War tensions translates to pageant

Exploring if nationalism should be controlled in Miss Universe

The Miss Universe Pageant allows contestants to voice country concerns and political statements; this year’s contest created a great tension between Miss Ukraine and Miss Russia and left viewers unsure on how to respond as both countries are at war.

On Jan. 14, the 71st Miss Universe was hosted in New Orleans. On that same day, Dnipro, Ukraine suffered a Russian missile attack on a nine-story apartment complex, killing over 40 people, injuring twice as many and resulted in 25 people remaining missing. Children and adults were left trapped and searching for their lost family in the unexpected tragedy.

Miss Ukraine, Viktoria Apanasenko, was not allowed to speak on the crisis and found the pageant “terribly painful” for not recognizing the recent crisis. She was hoping to receive responses from the pageant organizers or from fellow contestants, but no intention was made. The only recognition she received was an award for “friendship” and her efforts of bringing wartime awareness rather than a direct statement of the tragedy.

To make matters worse, the wardrobe did most of the talking.

For evening attire, Miss Russia, Anna Linnikova, wore a red dress and cape. This left many viewers and the Miss Ukraine and others to associate it with the color of blood due to the devastation and war. Miss Ukraine responded by wearing a black dress and a cape with the country’s flag colors, addressing the sorrows and loss Ukrainians are facing.

Miss Russia’s costume-segment gown for embodying her country was “The Crown of the Russian Empire,” a red velvet dress with dazzling pearls, along with a crown. Miss Ukraine’s costume gown represented “Warrior of Light” which included 16-foot-long wings inspired by a biblical archangel who defends and protects goodness.

Both contestants didn’t make it to finals, but this tension made me consider this from my perspective as a former Little Miss South Carolina Overall Sweetheart and a current communication student studying organizations.

In pageants, strong communication and awareness in a professional and authentic manner is a sought-out skill. In an international pageant like Miss Universe, demonstrating awareness is deeper than verbal communication for actions speak louder than words.

Showcasing the choice of representing nationalism through their attire should be regulated by the individuals themselves rather than corporations. Unless they are the winning candidate, they do not represent Miss Universe, but rather the integrity of their own country if they chose to overstep their boundaries toward another country in a harmful or derogatory way.

I don’t believe “The Crown of the Russian Empire” was directed at the recent events in Dnipro, but it was poor timing for such a statement. I can better understand “Warrior of Light” as it seeks to promote national hope rather than national rule.

I understand how the Miss Universe organization would be hesitant to address the event with both countries present and hoping to remain “unbiased,” but a struggling contestant should be recognized or offered a moment of silence if any national devastation occurs to a title holder.

If a contestant oversteps their boundary, it should be up to the judges to evaluate the contestant’s ethics demonstrated and evaluate their intention with the decision-making process. I believe that was the approach that was made, but not every judge is the same or will prioritize the same qualities.

Beauty pageants are a competition but should be considered an opportunity to come together against crisis all countries experience rather than overstepping boundaries against one another.