The Miss Exotic World Pageant (officially, the Miss Exotic World Pageant and Striptease Reunion) is an annual neo-burlesque pageant and convention, and is the annual showcase event (and fundraiser for) the Burlesque Hall of Fame (formerly the Exotic World burlesque museum). The pageant, sometimes referred to as the "Miss America of Burlesque", attracts former burlesque queens from past decades, as well as current participants of the neo-burlesque scene. The pageant consists of burlesque performances spanning a weekend, culminating with the competition to crown a single performer as Miss Exotic World. Because of the significance of the Exotic World Burlesque Museum to the burlesque community, winning the pageant is considered a top honor for a burlesque performer.
1990 to 2004
From 1990 to 2005, the pageant took place at the Exotic World Museum's grounds in Helendale, California.
Exotic World Museum curator Dixie Evans initiated the Miss Exotic World pageant in 1990 as a way to draw people to the museum. She garnered attention by sending out a press release claiming that "Lili St. Cyr, Tempest Storm, Blaze Starr and 30 other alumni of burlesque will all be invited to attend this reunion." While technically true, none of those invitees attended that year. However, the release garnered press attention for the pageant, which was successful enough to become an annual event, held on the first Saturday in June each year.
In 2005, the pageant significantly expanded to mark its 15th year, as well as to accelerate the museum's fundraising efforts. Where previously the pageant had been a one-day event, it was now expanded to last an entire weekend. The new format featured an entire evening dedicated to the "legends" – the mostly sexuagenarian and septuagenarian women of burlesque's "golden age" of the 1950s and 1960s. Other new changes to the pageant included the expansion of financial sponsors; a glossy souvenir program; a celebrity master of ceremonies (El Vez); expanded seating (and shade areas); and a professional entertainment stage with sound and lighting as an improvement upon the aging wooden stage that had been used in previous years.
Some of the most significant changes in 2005 were changes to the pageant application and judging process. The pageant expanded from having only one "Miss Exotic World" category to now include other new categories such as Best Debut. Additionally, the application process was tightened up, with the evaluation method standardized to further ensure fairness.
2006 to present
In 2006, the pageant took place in a new location, Las Vegas, in the wake of certain events that greatly affected the museum's operational ability. (Specifically, the state of disrepair of the property, and the death of property owner Charles Arroyo.) With the museum's impending move to Las Vegas, the pageant was held there, based at the Celebrity Theater in downtown Las Vegas. The pageant, up to that point held on the first Saturday in June, was instead held over Memorial Day weekend in late May, 2006. The pageant consisted of four evenings' worth of events and featured dual hosts Margaret Cho and El Vez.
Since 2006, the pageant has made Las Vegas its permanent home.