NEW YORK - The Miss Universe organization is updating its rules that will expand the pool of eligible women for the decades-old pageant.
Beginning with the 72nd Miss Universe pageant, which will be held in 2023, married women and mothers will now be allowed to compete, organizers confirmed to FOX Television Stations.
The previous rules have stated that contestants may not be married or pregnant and are required to remain single throughout their reign. The age bracket for the pageant, those between 18 and 28, will remain the same, a source close to the organization confirmed to Insider.
Andrea Meza, who was crowned Miss Universe 2020 while representing Mexico, welcomed the new rule change.
"I honestly love that this is happening," Meza told Insider. "Just like society changes and women are now occupying leadership positions where in the past only men could, it was about time pageants changed and opened up to women with families."
Miss Mexico Andrea Meza is crowned Miss Universe 2020 onstage at the 69th Miss Universe competition at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on May 16, 2021, in Hollywood, Florida. (Photo by Rodrigo Varela/Getty Images)
"There are a lot of women that got married young or had kids in their early 20s and they always wanted to participate in Miss Universe but couldn't because of the rules," Meza continued. "Now those women can start or boost their careers in entertainment because of these changes."
Contestants from about 80 countries compete each year for the title of Miss Universe, which is run by an organization of the same name. The first pageant was held in 1952 in Long Beach, California, and won by Armi Kuusela of Finland. Kuusela relinquished her crown to get married shortly before her reign was completed.
FILE - Miss Universe 1953, Armi Kuusela (Miss Finland) surrounded by her vice misses: (from left to right) Miss Hong-Kong Judy Dan, Miss Hawai Elsa Edsman, Miss Germany Renata Hoy and Miss Greece Daisy Mavraki, in Long Beach, California, on June 29,
For contestants to make it to the Miss Universe pageant, there are a series of steps women must achieve. First, they must win their official state pageant to qualify for the Miss USA pageant.
Then, the winner of Miss USA goes on to represent the United States at the Miss Universe pageant.
The Miss Universe Organization, which was owned by former President Donald Trump at one point, is currently owned by talent agency and entertainment company WME/IMG.
Meza, in her recent interview with Insider, called the former eligibility rules for the pageant "sexist" and "unrealistic."
"A few people are against these changes because they always wanted to see a single beautiful woman who is available for a relationship," the 28-year-old told the outlet. "They always wanted to see a woman that from the outside looks so perfect that she's almost unreachable. The former is sexist and the latter is unrealistic."
Meza went on to note that the duties of Miss Universe throughout the year can be demanding, but that doesn’t mean mothers and wives should not be allowed to compete.
"Just like in any other industry, women are capable of having demanding leadership positions without or with a family, it is no different in this case," she said.
This story was reported from Cincinnati.