By: Jordan Chan
From allegations of a fixed Miss USA competition to strides both forward and back for LGBTQ+ Miss Universe fans, the beauty pageant world has certainly seen some noteworthy events over the past month or so.
On Oct. 3, the beauty pageant Miss USA awarded its 71st crown to R’Bonney Gabriel, otherwise known as Miss Texas. She is the first Filipino American to win Miss USA. However, upon her announcement, some of her co-contestants chose to walk off the stage rather than congratulate her. They claimed that Gabriel received preferential treatment throughout the course of the competition. Miss District of Columbia Faith Maria Porter explained, “R’Bonney was very close to the staff members and directors….and we can see that she was personally communicating with national sponsors, which is a violation of the contract.”
Similarly, Miss Montana Heather O’Keefe said in a TikTok video that though “she probably could have won fair and square…the issue is with the alleged corruption of the Miss USA organization.” Miss USA pageant coach Bill Alverson corroborated competitors’ claims: “I have never heard of a pageant with this level of rigging…[she was] the favored child of Miss Academy.” The Miss Universe Organization has temporarily suspended Miss USA President Crystle Steward and the Miss Brand Corporation — Miss USA’s umbrella organization — during an ongoing independent investigation into these claims. Gabriel denies all allegations that organizers rigged the competition.
Miss USA is also in hot water due to a recent appeals court decision stating that the pageant may bar transgender women from participating. In 2019, Miss USA denied pageant queen Anita Green the ability to compete because organizers did not consider her a “natural born female.” Green filed a lawsuit, alleging that barring her from competing violated anti-discrimination laws in Oregon. Judges determined that Miss USA could legally exclude transgender women because “the First Amendment affords the Pageant the ability to voice this message [that transgender women do not qualify as female].” Green and other LGBTQ+ activists have called Miss USA out for its transphobia, disappointed by the results of the case.
On a more positive note, former Miss Universe contestants Fabiola Valentin of Puerto Rico and Mariana Varela of Argentina announced their marriage on Oct. 28. The two queens competed against each other in the 2019 pageant and kept their relationship private until this recent announcement. This news comes shortly after Anne Jakapong Jakrajutatip, a successful transgender businesswoman from Thailand, bought the Miss Universe Contest. The organization has pushed for inclusivity and diversity in recent years. Jakrajutatip seeks “not only to continue its legacy of providing a platform to passionate individuals from diverse backgrounds, cultures, and traditions, but also to evolve the brand for the next generation.”
(Sources: BBC, CNN, Good Morning America, Washington Post)