No upper age limit for Miss Universe contestants for first time in history

Popular beauty pageant was previously open only to women between the ages of 18 and 28
No upper age limit for Miss Universe contestants for first time in history

In a bid to evolve with the times, Miss Universe is doing away with age limits altogether.

The new rule of the beauty pageant, now in its 72nd year, will come into effect next year.

Previously, the contest was open only to women who were between the ages of 18 and 28.

“The Miss Universe Organisation announces the elimination of all age limits across all Miss Universe and associated pageants. This change will apply for all 2024 pageants globally. Starting then, every adult woman in the world will be eligible to compete to be Miss Universe,” the organisation posted on Instagram on Tuesday.

Reigning Miss Universe R'Bonney Gabriel, Miss USA, first revealed the rule change on the sidelines of the New York Fashion Week on Tuesday.

Walking the runway for New York label Tanner Fletcher, she told Women's Wear Daily backstage that she was proud to represent an organisation that was “always looking for ways they can be more inclusive”.

“It’s a bold group of women in charge over here, and you know what, a lot of people tend to follow what we do – it’s nice to be a standard-bearer, and I’m proud that we get to do this,” she said.

Gabriel was 28 when she was crowned Miss Universe 2022. During the question-and-answer round at the contest, held in New Orleans, she was asked what changes she would make to the organisation's rules if given a chance.

Historic pageant

“I said to raise the age limit. When I competed, the age limit was 28, and I was 28 at the time. So, my answer was that I think we should change this – a woman’s ability to compete at Miss Universe, or anything in life, shouldn’t be defined by her age. Age should just be a number,” she told WWD.

Josh Yugen, whose Dubai-based Yugen Group owns the franchise of the Miss Universe Bahrain, Miss Universe Pakistan and Miss Universe Egypt, tells The National the new rules will make it “more inclusive to women with different perspectives, experiences and dreams”.

“I welcome these changes and I congratulate the Miss Universe Organisation,” he says.

The coming Miss Universe pageant, to be held in El Salvador in November, will be historic in many ways. It will be the first contest that will feature contestants who are married women and mums. The organisation announced the historic rule change last year, doing away with a selection process that only favoured single women who have never given birth, and who were between the ages of 18 and 28.

Last month, Guatemala's Michelle Cohn became the first mother to qualify for the pageant, while last week, Miss Universe Nepal crowned its first ever plus-size winner.

Jane Dipika Garrett, 22, who is part-American, is a body positivity advocate and a nursing student who beat 20 other contestants to the title, paving the way for women of all shapes and sizes to be part of the global competition.

“As a woman who is curvy and who does not meet certain beauty standards, I'm here to represent women who are curvy, who struggle with weight gain, who struggle with hormonal issues,” she said following her win.

“I believe that there is not only one type of beauty standard, but every single woman is beautiful just as she is.”

The Miss Universe 2023 contest will be held over a number of weeks with the winner crowned at the grand finale on November 18.

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