The Miss Universe pageant, which has been criticized in the past for being an outdated beauty contest, has undergone a significant change in direction under its new owner, Anne Jakkaphong Jakrajutatip, a transgender businesswoman who purchased the organization for $20,000,000 last year.
During the pageant held on January 14, 2023 in New Orleans, Jakrajutatip emphasized the new focus on female leaders who support philanthropic causes and advocate for inclusion and diversity. This message was reinforced throughout the pageant, including in the swimsuit competition, where contestants wore customized capes emblazoned with messages and illustrations in support of LGBTQ equality, environmental protection, and women’s empowerment.
Jakrajutatip, who is the owner of JKN Global Group Public Limited, which includes Miss Universe, Miss USA, Miss Teen USA, CNBC Thailand, and JKN18 TV, spoke about her own experience of not being accepted by society because of her identity as a transwoman. She said, “I chose not to surrender. I turned pain into power and turned life lessons into wisdom. On this stage called the Miss Universe competition, we can elevate our women to feel strong enough, good enough and qualified enough and never be objectified again.”
Under her leadership, the pageant has now opened up to mothers and married women to compete. Additionally, gender nonconforming musician Big Freedia served as judge and performer, adding further visibility for under-represented communities.
The pageant owner also presented Miss Thailand Anna Sueangam-iam with the ImpactWayy Leadership Award, which is a fan-voted social media competition. The winner of the pageant was Miss USA R’Bonney Gabriel, who was crowned as Miss Universe 2022, while Miss Venezuela Amanda Dudamel was named first runner-up, and Miss Dominican Republic Andreína Martínez was the second runner-up.
The 2022 Miss Universe pageant celebrated international beauty, but also highlighted a range of humanitarian causes from its contestants. The event was held at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans and featured contestants from over 80 countries competing for the crown, a diamond and blue sapphire creation of Mouawad Jewelry, titled “Force for Good” which was bestowed upon the winner by the 2021 Miss Universe winner Harnaaz Kaur Sandhu of India.