The Most Over-the-Top Miss Universe Costumes, From High Camp to High Cringe

The Most Over-the-Top Miss Universe Costumes, From High Camp to High Cringe

We’re talking Lady Gaga levels of theatrics, people.

We may earn a commission from links on this page.
Image for article titled The Most Over-the-Top Miss Universe Costumes, From High Camp to High Cringe
Photo: Getty Images, Miss Universe Pageant 2022 (Getty Images)

The highlight of the Miss Universe pageant might widely be considered the finale, in which a single woman is deemed so representative of femininity that she can stand in for the entire galaxy. Contestants may give a more political answer, saying the best thing about the multi-day event is the camaraderie and sisterhood, or something like that. But for viewers, the undisputed champion of Miss Universe isn’t a single person, but the entirety of the pageant’s National Costume Contest. And good God, did the National Costume Contest deliver.

America’s first Filipino American Miss USA, R’Bonney Gabriel, was crowned the 71st Miss Universe on Saturday night, beating out Amanda Dudamel from Venezuela and Andreína Martínez from the Dominican Republic. She faced 83 other competitors in total, fighting for the coveted crown and title from a stage in New Orleans. While Gabriel proved to be a valiant contestant, speaking on outdated contestant age limits and the far-too-recent change to allow mothers and married women to compete, she will probably best be remembered in the cultural imagination for her perfectly absurdist take on Americana.

The pageant’s National Costume Contest allows contestants to use their bodies as an artistic, political, and cultural canvas of sorts and encourages them to go all out—sometimes, so far out that viewers have no idea what the fuck is happening onstage. Other times, the near-drag performances are, uh, a little too on the nose. In 2002, Miss USA dressed as a firefighter months after 9/11 took place. In 2007, she was dressed as Elvis Presley. Other Miss USAs have gone as NASCAR drivers and comic book characters.

It’s easy to make fun of women who compete in pageants, but some of these parade floats, I mean outfits, are legitimate works of art and at the very least are entertaining for those of us choosing popcorn over platform heels.

Right this way for the feast of glamour—and literal food—adorning this year’s contestants!

Advertisement

2 / 13

Miss Armenia

Miss Armenia

Image for article titled The Most Over-the-Top Miss Universe Costumes, From High Camp to High Cringe
Photo: Josh Brasted (Getty Images)

Miss Armenia Kristina Ayanian, who comes from a family of refugees, chose a garment intended to call attention to the Armenian genocide. Most other contestants looked like parade floats, she looks like the world’s most glamorous protester. A+ work, Kristina.

Advertisement

3 / 13

Miss USA

Miss USA

Image for article titled The Most Over-the-Top Miss Universe Costumes, From High Camp to High Cringe
Photo: Josh Brasted (Getty Images)

Miss USA R’bonney Gabriel, who was ultimately crowned our Miss Universe, was widely mocked online for this outfit evocative of the 1969 moon landing—which supposedly weighs 30 pounds. I’m sorry, doesn’t anyone understand camp?!

Advertisement

4 / 13

Miss Trinidad and Tobago

Miss Trinidad and Tobago

Image for article titled The Most Over-the-Top Miss Universe Costumes, From High Camp to High Cringe
Photo: Josh Brasted (Getty Images)

Tya Jane Ramey made stoners around the universe go “whooaaaa, trippy.” Her costume, which pays homage to the country’s carnival celebration, is like My Twin Doll, but hella shinier and scarier.

Advertisement

5 / 13

Miss The Bahamas

Miss The Bahamas

Image for article titled The Most Over-the-Top Miss Universe Costumes, From High Camp to High Cringe
Photo: Josh Brasted (Getty Images)

Baby, (Angel J. Cartwright), you’re a firework! I know what you’re thinking and no, this isn’t just a ploy to get Katy Perry to tweet about the pageant. These feathery moon bursts represent the night the Bahamas gained independence, when the night sky was filled with fireworks.

Advertisement

6 / 13

Miss Switzerland

Miss Switzerland

Image for article titled The Most Over-the-Top Miss Universe Costumes, From High Camp to High Cringe
Photo: Josh Brasted (Getty Images)

Unfortunately for Alia Guindi, there is nothing deep or symbolic happening here. She is just chocolate (and sequins). It’s also somehow giving Jennifer Coolidge.

Advertisement

7 / 13

Miss Seychelles

Miss Seychelles

Image for article titled The Most Over-the-Top Miss Universe Costumes, From High Camp to High Cringe
Photo: Josh Brasted (Getty Images)

Here’s Miss Seychelles, Gabriella Gonthier, whose outfit is apparently a call to protect tropical bird species found in her country—specifically, the payanke. I’m still unclear as to why the bird headdress was needed, since it was already crystal clear that she was dressed as a bird without it. Less is more, except, apparently, on the Miss Universe stage.

Advertisement

8 / 13

Miss Netherlands

Miss Netherlands

Image for article titled The Most Over-the-Top Miss Universe Costumes, From High Camp to High Cringe
Photo: Josh Brasted (Getty Images)

Miss Netherlands, Ona Moody, is literally just a giant stroopwafel. I’d hoped for more from the Dutch (maybe incorporate some gouda at least??). This barely gets a passing grade.

Advertisement

9 / 13

Miss Jamaica

Miss Jamaica

Image for article titled The Most Over-the-Top Miss Universe Costumes, From High Camp to High Cringe
Photo: Josh Brasted (Getty Images)

I’m sorry, I thought this was a costume contest in a beauty pageant?? Miss Jamaica, Toshami Calvin, appears to have gotten lost on her way to Paris Fashion Week; she’s got more slay in one shoulder feather than Bella Hadid’s had in her entire runway career!

Calvin’s ensemble was meant to embody Queen Nanny, a Jamaican leader who fought against slavery, presenters said during the show. A catwalk baddie and a bold statement? She should’ve won!!

Advertisement

10 / 13

Miss Guatemala

Miss Guatemala

Image for article titled The Most Over-the-Top Miss Universe Costumes, From High Camp to High Cringe
Photo: Josh Brasted (Getty Images)

How can one woman be wearing so many separate shapes? Ivana Batchelor—who’s giving Lady Gaga-levels of theatrics—is dressed, somehow, as the pyramid Tikal or the Temple of the Jaguar, with references to the Mayan calendar. I hope she didn’t injure herself on the way out of this costume. Looks dangerous.

Advertisement

11 / 13

Miss Greece

Miss Greece

Image for article titled The Most Over-the-Top Miss Universe Costumes, From High Camp to High Cringe
Photo: Josh Brasted (Getty Images)

Korina Emmanouilidou is emulating the Greek goddess Hera, but I see what she’s really doing here: launching her villain era! This was an intimidation tactic, warning the judges if she didn’t win they might be hit with the fireballs forming in her toga. Clever, clever pageant contestant.

Advertisement

12 / 13


Miss El Salvador


Miss El Salvador

Image for article titled The Most Over-the-Top Miss Universe Costumes, From High Camp to High Cringe
Photo: Josh Brasted (Getty Images)

Alexjandra Guajardo Sada’s getup follows the history of El Salvador’s national currency, from cocoa beans to the colón to Bitcoin, which El Salvador adopted as legal currency in 2021. Given the monster hit the crypto community has taken over the last year, they should be so lucky to be in the hands of Miss El Salvador and her incredible quads. Stay golden!!

Advertisement

13 / 13