The Unduk Ngadau beauty pageant is held to commemorate the spirit of Huminodun, a mythological character of unparalleled beauty said to have given her life in exchange for a bountiful harvest for her community. She was the sacrificed daughter of the Kadazandusun spirits, Kinorohingan and Suminundu.
The title comes from the ethnic words Runduk Tadau which mean 'the girl crowned by the sunlight'. Unduk Ngadau is one of the most recognisable cultural events in Sabah and the beauty pageant is unique to the state. In Rungus Language, Runduk means "to communicate", and Tadau means "the Sun". Thus, Unduk Ngadau translates to communicate with Sundu (Kinorohingan) or God asking for blessing of sunlight.
Joanna Kitingan (chairperson of UNK) said, “the Unduk Ngadau winner is supposed to be able to exude a high degree of moral because they are representing the Kadazan, Dusun and Murut women. We are also looking at a winner who can be the role model to the younger generation and has a spirit of voluntarism in being willing to sacrifice her time for the community, besides being intelligent to ably present our country, culture and tourism to the world."
Unduk Ngadau Kaamatan (1987–present)
|1987||Joan Glory Tommy||Tanjung Aru|
|1989||Deidre Peter Mojuntin||Penampang||She was the daughter of a local politician, the late Datuk Peter Mojuntin.|
|1990||Julia Agustine||Tanjung Aru|
|1991||Sylvia Sandralisa Orow||Tuaran||Currently lives in New York City, New York, USA.|
|1993||Luzie @ Lucy Tham||Inanam|
|1994||Agatha Nora Lojimin||Penampang|
|1995||Justinah Manius||Kawang||Runner-up in Unduk Ngadau Papar 1995. However, she had the opportunity to represent Kawang.|
|1996||Lynnefra @ Lynn Alfera Wong||Sandakan|
|1997||Jan Lisamarrie William||Bongawan||Winner in Unduk Ngadau Papar 1997.|
|1998||Jeremia Ginajil||Inanam||1st Runner Up Unduk Ngadau Inanam 1998|
|2000||Regina Intang||Melalap||Runner-up in Unduk Ngadau Tenom 2000. She was permitted to represent Melalap.|
|2001||Nicolita Sanseh Masi||Putatan||1st runner-up in Unduk Ngadau Penampang 2001.|
|2002||Patrecia Raymond||Kiulu||2nd runner-up in Unduk Ngadau Tuaran 2002.|
|2003||Daphne M.Iking||Kuala Lumpur||She hails from Tambunan district and best known as a TV host.|
|2004||Fharelynne Ivonne Henry||Tamparuli||1st runner-up in Unduk Ngadau Tuaran 2004.|
|2005||Madelyne M. Nandu||Penampang|
|2006||Devenna Jaikob||Sulaman||Runner-up in Unduk Ngadau Tuaran 2006. She also won the Unduk Ngadau SAPP 2006.|
|2007||Joanna Sue Henley Rampas||Tuaran||She is half British.|
|2008||Leonie Lawrence Gontuni||Penampang|
|2009||Appey Rowenna Januin||Papar|
|2010||Crystel Eve Huminodun William Majimbun||Tanjung Aru||1st runner-up in Unduk Ngadau Kota Kinabalu 2010. Her mother, Esther Sikayun won the same title in 1984.|
|2013||Immaculate Lojuki||Kota Kinabalu||Her sister Mary Grace Lojuki competed in 2018 and placed as the 5th Runner Up also representing Kota Kinabalu|
|2014||Cheryl Lynn Pinsius||Kota Kinabalu||Previously, she was the Unduk Ngadau Inanam 2011.|
|2015||Ryannie Neils Yong||Tanjung Aru||2nd runner-up in Unduk Ngadau Kota Kinabalu 2015. Her late father was a Chinese.|
|2016||Sherry Anne Laujang||Penampang||The most competitive Unduk Ngadau year when she managed to beat the first runner up, Claryssa Henry Ogodong who is crowd favour. Nevertheless, they both remain good friend no matter how people compare them together.|
|2017||Kerinah Mah||Kota Kinabalu||She is a Sino-Tombonuo and was the Unduk Ngadau Pitas 2015.|
|2018||Hosiani Jaimis||Inanam||She hails from Tambunan|
Former editions (1960–1986)
Before the official title was changed, the pageant was called Miss Kadazan in the 60s, Miss Harvest Festival in the 70s and Ratu Pesta Menuai from 1980 to 1986. The title Unduk Ngadau Kaamatan began to be used from 1987 until present.
