Israel’s Miss Universe organizers say they tried to keep swimwear out, were rebuffed

Production manager says local team knows 'things need to change,' but suggestion to have contestants go up on stage in sportswear was rejected

Miss Universe contestants visit the Tower of David Museum in the Old City of Jerusalem ahead of the December 12 70th Miss Universe pageant to be held in Eilat (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

A local production manager for this year’s Miss Universe competition in Eilat said the Israeli team tried to convince the show’s organizers to replace the contestants’ traditional swimsuits with sports gear.

“We suggested that instead of swimsuits they would go up [on stage] in sportswear,” Tali Eshkoli, one of the Israeli production managers, told Channel 12 news in an interview broadcast on Friday.

Eshkoli said the organizers didn’t accept the suggestion. “We failed with that,” she said.

“We know, as people in this competition do, that things need to change,” Asaf Blacher, another production manager, told the network.

“You will see on Monday that we will bring our change. Swimsuits on the stage — it won’t be the same as every year. It won’t be a parade of 80 girls shaking their bodies for show,” he said.

Many have criticized the competition for its objectification of women, and unusual rules, such as not allowing married, pregnant, or divorced women to compete.

Tali Eshkoli (left) and Asaf Blacher (center), local production managers for the 2021 Miss Universe competition in Eilat (Channel 12 screenshot)

“I don’t agree with those [rules],” Blacher told Channel 12.

He confirmed that divorced contestants were not allowed to participate, but didn’t directly address other restrictions.

Contestants of the 2021 Miss Universe pageant enjoy a sunny day on a beach at the Dead Sea, on December 1, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Miss Universe 2021 will be held in Eilat with contestants from close to 80 nations — and broadcast live to more than 600 million viewers in 172 countries via the Fox network.

According to Eshkoli and Blacher, Miss Universe is the third most viewed annual television show in the world.

The specially constructed venue at the port of Eilat — imported from Portugal — is 16.5 meters (54 feet) tall and holds approximately 5,000 seats.

A projected vision of the Miss Universe stage for the competition slated to be held in Eilat, on December 13, 2021. (Courtesy)

While the decision to host the 70th edition of the Miss Universe pageant in Israel has caused some political controversy — including the decision of South Africa to pull backing from its contestant — the competition has largely been overshadowed by the coronavirus.

While Israel opened its doors to fully vaccinated tourists on November 1, it shut them once again less than a month later over fears of the new Omicron coronavirus variant. Most of the contestants had already arrived in Israel, but those who had not were given special dispensation to fly into the country, angering many immigrants to Israel whose families remain blocked from entering.

Amy Spiro contributed to this report.

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