Miss World is to Miss Universe as Natalie Portman is to Megan Fox. They’re both beautiful, both in the same line of work, but the former is taken a little more seriously — though, for Miss World, you wouldn’t know that in the U.S.
Here, Miss Universe reigns supreme because that pageant system is owned by Donald Trump and gets a prime-time slot on NBC. But Miss World is an older international pageant, and it garners more attention in Europe, where it has been owned by the same family since 1951 and is broadcast on the BBC. If you want to watch Miss World in America, wake up early: It’s showing Saturday on E! at 8 a.m.
In Miss World, contestants don’t just compete in swimwear and evening wear — they also compete in talent, fitness, and “Beauty with a Purpose,” the centerpiece of the pageant, which rewards contestants’ charitable efforts (none of these are included in Miss Universe). It also includes a competition for fashion designers from each country, who showcase their work on their respective contestants.
In a marked contrast to Miss Universe’s glamorous settings, Miss World is this year taking place in Ordos, China, a “modern ghost town” where Ghengis Khan once lived, in Inner Mongolia, on the edge of the Ordos Desert. For the opening ceremony of the month-long competition, which began July 24, contestants wore traditional Mongolian dress. Each contestant’s bio page on the pageant web site includes between one and three photos as well as geeky geographical stats about the total population and size in square kilometers of each country, along with the languages each girl speaks. Compare that to the Miss Universe contestant pages, which are heavy on the bikini snapshots with photos available for download.
So why have you never heard of Miss World United States? Her job doesn’t have the same visibility as Miss USA or Miss America — though some former Miss World Unites States contestants have gotten famous after their reigns, notably actress Halle Berry and Wonder Woman Lynda Carter. There’s not even an actual pageant to select her — Miss World United States is a model selected to represent the country by a modeling agency; many other countries pick their contestant in the same manner.
This year’s Miss World United States, Claudine Book, is a Malibu-raised UCLA student, studying film and Italian, who owns many exotic birds. She’s posting snapshots from the competition on her Facebook page.
Book isn’t likely to win — she’s failed to make the cut as a finalist for the swimsuit competition, as well as talent. In the latter category, all of the contestants have been overshadowed by Miss World Philippines, Quenerich Rehman, who has gone viral with her beatboxing performance of “Teach Me How to Dougie” and other hip-hop songs. Definitely not something you’d see at the Miss Universe pageant.