Miss Kadazan 1960–1970
|1960||Yong Mee Lan @ Mui Lan||Penampang||Her title was Hahaangai 1960. 25 contestants from various districts including some regions in Penampang competing in this very first competition.|
|1964||Rita Bagong||Tuaran||Known as Datuk Rita Jaafar.|
|1966||Patricia Sinidol||Penampang||She is Datuk Fred Sinidol's sister. Her sister, Evelyn Sinidol won the same title in 1972.|
|1967||Florence Bibi Kaur Singh||Papar||Known as Datuk Dr Hajah Bibi Florina Abdullah. She is Punjabi-mixed and is the current (2018) Pro Chancellor of Lincoln University College, a private college in Kelana Jaya, Malaysia.|
|1968||Rita Mojilis||Penampang||She is a local singer along with her sisters.|
|1969||Sylvia Totu||Penampang||Her sister, Edwina Totu won the same title in 1976.|
Miss Harvest Festival 1971–1980
|1971||Mary @ Mili Jaikoh Imbayan||Tamparuli||She was the 2nd runner-up in the previous edition.|
|1972||Evelyn Sinidol||Penampang||Her sister, Patricia Sinidol won the same title in 1966.|
|1976||Edwina Totu||Penampang||Her sister, Sylvia Totu won the same title in 1969.|
|1977||Mary Marjorie Kinjau||Penampang||Her sister, Janet Kinjau won the same title in 1983.|
|1979||Mary Solly||Tanjung Aru|
|1980||Roslina Amit||Tuaran||The only Muslim winner ever.|
Ratu Pesta Menuai 1981–1986
|1982||Margaret Dolly Jimayol||Beaufort|
|1983||Janet Kinjau||Penampang||Her sister, Mary Marjorie Kinjau won the same title in 1977.|
|1984||Esther Sikayun||Penampang||Her daughter, Crystel Eve Huminodun won the same title in 2010.|
|1986||Johanna Sybil Disimond||Penampang||Her first cousin, Jane Peter Disimond (representing Penampang) was the 2nd runner-up in 1979, while their niece, Botiza Arthur Disimond, won in 2011.|
Some districts hold joint pageants which produce more than one representative. Notably, Tuaran and Tamparuli hold a joint pageant with the winner going on to representing Tuaran, and the first runner-up representing Tamparuli.
Beginning in 1995, Sabahans residing in Peninsular Malaysia have been allowed to participate in the state pageant. The first winner from Klang Valley was Daphne M. Iking in 2003. Then in the following year, Janeitha Stephen was a representative from Klang Valley as well, placed as the first runner up to Tamparuli's Fharelynne Ivonne Henry in 2004. Many of the Klang Valley representatives had their best placement in the competition: 2001(2nd runner up), 2005(4th runner up), 2007(6th runner up), 2008(6th runner up), 2013(5th runner up), 2014(6th runner up), 2016(5th runner up) and 2017(5th runner up). In 2014, the state of Johor in Peninsular Malaysia has been included in the list for the final competition with condition the representative is of Sabahan KDMR descent.
Since 2012, the final question format has become more interesting when the final contestants must answer two given questions in their mother tongue and in Bahasa Malaysia respectively. Eventually, Melinda Louis from Telupid was the first contestant ever who succeeded the newly formatted final round and she was crowned as Unduk Ngadau Kaamatan 2012.
The state-level pageant is held on 31 May annually at the Hongkod Koisaan building or known as the KDCA building in Penampang, and is the highlight and ending point of the month-long Kaamatan celebrations.
Districts/sub-districts by winning the title
|Penampang||24||1960, 1966, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1981, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1988, 1989, 1994, 2005, 2008, 2011, 2016|
|Tanjung Aru||5||1979, 1987, 1990, 2010, 2015|
|Papar||5||1961, 1962, 1965, 1967, 2009|
|Tuaran||4||1964, 1980, 1991, 2007|
|Inanam||4||1993, 1998, 1999 , 2018|
|Putatan||3||1963, 1992, 2001|
|Kota Kinabalu||3||2013, 2014, 2017|
- Barlocco, Fausto (2013). Identity and the State in Malaysia. Routledge. p. 126. ISBN 9781317932390.
- Lan (21 April 2016). "Unduk Ngadau 2016: Is she the next Huminodun or a Beauty Queen for 365 days?". Food, Culture, Arts, Places and Events in Malaysia & beyond... Retrieved 10 April 2017.
- Geraldine, Avila (31 May 2017). "Kerinah Mah, crowned the new Unduk Ngadau queen". New Straits Times. Retrieved 19 May 2018.