What Are the Four Major Beauty Pageants?

The Big League, also known as the Big Four Pageants, refers to the four most important international beauty pageants for women: Miss World, Miss International, Miss Universe, and Miss Earth. Hundreds of thousands of beauty pageants are held each year, but the Big Four are widely broadcast and covered by the media. Take a look at the four major beauty pageants listed below.

Miss World

The longest-running international beauty pageant is Miss World. Eric Morley invented it in the UK in 1951. Julia Morley, Morley’s widow, has co-chaired the pageant since his death in 2000. This pageant is among the Big Four international beauty pageants, with Miss International, Miss Universe, and Miss Earth.

In the middle of postwar reconstruction, the Miss World pageant began in the United Kingdom following World War II. In the 1951 summer, the British government hosted the Festival of Britain. That first celebration highlighted the country’s most recent technological breakthroughs, industrial products, and artistic endeavors.

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Organizers looked to Mecca Limited, a London entertainment company, to increase festival attendance. Eric Morley, the agency’s publicity director, convinced festival organizers to include an international beauty pageant among the planned events. After Morley decided that participants should be judged while sporting the new beachwear sensation, the competition was renamed the Festival Bikini Contest.

The contest, dubbed “Miss World” by the British press, was originally intended to be a one-time event. On the other hand, Morley turned Miss World into a yearly extravaganza after its initial run. The competition went on to become one of Britain’s most popular exports.

Miss World has always been a source of contention. Few contenders from non-European countries competed in the early 1950s. Morley had difficulty attracting foreign delegates.

Morley banned the two-piece from the competition after Spain and Ireland threatened to withdraw due to their objection to women being judged in bikinis. Kiki Haakanson of Sweden, Miss World 1951, would be the first and final woman to wear a bikini. Miss World winners donned one-piece bathing suits for the crowning ceremony for the next two decades.

Pageantry became a popular cultural phenomenon with the rise of television. Contestants no longer modeled solely for a live audience, but their images were broadcast into the homes of huge audiences.

For the first time, the Miss World competition was broadcast on British television in 1959. The competition went on to become the most-watched ceremony in Britain. The number of viewers watching the competition at its peak years later was comparable to the audience for a royal wedding.

Miss World America

Since Miss World’s inception in 1951, the United States has always sent a representative. Miss World has been won by the United States three times: in 1973, 1990, and 2010. Miss World America is currently the official national pageant that chooses the Miss World contestant from the United States.

Miss Universe

Miss Universe is a yearly international beauty pageant hosted by the Miss Universe Organization in the United States. It’s among the world’s most-watched pageants, with an estimated audience of more than 500 million viewers in about 190 countries. The international beauty pageant is among the Big Four international beauty pageants, including Miss International, Miss World, and Miss Earth.

The title “Miss Universe” evokes years of pageant history. The pageant is traditionally held at the end of the year for over two weeks. During this time, contenders have the opportunity to prove their worthiness for the title.

Beauty, poise, and personality are all important factors determining the overall winner. The show features competitors from up to 100 different countries.

Miss Universe is a long-standing custom worldwide, but a rise in body image awareness in the past years, combined with important discussions about women’s objectification in beauty pageants, has fueled much controversy. Pageant contestants are rated on their appearance in swimsuits and evening gowns and how thoughtfully they respond to general questions on various topics. Though the “personality” portion of the competition may serve to distract from the “beauty” segments, even a judge agreed that contestants are mostly judged on their appearance.

Miss USA

Miss USA is an annual American beauty pageant held since 1952 to select the United States’ representative for the Miss Universe pageant. The Miss Universe Organization ran both pageants and Miss Teen USA until 2020, when it announced that it would license the Miss Teen USA and Miss USA pageants to Crystle Stewart, Miss USA for 2008.

When Yolande Betbeze, titleholder of the Miss America pageant, declined to pose for publicity photos while wearing a swimsuit, the Miss USA pageant was born. Catalina, the pageant’s sponsor, decided to withdraw their sponsorship and create their competition.

Donald Trump owned Miss USA from 1996 to 2015, and it was initially broadcast on NBC. Trump sold the pageant to IMG/WME in September 2015. The FYI network will broadcast the competition for the first time in 2020.

Miss International

The International Culture Association organizes the Miss International (The International Beauty Pageant or Miss International Beauty) international beauty pageant. The first pageant was held in 1960. Miss International is the world’s fourth-largest pageant regarding the number of national winners who compete in the international competition.

This pageant is among the Big Four international beauty pageants, along with Miss Universe, Miss World, and Miss Earth. Miss Paris Group and ICA have owned the Miss International Organization and brand since 1968, with Miss International Japan (International Cultural Association). The organization’s pageant crown is patented and supplied by the Mikimoto pearl company.

The Miss International Beauty Pageant has a history that spans nearly a half-century of the energy and passion of delegates from all over the world who have aspired to contribute to global society.

Miss International debuted in 1960 in Long Beach, California, and ran until 1967 before moving to Japan to commemorate the Osaka World Expo from 1968 to 1970. As a result, it has been staged in Japan annually since 1972. Furthermore, Miss International contestants appeared at each international expo held in Japan, adding glamor to the event.

Miss International has evolved into a quasi-national event, earning the moniker “Olympics of Beauty.” The goal of this Beauty Festival is for each delegate to compete as popular-level diplomats who actively carry out international exchange activities like exchange with the Miss International Forum and the regional community and social contribution activities like ecology campaigns and charity events.

Miss U.S. International

Miss U.S. International (officially The International Beauty Pageant) is the United States’ official preliminary to the Miss International Beauty Pageant. Except for 2006, the United States has sent its representative to Miss International since its commencement in 1960.

