The Miss Colombia pageant is held annually in the city of Cartagena de Indias. Coverage is given by the media to the contest, including by Cromos magazine which devotes entire issues to the individual contestants favored to win, and four covers of the magazine are devoted to the pageant in a 4-week period.
Every major network sends news crews, and have sets built by the beach in Cartagena to report live for at least fifteen minutes every day towards the end of the news broadcast on the goings-on of the contestants. Aspirants must compete in their respective Departments to earn a title for the pageant.
Colombia has strict rules regarding participation of any Miss Universe preliminary: once a contestant registers for the pageant, she is confined to her own Department and cannot move to other states/provinces. However, she can participate more than once for the same department; the winner of the pageant in 2003 had already come in fourth place at the Miss Valle pageant the year before she won and eventually went on to win the national crown.
Perhaps this rule is the reason for the intense rivalries that have developed between departments (states) to win the most crowns, a couple of them have garnered a significant number, starting with Atlántico (10), Valle (10), Santander (7), Antioquia (6), Bolívar (6).
The pageant itself always around November 11, and many of the activities, such as the entire production of the Cromos magazines devoted to the pageant take place in the weeks preceding the pageant.
There are a number of preliminary events involving the sponsors, such as the election of the Figura Bodytech (the Bodytech Figure) which confers free gym membership at the Bodytech franchise for five years to the contestant with the most toned, harmonious and healthy body of the pageant.
Since the prize was first awarded, the winner of the Bodytech Figure prize has gone on to win Miss Colombia each year except for in 2006 and 2007 when they became Runner Ups. There are also prizes for the contestant with the best hair (Silueta Schwarzkopff brand), the most photogenic candidate (Sony), the most punctual (who receives an Edox watch), most beautiful costume, and even the mothers of the delegates must compete in a talent show to select the "Queen Mother."
Despite the country's fascination with pageants and the incredible efforts and funds expended to prepare winners (including appointing them teams of fashion designers and coaches), it has had a mixed record at international contests. Luz Marina Zuluaga remains the country's only Miss Universe, winning in 1958; she was awarded a mansion and tax exemption for life, an honor which is expected to follow any woman who can retake the world title. Colombians have come close on several occasions, making the top 15 multiple times, and from 1992 to 1994 Miss Colombia consecutively placed as first runner-up, and again in 2008 but the Miss Universe title has continued to elude the country. In 2004, for example, Jeymmy Paola Vargas Gómez became the first black woman to win the Miss International crown.
(^A ) In these versions of Miss Universe, the CNB did not have the franchise to participate, however, another entity designated to these young ladies to represent Colombia. (^B ) María Victoria Ocampo Gómez represented Bolivar in the national pageant and then she was appointed in another contest where she earned the right to participate in Miss Universe.
Colombian representatives at Miss International
In May 2001, David Letterman joked about the 'special talent' which the then-reigning Miss Colombia Andrea Noceti possessed - that she was able to "swallow 50 balloons full of heroin" for the (non existent) talent competition in the Miss Universe 2001 pageant. The remark not only infuriated the beauty queen, but also the people in Colombia.
Miss Colombia openly threatened to sue Letterman but later withdrawn the statement after Letterman formally apologised to her in the Late Show with David Letterman about the quip made. Letterman had invited the beauty queen to appear on his show as a gesture of appeasement.