The Rise of Eating Disorders in Miss Universe Beauty Pageants

Beauty Pageant

The popular Miss Universe Pageant has long stood as one of the most anticipated beauty pageants in the world.

Since it’s foundation in 1952, the Miss Universe Pageant has been held in more than 190 countries worldwide and seen by more than half a billion people annually [1].

With a pageant that is so highly publicized and seen by countless people, there are rising concerns over the demanding beauty standards for contestants. Recent findings have provided an inside perspective into how these standards have evolved throughout the decades.

A Changing Standard of Beauty

A medical-services company based in the United Kingdom conducted a study of the Miss Universe Pageant, analyzing information since the pageant first started in 1952, including BMI measurements from contestants participating in earlier pageants compared to average women in the United States today. Researchers identified many interesting finds from gathered data, demonstrating a disparity between pageant contestants and the average American women.

For example, the team found an increasing gap between BMIs, in addition to changes with women’s body types, over time [2]. The average BMI for American women moved into the overweight range, with the average BMI for contestants in the Miss Universe pageant moving into the underweight range.

In response to these findings, Adina Antonucci, one of the study’s team members, noted, “In recent years, we’ve seen an increase in body image awareness that has sparked important conversations about the unrealistic standards of beauty.”

Other interesting findings from this study included the increase in height among Miss Universe contestants, with the average contestant now three to five inches taller than contestants from earlier pageants. While BMI is not indicative of a person’s health, these findings may reveal an evolution of beauty standards over the years, certainly one that feels unattainable for the average woman

Setting a Healthy Standard on the Worldwide Stage

When it comes to eating disorders and body image, there is a variety of influencing factors, including genetic predisposition and environmental stressors. For some individuals, the body types observed in today’s Miss Universe beauty pageant may resemble an impossible ideal that one should conform to. On the international stage, these beauty ideals are observed by countless individuals across the world.

Founding partner of the Be Real Campaign for better body confidence, Denise Hatton, shared, “Be Real shares the concern that people could see the images at Miss Universe and believe them to be a true reflection of how women should look, despite the fact that 95% of the population could never attain this supposed body ‘ideal’ [2].” Greater awareness and education about such discrepancies could be helpful for viewers, particularly those who may be susceptible to developing an eating disorder.

Crystal Headshot 2About the Author: Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC is a Contributing Writer for Eating Disorder Hope.

Crystal is a Masters-level Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) with a specialty focus in eating disorders, maternal/child health and wellness, and intuitive eating. Combining clinical experience with a love of social media and writing, as a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, Crystal has dedicated her career to helping others establish a healthy relationship with food and body through her work with EDH and nutrition private practice.


[1]:  Miss Universe Beauty Pageant, “Who We Are”, Accessed 30 May 2017
[2]: Online Doctor Super Drug, “The Evolution of Miss Universe: A Reflection of Body Perceptions”, Accessed 30 May 2017.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published on July 3, 2017.
Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on June 13, 2017.
Published on