Miss Universe contestants unveil protest messages in politically charged pageant – CNN

Written by Megan C. Hills, CNN

The Miss Universe stage was lit up with colorful protests as contestants from Singapore, Uruguay and Myanmar used the limelight to unveil messages about political and social issues.

During the “national costume” segment of the annual competition, which concluded Sunday in Florida, the three contestants revealed messages alluding to anti-Asian hate, discrimination against LGBTQ communities and the ongoing political crisis in Myanmar.

Left to right: Miss Universe Bernadette Belle Ong, Miss Universe Myanmar Ma Thuzar Wint Lwin, Miss Universe Uruguay Lola de los Santos during the National Costume segment of Miss Universe 2021.

Left to right: Miss Universe Bernadette Belle Ong, Miss Universe Myanmar Ma Thuzar Wint Lwin, Miss Universe Uruguay Lola de los Santos during the National Costume segment of Miss Universe 2021. Credit: Getty Images

In a one of the pageant’s most dramatic moments, Miss Universe Singapore, Bernadette Belle Ong, strode down the runway wearing an outfit inspired by the colors of Singapore’s national flag before turning to unveil a call to “Stop Asian Hate.”

Miss Universe Uruguay, Lola de los Santos, meanwhile showed support for LGBTQ communities with a rainbow outfit and skirt reading, “No more hate, violence, rejection, discrimination.”

Rather than using a costume to carry her message, Miss Universe Myanmar, Thuzar Wint Lwin, unveiled hers on a small scroll. Taking to the stage in an intricately beaded and embroidered outfit, she bowed to the audience before revealing a call for viewers to “pray” for her country.

It is not the first time that Thuzar Wint Lwin has expressed solidarity with protesters opposed to Myanmar’s military junta, which seized power in a February coup.
With violence erupting across the country, more than 700 demonstrators have been killed and thousands more arrested, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners. In March, the beauty queen took to Instagram to honor protestors as “heroes that sacrificed their lives in the fight for the freedom of our people,” having previously accused the Myanmar military of human rights abuses.
Following the “national costume” segment, which she went on to win, Thuzar Wint Lwin posted an image of herself holding the protest sign alongside the caption “Fearless Empress.”
Singapore’s contestant Ong also posted a series of images of her outfit to Instagram, saying it was her responsibility to “send a strong message of resistance against prejudice and violence” targeted at Asians.
The protest comes amid a surge in anti-Asian sentiment around the world, with researchers at California State University, San Bernardino, recently reporting a 164% spike in hate crimes against Asians in 16 of America’s largest cities and counties.
Miss Universe Singapore Bernadette Belle Ong wears a Arwin Meriales x Paulo Pilapil Espinosa cape hand-painted with the hashtag "#StopAsianHate."

Miss Universe Singapore Bernadette Belle Ong wears a Arwin Meriales x Paulo Pilapil Espinosa cape hand-painted with the hashtag “#StopAsianHate.” Credit: Rodrigo Varela/Getty Images

Ong’s glittery bodysuit, complete with puffed sleeves and thigh-high boots, was made by Filipino designers Arwin Meriales and Paulo Pilapil Espinosa in just two days, she wrote on Instagram.

Miss Universe Uruguay Lola de los Santos holds up her rainbow skirt in support of the LGBTQ+ community at Miss Universe 2021.

Miss Universe Uruguay Lola de los Santos holds up her rainbow skirt in support of the LGBTQ+ community at Miss Universe 2021. Credit: Rodrigo Varela/Getty Images

Uruguay’s De los Santos, who paired her bold rainbow outfit with a floral crown and black boots, has long been a vocal advocate for LGBTQ rights. As well as frequently posting messages of solidarity on social media, she was a judge at Miss Trans Star Uruguay, a beauty pageant for transgender women.

Mexico’s contestant, Andrea Meza, was crowned as the overall winner of this year’s Miss Universe, which was held in Hollywood, Florida.

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