Miss Australia, Miss USA and Miss Colombia have been slammed for publicly mocking non-English speaking contestants at the pageant prelim swimsuit competition, where 94 nationalities are represented.
The three women posted a live video to Instagram calling out H’Hen Nie, Miss Vietnam and Rern Sinat, Miss Cambodia, for not being able to speak any English.
The Instagram Live session starts with Miss USA Sarah Rose Summers asking Francesca Hung, Miss Australia, and Valeria Morales, Miss Colombia, what they think of Miss Vietnam.
The girls agree she is “cute” and Summers, who has been compared to Mean Girls villain Regina George, adds that Miss Vietnam “pretends to know so much English and then you ask her a question after having a whole conversation with her and she goes (nods and smiles).”
Summers expressed sympathy for Miss Vietnam not knowing English.
She lets out a laugh in the video, that was posted to Morales’ Instagram account, before saying: “She’s adorable.”
Morales asks her, “How?” prompting Summers to do the imitation for a second time.
During the backstage gossip session, the girls also talk about what they think of Miss Cambodia and point out her lack of English.
“Miss Cambodia is here and doesn’t speak any English, and not a single other person speaks her language. Can you imagine?” Summers said.
“Francesca said that it would be so isolating, and I said, ‘Yes’,” she added. “I mean just confusing all the time.”
Miss Australia is then heard commenting on how hard it must be for the non-English speaking contestants who are relying on Google Translate and professional translators at the event. Miss USA says: “Poor Cambodia.”
She then turns to Miss Colombia and notes: “You at least speak pretty good English,” before Miss Australia interjects, “And you have your Spanish.”
It didn’t take long for social media users to weigh in on the controversial comments, with some suggesting Summers did not deserve to be Miss USA.
“What you have done to Miss Universe #Cambodia and #Vietnam is so bad. You will never earn Miss Universe title,” one person wrote on Twitter.
Another user agreed, calling out the 24-year-old for being “racist” and not deserving a spot in the popular competition.
“You have no right to represent any competition if your attitude to others are so shameful. So bad, the United States must be regretful that they allowed you to join this competition.”
The popular Instagram account Diet Prada, which has recently called out several controversies in the fashion world, posted the girls’ Live session to its 986,000 followers likening Miss USA to Mean Girls character Regina George.
“Regina George, is that you? This is basically like the most dramatic reality show, but condensed into 1 minute lol. @sarahrosesummers hopefully will prove that ignorance will not win you a @missuniverse title … whatever that means these days,” reads the post.
Summers is also reminded in the post that she’s participating in a competition in Bangkok in Thailand, a country where English is not the primary language.
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The post also compared the pageant to a “gossip ring of toxic mean girl behaviour.”
It has been liked more than 34,000 times and Miss USA and Miss Australian have blocked the account.
Since the footage went live yesterday afternoon Summers has issued a public apology for the crude comments.
She took to Instagram to post a lengthy apology alongside an image of herself hugging Miss Vietnam and Miss Cambodia.
“@MissUniverse is an opportunity for women from around the world to learn about each other’s cultures, life experiences, and views. We all come from different backgrounds and can grow alongside one another,” she wrote.
“In a moment where I intended to admire the courage of a few of my sisters, I said something that I now realize can be perceived as not respectful, and I apologize.”
She said that her life, friendships and career revolved around her being a compassionate and empathetic woman.
“I would never intend to hurt another. I am grateful for opportunities to speak with Nat, Miss Cambodia, and H’Hen, Miss Vietnam, directly about this experience. These are the moments that matter most to me.”
This time social media was a lot more sympathetic, praising her “well said” statement.
“It goes without saying that you didn’t intend to hurt feelings — you are ALWAYS filling everyone’s cup around you. Keep doing you, @sarahrosesummers — we love you!” an Instagram fan wrote below her post.
While another supporter said: “I definitely did not take it as if you were trying to be disrespectful or rude, but I can see how it MAY be taken wrong! Keep shining girl and don’t let these internet trolls dim your light.”
Miss Australia, who is half Chinese, posted a photograph on Instagram of herself with the Cambodian contestant, claiming the whole situation had been “misconstrued.”
“I’m so upset that this situation has been misconstrued like this … We were merely saying it must be even more difficult at times not to have a single other delegate being able to speak (Khmer) … which in fact, makes Nat (Miss Cambodia) an even stronger contender (to win the title),” the 24-year-old sociology graduate wrote.
Troy Barbagallo, director of Pink Tank Events which run the Miss Universe Australia Pageant, said Miss Australia was “far from a bully”.
“She is publicly against (bullying), she grew up in Australia as half-Chinese, achieved great things and has since been using her new role as an advocate for acceptance of cultural diversity,” Barbagallo told 9Honey.
“Regarding the incident, we have spoken the girls involved and MUO management. The bullying accusations are unfounded and almost bullying against the accused.
“The comments were taken completely out of context with the girls merely chatting sympathetically re the difficulty facing Miss Cambodia as the only participant who has no one else in the competition who speaks her language.”
He assured the Australian website that there were no hard feelings between the women ahead of the pageant’s final on December 17.
THE SWIMSUIT PRELIMS
Despite the backlash, all three women managed their widest smiles as they took to the stage during the preliminary round yesterday.
Miss Australia and Miss Colombia both opted for a one-piece featuring stomach cutouts.
Miss Cambodia and Miss Vietnam also had on their game faces and looked just as confident when they took the stage during the competition — they went for vibrant bikinis, with Miss Cambodia in fuchsia and Miss Vietnam in yellow.
Miss Spain Angela Ponce made Miss Universe history as the first transgender contestant in the pageant’s 66-year history, and she was all smiles as she walked the runway in her pink bikini.
The contestants also showed off their figures in mainly gold and silver evening gowns with thigh-high slits.