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End Of The Year Review 2016

Pageantry in 2016: Creating Safe Spaces For Marginalized Belles, Redefining Beauty, And Filling The Void Left By Trump


TRANSFORMING ISRAEL:  The first ever pageant in the Middle East for transwomen took place in Israel on May 26, 2016. Ta’alin Abu Hanna, a 21-year-old Catholic Arab from Nazareth, was crowned Miss Trans Israel 2016. The pageant was organized by  Israela Stephanie Lev who said living as a transwoman in Israel had been “terrible” in the past, but that now things were improving. “Definitely we are achieving, enlightening the people to accept and empower transsexuals,” she told the Associated Press. The fact that a transgender pageant can take place in Israel proves that the country is the most liberal and tolerant place in the entire Middle East.



FAKIH'S HABIBI:  Former Miss USA Rima Fakih married Lebanese-American music producer Wassim Salibi in Lebanon on May 15, 2016. The beauty queen’s husband, Salibi, 35, was recently recognized by Billboard magazine for being one of the most influential music producers under the age of 40. Fakih, born a Muslim, converted to Christianity a month before her wedding. Rima came to fame after winning the national Miss USA pageant in 2010, when she became the first Muslim and Arab woman to be crowned Miss USA after competing in the pageant – which at the time had been owned by current US presidential hopeful Donald Trump.



52 REASONS TO WEAR SHERRI HILL:  The Miss Universe Organization along with the fashion agency Sherri Hill decided to make a competition online where different women from all the US competed. Finally, 10 women were selected by a panel of judges, and these 10 finalists were revealed on May 10, 2016. The winner between these 10 candidates competed as "Miss 52 USA" in the Miss USA 2016 pageant on June 5, 2016. The winner - who is supposed to be a woman who best embodies Miss USA based on originality, personality and a web interview -  was announced on May 18, 2016 and it was Alexandra Miller from Oklahoma City. Miller was 1st runner-up to Olivia Jordan in the Miss Oklahoma USA 2015 pageant. Some pageant fans think that the "Miss 52 USA" contest was just a marketing ploy to promote Sherri Hill gown collection. Miller failed to place in the Miss USA 2015 contest which was won by Deshauna Barber from the District of Columbia.


TRANSFORMING TEEN:  The Miss Universe Organization decided to scrap the swimsuit portion of the Miss Teen USA pageant and to replace it with an athletic wear competition. "This decision reflects an important cultural shift we're all celebrating that empowers women who lead active, purposeful lives and encourage those in their communities to do the same," Miss Universe president Paula Shugart wrote in a memo to the pageant's state directors. "Our hope is that this decision will help all of Miss Teen USA's fans recognize these young women for the strong, inspiring individuals they are." Michael Antinoro of IMG, the talent agency that bought the Miss Universe Organization including Miss Teen USA, said that the switch is aimed at "highlighting a healthy lifestyle" for younger viewers.



The newly crowned Miss Teen USA Karlie Hay was able to retain her crown despite controversy that erupted after the discovery of tweets wherein the pageant winner repeatedly used a racial slur.  Social media users discovered the tweets where Karlie Hay, 18, hours after she won her crown on July 30, 2016.  In the tweets, Hay is shown using the “N-word” multiple times. Her Twitter account has since been made private, but users captured images of the tweets in 2013.  Hay issued an admission and apology via her Instagram account.  “Several years ago, I had many personal struggles and found myself in a place that is not representative of who I am as a person,” she wrote. “I admit that I have used language publicly in the past which I am not proud of and that there is no excuse for." 
Okay, fair enough. Next time, think before you click!



SAPPHICALLY REGAL:  Erin O'Flaherty broke ground as the first-ever openly gay Miss America contestant. O'Flaherty, 23, was crowned as Miss Missouri 2016 on June 18 and is the first openly gay woman to hold the title. In an interview with the Associated Press, O'Flaherty said that she came out at 18, competed openly and knew that there was a possibility that she could be making history with her win.  O'Flaherty first came out to her family at age 18. "It was really hard. But ultimately I knew I had to do it," she told USA Today. O'Flaherty failed to place in the pageant which was won by Savvy Shields of Arkansas.


