How Miss Universe & Miss USA Differ

by Kayla Hawkins
FOX Broadcasting Co.

Hopefully, host Steve Harvey manages to crown the right winner of Miss Universe when the competition is broadcast live on Jan. 29. And, so you don't follow in Harvey's own lead, it's worthwhile to compare Miss Universe and Miss USA, another nationally broadcast competition, to illuminate both the general similarities and the particular, detailed differences between the two competitions. While the various "Miss" pageants sometimes get name-checked as generic, typical beauty contests, each one is actually pretty distinct when it comes to the traditions that define the ceremony.

The Miss Universe competition has also made itself a little more distinct. Of course, the moment in the 2015 contest when Steve Harvey accidentally announced that Miss Colombia won the competition when the true winner was actually Miss Philippines was a particularly shocking moment, and one that undoubtedly will make a lot of curious viewers check out his return this year. That momentarily hilarious scandal and meme generator is not the only thing that separates the two contests. But of course, when you get down to it, Miss USA and Miss Universe also have plenty in common — I mean, they both end with a very conventionally attractive young woman wearing a sash and crown. Here are a few more examples of the similarities and differences between the two competitions.

One Is Domestic, The Other International

Here's the biggest and most obvious difference between the two pageants: In Miss USA, one regional contest winner from each state competes for the big prize, but, in Miss Universe, there is one competitor from each participating country, also a regional winner. Because of this, there's almost double the amount of competitors and you get that awesome local costume portion, where each woman walks the runway wearing a customized tribute to her local culture.

They're Owned By The Same People

Miss Universe and Miss USA are a part of the same brand, which is why you'll see Miss USA competing in Miss Universe this winter. Currently, WME/IMG owns half of Miss Universe. And, if you're wondering if the sitting president currently owns either of these pageants — not anymore. Donald Trump sold the Miss USA brand in 2015, as a part of a move that took the pageants from NBC to FOX.

They Started At The Same Time

The first Miss Universe and Miss USA competitions were held in 1952, and the origins of the pageants are... not great. According to AL.com, after 1951's Miss America winner, Yolande Betbeze, refused to pose in a swimsuit, sponsor Catalina decided to create Miss USA as a way to ensure that no winner would take the crown without promoting their product.

They Both Accept "Older" Contestants

Both Miss USA and Miss Universe have an age limit of 28. And while of course, that's incredibly young, it's actually older than average for a competition like this one. To compare, Miss America's is 24, which gives these women even less time to compete.

The Prizes Are A Little Different

While both contests offer a shiny crown, Miss Universe gives out a cash prize and Miss USA offers a year-long film school scholarship. In addition, both winners are given "accommodations" in New York City, hair, makeup, and PR counseling, an agent to manage all of their TV bookings, and they're expected to perform the duties of the reigning beauty queen, from promoting swimsuits (not much has changed since 1952) to doing charity work.

The Judging Criteria

Yes, both contests have a swimsuit portion, but aside from that, the two contests are judged quite differently. According to a breakdown from Miss Universe Jamaica, Miss Universe judgment is split into three portions: swimsuit, evening gown, and "personality interview," the portion of the evening where the contestants are asked to give a bit of a speech and answer questions about current events. It seems that Miss USA is judged by similar criteria.

There's Still Some Sexism In Both Contests

They're fun, and the women who compete are certainly at the top of their game, but there are still some retrograde elements to both Miss USA and Miss Universe. For example, women who win aren’t allowed to get married or pregnant before or during their “rule," according to Slate.

If you love watching these international beauty queens compete, by all means, enjoy Miss Universe this year, just remember — both this pageant and its sister competition, Miss USA were first created when a manufacturer wanted a bigger platform to promote their swimsuits. It’ll keep you from taking these contests too seriously.