Wait, Are Miss World and Miss Universe Not the Same? Beauty Pageants Explained

The Miss World beauty pageant will be held on Thursday at the Jose Miguel Agrelot Coliseum in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Viewers can watch live pay-per-view coverage of the event on December 16 at 8 p.m. AST (7 p.m. ET) via the Miss World website.

But Miss World is not the only global beauty pageant. Miss Universe is another international competition, which took place earlier this week in Israel.

Held in Israel for the first time, the competition faced calls for contestants to boycott the pageant as part of the larger push to boycott Israeli goods and events over the past few years.

But what is the difference between the Miss World and Miss Universe contests?

A Brief History of the Miss World Contest

Miss World was launched in 1951 by Eric Morley, the late British millionaire entrepreneur who became known as "Mr. World″ after he founded the famed beauty pageant.

Morley began his entertainment career in 1946 as a publicist at Mecca, a U.K.-based company that today manages various bingo clubs in major cities and towns (Morley introduced commercial bingo to Britain).

The Miss World competition first began as a promotional event for Mecca, with profits from the pageant donated to charities.

Not intending it to be an annual affair, it was launched as a bathing beauty contest for the Festival of Britain in 1951.

The event was targeted for a global audience from around 1970, when the founder's wife Julia took control of the competition's daily operations.

It soon gained traction around the world. In the U.K., over 18 million people watched the event at its peak in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

In 1997, the Miss World contest had a television audience of over 2.5 billion across 155 countries.

The event became a regular subject of controversy, with critics claiming the contest was demeaning to women.

Addressing the backlash, Morley reportedly once said: "If it is shameful to women then the best thing they can do is to turn it [the broadcast of the event] off."

A Brief History of the Miss Universe Contest

The Miss Universe pageant was launched in 1952, the year after Miss World was founded.

But its origins can be traced back to the late 1920s in Galveston, Texas, where the International Pageant of Pulchritude was started in a bid to promote the Texan city as a tourist destination.

The pageant was phased out during the Great Depression and World War II. But its concept reemerged after Catalina Swimwear, the swimsuit company that sponsored Miss America, formed its own contest—Miss USA.

In a bid to differentiate itself from its link to the Miss America event, the company launched Miss Universe to serve as an international contest in which Miss America winners cannot compete.

Every year, the Miss USA contest leads up to the Miss Universe competition. Around 10,000 women participate annually in the Miss Universe, Miss USA and Miss Teen USA contests.

The Miss Universe event is also marked by its national costume portion, allowing contestants to showcase their creativity and personality through clothing themed around the national costume of the country they represent.

"The Miss Universe Organization (MUO) is a global, inclusive organization that celebrates women of all cultures and backgrounds," the competition website says.

Miss World 2019 and Miss Universe 2021.
Miss World 2019 Toni-Ann Singh (left) pictured in London, U.K. in December 2019 and Miss Universe 2021 Harnaaz Sandhu (right) seen in Israel in December 2021. DANIEL LEAL/MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP via Getty Images

Editor's pick

Newsweek cover
  • Newsweek magazine delivered to your door
  • Unlimited access to Newsweek.com
  • Ad free Newsweek.com experience
  • iOS and Android app access
  • All newsletters + podcasts
Newsweek cover
  • Unlimited access to Newsweek.com
  • Ad free Newsweek.com experience
  • iOS and Android app access
  • All newsletters + podcasts