MUCH ADO ABOUT MACHADO:  Alicia Machado says it took her many years to get over get over the abuse she suffered at the hands of Donald Trump when she was crowned Miss Universe in 1996. “He made me feel small,” she told ThinkProgress in Spanish. “He threatened me, treated me rudely. He called me ‘Ms. Housekeeping’ in front of his friends.” Trump, then the owner of the beauty pageant, publicly mocked Machado for gaining weight and forced her to exercise in front of TV cameras. She said she was depressed and suffered from an eating disorder for several years as a result. “He hates girls,” she said. “He considers girls to be less. We have another status, to him.” Machado has lived in the U.S. for nearly 20 years now, and has a seven-year-old daughter who is a U.S. citizen. But she didn’t consider becoming a citizen herself until several months ago, when Trump became the Republican Party’s presumptive nominee.
“It was like a great monster reappearing in my life,” she said. “In the beginning, I thought there was no way this loco will ever win. But after the primaries I realized I need to vote. I can’t invite my community to step up if I won’t do it myself.”

Alas, Trump won the U.S. presidential elections. Poor Alicia. Don't expect Trump to invite you to his presidential inauguration! lol


HOLY BOOTY! Brazil's Miss Bumbum 2016 beauty pageant sparked anger after bikini-clad contestants posed for a recreation of the iconic religious painting The Last Supper - with the woman with the 'sexiest' bottom playing Jesus. In the photo, eight hopefuls in the popular 'rear of the year' contest are portrayed as Christ and his disciples on the night before his crucifixion in a scene that has offended many in the deeply Catholic country. Religious leaders branded the remake of the Leonardo Da Vinci masterpiece 'deeply disrespectful' while even Brazil's religious intolerance commission waded in to the debate as anger over the picture grew. And even the women competing for the 'best bottom' title last night expressed dismay at being made to pose for the controversial scene, with one claiming she had 'asked forgiveness from God for a great sin'. After a public vote, the 27 contestants, each representing a Brazilian state, are whittled down to 15 who then battle it out in a live final on November 9. Daiana Fegueredo, representing the state of Ceara, was chosen to play Jesus in the photo as her bottom received the most number of phone votes, making her the front-runner in the race for the coveted title. Will she be riding an ass as she enters Jerusalem during Palm Sunday like Jesus did? lol



A Somali-American teenager became the first contestant to wear a hijab and burkini during the Miss Minnesota USA pageant over the weekend. Halima Aden, 19, competed against 45 women for the Miss Minnesota USA 2016 pageant held on November 26. Aden, who was born in a Kenyan refugee camp and moved to St. Cloud, Minnesota as a child, wore her hijab throughout the pageant, as well as a burkini during the swimwear competition of the event. The St. Cloud State University student placed in the top 15 of the pageant but unfortunately didn’t make it into the top 5. Aden's participation marks the first time that a major "secular" pageant has bent its rules to accommodate the religious sensitivities of applicants, or perhaps its way of extending the definition of beauty as to include fully-clad women. Anyway, we think it's all about political correctness and making everyone feel good about themselves, even at the expense of critical thought and judgment.




HIGH-MAINTENANCE GAL:  On October 25, 2015,  Anea Garcia - representing the Dominican Republic (she was second runner-up in Miss USA 2014 representing Rhode Island) was crowned Miss Grand International 2015  in Bangkok, Thailand. However, on March 24, 2016, the Miss Grand International Organization  (MGI), on its official Facebook page, posted that Anea Garcia has been relieved of her duties as Miss Grand International because "due to unable to fulfill and follow the contractual agreement with Miss Grand International" and that her 1st runner-up, Claire Parker, has taken over the duties of the titleholder. Global Beauties published a statement written by MGI's Vice-President Teresa Chaivisut which seems to imply that Anea was fired because "she has also become very demanding, always asking for things which were not promised or part of the contact she signed, including bringing her grandmother to Bangkok, to live with her. She demanded for additional services which truly made no sense."



CAMERA-SHY:  Kristhielee Caride was crowned Miss Universe Puerto Rico 2016 on November 12, 2015. On 17 March 2016, MUPR CEO Desiree Lowry announced on national television that Caride had been stripped of her title after a controversial interview between Caride and Venezuelan entertainment reporter Patricia Vargas. According to the Miss Universe Puerto Rico Organization, the reason of her dismissal is that she was both rude and arrogant to a journalist during a televised interview, refusing to participate in camera. She had also missed multiple public appearances scheduled by the organization for varying reasons. As a result, Caride was subsequently replaced by her first runner-up  Brenda Jiménez Azaria who will now represent Puerto Rico at the next edition of Miss Universe pageant to be held in the Philippines.


