DAC and ALMA Discuss Race and Gender Issues in Infamous Miss Universe Flub

The Student Diversity Action Committee and Association of Latinos Moving Ahead, or ALMA, hosted a discussion titled “Miss Universe: Racism Between Communities of Color” on Thursday, March 3. Ramapo students and faculty who attended the event learned about racism and representation of women in the recent Miss Universe pageant that was hosted by actor and comedian Steve Harvey.

Miss Universe 2015 was held on Dec. 20 with 80 contestants competing for the title. The competition stirred up major controversy after Harvey mistakenly gave the crown to Miss Colombia, Ariadna Gutierrez, who was actually the first runner-up in the pageant. After misreading the card the judges handed to him, he apologized and announced the winner of the competition was in fact Miss Philippines, Pia Wurtzbach. 

Kevin Hurtado, president of the Student Diversity Action Committee, opened up the discussion with a video of Harvey’s mix-up between the runner-up and the first place winner of the pageant. 

“Being Colombian, that was so hurtful,” said ALMA Vice President Daniela Herrera. This then led to the speculation of whether or not Harvey’s mistake was scripted or racialized. “It could have been a mistake or it could have been for press,” continued Herrera.

Harvey made situations worse by publishing a tweet that was meant to apologize to the two contestants, but received more racial backlash because he misspelled both Colombia and Philippines.

“I want to apologize empathetically to Miss Philippians and Miss Columbia. This was a terribly honest human mistake and I am so regretful,” wrote Harvey in his tweet. 

The next point of the discussion opened up the question of what the backlash of the Miss Universe incident says about the relationship between different people of color. Attendees agreed that Harvey essentially just made a human mistake, and that people should not degrade him because of his color or background.  

Hurtado closed the presentation with a more in-depth analysis of how the appearance of beauty pageant models makes an impact on women around the world, especially women from the countries the models are representing. Looking at photos of the contestants, ranging from Miss Guatemala to Miss India, the students participating at the event agreed that these women are representing their country’s beauty standards and that social media is creating a certain face for what is considered “beautiful.”

To paint a clearer picture of how much beauty goes unseen in the world, the Student Diversity Action Committee and ALMA included a video by Buzzfeed titled “What Does Beauty Look Like?” to close the discussion. The video focused on women of different races and ethnicities all around the world with an emphasis on their cultures that Miss Universe seems to be lacking in their competition. 

“To me, beauty is whatever you find beautiful,” said Herrera.