Botswana’s Mpule Kwelagobe who won the Miss Universe 2000 is being used as a pin up poster to save the international pageant which has come under international criticism as a meat market that demeans women.
This year’s Miss Universe pageant is missing one of its most noted contestants: Miss Sweden, a statuesque blonde whose country is one of the few to win the crown three times.
Isabel Lestapier Winqvist, 20, has dropped out because Swedes say the Miss Universe competition, airing live Monday night from Mexico City’s National Auditorium, is degrading to women and weighed down by scandals.
“We’re taking a big beating by being linked to it,” said Panos Papadopoulos, the organizer of the Miss Sweden contest, which scrapped its swimsuit competition and allowed women to apply for the position like any other job after heavy criticism from feminists.
Organizers say the Miss Universe contest carefully selects women who are intelligent, well-mannered and cultured, and dispute the notion that beauty queens are clueless about international issues. The pageant’s Web site notes that Miss Universe 2000, Mpule Kwelagobe, helped build a 400-bed pediatric AIDS hospital and orphanage in her native Botswana, while Miss Universe 1981 Irene Saez of Venezuela went on to become mayor of a municipality and later ran as president, losing to President Hugo Chavez in 1998.
“We do change with the times,” said Paula M. Shugart, president of the Miss Universe Organization. “It really opens doors for people. It’s nice for us to pick somebody who is not known, give them a shot and change their life forever.”
Sweden is a three-time Miss Universe winner, behind only the United States, Puerto Rico and Venezuela. But Papadopoulos, owner of the Panos Emporio brand swimsuits which in 2004 bought the rights to the Miss Sweden contest, said Trump’s pageant doesn’t fit with Miss Sweden’s new, more professional image.
“The modernization of the international competition has been significantly slower than the Swedish contest, although we see signs of change on the horizon,” Papadopoulos said.