Miss South Africa 2021, Lalela Mswane, will compete in the 70th edition of Miss Universe, hosted in Israel on 13 December, despite public outcry for the country to withdraw from the competition, to show solidarity with Palestine.
The Department of Sports, Arts and Culture said atrocities committed by Israel against Palestinians were well documented, and the government, as the legitimate representative of the people of South Africa, “could not in good conscience associate itself with such”.
Channel24 reached out to Miss Universe and Miss South Africa for comment and did not receive a response at the time of publishing. The article will be updated should more information become available.
With the world’s attention now firmly on the upcoming Miss Universe competition, we take a look at 6 big scandals in the pageant’s history.
1. A secret pregnancy
In 1994, Miss Universe Puerto Rico, Brenda Robles, was stripped of her national title after organisers discovered that she was pregnant when she competed at Miss Universe.
According to Insider, Miss Universe rules state that “… contestants may not be married or pregnant. They must not have ever been married, not had a marriage annulled nor given birth to, or parented a child.”
Controversy continued to follow the beauty queen, who in 2005 was sentenced to a year of probation for shoplifting.
2. Body-shamed and humiliated by Donald Trump
Miss Universe in 1996, Alicia Machado from Venezuela, was body-shamed when organisers claimed that she had been “drastically gaining weight” after being crowned the winner.
Donald Trump, who co-owned the Miss Universe Organisation at the time, mocked the 1996 titleholder, who was 19 at the time, when he called her “Miss Piggy” and an “eating machine”.
According to reports, Donald and pageant officials threatened to take away her crown if she didn’t lose weight.
The former reality TV star went as far as to invite reporters to watch Alicia exercise. In 2016, she told The New York Times: “I was about to cry in that moment with all the cameras there. I said, ‘I don’t want to do this, Mr Trump.’ He said, ‘I don’t care.'”
Donald Trump called her "Miss Piggy" and "Miss Housekeeping."
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) September 27, 2016
20 years later, the former US president defended his comments, during his first presidential debate, by saying that she “gained a massive amount of weight”, which he deemed a “problem”.
3. Donald Trump walks into the ‘topless’ contestants dressing room unannounced
Donald Trump has also come under fire for his behavior around contestants when he was accused of entering the Miss USA dressing rooms while contestants were changing.
The Miss Universe Organisation is the organization that currently owns and runs the Miss Universe pageant and up until 2020, the organization also ran Miss USA and Miss Teen USA.
Miss Arizona Tasha Dixon told Los Angeles’ CBS affiliate: “He [Donald Trump] just came strolling right in.”
She said: “There was no second to put a robe on or any sort of clothing or anything. Some girls were topless. Others girls were naked. Our first introduction to him was when we were at the dress rehearsal and half-naked changing into our bikinis.”
Tasha also claimed that Miss Universe Organisation employees encouraged the contestants to “lavish Trump with attention” when he came in.
4. Miss Universe bars transgender women from entering
In 2012, Miss Universe Canada disqualified Jenna Talackova from the competition because she was not born female.
She successfully lobbied the rules that barred transgender women from entering Miss Universe and returned to the national competition, where she earned a spot in the top 12.
An advocate for transgender rights, Jenna went on to sign a reality TV show deal titled Brave New Girls, which documented her successful battle to compete in the Miss Universe Canada beauty pageant.
Six years later, in 2018, 26-year-old Angela Ponce from Spain made history when she became the first openly transgender contestant to compete in the global round of the pageant.
5. Steve Harvey and the 2015 Miss Universe winner mix-up
In 2015, Miss Universe host Steve Harvey wrongfully announced that Miss Colombia Ariadna Gutiérrez had won the title of Miss Universe when Miss Philippines Pia Wurtzbach was the actual winner.
Several minutes after Ariadna was crowned, Steve walked back on stage and apologised for the error live on-air, saying: “The first runner up is Colombia… Miss Philippines, take your first walk as Miss Universe.”
Following an awkward onstage interaction between Steve, Ariadna, Pia, and Miss Universe 2014 Paulina Vega, the crowned was removed from Ariadna’s head, and the new winner was crowned.
To date, this crowning mix-up remains one of the most iconic on-air blunders in pageant history.
WATCH THE PAGEANT BLUNDER HERE:
6. Disqualified over alcohol fueled night out
Former Miss Universe Peru, Anyella Grados, was stripped of her title and disqualified from the global competition after a video surfaced online, in which she appeared inebriated.
In the video, Anyella Grados was seen “drunk and throwing up“, and while the legal drinking age in Peru is 18, her behaviour is against the rules of the competition.
The video was reportedly recorded by Miss Teen Peru 2018 Camila Canicoba, who placed third in the Miss Peru contest. She claimed that she had mistakenly uploaded the video on social media.
According to reports, the Miss Universe organisation prohibits smoking, drinking, or other acts that could threaten the contest’s reputation.