With more than 20 years of experience in the television industry, Paula M. Shugart has become a driving force in entertainment television production for domestic and international audiences. As president of the Miss Universe Organization, producer of the MISS UNIVERSE®, MISS USA® and MISS TEEN USA® Pageants, Paula oversees all business transactions and is responsible for the production of the live worldwide telecasts each year. Shugart is also a mentor and a role model to the three titleholders, as they travel the world on behalf of the Miss Universe Organization (MUO) as spokeswomen for several charitable alliances.
Shugart joined MUO in 1998 as the Vice President of Production and in 2001 was appointed President by Donald J. Trump who, incidentally, had never met Paula but had noticed her outstanding work within the company. In the years since taking charge of MUO, Paula’s goal to break the stereotypes typically associated with beauty pageants and to boost the viewer demographics of all three Pageants has paid off. “MUO is a company dedicated to empowering women,” Shugart says. “It is run primarily by women and there are thousands of young women who are a part of our program every year. Our message is simple: ‘if you stay focused and work hard, you can achieve your goals’.”
In 2002, Paula oversaw the successful sale of 50% of MUO to NBC Universal and has worked closely with the network in maximizing the organization’s potential. The Miss USA pageants have garnered great success with “out of the box” cross-promotional concepts conceived by Paula and NBC. For example, Miss USA contestants and reigning titleholders have been featured on pageant “lead-in” episodes of “Fear Factor”, “Deal or No Deal” and “Minute to Win It”. When discussing Miss USA “Fear Factor”, Shugart says, “Nothing could break the stereotypes of beauty queens faster than having them compete on Fear Factor. These are real women who aren’t afraid to get dirty and maybe break a nail or two.” She adds, “I am sure some of the pageant purists were upset about it, but it’s important to show that we’ve changed with the times.”
Many may think the hundreds of thousands of miles one travels as the president of the Miss Universe Organization could be quite taxing, however for Shugart it is second nature. Shugart and her two older brothers are the progeny of a mother who was born and raised in India and a father who was an Admiral in the Navy. Her global travels as a child left her with a deep appreciation and understanding of the world’s cultural diversity as well as its commonality. To her, the Miss Universe Pageant in particular provides an opportunity for women of the world to celebrate their cultural differences and achieve greater understanding of each other.
When it came time to attend college Shugart wanted to go “someplace new…without a Navy base.” She chose Ohio University, which consistently ranks as one of the top schools in the country for television communication. Paula graduated Summa Cum Laude in 1981, with a BS in Communications. She currently serves on the Dean’s Advisory Council to the Ohio University Scripps College of Communication and is a recipient of the University’s prestigious Medal of Merit for Achievement in Entertainment and Television Production.
In 1982, Paula packed her bags and headed from Ohio to California and “never looked back.” After five days in Los Angeles, she met Kevin Bright (Executive Producer of “Friends”) who gave Paula her “first big break” and thus began her career in television.
From 1982 to 2002 Shugart was based in Los Angeles and developed a specialty in live television production while working on some of the world’s largest productions including: the “Academy Awards,” “American Music Awards,” “Golden Globes,” “International Rock Awards,” “President Clinton’s 50th Birthday Celebration,” among many others. She also served as producer on Ed McMahon’s original Talent competition, “Star Search” for seven years as well as a multitude of other programs. She has also worked on the television production of two of the music industry’s greatest driving forces: Madonna on her “Blond Ambition Tour” and the Rolling Stones on their “Steel Wheels” Tour.
Shugart forayed into the world of daytime television as Supervising Producer for ABC’s talk show “Mike & Maty” and went on to produce the pilot for the highly popular “Donny and Marie Show” for Columbia Television. Prior to joining the Miss Universe Organization, Shugart served as a Senior Producer on MTV’s hit show “Fanatic.” She is currently an active member of the Director’s Guild of America and the Producers Guild of America and serves as a Commissioner to Mayor Michael Bloomberg on New York City’s Latin Media and Entertainment Commission. Most recently she was named a member of the Women's Leadership Board at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, elected for her professional accomplishments and demonstrated commitment to women and girls.
Working at the Miss Universe Organization may have saved Paula’s life, literally. Breast Cancer Awareness is an official cause for each reigning Miss USA, which prompted Shugart to have a routine mammogram. Having lost both her parents to cancer, Shugart was very concerned with the findings, an aggressive pre-cancerous condition known as ‘DCIS’. Almost eight years later, she is cancer free and has joined Miss USA as an advocate for breast cancer awareness and believes that early detection is a key to cancer survival.
Paula and her husband Carl have been married for ten years and share their time residing in both New York City and in Los Angeles.