How likely are you to meet a Miss Universe? (And other important questions)

Updated on Jan 30, 2017 07:19 PM IST

Think statistics and beauty pageants don’t mix? Think again.

Iris Mittenaere of France is crowned the new Miss Universe 2016 by 2015 Miss Universe Pia Wurtzbach.(AP)
Iris Mittenaere of France is crowned the new Miss Universe 2016 by 2015 Miss Universe Pia Wurtzbach.(AP)
New Delhi | By

“Military intelligence,” “open secret,” “Microsoft Works,” “seriously funny.” Now, you can add another item to the list of improbable combinations: rigorous statistical analysis and Miss Universe pageants.

To wit: In being crowned Miss Universe today, France’s Iris Mittenaere became the 9th-oldest woman to ever win the competition, at 24 years, seven days. Her relatively advanced age fits a 65-year trend: Miss Universe winners have gradually gotten older since the competition’s inaugural pageant in 1952, when Finland’s Armi Kuusela claimed the crown at the age of 17 years, 312 days. Kuusela was just a few weeks older than the youngest ever winner: Peru’s Gladys Zender, who won in 1957 when she was just 17 years, 284 days old.

Neither of the Indian Miss Universes were old enough to buy a legal drink in Delhi when they took the crown. Lara Dutta, who won in 2000, was 22 years, 26 days old when she won, while 1994’s winner, Sushmita Sen, was 18 years, 184 days old.

That India has produced two Miss Universes is a significant accomplishment — only 15 other countries have sent forth multiple Miss Universes into the universe. Mittenaere’s victory earned France a place in the multiple Miss Universe club; the country’s only previous winner was Christiane Martel, who won the second Miss Universe pageant in 1953.

Perhaps it is unsurprising that the United States, a country whose current president owned the Miss Universe pageant for nearly two decades and in which beauty pageants have been the subject of major motion pictures and at least one disturbing reality television program, has produced eight Miss Universes. (Actually, if you include winners from Puerto Rico, an unincorporated territory of the United States of America, there have been 13 American Miss Universes. However, Miss Universe’s record keepers count Puerto Rico as its own “country.”)

Still, with the world’s third-largest population, we might expect the United States to produce more Miss Universes than smaller nations. Indeed, the U.S. has produced just fewer than a quarter of a Miss Universe per crore of its present-day population. Meanwhile, the award for most efficient Miss Universe producer goes to the Caribbean island nation of Trinidad and Tobago: two winners from a current population of just over 1.3 million, or about 14.7 Miss Universes per crore people.

Incidentally, India, with its massive population of more than 1.3 billion people, has produced just less than .02 Miss Universes per crore people, the lowest rate among the 34 countries whose citizens have earned the crown.

And now we come to the most important question of all: In which country do you have the best chance of meeting a Miss Universe? If, say, you were to roam randomly across the Japanese countryside, how likely would you be to stumble upon a Miss Universe?

To guess the rough answer, we’ll divide the number of Miss Universe winners from each country (excluding those who have died) by the country’s area (including lakes, reservoirs and rivers, for Miss Universes are known to enjoy swimsuits). After all that maths, we find that Puerto Rico has the highest population density of Miss Universes, with 54.92 living winners per lakh square kilometres.

The runner up is, again, the lovely Trinidad and Tobago, with 39, and in third is Lebanon, with 9.57 Miss Universes per lakh square kilometres. In winning the crown for France today, Mittenaere doubled your chances of having a chance meeting with a French Miss Universe: there are now .37 Miss Universes per lakh square kilometres in France.

If you do take that trip to Japan, you may have to roam for a very long time before you meet Riyo Mori, who won in 2007, or Akiko Kojima, 1959’s Miss Universe. With an area of 377,835 square kilometres, Japan has just .54 Miss Universes per lakh square kilometres.

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