Pageant-loving Philippines got a mention in a statement from the Miss Universe Organization (MUO) announcing its president’s end of tenure after more than 20 years of leading the prestigious beauty pageant.
The MUO bade farewell to its 23-year president, Paula Shugart, in a message posted on an Instagram Story on Friday, November 17.
During the end of Miss Universe 2023‘s national costume show for the preliminary competition, Paula announced that she is stepping down from her position after the pageant’s coronation on November 19 (Philippine time).
Variety said she has served as MUO’s president since 2001.
Paula said that her decision has been “months in the making” and is “not a response to the recent events” in the organization.
Recent events include Miss Universe owner, Thai conglomerate JKN Global Group, entering Thailand’s “business rehabilitation program” to repay the company’s debts.
Paula in her speech also thanked the community who have guided her in empowering women and using the organization as a platform for their advocacies.
She also mentioned that as a president, she has learned that there is a “critical difference between declaring the words transformational leadership and being a real transformational leader.”
Paula said that “above all, it must be about honesty, respect, integrity and living by your word.”
“One cannot just talk the talk, one must walk the walk,” she added.
The Instagram account of MUO likewise posted about the announcement. It reads:
It is with heavy hearts and crowns that we announce our President, Paula Shugart, is stepping down after Saturday’s show, after 23 years.
On stages from Manila to El Salvador, not to mention conference rooms in every city imaginable, Paula has been our rock, guiding light, and number one fan.
Paula, we’re going to miss you so much, but we can’t wait to see what’s next on your incredible journey.
Paula’s pending departure expectedly earned mixed reactions from Filipinos.
The Philippines had two Miss Universe titleholders under her reign — Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach, who ended the country’s 42-year drought for a Philippine win; and Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray, who made a powerful impact with her winning answers and performances.
Some Pinoys expressed sadness, while others were grateful for Paula’s years-long service to the world’s most prestigious beauty pageant.
“The Universe is saddened to hear this sad news. Paula Shugart is one of the [faces] of the Miss Universe brand,” a user on the X (formerly Twitter) platform wrote.
“It’s sad that she’s leaving MUO. This is unexpected,” the user added with a sad face emoji.
“Paula Shugart’s departure from the Miss Universe Org is truly an end of an era. Nakakalungkot,” another Pinoy commented.
“Bakit kaya aalis si Paula Shugart sa MUO?” a different user wondered with a thinking face emoji.
“Awww, goodbye and thank you, Paula Shugart! Mabuhay ka! #MissUniverse,” another Pinoy commented.
“Paula Shugart stepping down as MUO Prez [president] is a shock. I would have thought she would last longer since she is a lot younger than Julia Morley of MWO [Miss World Organization],” wrote a different user.
Others noted how Miss Universe has become more inclusive under her reign.
“Paula Shugart is leaving. One great legacy niya talaga is allowing transgender women and mothers to compete in Miss Universe. Inclusivity!!!!” a Pinoy commented.
Some commented that Paula’s speech appeared to be loaded.
Miss Paula Shugart leaves us with a very interesting message as she steps down as the President of Miss Universe. 🍵#MichelleDee #mmdverse #MMD #MissUniversePhilippines2023 #MissUniverse2023 #72ndMissUniverse #ForDEEUniverse #MissUniverse pic.twitter.com/0TPKYzGOb5
— Yashael 👑❣️📸 (@Dainsleif_10) November 17, 2023
“May pinapatamaan kaya? If you read between the lines, mukhang may issue sa loob ng org…” another user wrote.
Paula in her speech mentioned the phrase “transformational leadership,” which is known to be associated with Anne Jakrajutatip, head of MUO’s parent organization.
“I always say this ‘transformational leadership’ because I’m a transwoman and I just inspire people. I would love to inspire people. That is my life purpose, to overcome obstacles,” Anne had said before.
Paula first joined MUO as a vice president of production in 1998.
She was then appointed to become its president in 2001. Her role included overseeing all business transactions, as well as the production of the pageant’s live worldwide telecast each year.
Paula said her next focus will include philanthropic projects like Miss Universe 2021 Harnaaz Sandhu‘s Global Menstrual Equity Accelerator.
The MUO president has worked with several groups related to opportunities for women and other initiatives.
Variety said among the organizations that have honored her over the years include Smile Train and Gilda’s Club.