"It's really a game-changer."
These were the words of Miss Universe 2013 3rd runner-up Ariella Arida after Thai billionaire Jakkaphong "Anne" Jakrajutatip acquired the Miss Universe Organization, ushering a new era for the beauty pageant.
"Parang for like how many decades, it's been with the US. And now, it's with Thailand. I'm happy 'cause it's with an Asian country as well," she said in an interview with PEP.
She added, "At the same time, sana we still have a chance. Pero alam ko naman na Miss Universe will always be fair to all the candidates."
Ariella also highlighted that now that the Miss Universe franchise is now with Thailand, it would be easier to visit whoever wins the crown.
"And it's so nice din kasi kapitbahay natin. Kung sino man 'yung manalo or Philippines will be the winner, we can easily just go there and visit. So it's definitely a game-changer. And I hope na madagdagan pa yung mga advocacy ng organization," she stated.
It was in October when it was announced that JKN Global Group, led by Anne, acquired the 71-year-old Miss Universe franchise from IMG.
"We are incredibly honored to be acquiring The Miss Universe Organization and working with its visionary leadership team. The global reach of the Organization, its relationships with global partners and brands, and its wealth of content, licensing, and merchandising opportunities make this a strong, strategic addition to our portfolio," she said in a statement during the announcement.
"We seek not only to continue its legacy of providing a platform to passionate individuals from diverse backgrounds, cultures, and traditions, but also to evolve the brand for the next generation," she added.
Moving forward, JKN will be launching MU lifestyle which will offer merchandise as part of further developing the brand.
Meanwhile, Miss Universe Organization CEO Amy Emmerich and president Paula Shugart remarked that they are elated to take part in the continuous evolution of the beauty pageant together with JKN.
They stated, "Our relationships with global partners and brands have never been stronger; and our progressive approach continues to position us at the forefront of our industry. We would like to thank IMG for providing us a foundation to realize our aspirations for the brand."
An event dubbed as "Miss Universe Extravaganza" was held in Bangkok recently, greenlighting the 71st edition of Miss Universe under JKN.
The event was attended by title holders including Miss Universe 2005 Natalie Glebova of Canada, Miss Universe 2011 Leila Lopes of Angola, Miss Universe 2020 Andrea Mesa of Mexico, Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray of the Philippines, and Miss Universe 2021 Haarnaz Sandhu of India.
Miss Universe Spain 2018 Angela Ponce, who is the first transgender to be part of the pageant, also graced the event. Previous winners of Miss Universe Thailand including Maria Lynn Ehren (2017), Amanda Obdam (2020), Anchilee Scott-Kemis (2021), and reigning winner Anna Sueangam-iam also attended the event.
The 71st edition of the Miss Universe pageant will be held in New Orleans on January 14, 2023.
Philippine representative Celeste Cortesi is one of the candidates from all over the world who will take part in the pageant.