The Miss Universe pageant showed off how political it can be this weekend when several contestants included powerful political messages in their national costume outfits.
The “national costume” portion of the pageant is a chance for the women to share a part of their culture and home country, and for contestants from Singapore, Myanmar, and Uruguay, it was also a way to bring attention to political issues affecting their communities.
Miss Singapore, Bernadette Belle Ong, made a stunning statement in a red sequined bodysuit with knee-high red boots. Her outfit also included red and white puffy sleeves and when she turned on the runway, she revealed that her long, flowing cape read “Stop Asian Hate” in giant letters. The costume was designed by Arwin Meriales and hand painted by Paulo Espinosa.
“What is this platform for if I can’t use it to send a strong message of resistance against prejudice and violence,” Ong posted on her Instagram. “This costume is inspired by the Singapore National Flag. The red represents equality for all. White symbolizes everlasting virtue. Singapore is a place for all races and they are very proud to be Asian. It sure would be great to #StopAsianHate.”
The United States, and the world, has seen a sharp rise in anti-Asian violence recently, including a mass shooting in March when a man killed six Asian women and two others at Atlanta-area spas. Influential figures in the Asian and Asian-American communities are speaking out about the issue.
Miss Uruguay appeared on the stage in a black bodysuit and knee-high boots with a wide skirt that when she held it open, showed a rainbow with the words “No More: Hate, Violence, Rejection, Discrimination.” She has regularly posted her support for LGBTQ+ rights on her Instagram. She was also a judge at the Miss Trans Star Uruguay beauty pageant.
Thuzar Lwin, walking as Miss Myanmar, also revealed a message while on the stage, unveiling a scroll that said “Pray for Myanmar” on it. She went on to win the award for the National Costume category.
Myanmar underwent a military junta in February, and since then violence has erupted throughout the country. Over 700 protestors have been killed and thousands more have been arrested.
The winner of this year’s pageant was Miss Mexico, Andrea Meza.