Miss Universe & Miss America Are Very Different

by Laura Rosenfeld
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The winter season is always full of major TV events, and this year is no exception. The Miss Universe 2016 broadcast is coming at you on Sunday, Jan. 29 at 7 p.m. ET on Fox. But you may be thinking to yourself, Didn't we just crown this winner in September? The answer to that is, well, no. The country found its new Miss America way back when (the title went to Miss Arkansas Savvy Shields, in case you were wondering). And if you compare the Miss Universe vs. Miss America pageants, you'll find that these pageants differ in a lot of key ways.

Of course, the names of these pageants pretty much spell out the biggest difference between them, which I'll get into more later. But these competitions diverge in many areas that go beyond just geography.

Before we get into all that, let's just remember that they're both incredibly entertaining events to watch on TV and have been known to serve up their fair share of buzzy moments over the years. Why, who could forget that during the last Miss Universe pageant, host Steve Harvey initially announced that Miss Colombia Adrianna Gutierrez had won before correcting himself and revealing that Miss Philippines Pia Wurtzbach was the correct winner. See what I mean? It's TV gold!

Hopefully, we'll be able to expect more headline-grabbing moments from Sunday night's Miss Universe as well as all future beauty pageants. And learning about the differences between Miss Universe and Miss America will help you enjoy them that much more.

The Contestants


As I mentioned, the most striking and obvious difference between the Miss Universe and Miss America pageants is where the contestants are from. Unlike what its name suggests, the Miss Universe pageant doesn't include participants outside of planet Earth. But our globe is well represented in the competition with each of Miss Universe's 86 contestants hailing from a different country around the world. Miss America (almost) attracts its contestants from just one nation. Each state is represented among its 52 contestants, as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

The Qualifying Pageant

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Though it's quite simple to figure out where the pool of contestants comes from for each pageant in a geographic sense, some people may be confused about how the woman representing the United States in the Miss Universe competition got there. She's the individual who wins the Miss USA competition, typically held in the summer. Miss District of Columbia Deshauna Barber picked up the title in June before competing in this month's Miss Universe pageant.

As for Miss America, well, she doesn't go on to compete in Miss World, which is Miss Universe's rival international pageant. In fact, there's no international competition in store for Miss America after she gets that crown. But hey, Miss America isn't such a bad title to have, now is it?

The Location


True to its international spirit, the Miss Universe pageant usually takes place in a different country every year. The competition got its start in Long Beach, California in 1952 and has often taken place in the U.S. over the years. However, the most recent pageants have been held in places like Moscow, Sao Paulo, and the Bahamas. This year's competition will be broadcast live from Manila.

Of course, Miss America always takes place in the same country, the U.S. Though it was famously founded in Atlantic City and subsequently became an institution there, even it briefly ventured outside of New Jersey, moving to Las Vegas in 2005. But the pageant had a triumphant return home in 2016.

The History

While we're on the subject of tradition, both of these pageants have been a part of the world's popular culture for quite some time. The Miss Universe competition will be celebrating its 65th anniversary with this year's event. The Miss America pageant has a few years on Miss Universe. This year's Miss America competition will be its 97th installment.

The Organization Behind It

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Even if you're not a fan of beauty pageants, you're probably familiar with the Miss Universe Organization, thanks to its high-profile former owner, President Donald Trump. He sold the Miss Universe Organization to the talent agency WME-IMG in 2015. The Miss Universe Organization also runs the Miss USA and Miss Teen USA competitions. From the website for the Miss Universe Organization, it looks like they really emphasize helping women develop self-confidence, among other attributes.

The Miss America pageant has its very own organization too, the aptly titled Miss America Organization. Unlike the Miss Universe Organization, the Miss America Organization is a 501(c)4 non-profit that describes itself as "the nation’s leading advocate for women’s education and the largest provider of scholarship assistance to young women in the United States," according to its website.

The Competition

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Both the Miss Universe and Miss America pageants feature several rounds of fierce competition. This year's Miss Universe competition had three days of preliminary interviews and a swimsuit and evening gown presentation in an effort to determine the semi-finalists who will be announced during the final night of the event, according to the pageant's website. At that time, the participants will then compete in swimwear and evening gown rounds, answer a final question, and rock a final look. Viewers will also be able to vote for their favorite contestant during each stage of the competition. Those votes, along with the judges' scores, will help determine who takes home the Miss Universe crown this year.

Where the Miss America pageant really differs from Miss Universe in terms of the actual competition is that it has a talent portion where contestants do everything from singing to dancing to baton twirling. The rest of the Miss America competition is pretty similar to how Miss Universe determines its winner. The preliminary competitions include an interview, on-stage question, talent, evening wear, and lifestyle and fitness swimwear rounds in order to determine the top 15 finalists competing for the title during its live TV broadcast, the pageant's website lists. Last year's pageant allowed viewers to vote for the "America's Choice" contestant to be included in the top 15. The winner of Miss America is determined by a composite score and the swimsuit, evening wear, talent, and final question rounds during the final night of the competition, according to the competition's website.

The Prizes

Whether you win the Miss Universe or the Miss America pageant, the prizes are fit for a queen. The winner of Miss Universe, per the pageant's official website, will get to move into a luxury apartment in New York, receive a year-long salary, have all living expenses paid for, get a personal appearance wardrobe and styling by the Miss Universe Organization's official stylist, travel, and have access to New York events, such as "casting opportunities, movie premieres, fashion week, sporting events and career opportunities presented" by WME-IMG.

Miss America 2017 walked away from the competition with an equally fabulous prize package. After the pageant, she was set to embark on a national speaking tour and take on the role as the official National Goodwill Ambassador for Children's Miracle Network Hospitals, according to the Miss America Organization's website. She also received a $50,000 scholarship to help continue her education at the University of Arkansas.

I have a feeling that there's lots of awesomeness in store for this year's Miss Universe.