6 Ways Miss Universe 2023 Championed Diversity & Inclusion

By: Supraja Mohanty, Correspondent | Wednesday, 22 November 2023

The Miss Universe pageant 2023 highlighted diversity, defying traditional beauty standards with inclusive participants. It heralds a new age in the global recognition of women's strength and attractiveness.

Beauty pageants have existed for close to a century. Known for celebrating women’s physical attributes, beauty pageants have not always been beacons of women’s empowerment and inclusion. Pageants often have stringent criteria related to women’s physical attributes and even their marital status.

However, Miss Universe 2023 brought with it a host of positive changes. Held in San Salvador, El Salvador, on November 19, the 2023 Miss Universe pageant championed body positivity, inclusion and diversity.

Following the completion of the competition, R'Bonney Gabriel of the United States crowned Sheynnis Palacios of Nicaragua Miss Universe 2023. This victory not only marked Nicaragua's first triumph in the pageant's history, but it also marked the country's first-ever victory in any of the coveted Big Four international beauty pageants.

The pageant organizers took a risk by challenging beauty standards and breaking down barriers. The Miss Universe 2023 pageant featured a varied field of participants that defied preconceptions, challenged standards, and honoured the essence of women in all of its forms.

Inclusivity at the Forefront:

The Miss Universe 2023 pageant for the first time included mothers, married women, representatives of the LGBTQ+ community, and a plus-size model in a significant step toward more inclusion. This gradual transition was announced in 2022, enabling mothers and married women to compete before allowing transgender competitors to compete.

The appeal for body inclusiveness resonated, challenging conventional beauty expectations. The 84 participants represented a wide range of cultures as well as life experiences, challenging conventional preconceptions about who may be a part of this global spectacle.

Let’s meet the contestants whose inclusion in the pageant championed diversity in the world of pageants.

Miss Guatemala Michelle Cohn: Empowering through Entrepreneurship

Michelle Cohn, 28, became the first mother to participate in Miss Universe. Cohn is a model, brand founder, and businesswoman in addition to being a mother of two. Her swimsuit line, launched in 2016, supports equality by hiring deaf women. Cohn constantly defies preconceptions on the world arena as an advocate for women's empowerment, demonstrating that parenting and enterprise can coexist.

Miss Colombia Camila Avella: Journalist, Model, and Wife

Camila Avella, 28, re-entered the competition as the first married contender after Miss Universe organizers allowed married women to compete. Avella, a model and writer, helps young moms by providing services such as money management and mental health training. Her story represents perseverance, demonstrating that marriage and parenthood are not impediments to redefining beauty standards, but rather sources of power and inspiration.

Miss Netherlands Rikkie Valerie Kollé: Breaking Gender Barriers

Rikkie Valerie Kollé, 22, made history when she became the first transgender Miss Netherlands. Kollé, who won in July 2023, promotes for equality and opposes bullying based on gender identification. Her involvement in "Holland's Next Top Model" and her support for the Voices for Change initiative demonstrate her commitment to breaking down barriers and encouraging diversity in the beauty pageant world.

Miss Portugal Marina Machete: Flight Attendant Soars High

Marina Machete, 28, made history in October 2023 by becoming the first transgender Miss Portugal. Machete, a flight attendant, is a staunch advocate for fairness and inclusiveness. She overcomes obstacles with courage and prioritizes empathy and goodwill in her life. Machete's path symbolizes the courage and perseverance of those who are forging new ground in the quest of inclusiveness, demonstrating that beauty has no borders.

Miss Nepal Jane Dipika Garrett: Pioneering Body Inclusivity

Jane Dipika Garrett, 22, made headlines for becoming the first body-inclusive Miss Universe competitor. Garrett, who has been dubbed "the first plus-size contestant," advocates for mental and hormonal health, based on her personal experience with PCOS-induced sadness. Garrett's ad embraces a wide range of body types and sizes, as well as tenacity, perseverance, and real self-acceptance.

Miss Pakistan Erica Robin: Challenging Regressive Cultural Norns

Erica Robin, 24, made history by becoming the first Miss Pakistan. Robin is a role model for overcoming gender prejudice and job inequity, and she is happy to represent her rich culture and background. Despite the criticism, she maintains her ideals as a contemporary Pakistani lady, exemplifying courage and tenacity. On a worldwide scale, Robin's journey exemplifies the power of standing up for one's ideas and confronting cultural conventions.

The 2023 Miss Universe pageant defied traditional beauty standards by promoting inclusiveness and diversity. With her own experience and successes, each participant contributed to a tale of empowerment and breaking down barriers. The echoes of change echoed through the stage as Miss Nicaragua Sheynnis Palacios lifted the crown, marking a new era for Miss Universe—one that honours the power, resilience, and beauty inherent in the various identities of women worldwide.