A beauty contest, or beauty pageant, is a competition based mainly, though not always entirely, on the physical beauty of its contestants. Almost invariably, competitions for men and women are separate events, and those for men are not referred to as beauty contests. Beauty contests for women are more common, and winners are called beauty queens. Beauty contests for men, like Mr. Universe, are more likely to be "body building" contests—quite unlike the traditional "beauty contest" in which women are judged upon many attributes other than physical. However, in the 1990s, male "beauty contests" began to shift focus. Instead of only considering unnatural muscle mass, the competitions began to judge the natural physical attributes of the contestants as well as their physiques. These include Mr. World and Manhunt International.
Many trade associations have multi-tiered beauty contests which select queens as ceremonial representatives. The queen may appear at official receptions to present awards, to represent the industry in parades and festivals, to present consumer information to the public, or even to lobby for the industry. For example the South Carolina Watermelon Queen may do a tour of supermarkets with tastings of different varieties, or the North Dakota Honey Queen may tour to pass out recipes that feature honey. The queens are expected to be of high attractiveness, intelligence and character, and often gain scholarships for their year of service to the industry.
Beauty pageants are generally multi-tiered, with local competitions feeding into the larger competitions. The worldwide pageants, thus, require hundreds, sometimes thousands, of local competitions. In the United States, there is now a commercial beauty pageant industry that organizes thousands of local and regional events for all ages for profit.