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Paula Shugart steps down as Miss Universe President

Paula Shugart steps down as Miss Universe president

Paula Shugart has stepped down as the Miss Universe President, a position she has held for 25 years.

The executive made the announcement in a speech following the Miss Universe National Costume Show in El Salvador.

Paula started her speech by talking about how she and the team of Nayib Bukele, the President of El Salvador, talked about holding the prestigious pageant in the country.

“And I must admit, years of watching the news in the United States have made me skeptical. I said, ‘Do you have a venue? Is there infrastructure and most importantly, is it safe?’” Paula said.

“But to every question I posed, I was told, 'You must come see what we are doing here. This is the new El Salvador.'”

She said, “El Salvador, you have delivered beyond our greatest expectations.”

Paula promised the El Salvador government that they would work together to create a great event.

“I promised you I would personally use my years of experience to bring the message of the new El Salvador to the world,” she said. “Saturday will be a culmination and a celebration of this partnership. And it does not get better any better than this.”

For these reasons, Paula announced, “I can think of no better place than in this beautiful country on this magnificent stage, to announce the end of my tenure as the President of Miss Universe.”

The executive added that the upcoming coronation night will be her last show. She clarified that the decision was “months in the making and is not in response to recent events.”

She said, “I stayed because of my belief in El Salvador and my love for the Miss Universe brand.”

Paula emphasized her belief that Miss Universe is not about one woman but about a community.

“It's about the passionate fans, the title holders, 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.

Paula looked back on her 25-year career with the pageant, when she took over as president during a turbulent time but the community has helped guide her.

“I am so proud of all that we have accomplished. We taught women that true beauty is based in confidence and using your voice. We expanded our global reach and focused on telling the stories of all of these incredible women,” she said.

Paula added that the organization worked hard to change the rules to be more inclusive, such as opening the pageant to transgender women 12 years ago, as well as having married women and mothers compete.

She said that Miss Universe also changed her life. Paula met her soulmate through the pageant, was able to travel “an incredible team of people,” and continues to be inspired by the thousands of women they come across.

Before ending her speech, the former president shared a big lesson she learned, which is “there is a critical difference between declaring the words transformational leadership and being a real transformational leader.”

She said, “Transformational leadership is not about one person. It can and it must be about putting the needs of the team above all else in creating a vision for the future. It can and it must be empathetic beyond self-interest.

“It can and it must be committed to building confidence through inspiration and teamwork, not insecurity and chaos. It can and it must be about motivation, not [degradation]. And above all, it must be about honesty, respect, integrity, and living by your word.”

Following this, Paula said that everybody must demand the best of each other especially in challenging times.

“I know with all the talent that I see in this room, you will make that dream of true transformational leadership a reality, starting with the leadership that I have found here in El Salvador,” she said.

Paula said that working with Miss Universe has been an honor, and added that it “is a very, very special brand, deserving of love, proper leadership, support, and investment.”

She also called fans “the best in the world.”

Paula added a special message to fans and women. “To all of you, thank you for this incredible adventure. I have been truly blessed.”

“And to all of the women claiming their place in the world: never, ever be afraid to use your voice. Use this platform we've been given and you can [truly] change the world.”

Paula then told supporters that she is not retiring.

“I have an unbelievable story to tell and I look forward to telling it.”

Michelle Dee, the Philippines’ representative, has been participating in Miss Universe’s pre-coronation activities in El Salvador, where she has been serving head-turning looks one after another.

She was elegant in an emerald green evening gown, and sizzling hot in a red swimsuit for the Miss Universe preliminary competitions.

For the National Costume show, Michelle paid tribute to Filipino weaving culture and highlighted her role as an Air Force Reservist.

She is vying for the Philippines’ fifth Miss Universe crown with an advocacy for autism awareness. Michelle was among the 10 silver finalists of the Miss Universe Voice for Change video competition.

The Miss Universe coronation night is set for November 19, Sunday (Philippine time) where Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray will serve as a backstage correspondent.

—Nika Roque/CACM, GMA Integrated News