The main Miss Universe Pageant, as of this writing, is held over a two week period in May and July. In the 1970s through the 1990s, the pageant was a month long. This allowed time for rehearsals, appearances, and the preliminary competition, with the winner being crowned by the previous year's titleholder during the final competition.
According to the organizers, the Miss Universe contest is more than a beauty pageant: women aspiring to become Miss Universe must be intelligent, well-mannered, and cultured
. Often a candidate has lost because she did not have a good answer during the question responses rounds; although this section of competition has held less importance during recent pageants than it did in the twentieth century. Delegates also participate in swimsuit and evening gown competitions.
Currently, the final placement of the finalists is determined by a ranked vote, where each judge ranks each of the final three/five candidates, with the contestant posting the lowest cumulative score (thus often, but not necessarily always, the contestant with the most number one votes) becoming the winner. If there is a tie, the higher semifinal scores become decisive.
The winner is assigned a one-year contract with the Miss Universe Organization, going overseas to spread messages about the control of diseases, peace, and public awareness of AIDS. Since Donald Trump took over the pageant, the winner has been given the use of a Trump Tower apartment in New York City for use during her reign. If the winner, for any reason, cannot fulfill her duties as Miss Universe, the 1st runner-up takes over.
Aside from the main winner and her runners-up, special awards are also given to the winners of the best National Costume, Miss Photogenic, and Miss Congeniality. The Miss Congeniality award is chosen by the delegates themselves. In recent years, Miss Photogenic has been chosen by popular internet vote (the winner used to be chosen by media personnel covering the event).