UPDATE: Olivia Culpo, Miss USA, is Miss Universe 2012. The second place went to Miss Philipines. Miss Venezuela placed third.
The 61st edition of the Miss Universe pageant will be held tonight at 8:00 p.m. (ET) from the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The event, owned by real estate and media mogul Donald Trump, will be broadcasted live by NBC and Telemundo, and will be hosted by Bravo's Andy Cohen and E! News' Giuliana Rancic. The entertainment will be in charge of Train.
Eighty-nine women from all over the world will compete in swimsuit, evening gown and interview. And, as it's customary, "naysayers of pageantry" — such as PolicyMic's own Sarah Dropek — are decrying the contest as a "sexist relic of the past."
Here's why they're wrong.
First, despite the fact that contestants are judged by their physical appearance, in addition to their public speaking skills and ability to lead philanthropic causes, describing the Miss Universe pageant as "sexist" assumes the contestants are involuntarily recruited and forced to smile, pose and parade. That is, obviously, not the case.
For most pageant contestants, winning these titles is a life-long goal for which they prepare by working very hard not only on fitness but also on public speaking and other cultural and social skills. It's a professional choice; and, as such, should be respected just like any other professional choices made by aspiring doctors, lawyers or architects.
Second, these pageants work as springboards to launch successful careers — not only in related professions within the fields of the arts, the media and entertainment but in some cases even in the fields of business, diplomacy and even politics.
I know this from growing up in Venezuela, a country where beauty queens are a source of national pride similar to Olympic athletes (they're actually received by the president at the National Palace when they succeed in international contests).
In 1981, a Venezuelan named Irene Saez won the Miss Universe pageant. She then went on to become a corporate spokesperson, and eventually found her way into the world of politics where she was elected as a mayor, then as a governor (making meaningful impact in the communities she led until she actually ran for president, placing third after Hugo Chavez and Henrique Salas Romer in the 1998 election).
This is actually taught in school, and it's in the history books.