NOT CAMERA-SHY:  Miss Great Britain 2016, Zara Holland, was stripped of her title after having sex on ITV2 reality show Love Island. Beauty pageant organizers said they had “no problem with sex” but said they could not condone Holland’s relationship with 24-year-old scaffolder Alex BowenThe scandalous episode of the show, watched by around a million viewers last June, featured the two in bed together and what one insider described as a “look of delight” on Bowen’s face. Although no explicit scenes were shown, it was readily apparent what had happened from comments that were featured in the following night’s programme.

Love Island presenter Caroline Flack criticized the decision, saying Holland was a “very sweet girl. What even is Miss GB? Are we living in the dark ages?”

In a statement, Miss Great Britain organizers said they had taken the decision with “deep regret”. “We pride ourselves on promoting the positivity of pageants in modern society and this includes the promotion of a strong, positive female role model in our winners,” they said. “The feedback we have received from pageant insiders and members of the general public is such that we cannot promote Zara as a positive role model moving forward.
“We wholly understand that everyone makes mistakes, but Zara, as an ambassador for Miss Great Britain, simply did not uphold the responsibility expected of the title.”


 SAVING HER IMAGE: Miss Florida USA 2017 Genesis Davila has been stripped of her crown just days after winning it on July 16. The 24-year-old Puerto Rican-American stunner was dethroned after being accused of violating rules, according to Grant Gravitt, executive producer of the pageant. "We have a zero-tolerance policy on rules," Gravitt explained. "Whether it's something major or minor, it's all about keeping an equal and level playing field. Unfortunately, our title holder sought an unfair competitive advantage, and that's just not acceptable in our system." According to Gravitt, Davila was axed after she used professional hair and makeup artists. The organization was informed of Davila’s decision to use pros following complaints from fellow contestants. Davila's first runner-up Linette De Los Santos has since been crowned Miss Florida USA 2017 in place of Davila. A week after her dethronement, Davila sued the pageant organizers for $15 million over claims they defamed her image. A reliable source informed Critical Beauty that Davila settled out of court for an undisclosed amount and that Gravitt has been dismissed as Florida's state director.



GIVE HER THE MONEY:  Sharlene Radlein, who was crowned Miss Universe Jamaica 2015, was dethroned following a lawsuit against the franchise owners which she had filed on July 20, 2016. Radlein alleged that the defendants were in breach of an agreement to award her a prize package valued at more than $2 million, and in further breach by not paying over the cash award portion of the prize that was due since January. The franchise owners claim that Radlein failed to be in Jamaica for at least 21 days per month; even though Radlein was born and raised in Jamaica, she is a permanent U.S. resident. "It is disingenuous to claim that my absence from the island at times was in breach of the contract when I was specifically told when I enquired about activities that no appearances could be secured for me [is] because, in their words, 'no one wanted me'," she said.



FROZEN FAT:  Arna Ýr Jónsdóttir, the Icelandic contestant in Miss Grand International 2016 pageant, left the competition in protest after being told by the owner that she was too fat, and should skip meals to lose weight if she wanted to win. Jónsdóttir claimed that she was told to lose weight on the orders of the pageant owner, Thai TV presenter Nawat ItsaragrisilThe controversy recalls Donald Trump’s treatment of beauty queen Alicia Machado, who was the first Miss Universe winner after Trump bought that pageant franchise, but later became the subject of Trump’s ridicule. He ordered her to do sit-ups and paraded her working out in front of journalists. Jónsdóttir told the Iceland Monitor, “If the owner of the contest really wants me to lose weight and doesn’t like me the way I am, then he doesn’t deserve to have me... Yes, my shoulders are a bit broader than the other girls, but that is because I was a member of the Icelandic national athletics team and I am proud of that. “Of course, I don’t take these comments to heart, but to do my best then hear this… Personally, I think I’m fine as I am.”



AND SHE GETS TO KEEP THE CROWN!  In July, Miss Universe Honduras Sirey Morán was stripped of her crown due to allegations of violence.  According to Sirey, Carlos Rivera, the director of Carimaxx, invited her over for a discussion at his New York City residence. In a statement to newspaper El Heraldo, the beauty queen claims that she went to his home to discuss her participation in an event that he hadn't authorized — and things quickly went downhill. She says that Carlos and another male physically and verbally attacked her while trying to take her cell phone, after realizing she had been recording their conversation. In an announcement, the organization claimed that she had not complied with her contract, according to LatinTimes.  The beauty queen and pageant executives didn't see eye-to-eye when it came to what events and functions she was attending. Morán hired lawyer Joe Tacopina, whose office told TMZ, "The Miss Universe Organization and Sirey have resolved all previous conflicts concerning her title."  He added, "Sirey looks forward to representing Miss Honduras at the Miss Universe competition in the Philippines on January 30th." When the disagreement happened between both parties, Sirey issued the following statement to E! News: "It is very unfortunate this has happened and I am very disappointed and hurt, violence is never the answer."   



