The hunt is on for the next Miss Universe Bahrain. Following the pageant's two successful participations at Miss Universe, aspiring beauty queens can now apply for the chance to be crowned Miss Universe Bahrain 2023.
Organisers said they were looking for "the most passionate girl from Bahrain who could defy the odds and has the fire to summon the universe".
Yugen Group, which is headquartered in Dubai, recently earned the right to host the third Miss Universe Bahrain pageant.
Controversy rocked the Miss Universe pageant last month when new owner, Thai millionaire Anne Jakrajutatip, introduced a rule that required organisations and their national directors wishing to host competitions to select Miss Universe representatives to submit fresh bids annually.
A number of organisations that have been sending representatives for years, including entities from Vietnam, Ghana, Belize, Mauritius, Seychelles and Indonesia, cut ties with Miss Universe following the announcement of the new rules.
Jakrajutatip has since announced new partners in some of the countries.
Yugen Group owner Josh Yugen said his company won the Miss Universe Bahrain franchise following "weeks of bidding". He will also continue to serve as its national director.
Applicants need to be between 18 and 28 years of age, and have an advocacy and "inspirational story of empowerment and resilience". And, for the first time in 71 years, their marital status will not matter — applicants can be single, married, divorced or mothers.
The Miss Universe Organisation made the historic decision to no longer limit the contest to single women last year, saying it was a move to evolve with the times.
"We all believe that women should have agency over their lives and that a human's personal decisions should not be a barrier to their success," a memo sent to national directors said.
Miss Universe is one of the longest-running and most-watched beauty competitions in the world; it is broadcast in 165 countries and seen by more than half a billion people annually.
"For the next Miss Universe Bahrain, we are looking forward to having an empowering woman with an unparalleled advocacy. A woman with a really beautiful heart, humble yet brave, active yet graceful, and passionate to all things that she is fighting for. Someone who can harmonise with our Miss Bahrain organisation’s mission and vision, and is unafraid to stand for whatever she believes in," Yugen, the national director for Miss Universe Bahrain, told The National.
"Last year, reigning queen Evlin Khalifa made an impact as she rose to the top, voiced her advocacies and received hundreds of media coverages and interviews. Moreover, she inspired thousands of women from all over the world and showed them how beautiful an Arab woman is without forgetting her values and virtues, whilst representing the country on the biggest and most credible pageant of all time."
Khalifa, who beat more than 300 applicants to win the Miss Universe Bahrain 2022 title, made a striking appearance at the Miss Universe pageant in New Orleans last month. Although she did not make it to the semifinals, she was praised for her powerful statement about representation during the swimsuit round when she made an appearance in a pink burkini.
Khalifa, 24, customised her cape with the message: "Arab Women should be represented. Muslim women can also become Miss Universe".
She also had the word "equality" written in Arabic on it.
"There are a lot of factors why I decided to compete for the greatest competition of its kind, Miss Universe, but one of the major reasons is to break stereotypes," Khalifa told The National following the preliminary competition. "Arab women are kind, passionate and brave, and they are ready to embrace the challenges of life. They can become beauty queens in modesty and can shine in modern pageantry."
Khalifa's predecessor and Miss Universe Bahrain 2021, Manar Nadeem Deyani, was the first ever beauty queen to represent Bahrain at the Miss Universe competition.
Deyani also made waves at the event, held in Israel, when she walked in the swimsuit competition in a fully covered flowing activewear outfit.
While part of the preliminary competition, Miss Universe gives contestants the freedom to wear what they choose during the swimsuit round.
The Miss Universe Organisation has also been undergoing massive changes. In October, Thai media and content company JKN Global Group acquired it from IMG, with chief executive Anne Jakkaphong Jakrajutatip vowing to evolve the brand for a new generation.
Miss Universe 2023 will be held in El Salvador. While no date has been set, it's expected to be held later this year.
The announcement was made by the country's President Nayib Bukele during the 71st Miss Universe in New Orleans, where Miss USA R'Bonney Gabriel took the crown, becoming the first Filipina-American to win the competition.
Applications for Miss Universe Bahrain are open until March 20. More information is available at houseofyugen.com
Scroll through the gallery below for more pictures from the Miss Universe 2022 pageant