The 72nd Miss Universe pageant will go down in history as one of the most diverse pageants to date. For the first time in its longstanding history, the pageant put diversity and inclusion in the spotlight on a global scale and with a worldwide audience. Last year’s contestants included two transgender women, a plus-size model, and two mothers.
The preliminary phase of the pageant debuted in 2023 in El Salvador, starting with the swimsuit and evening gown rounds. During these rounds, two contestants — Miss Portugal Marina Machete and Miss Netherlands Rikkie Kolle’ — both made history while representing their countries as the first time two trans women have been included in this historic, global competition.
The road that led to Miss Universe was a rocky one for Miss Universe Rikkie Kolle’. She is a model and proud activist for LGBTQ+ rights, and has had to weather a lot of criticism since she was crowned Miss Netherlands in July 2023. The 22-year-old vowed to rise above the hate, and is now using her platform to spread awareness and encouragement to her network. “I see you all, I love you all. And I hope we can stay strong together,” she said on Instagram after making her debut in Miss Universe.
Marina Machete is a 23-year-old flight attendant who was crowned Miss Portugal in July 2023, and has been open about how the opportunity has been truly life-changing for her. She hopes that her involvement in the pageant will shift negative stigmas around trans women and open the eyes of people with limiting viewpoints. “As a trans woman, I’ve been through many obstacles along the way. But fortunately, and especially with my family, love proved to be stronger than ignorance,” she said.
These improvements and focus on diversity and inclusion came at the helm of policy shifts for Miss Universe back in 2012, after the pageant changed its rules to allow trans contestants back in 2012. In 2018, Miss Spain Angela Ponce made history and became the very first trans Miss Universe contestant.
And in October 2018, trans entrepreneur Anne Jakrajutatip purchased the Miss Universe Organization from IMG, and further championed the organization’s efforts in the DEI arena. Under Jakrajutatip’s leadership, the organization now allows mothers, married people, and divorcees to compete in the pageant.
This update in the rules for the pageant paved the way for last year’s contestants, Miss Guatemala Michelle Cohn and Miss Columbia Camilla Avella, who became the first married women and mothers to ever compete in Miss Universe.
The 72nd Miss Universe also welcomed its very first plus-size contestant, Miss Nepal Jane Dipika Garrett, who is an advocate for mental health, physical health, and hormonal disorders, and body positivity. In addition, Miss Pakistan Erica Robin represented as the first ever delegate from her country to compete in Miss Universe. “When I learned that Miss Universe has finally opened up for Pakistani women, I know I have to try and give it my best — because one day — I believe I can also inspire millions of women to push for their dreams and never be afraid and someday they can also say ‘if not now, when!’” Robin shared online via Instagram.
Miss Universe has continued efforts in innovation and organization advancement into 2024 by launching their first ever collaborative merchandise and apparel line. The line will make available swimsuits that were featured by contestants in the 72nd edition of the competition. The line will be produced under the name Miss Universe by Rubin Singer, and will be available for purchase on the Miss Universe website.