Julianne Hough has never been a huge fan of the Miss USA Pageant. “If it was on I would watch it, but I always had this kind of feeling like ‘Ugh, it’s a beauty pageant,’” Hough tells EW. But now, she is preparing to co-host and serve as a creative producer for the 2016 Miss USA Pageant.
So what’s changed?
The Dancing With the Stars breakout tells EW that she was drawn to the project by a combination of learning more about the Miss Universe Organization and her desire to celebrate and better humanize the contestants.
“I’m sure a lot of people have felt this way, I know I have in the past, but when you hear ‘beauty pageant,’ there’s kind of this cringe and negative connotation that comes with it, because we think that girls are competing merely based off their physical appearance,” Hough says. “And coming on as a creative producer, I thought, ‘There’s so much more to a woman than just her physical, external appearance, and we need to celebrate all parts of a woman.’ I know that the organization has done that in the past, but I really wanted the message to come across because I think, for myself and others, that’s kind of your first initial thought when you think about a pageant.”
And this might be the perfect time for the kind of shake-up that Hough is talking about. After NBC decided to stop broadcasting Miss USA in 2015 due to protests against the pageant’s then-owner Donald Trump, IMG bought the rights and will be broadcasting the competition on FOX
“When I found out about Miss USA and how FOX and IMG acquired it, I thought ‘Man, this is such an opportunity to really showcase and celebrate women for more than just their physical beauty,’” Hough said. “And that is such a huge thing that I believe in. …Our slogan is ‘Confidently Beautiful,’ and what makes you beautiful is kindness, compassion, being healthy and active, all sorts of things.”
Hough says viewers can expect Sundays show to celebrate different body types, provide more background on the lives of the women competing, and add a 52nd contestant. The broadcast also will show the contestants in their hometowns and at their jobs.
“You want to humanize it a little bit, and really get to know the girls,” Hough says. “I think that’s part of why we thought of it as a physical beauty competition, because we didn’t get to see these girls and the lives that they live. We go to their hometowns and we get to see where they’re from, what their job is, what they’re doing in their community, how they interact with their family, and we get to see someone for who they truly are without all the makeup and dresses on. That humanizes it more, and it helps people connect to these women who are doing so much good in their community. And at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about.”
Hough will co-host the pageant with Terrence “J” Jenkins and backstage host Ashley Graham, with musical performances by the Backstreet Boys and Chris Young. The Miss USA Pageant will air on Sunday, June 5 at 7 p.m. ET on FOX.