Miss USA – Change Is Good But Is It Working?

Photo courtesy of IMG Universe, LLC

The format and content of the Miss USA Pageant have changed over the years.  Up until 1989 and then again for the last time in 1993,  the contestants paraded their state costumes during an elaborate and usually star-studded opening number.  One cannot ignore the grandeur and the spectacle of the pageant in years past.  Winners in the old days are treated as royalties.  What changed?

In the 90’s, the pageant tried to re-invent itself by becoming “more modern”, by eliminating some of it’s traditional elements like the state costumes, elaborate stage and the pre-taped swimsuit segment before the semi-finalists are announced.  The usual fast-phased introduction of the contestants by announcing their names and hometowns, was replaced by personalized introductions, focusing on their achievements and personalities.  In the past, the semifinalists were escorted and serenaded by the members of the US Armed Forces, during their evening gown competition.  But in 1994, this was  totally eliminated.

The number of semifinalists kept changing through the years, going from top 10, to top 12, to top 15.  There were always 4 runners up until 1990, when it changed from the final 5 to the final 3.  This lasted until 2001.   The top 5 continued up until 2015 and then went back to top 3.

The pageant also changed ownership several times.  Donald Trump bought the operating company, Miss Universe, Inc., in 1996 from ITT Corp.  Trump struck a broadcasting arrangement with CBS for a few years. In 1998, Miss Universe, Inc. changed its name to Miss Universe Organization, and moved its headquarters from Los Angeles to New York City.  In 2002 Trump entered into a joint venture with NBC, which in 2003 outbid the other networks for the TV rights.  From 2003 to 2014, the pageant was broadcast in the US on NBC.  in September 2015, Trump bought out NBC’s 50% stake in the company making him the company’s sole owner. Three days later he sold the whole company to WME/IMG.  Following the change of ownership, in October 2015, Fox and Azteca became the official broadcaster of the Miss Universe and Miss USA pageants.

The ratings for the Miss USA Pageant have dropped consistently through the years and many critics have questioned the relevance of the pageant in this day and age.  Pageant Experts believe that the pageant has gone downhill since the acquisition of WME/IMG.  And if the current format doesn’t change soon, the pageant will face its demise in a few years.  In 2015, the pageant went from a 2-hour show to a long, drawn-out 3-hour bore fest.  People don’t want to sit and watch a TV show for 3 hours, unless it’s an award show.  Thankfully, they brought it back down to two hours in 2017.

So what is working and not working in the current Miss USA format? Let’s break this down into segments.

Introductions.  They need to bring back the contestant self-introductions.  These women worked really hard to get to the national pageant so why take away their few minutes of fame by not letting them speak and introduce themselves?  Interestingly enough, they actually get to do this during the preliminary competition, which is not even televised on TV.   On a side note, we think that maybe bringing back the state costumes will add some nostalgia to the pageant, not every year but maybe do a flashback pageant theme one year.

Semifinalists.  They need to bring back the continuous introduction of the semifinalists, instead of the current format.  The way they are doing it now takes away the excitement and suspense all together.  We appreciate the one-on-one interview as each semifinalist is announced but it just kills the moment.  They need to announce all the semifinalist in one quick segment, period.

Personal One-On-One Interview.  They need to bring back the personal one-on-one interview with each semifinalist, after all the names have been announced.   This is something that never should have been eliminated.  This is the only time that the audience really get to know the contestant, show their personalities and see how they handle themselves in front of the camera.

Top 5 vs. Top 3.  Definitely top 5.  It’s a tradition…you shouldn’t be messing with tradition.  There should only be two elimination rounds, not 3.  Top 10/12/15 and then top 5.

Swimsuit & Evening Gown Competitions.  In this year’s pageant, we were ecstatic that all the semifinalists were allowed to compete in both swimsuit and evening gown competitions before any elimination was made.  It never really made sense how an elimination can be done after only one competition.  Some candidates score high in swimsuit but doesn’t necessarily mean that they will also score high in evening gown.  Average score between the two should always decide which candidate does or doesn’t move on in the competition.

For some pageant fans that have been watching the Miss USA and Miss Universe Pageants for years, it will be nice to see some familiar elements back as some of these are what drew us to watch the pageant in the first place.  Change is always good as long there’s a good reason for it.  If not, why fix something that’s not broken?

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