The INSIDER Summary:
• The Miss Universe pageant is 64 years old.
• Superdrug Online Doctor tracked the evolution of winner’s body types.
• It’s a glimpse of how our perception of beauty has evolved over the years.
• While American women have gotten heavier, Miss Universe has stayed the same.
The 64 year-old Miss Universe pageant is one of the most publicized beauty pageants in the world. What started in 1952 as a marketing stunt by a California clothing company is now held in over 100 countries worldwide and watched by over six million people, according to Nielsen ratings.
It also offers a fascinating glimpse into how our perception of beauty has evolved over more than six decades.
UK-based Superdrug Online Doctor tracked
the evolution of Miss Universe winner’s body types since the contest started in 1952 using all of the publicly available pictures, height, and weight measurements the team could find and compared them with the average height and weight of women in the United States aged 20 to 29 (based on Center for Disease Control data).
The average age of a Miss Universe winner is 20.4 years old, but the contestants can be anywhere from 18 years old to 27 years old.
“We chose to examine Miss Universe because it’s such a long-standing tradition around the world,” Adina Antonucci, wrote to us in an email. “In recent years, we’ve seen an increase in body image awareness that has sparked important conversations about the unrealistic standards of beauty.”
The team discovered that not only did the women’s body types change with the fads of the times — think fuller hips in the 1950s and fit, gym-sculpted bodies of the 1980s — but that while the average American woman got heavier, Miss Universe has only gotten thinner.
“1990 marked a milestone,” the study reads. “The average BMI for a woman in the US moved from a normal BMI to overweight […] At the same time, the average BMI for a Miss Universe contestant dipped into the underweight range.”
Though BMI is not an indicator of h
ealth or body type and Superdrug Online Doctor did not always know the exact weight of each winner, the available body measurements still show a disparity between what the average woman looked like versus what the pageant contestants looked like.
Superdrug Online Doctor even made a GIF of the winners from 1952 to today. You can watch the full GIF here.
The study also found that while the average height of the American woman has stayed constant at around 5’4”, the desired height of the Miss Universe winner has climbed three to five inches over the course of the pageant’s history.
For comparison, Miss Universe 2015 winner Pia Wurtzbach is over four inches taller than the average American woman.
While the pageant claims that the winners must have intelligence and poise in order to handle the demands of their title — which range from charity work to extensive travel — a former judge told Forbes in 2011 that the actual winner is decided based on her looks alone. “It’s all about beauty,” he said.
And trying to emulate these gorgeous winners can have a negative effect on women’s perceptions of themselves, Antonucci said.
“Worldwide, women and girls are struggling to conform to the ideals represented in these internationally recognised competitions,” she said.
The competition has also waned in popularity in recent years. In 2015, viewership was down to 6.2 million, which was much less than 2014’s 7.7 million total viewers. To read the full findings, click here.
Note: This post was originally published in 2015.
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