After over 30 years leading the Miss Universe franchise in Mexico, former Miss Universe Lupita Jones has been removed from her position as the national director. In her place, the organization has named model and beauty queen Cynthia de la Vega as the new head of Mexicana Universal.
The change comes shortly after businessman Raúl Rocha Cantú was announced as the new franchise owner for Mexico under the recently founded JKN Global Group, spearheaded by CEO Anne Jakrajutatip.
While no official statement had been made to Jones directly, she expressed in an emotional video that “everything points to the truth” of the leadership shift, despite having the support of many fans and Miss Universe devotees in Mexico.
History of Lupita Jones with the Pageant
Lupita Jones is a pivotal figure in the Miss Universe pageant, having brought great success to Mexico during her extensive tenure. She first rose to fame in 1991 when she was crowned Miss Universe at just 23 years old, becoming the first Mexican woman to win the title.
After retiring from competition, Jones continued working closely with the organization over the years. In 1994, she became a co-presenter of the Miss Universe telecast, providing commentary in Spanish.
Her greatest contribution, however, was assuming the national franchise and molding it into an influential institution for empowering Mexican women. Under the branding Nuestra Belleza Mexico, Jones helped launch the careers of celebrities like Andrea Legarreta while coaching contestants to three Miss Universe victories.
Ximena Navarrete won the crown in 2010, exactly 20 years after Jones’ own historic achievement. This was followed by back-to-back wins for Andrea Meza in 2020 and Debora Hallal in 2022 – the latter overseen by Jones just weeks before her dismissal.
Reason for Leadership Change
While no explicit reason was given for replacing Lupita Jones as director, speculation points to her views on transgender contestants as a likely factor.
In 2018, Jones made controversial statements asserting that trans women should not compete in Miss Universe in response to Spain’s Angela Ponce breaking barriers as the first trans contestant. This sparked criticism from LGBTQ+ advocates in Mexico and abroad.
Meanwhile, new Miss Universe owner Anne Jakrajutatip has been vocal about making the pageant more inclusive. Earlier this year, she announced that eligibility rules would be updated to allow married women and mothers to compete if they wish.
Jakrajutatip also expressed a wish to see transgender contestants at Miss Universe “as long as they are biologically female.” This was seen as a direct contradiction to Jones’ past objection against trans participants.
With the organization shifting towards greater inclusion, Jones seems to no longer fit that progressive vision. Coupled with the Miss Mexico organization being recently privatized under JKN Global Group, deciding on fresh leadership would allow setting new priorities moving forward.
Cynthia de la Vega’s History with the Pageant
As Lupita Jones’ successor, Cynthia de la Vega is no stranger to the pageant world herself. She first stepped into the spotlight as an 18-year-old model contestant in 2008, winning the Elite Model Look Mexico competition.
Two years later, her beauty and poise earned her the title of Nuestra Belleza Mundo Mexico 2010. This granted de la Vega the opportunity to represent Mexico at the 2011 Miss World pageant.
However, controversy with then-director Lupita Jones prematurely ended her reign. De la Vega was stripped of her national title months before Miss World, with Jones’ organization citing issues managing her weight along with unproven accusations related to escort services.
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The dubious grounds for dismissal, combined with targeted comments Jones had made about de la Vega’s appearance, sparked allegations of bullying and mistreatment.
Over the years, Cynthia de la Vega continued competing in international pageants, placing Top 20 at Miss Supranational 2016. She also married media personality Enrique Mayagoitia and started a family while maintaining visibility as a model and celebrity influencer.
Now at 32 years old, de la Vega retakes the national spotlight, poised to lead Miss Universe Mexico into a new era. Her relevant pageant experience and fresh perspective could revitalize the organization while still paying homage to its roots.
Miss Universe Comeback in Mexico
Alongside the change in leadership, it was also announced that Mexico will host Miss Universe in 2024 for the first time since 1993.
Franchise owner Raúl Rocha Cantú proclaimed enthusiasm for bringing the pageant back to Mexico, expressing plans to partner with major broadcasting networks to air the anticipated event.
While an exact location and date are still undetermined, the hosting duties granting Mexico automatic qualification in 2024 should give Cynthia de la Vega’s first Miss Universe contestant a home-court advantage.
This announcement comes on the heels of this weekend’s emotional Miss Universe 2023 coronation in New Orleans, Louisiana. Host country USA secured back-to-back victories with the crowning of R’Bonney Gabriel, succeeding her teammate Harnaaz Sandhu of India.
Sheynnis Palacios of Puerto Rico claimed 1st Runner-Up status as Miss Universe 2023, while American Morgan Romano took 2nd Runner-Up. Venezuela and the Dominican Republic rounded out the Top 5 finalists among the 82 delegates overall.
Palacios will arrive in Mexico City this week for media appearances before embarking on the extensive travel obligations of Miss Universe across the globe. Puerto Rico last won Miss Universe in 2006 with Zuleyka Rivera, also finishing 1st Runner-Up in 2021.
What Will Happen in the Miss Universe Competition?
As Cynthia de la Vega prepares to assume her duties, big questions remain about what policy changes could happen behind the scenes of Mexicana Universal pageant activities.
Will eligibility be expanded to new demographics like married women? What steps can promote greater inclusion around gender identity? How will judging evolve to showcase substance over physical appearance alone?
There may also be speculation if any bad blood still exists from de la Vega’s controversial dismissal in 2011 under Lupita Jones. Some fans think Jones deserves a formal tribute or honorary role of sorts after her exceptional dedication to Miss Universe Mexico for over 30 years.
While the reasoning for this sudden switch in leadership seemed poorly communicated externally, both women share a fundamental commitment to empowering Mexican women. Perhaps this transition simply marks the passing of the torch to a younger generation.
Regardless, all eyes will be on Cynthia de la Vega as she puts her vision into action. With Mexico preparing to welcome Miss Universe 2024, she has plenty of incentive to make a great first impression.