The Miss Universe Pageant Reigned Social Justice Supreme this Year

Gillian Sisley

And we’re all for it.
Image credit to Rodrigo Varela/Getty Images

“No more hate, violence, rejection, discrimination”
“Pray for Myanmar”
“Stop Asian Hate”

These were the standout humanitarian messages at the Miss Universe 2021 National Costume Show that was held at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel on May 13th in Hollywood, Florida.

Miss Universe Myanmar Thuzar Wint Lwin, Miss Universe Singapore Bernadette Belle Ong, and Miss Universe Uruguay Lola de Los Santos all adorned highly political messages crafted into their garb that called for humanitarian and social justice efforts for important causes around the globe.

In February, the military junta seized power in Myanmar, and since then the amount of violence and death has become a humanitarian crisis.

Miss Universe Singapore came out on stage in what seemed to be an ode to her nation’s flag, only to turn around to show the message, “Stop Asian Hate” in response to the rising hate crimes against Asian people during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Miss Universe Uruguay wore a piece that highlighted the continual discrimination suffered within the LGBTQIA+ community, calling for love and acceptance of all people.

These are all important, valuable social justice issues that must be focused on and addressed. For these pageant contestants to take this opportunity to use their platform for increased awareness and advocacy is a truly beautiful thing to see.

Beauty and brains are not contradictions.

And if you believe they are, it’s because you’ve bought into the toxic narrative our misogynistic world is trying to shove down our throats.

As the saying goes, with great power comes great responsibility, and these pageant contestants take that responsibility very seriously.

They have a platform, a heart for social justice, and a message — and they’re not afraid to make you uncomfortable for the greater good.

For decades, contestants for pageants like Miss Universe have been ostracized for sharing messages of “world peace”, insinuating that they were just saying pretty words to win over the crowds.

This offensive narrative expresses that it was ridiculous for a person who is considered ‘aesthetically pleasing’ to actually care about politics and the state of the world.

But that misogynistic narrative is complete and total bull.

These women are advocating for their homelands and cultures, ones directly impacted by violence, death, and civil unrest.

Being involved in pageants doesn’t take away that personal connection, nor a human being's desire, to advocate for the world being a safer, more equal place.

Social consciousness is an expected precedent for all.

Following the 69th Miss Universe pageant last week, where Miss Mexico Andrea Meza was crowned, Miss Universe Singapore took to Instagram to further spread her message of tolerance and stopping the extreme xenophobia that has been spreading globally.

Just one example comes from the US, where 6 Asian American women were killed at a spa in Atlanta on March 16th of this year.

Instagram text:

“What is this platform for if I can’t use it to send a strong message of resistance against prejudice and violence! Thank you #MissUniverse for giving me this opportunity!!!”

In the case of pageant contestants, they’re really in a lose-lose situation.

If they were to say nothing, they would be chastised for avoiding important and relevant world issues. But when they do speak out, they are accused of being insincere or not being ‘experienced’ enough to speak on political matters.

This double-standard exists as an extension of the patriarchal society we live in, that demands more and more from women, never seeing their actions as ‘good enough’.

I was proud to see these women using their platform as an opportunity to advocate for a better, more tolerant world. As is the belief here at Fearless She Wrote, activism starts with opening dialogue and creating important, life-changing conversations.

These women are an inspiration, and I look forward to seeing where the Miss Universe pageants go moving forward in terms of active, intentional social activism on that stage, speaking powerfully to a global audience.

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