After a remarkable 23-year tenure, Paula Shugart announced her departure from the Miss Universe Organization, stepping down as president. The revelation unfolded during Thursday night’s National Costume Show in El Salvador, the venue for this year’s Miss Universe event. While recent reports indicated the Thailand-based owner, JKN Global Group, filed for bankruptcy, insiders clarified that Shugart’s decision had been in progress independently of this development.
Taking center stage, Shugart expressed her departure, stating, “In my 25 years at Miss Universe, we expanded the global reach of this iconic entertainment brand by highlighting the stories of these incredible women.” Emphasizing the essence of transformative leadership, she added, “Leadership is not just about one person but putting the needs of the team above all else in creating a vision for the future.”
Having served as president since 2001, Shugart’s responsibilities included overseeing the production of the annual telecast and managing business transactions. In a press release, she remarked, “As a producer, it is time for me to move on to the next act.” The role of president will not be filled, with Shugart redirecting her focus towards philanthropic endeavors, such as the Global Menstrual Equity Accelerator championed by Harnaaz Sandhu.
Shugart, who initially joined as Vice President of Production in 1998, has been pivotal in fostering inclusivity within Miss Universe. Notable milestones include allowing transgender participation since 2012 and more recently permitting contestants who are married or have children. Her commitment to social causes extends beyond the pageant, with involvement in initiatives recognized by organizations like Smile Train and Gilda’s Club.
Acknowledging her achievements, Shugart expressed pride in the organization’s accomplishments during her tenure. She highlighted efforts to redefine beauty based on confidence and the empowerment of voices, citing rule changes to enhance inclusivity, including welcoming transgender women over a decade ago. Collaborating with CEO Amy Emmerich, Shugart played a key role in evolving Miss Universe, culminating in recent milestones such as securing a multi-year deal with Roku and Telemundo for the U.S. streaming and broadcast rights. The upcoming 72nd annual “Miss Universe” event, to be streamed on Roku for the second time, reflects the ongoing commitment to progress and inclusiveness under Shugart’s influential leadership.