Back in 2017, the Miss Universe pageant introduced an innovation by implementing the continental grouping of candidates. 4 years after, we now can say that it has become a total failure.
It was in November 24th of 2017 when we first wrote about the new Miss Universe format of having the candidates grouped per continent. Even then, we weren’t a fan of it as we thought that there are better ways of diversifying the semifinalists.
Miss Universe Continental Grouping
The Miss Universe continental format is implemented by dividing the countries into 3 groups: the Americas, the Europeans, and Asia-Pacific & Africa. A fourth set of semifinalists is then taken from each group which is called the Wildcards. Even in the grouping itself of around 28-35 countries, there would be an limit of 5 semifinalists that can enter per group. Then the rest of the countries would then be ranked according to their performance and would comprise of the wildcards. After the semis are called, the top 16/ top 20 are then made to compete on their own without the safety net of the continental grouping.
What made this a terrible idea is the fact that almost everyone in the Wildcard group comprise of candidates from Asia-Pacific and the Americas. It was quite rare that an African or European girl is named among the wildcards. In most cases, majority of the European girls rarely make top 10 or even top 5 since its implementation in 2017.
Now let’s break this into economic terms. It is considered by most pageant fans that the Miss Universe franchise fees are considered to be the most expensive pageant franchise fees. Monetary-wise it is the Latin-American and Asian countries that would shell off for these exorbitant annual fees. Unconfirmed reports say that the minimum fee for a national franchise is around US$5,000 and could go as high as US$200,000. It is not a surprise therefore that there aren’t many African countries joining the Miss Universe pageant. Add to that is the fact that most African countries would rather send a delegate to Miss World than MU. If MU wants more participation from African countries, they have to 1) market their brand to Africans more aggressively and 2) lower their annual franchise fees to make them more accessible to smaller countries.
Miss Earth Continental Grouping
On the other side of the fence, the Miss Earth pageant has been more successful in making use of the continental grouping in their pageant. That is largely due to the fact that the ME usually have more African countries participating in the pageant due to low franchise fees. At around US$3,000 to US$5,000 it is a more affordable franchise to pay for.
But what makes the ME continental grouping successful is the allotted spot per number of participants in each continent. That is why in the past, you can see 2 Africans, 4 Asians, 4 Europeans and 6 from the Americas comprising the Miss Earth semifinalists. That way, it evens out the number of candidates who makes semis in a more fair distribution.
This is why Miss Earth is far more superior to the Miss Universe in terms of treating its candidates fairly. This type of elimination allows certain biases to be removed by not giving unfair spots (or at the least lessening it) on continental groups that have weaker candidates. It is not a surprise therefore that MU would be looking at ME strategies to implement on their own pageant.
The continental grouping in Miss Universe has to go. What the MU continental grouping has done was to take deserving spots away from Asian and Latin-American competitors and freely gave it away to Europeans. In their quest for diversity, they have inadvertently gave unfair advantage over Europeans to make semis.
If Miss Universe is truly committed to have a diversity represented in their semifinalists, then they should be having a more diverse panel of judges. 5-6 judges won’t cut it. have 9 to 12 from different walks of life, from different ethnicities, gender & sexual orientations, etc… That should be their first move. Then if they truly want each continent be represented well, then whey have no other recourse but to copy the continental grouping of the Miss Earth pageant, since the continental grouping anyway isn’t their original idea.