Conventional beauty standards particularly in the Western culture are largely seen as unrealistic and aimed at putting unnecessary pressure on women. Beauty pageants have regularly come under fire for reinforcing the idea of judging women based on their physical appearance, promoting conventional beauty standards that are unrealistic and objectifying women. Pageants today have however evolved from ranking contestants on their physical attributes alone to include intelligence, talent, personality traits and interview questions as criteria for picking the winner. The just concluded Miss Universe judged contestants based on their stand on several issues as well as their beauty, grace and poise. 

The three categories in beauty pageants: the evening gown category, swimsuit category and interview on stage focus on various qualities and contribute to the overall score.

The evening gown category evaluates a contestant’s confidence, poise, maturity and grace as well as inner beauty. The general style in the evening gown category looks at how poised the contestant is and how she carries herself in a situation that calls for dignified modesty and grace. The elegance of the gown, makeup and entire look allow the contestant’s inner beauty to shine through. 

Although the swimsuit category focuses on the physical appearance of the contestants, the participants are also judged on their confidence and poise. The swimsuit category has been one of the most controversial categories in beauty pageants since the category was introduced. Although it panders to the idea of women objectification and the promotion of unrealistic beauty standards, the category also builds self-confidence and with many swimsuits worn by the contestants being fun and quirky, it also judges the contestants’ personality, charm and energy. 

The Q&A category judges the contestants’ confidence, posture, personality, intelligence, their understanding of current and platform issues and what they plan to do in service of the community and empowerment of women and marginalized groups through the platform. Some questions posed during the Miss Universe 2016 contest included concerns on the election of Donald Trump to presidency, the refugee situation and whether countries should open their borders, human and women’s rights and women’s empowerment. This category judges the contestants’ intelligence and the issues that they will likely tackle in the period they will reign as Miss Universe. 

Beauty pageant organizations have made various efforts to use the platforms they have to make the world a better place. For instance, various beauty pageant organizations have raised millions for charity, provided job opportunities, scholarships and financial support for millions of needy individuals. Each winning contestant is given the opportunity to push a social issue that she feels passionate about and to sensitize society on the issue. The contest is also meant to promote unity, cultural integration and the concept of beauty with a purpose. Beauty pageants have come a long way from judging contestants based purely on their weight, height and body measurements and have become an excellent way to champion human and women’s rights showcase the cultures of various nations and function as a platform for social issues. Iris Mittenaere, the just crowned Miss Universe 2016 now has the chance to be the face of social change until another can hold the title in the next Miss Universe 2017.