Miss Universe: Who will take home the crown from Eilat?

Israel’s Tourism Ministry worked to pour in a lot of money and effort into making this production high quality. But for the government, there’s another focus as well.

 Miss Universe contestants are seen in Jerusalem, on November 30, 2021. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Miss Universe contestants are seen in Jerusalem, on November 30, 2021.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

After two years of dealing with COVID-19, the city of Eilat got a big economic boost by hosting the multi-day Miss Universe pageant which includes three events between Friday, December 10 and Monday early morning on December 13. Hotels all around the port are supporting cameramen, producers, sound technicians and make up artists for the enormous production happening under a tent at the Port of Eilat. 

Eighty women from around the world entered Israel to compete for the title of Miss Universe. They beat out other contestants – first from their own country, and then they turn to the other nations to compete for the Universal crown. American TV show host Steve Harvey will be conducting the evening after making headlines in 2015 for accidentally calling out the wrong winner on television. Last year Andrea Meza of Mexico took the crown and will pass it on to the next winner in the wee hours of the morning on Monday. For Americans, the show will start at 7 p.m. EST. Meza has been guiding women this year in an official capacity after visiting Eilat just a few weeks ago to explore Israel and film promotional materials for the competition.

Israelis, of course, are buzzing with excitement for Miss Israel, Noa Cochva who has taken on the role as Israel’s international ambassador as the competitors traveled around the country she calls home. The 22-year-old was a combat medic commander in the IDF, taught soldiers how to save lives and today works as an entrepreneur, CEO and product manager at an interior-design start-up company that she opened herself.

Jessy Cohen, the media director for the City of Jerusalem in the Jerusalem Development Authority gave the women a deep tour of Jerusalem and got to spend a number of weeks working and living with them as she showed them the sites and took videos. 

“They loved it. They were taking pictures and showing it on Instagram. They got emotional. A lot of girls cried especially at the Western Wall,” Cohen said. 

 A woman takes a selfie in front of the Red Sea ahead of the annual beauty pageant Miss Universe which will take place later tonight in Eilat, Israel December 12, 2021. (credit: RONEN ZVULUN/REUTERS) A woman takes a selfie in front of the Red Sea ahead of the annual beauty pageant Miss Universe which will take place later tonight in Eilat, Israel December 12, 2021. (credit: RONEN ZVULUN/REUTERS)

This year, Cohen explained, many of the contestants had to work without their full teams. Only women who came into the country with their crew before November 29 are fully equipped. Most are doing their own make-up on non-competition days and getting their affairs in order on their own. Fear of spreading the Omicron variant through travel caused government officials to close the border to non-citizens at the end of November. 

“Everyone is so excited for the event. The girls are running around with the dresses, getting makeup done. They've been preparing for months. For years. They’ve been waking up at 3 a.m. and going to sleep late for three weeks. But they get to the stage with this amazing smile. And they're new [again],” Cohen said. 

For Cohen, the point she most wants people to understand is that Miss Universe is not just about beauty. Each of the women participating have two or three degrees, their own companies and charities or perhaps speak a number of impressive languages.

“I want it to be on the record that they don't get judged on how pretty they are, but rather who is the powerful strong woman who we can look up to as a role model. That's the whole point of Miss Universe,” Cohen explained. 

Friday night’s costume preliminary was a colorful experience where contestants present special costumes that represent their countries. The dresses are made with a designer and full team. Miss Dominican Republic wore a gold dress representative of her country’s sun and Miss Puerto Rico made her costume from recycled materials to make a commentary on the importance of going green. 

Israel’s Tourism Ministry worked to pour in a lot of money and effort into making this production high quality. But for the government, there’s another focus as well.

“We are saying they’re excited to have 80 new ambassadors for Israel, who are spreading the word – and pictures – about our beautiful country as a safe and welcoming tourism destination just as soon as the skies reopen,” senior department manager for the ministry’s foreign tourism affairs Sara Salansky said. 

Pageant contestants will be performing in a run-through before the event begins at 2 a.m. They say they aren’t stressed, but rather excited for the big day.