Miss National Press Photographer represented the United States in the early 1960s. From 1963 to 1967, the Miss American Beauty section candidates were run a few days before the finals of Miss International, and the US representative’s sash was altered to American Beauty rather than the United States.

Miss International has been held in Japan since 1968. From 1968 to 1970, they requested Miss Welcome to Long Beach, whose winner was chosen by the Junior Chamber of Commerce to contend at Miss International in Japan.

Miss Earth

Miss Earth is a big global beauty pageant that promotes environmental awareness, conservation, and social responsibility. It is the world’s third-largest beauty pageant regarding how many national-level competitions qualify for the world finals. It is among the Big Four international beauty pageants, including Miss Universe, Miss World, and Miss International, and a coveted title in international pageant competitions.

The reigning champions devote their year to promoting specific projects and frequently address environmental and other global issues through school tours, street campaigns, tree planting activities, cleanups, shopping mall tours, eco-fashion shows, speaking engagements, media guesting, storytelling programs for children, environmental fairs, and other environmental activities.

Miss Earth was founded in 2001 by Carousel Productions as an international environmental event to use the beauty pageant industry as an efficient tool to promote environmental preservation. On April 3, 2001, the pageant was formally introduced at a press conference.

Along with her elemental court, the pageant winner travels to different countries and participates in projects with participating countries’ environmental ministries and departments. In addition, the delegates participate in tree planting ceremonies, sponsor visits, cultural and environmental immersion programs, and tours.

The Miss Earth pageant has grown in popularity, with more countries competing each year. Every continent has seen a growth in the number of national Miss Earth pageants. In 2003, it surpassed the number of candidates in Miss International to become the third-largest international beauty pageant.

Miss Earth United States

Miss Earth USA (previously Miss Earth United States) is a yearly beauty pageant that chooses the United States representative to Miss Earth, an international beauty pageant that promotes environmental awareness.

Carousel Productions, Inc., the owners of Miss Earth, announced on their official Facebook fan page in January 2016 that Beauty Beyond Borders, Inc./U.S, would manage Miss Earth USA. Earth Productions, led by national director Laura Clark. The current organization reported in August 2018 that it would change its name to Miss Earth USA.

Countries/Territories With the Most Victories

Brazil became the first to win the four major international pageant titles when it won Miss Earth in 2004. Brazil has two Miss Universe titles, one Miss World title, two Miss Earth titles, and one Miss International title.

Venezuela was the second country to win each of the Big Four pageants when it won Miss Earth 2005. It has given birth to seven Miss Universes, six Miss Worlds, eight Miss Internationals, and two Miss Earths. Venezuela became the first and only country so far to win all four pageants more than once by winning Miss Earth 2013.

Fun fact, Venezuela has some of the most brilliant and gorgeous women vying for pageant titles. However, their Miss Universe 2012 representative answered one of the stupidest beauty pageant answers in history, attributed to the language barrier.

After winning the Miss World 2013, the Philippines became the third country to win all four Big Four pageant titles. There are six Miss International crowns, four Miss Universe crowns, four Miss Earth crowns, and one Miss World crown in the Philippines.

The Philippines accomplished this feat in three calendar years by winning Miss International 2013, Miss World 2013, Miss Earth 2014 and 2015, and Miss Universe 2015. After winning Miss International in 2016, Miss Earth in 2017, and Miss Universe in 2018, the country extended its streak to six years, making it the country with the longest streak of wins in all four major beauty pageants.

Puerto Rico was the first territory to win all four Big Four pageants after winning Miss Earth 2019. It currently holds five Miss Universe titles and two each in Miss International and Miss World.

The United States was the fourth country to win all four Big Four pageants after winning Miss Earth 2020. It currently has three Miss World crowns, eight Miss Universe crowns, and three Miss International crowns.

The Longest Winning Streak

With wins in six succeeding years from 2013 to 2018, the Philippines has the longest streak of having won one of the Big Four pageant titles in a single year and is currently the only one in the world to win at least once in all Big Four pageant crowns in any of its title streaks. Venezuela places second overall in the Big Four pageant winning streak, which lasted four years from 2008 to 2011.

Multiple Victories in the Same Year

France was the first country to win at least two of the Big Four beauty pageant titles in the same year, winning Miss World and Miss Universe in 1953, followed by Brazil in 1968 (Miss International and Miss Universe), Australia in 1972 (Miss World and Miss Universe), Venezuela in 1981 (Miss World and Miss Universe) and 2013 (Miss Earth and Miss Universe), India in 1994 and 2000 (Miss World and Miss Universe), Ecuador in 2011 (Miss Earth and Miss International), and the United States in (Miss Earth and Miss Universe).

Back-to-Back Victories

Three consecutive Miss World victories were recorded. Sweden recorded back-to-back editions with Kiki Hakansson (Miss World 1951) and May-Louise Flodin (Miss World 1952).

This feat was repeated by UK contestants Ann Sidney (Miss World 1964) and Lesley Langley (Miss World 1965). India has recently won back-to-back Miss World titles, with Yukta Mookhey (Miss World 1999) and Priyanka Chopra (Miss World 2000).

Venezuela is, as of now, the only country to have won Miss Universe back-to-back (2008 and 2009). Stefana Fernandez became Venezuela’s first Miss Universe winner, setting a Guinness World Record. She was succeeded by her countrywoman, Miss Universe 2008 Dayana Mendoza.

Angelia Ong’s Miss Earth 2015 victory, succeeding Jamie Herrell’s Miss Earth 2014 victory, made the Philippines the only nation to win back-to-back in Miss Earth.