In the pageant community, many fans have been at odds with the Miss Universe Organization’s direction since WME/IMG bought the pageant from Donald Trump is 2015. The pageant is “no longer about beauty” is a common refrain when a Black woman wins.
“MUO is going through an identity crisis. When Gretchen Carlson [former Miss America and Fox News host] turned last year’s Miss America pageant into a platform speaking tournament, MUO had a great opportunity to serve as a foil,” another disgruntled fan responded. “Instead, they bowed to the whim of the ultra left and are now pandering to snowflakes by promoting victim culture every chance they can get.”
Miss America, which is not affiliated with Miss Universe, has long been seen as the more conservative of the major pageants, putting a higher emphasis on education and platform. Miss Universe has historically been the more glamorous competition.
But in recent years, the pageant has shifted focus from a pure emphasis on beauty and glitz and widened its lens; contestants speak vocally and candidly about issues like race, LGBTQ issues, abortion, and climate change.
Progress is slow, but Miss USA and Miss Universe are now more than glamazons; they’re spokespeople for critical issues. But for some fans, this shift is unwelcome. In competition parlance, it has meant that a woman who is “not pageant pretty” can win if she’s a good public speaker and has the right “credentials.” It’s no surprise that Black women face the brunt of this backlash.
Racism wrapped up in critique still permeates the pageant industry. A Black woman’s win is never just her own personal accomplishment and triumph. It is at worst a “political statement,” or otherwise framed in coded language. She’s a “diverse winner” or a “sign of the times.” Tunzi’s hard work, beauty, and grace is disappointedly — but unsurprisingly — being reduced to a marketing ploy. And that is the conundrum Black women not just in pageants but in most other industries face: Why can’t we ever just win?