Catholic), Spain (75% Catholic), Ecuador (80%), the Philippines (81%) and Brazil (69%). What’s going on? Is religion a factor in beauty pageants?
In one end of the spectrum, religion does play an enormous role in beauty pageants. In particular, many countries ban beauty pageants in the name of religion. On the other end, it would be rather ridiculous to suggest that a delegate’s chance in winning the crown is boosted by having the right religion. But with Catholic nations greatly favored at Miss Universe, could there be an explanation for this or it is just pure coincidence?
One great factor to consider is how religion plays a role in a society. Where Catholicism is practiced, a society tends to be conservative where the level of feminism is still healthy enough for beauty pageants to thrive. It is not coincidence that the last bastion of beauty pageants in Western Europe happens to be the largely Catholic nation of France.
But it is also could be about numbers. Christianity remains the world’s largest religion and within the group, Roman Catholicism claims the most numbers of adherents. This would mean that the chances of a Catholic nation winning a Miss Universe crown is statistically higher especially since the second largest religion, Islam, is interpreted strictly in many countries barring their citizens from participating.
One can put it simply that a Catholic environment gives beauty pageants a fertile environment to flourish. It would be wrong however to say that religion, in a specific and direct way, affects ones chances for the crown. Ariella Arida, for example, is not a Catholic yet managed to be in Top 5. There is no evidence, perhaps with the exception of Constanza Baez, that the rest of the Top 5 finalists of Miss Universe 2013 are practicing Catholics.
Religion therefore will not determine ones placement at international pageants. But it is quite interesting that Catholic nations are doing well at Miss Universe. Whether it is Catholicism that gives these countries some level of success or this is merely a coincidence would be debatable. But the fact that there is a pattern is interesting enough.
From Catholic nations but not all are Catholics