Trump Era: the Best or Worst Years of the Miss Universe Pageant?

The years 1996 to 2014 are effectively known as the Trump Era of the Miss Universe pageant. In those years, there was a marked change in how the pageant is managed under the stewardship of Trump. In the span of 18 years, the MU pageant has undergone a massive overhaul in its image and branding.
The trump era in Miss Universe was an era of triumphs, changes, controversies and scandals. It has adopted a number of changes in terms of format, selection of winners, and entertainment. Pageant fans might have opposing thoughts whether Trump’s legacy in the MU pageant hurt or helped to better the image of the pageant but one this is for certain, he made sure that the pageant will always be talked about.
The hallmarks of the Trump Era has kept the MU under his tenure both famous and notorious. They are the lasting legacy that have made the Miss Universe pageant synonymous with fame/notoriety and fortune.

* Musical Performances & Celebrities– under the Trump era, we saw emerging talents and world renowned musical guests perform in the finals of the pageant. Everyone remembers how Lady Gaga was a musical guest in 2008 before being catapulted to international stardom. We also saw Ricky Martin shake his booty at the pageant back when he was more famous for his singing than for his sexuality. There were countless other superstars as musical guest under that era: from Gloria Estefan, brothers Enrique Iglesias (1997) and Julio Iglesias Jr (1999), K-Ci & JoJo (1998), Montell Jordan, Flo Rida, the string quartet Bond, Marc Anthony, Chayanne, Robin Thicke, Kelly Rowland, John Legend, Train, Panic! at the Disco, the legendary Steven Tyler, Nick Jonas, Gavin DeGraw, among others… The entertainment value was amped up with these music superstars that really boosted the pageant’s image. Naomi Campbell, Elle MacPherson, Jerry Springer, Mel B, Bret Michaels, Carlos Ponce, Jack Wagner, just a few names who have hosted the pageant. Add to that list are numerous sports superstar, tv celebrities, former MU winners, Hollywood superstars that have comprised of the judging panel providing a more rounded panel.

* Pageant Choreography – lend it to Scott Grossman to create a complex swimsuit and evening gown choreography that incorporated twists, steps up and down stairs, walking over on-stage pool, between fire dancers and limbo dancers, twirls with the sarong, walking the maze of mutiple stairs and blocking… or Michael Schwandt’s “Commander” opening choreography, his theatrics in dance with the guest performers and candidates… you can say that the MU in this era was the best in terms of production numbers. Couple this with the flawless camera panning and you get a major spectacle. All girls got to dance and appear onstage, plus there was a synchronization of the camera panning with how the girls walk onstage so they get maximum camera time. There were Cirque de Soleil, carnival dancers, fire-eaters, drum ensembles, capoeiristas, etc… that provided awe and shock to the dazzling and dizzying pace of the pageant. The entertainment factor was at an all-time high.

* Glamshots, Visuals and Photography – during the Trump years we saw the evolution of how the simple program souvenir evolved to the glamshots we all are familiar today. Pageant photography back then was a simple straight up shot of the girls. Now it has become more fashion, more glamorous, more modern. The glamshot has become a major tool for publicity for the pageant as the girls got more social media following based on how they nailed their photoshoots. This has also become a tool for promotions for the pageant as these pictures get shared and become viral on all corners of social media, as well as being used by traditional print and broadcast media for news articles.
* Sly Business Decisions – under Trump we saw how business deals and sponsorships became the name of the game in pageants. He gave us Chinese Laundry, Chi, Yamamay, OPI, Sherri Hill, Mikimoto, MAC cosmetics, etc… This allowed for the internal funding of the pageant to float it over the years. Then came the landmark selling of the pageant to NBC in 2002 which the network owned 51% of the pageant with Trump. Such selling allowed the pageant to have a stable home at a time when airing pageants almost became a thing of the past.

* Crown Evolution: Mikimoto, Diamond Nexus and DIC – under Trump, we saw three changes of the MU crown from the iconic Sarah Coventry crown. Such change was another sponsorship package that earned more money for the pageant. While there were initial resistance to the crown changes, it nevertheless came together at the time that the pageant was trying to modernize itself.
* Trump Picks/ Trump Cards – this was a controversial issue among pageant fans as it is said that Trump would handpick some girls to make it into the semifinalists. It is rumored that he didn’t want ‘ugly’ girls in the semis even if those girls were part of the original list or no matter how accomplished she was. All that matters is beauty, sex appeal and physical attributes. There was no actual number of Trump picks that was actually proven but it is generally believed among pageant fans that 5-6 girls are usually picked to make semis based on Trump’s selection. Nobody can actually prove this but it was quite an accepted rumor by fans that several girls are hand-picked (for whatever reasons such as physical beauty, sponsorship tie-ups, hosting privileges, etc…)

* Lack of Diversity in Winners – during the Trump tenure, only a handful women of color were ever crowned as MU, most winners are either Caucasian or Latina. In the 18 years of the Trump leadership, 13* of them were either Latina or Caucasian with only 6 women of color (3 with Asian ancestry and 3 dark skinned winners). It was also during his tenure that the Latina domination at MU was clearly evident with at least 4 Latinas making it to the top 15  semifinalist every year. 
* Knack for Controversy – whether its his feud with the Miss World organization, his media frenzied Alicia Machado gym stunt, or his firing of a Miss Universe winner, Donald knows how to keep the media at its toes for the pageant.

Whether the pageant was better with or without Donald trump is up to you. Judging how subjective this topic is, one may vary in opinion if whether the Trump Era was the best/ worst years of the pageant.

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