Miss Universe Organization president Paula Shugart steps down after 25 years
Paula Shugart will be ending her tenure as president of the Miss Universe Organization (MUO) after the pageant’s 72nd edition, a position she held for 25 years.
Shugart made the announcement in a heartfelt speech at the end of the global tilt’s national costume show on Nov. 16 (Nov. 17 in Manila), after thanking the host country El Salvador for delivering “beyond our greatest expectations.”
“I have decided that this Saturday will be my last show. And to be clear, this decision has been made months in the making and is not in a response to recent events. I stayed because of my belief in El Salvador and my love for the Miss Universe brand,” she said.
She pointed out that Miss Universe is not just about “one woman” maintaining the brand’s “strong and resilient” foundation, but also the “community.”
“I have always passionately believed that Miss Universe is not about any one woman. It’s about community, our community, it’s about the passionate fans, the titleholders, the national directors who have remained dedicated to this brand through thick and thin and because of them the Miss Universe brand is strong and will remain resilient,” she said.
Shugart also looked back at the MUO’s “turbulent time” before she assumed the role in 1997, while stating how much the pageant “worked hard to change the rules” in hopes of pushing for inclusivity among women.
“I am so proud of what we have accomplished. We taught women that true beauty is based [on] confidence and using your voice,” she said. “We expanded our global reach, and focused on telling the stories of all these incredible women. We worked hard to change the rules to be more inclusive.”
“Twelve years ago, we became the first major brand to open our doors to transgender women. And this year, we changed the rules to allow married women and mothers to compete. And for the first time in our history, we have two mothers competing on this stage,” she further added.
While touching on the pageant’s aim, she asserted that there’s a difference between “saying the words transformational leadership” and “being a real transformational leader.”
“Transformational leadership is not about one person. It can and must be putting the needs of the team above all else in creating a vision for the future. It can and must be empathetic beyond self-interest and committed to building confidence through inspiration and teamwork, not insecurity and chaos,” Shugart said.
“And above all, it must be about honesty, respect, integrity, and living by your word. One cannot just talk the talk, one must walk the walk,” she continued.
To end her speech, Shugart expressed the hope that women wouldn’t be “afraid to use [their] voice” in their bid to “change the world.” “Don’t think for one minute I’m retiring. I have an unbelievable story to tell and I look forward to telling it.”
In a post on Instagram, the MUO president thanked the organization for the “greatest adventure anyone could ever wish for” while reaffirming that she’s not retiring.
“Thank you to our fans, directors and the amazing titleholders I have been blessed to meet throughout the years. You are what makes Miss Universe great! I love you all! And to avoid speculation, I am definitely not retiring. I will see you all soon,” she wrote.
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Shugart’s successor is yet to be disclosed as of this writing.
Among the noteworthy Miss Universe titleholders who were crowned during her tenure were the Philippines’ very own Pia Wurtzbach and Catriona Gray, Zozibini Tunzi and Demi-Leigh Tebow of South Africa, Harnaaz Sandhu of India, and reigning R’Bonney Gabriel of the United States.