Miss Universe Australia Won't Be Dumping Swimsuits
“It’s a part of our history, but that doesn’t always mean it will be part of our future.”
Miss Universe Australia contestants will continue to wear bikinis onstage, in line with guidelines from its global organisers who say the “long-standing” tradition will stay.
The national pageant is aligned with The Miss Universe Organisation -– and sister scholarship programs Miss USA and Miss Teen USA –- which on Wednesday responded to the decision from Miss America to scrap the swimsuit competition, saying it will not yet follow suit.
“As you all know, the swimsuit portion of the Miss Universe and Miss USA competitions is our longest-standing tradition and the most controversial element,” a spokesperson said in a statement obtained by ten daily.
“Many love it, and many love to hate it.”
The organisation –- which had been owned by now-President Trump for almost two decades -- said annual discussions are held with directors, broadcasters and contestants.
“The consensus to date has been: it stays,” it said.
'It’s a part of our history but that doesn’t mean it will always be part of our future.'
In a #MeToo era of female empowerment and gender equality, Miss America’s announcement has been heavily lauded.
New chairwoman Gretchen Carlson, who once sued Fox News for sexual harassment, said her aim was to “make the event more inclusive”, describing it now not as a “pageant” but as a “competition”.
Miss Universe Australia’s Creative Director Sophia Barbagallo told ten daily the two platforms are different and that its contestants enjoyed wearing bikinis onstage.
“All I can talk about is our involvement and our girls have so much fun in the swimwear section,” she said.
'(They) have worked hard on their fitness – they’re a gorgeous mix of shapes and sizes who are confident in their own skin and they want to show it off.'
But she said it was “only one aspect".
“Our competition runs as a self-development program and in taking part, our girls really get to develop their personal career girls and work on building their confidence.”
While the move from Miss America has been welcomed, it isn’t ground-breaking
Bikinis were scrapped by the Miss World Organisation -– the oldest-running international beauty pageant -- back in 2014.
At the time, co-chair Julia Morley said women walking up and down in bikinis “doesn’t do anything for (the women) and it doesn’t do anything for us”.
'I don’t care if someone else has a bottom two inches than someone else’s. We are really not looking at her bottom. We are really listening to her speak.'
Deborah Miller was the director of Miss Universe Australia for eight years with Trump at the helm.
She moved over to Miss World Australia one year after he was forced to sell the pageant in 2015.
“I came from swimwear to no swimwear,” she said.
Four years on from scrapping swimsuits, Miller said her organisation has attracted more corporate sponsorships and “thousands” more contestants annually.
“It’s a much easier sell. In Australia, I think people have embraced it,” she said.
'Certainly for contestants, I think they don’t feel the pressure to have that perfect body that young people are seeing today. I think they feel more comfortable.'
Beyond bikinis, both organisations are working on promoting inclusion.
Miss Teen USA has moved from swimwear to athletic wear and Miss Universe is the only major pageant allowing transgender contestants to participate.
Last year, Esma Voloder, a Muslim woman and former Bosnian refugee, took out the Miss World Australia title.
But there is a long way to go.
"If the consensus changes, that’s when the organisation will look at making the change," Miss Universe Australia's Barbagallo said.