AND SHE GETS TO SPEAK AGAIN!  Anastasia Lin, the Miss World 2016 contestant from Canada whose advocacy for victims of human right abuses in China has infuriated Beijing, was finally allowed by the pageant organizers to speak to the news media, ending a three-week standoff in Washington, DC (where the pageant was taking place) that had drawn unflattering attention to a celebrated beauty pageant that has become increasingly dependent on Chinese corporate sponsors. According to friends and relatives of Lin’s, employees of the British-owned beauty pageant had warned her that she would be ejected from the competition if she spoke publicly about murky, government-sanctioned transplant programs that human rights advocates say rely heavily on the organs of murdered prisoners of conscience.
China has denied the allegations, saying that organ donations in the country are voluntary.
In a brief phone interview, Lin, 26, declined to discuss whether she had been silenced and praised the Miss World Organization for allowing her to compete in the finals held on December 18. “To their credit, they did give me this platform, and I’m able to speak freely now,” she said. Lin failed to make the cut, despite a politically touchy "Beauty With A Purpose" platform. Lin was initially supposed to compete in Miss World 2015 pageant held in China, but she was barred from entering the country due to her anti-Chinese government politics. 


Pageantry lost several of its brightest stars in 2016


Yolande Betbeze Fox, a convent-educated Alabamian who defied convention, and set new standards, by refusing to tour the country as Miss America of 1951 in revealing bathing suits, died on February 22 in Washington. She was 87. By the time Ms. Fox won her title on Sept. 9, 1950, in Atlantic City, pageant officials, trying to calibrate propriety and sex appeal amid changing mores, had already decided to stop crowning Miss America while she was wearing a swimsuit. That pageant staple had been confined to the swimsuit competition, an event Ms. Fox — Ms. Betbeze at the time — had already won. She began her reign in a gown. But given that the swimsuit competition’s chief sponsor, Catalina, manufactured swimwear, Ms. Fox was still expected to model bathing suits as the reigning Miss America. What the organizers did not expect was her response. “Yolande declared, ‘I’m an opera singer, not a pinup!’ and refused posing in a bathing suit again,” according to her official biography on the pageant’s website. As a result, Catalina withdrew as the pageant sponsor and began the rival Miss USA contest.



Cara McCollum, who won the Miss New Jersey pageant in 2013 and participated in the Miss America competition, died on Febuary 24 - one week after she was critically injured in a car crash. The Princeton graduate was driving her Ford Mustang convertible when the car spun out of control. Before she died, Cara made the selfless decision to donate her organs.


Charlotte Sheffield passed away on April 15, according to her daughter Tammy who posted the sad news on Charlotte's official Facebook page. She had been battling leukemia but contracted a rare pneumonia which further debilitated her. Charlotte represented Utah at the Miss USA 1957 pageant which was originally won by Leona Gage of Maryland, however, Leona was stripped of her title days later during the 1957 Miss Universe pageant when it was revealed that she was 18, married, and a mother of two children. Charlotte was not able to compete in Miss Universe 1957, but was sent to Miss World 1957 but did not place.  (Photo credit: owner of the photograph)



Susana Djuim from Venezuela, who was crowned Miss World 1955, passed away Saturday, June 18, 2016. She was 79. The cause of death was stroke.  Susana was the first Latin American and first Venezuela to win the Miss World crown. She was born in Aragua de Barcelo in the state of Anzoategui on August 11, 1936. She remained active by conducting a radio program called "De todo a tono con Susana" in Isla de Margarita and she was preparing notes for her new topic, “La vuelta al mundo en 80 años” ("Return to World in 80 Years") in reference to her 80th birthday which would be included in her radio show. 



International pageantry was terribly shocked and saddened by the tragic death of Hugo Castellanos, who had acquired the Mexican franchise for Miss World just last May. Castellanos was gunned down in his car early Sunday morning  (August 7, 2016) in Culiacán, Sinaloa, hours after he crowned Melissa Lizárraga as the new Miss Sinaloa. His death was announced on the Facebook page of Miss Mexico. The authorities have not revealed any link between the two events, although beauty pageants in Mexico have long had a connection to the drug world. Abductions and murders are not uncommon in the state of Sinaloa, the birthplace of Mexico's infamous drug lord, Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman.




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