Miss USA Forced to apologise after mocking non-English speaking Miss Universe contestants
Miss USA has issued an apology after remarks she made about two fellow Miss Universe contestants' English-speaking abilities incited furore online.
In a live Instagram video posted on Wednesday, Miss USA Contestant, Sarah Rose Summers, said that Miss Vietnam, H'Hen Nie, is "[so] cute and she pretends to know so much English and then you ask her a question after having a whole conversation with her and she [nods and smiles]."
The comments sparked a backlash online, with some calling Summers' words "xenophobic" and "condescending".
Summers was joined in the video by Miss Colombia, Valeria Morales, and Miss Australia, Francesca Hung - all of whom were attending the Miss Universe pageant in Thailand, which took place last Sunday in the capital, Bangkok.
Later on in the clip, Summers seems to express sympathy for Miss Cambodia, Rern Sinat: "She doesn't speak any English and not a single other person speaks her language," the 24-year-old asserted. "Can you imagine? Francesca [Miss Australia] said that would be so isolating and I said yes and just confusing all the time. Poor Cambodia."
Popular Instagram account Diet Prada reposted the video with the following caption:
"This is basically what normalized xenophobia looks like. If she's trying to show empathy, the condescending, intolerant tone tells a different story. A reminder that you’re participating in a competition in a country/continent where English is NOT the primary language."
In response to Miss America's statement, Sorany Var, a self-confessed "proud Cambodian-American" took to Facebook to write that Rern Sinat, the current Miss Cambodia, didn't speak English for a very obvious reason: Cambodia is a developing country.
She then offered to teach Sinat English to show the English speakers that she was just as intelligent as them.
Summers took to Instagram on Friday to respond to the online criticism and wrote, "@MissUniverse is an opportunity for women from around the world to learn about each other's cultures, life experiences, and views."
"We all come from different backgrounds and can grow alongside one another. In a moment where I intended to admire the courage of a few of my sisters, I said something that I now realize can be perceived as not respectful, and I apologize," Summers continued.
"My life, friendships, and career revolve around me being a compassionate and empathetic woman. I would never intend to hurt another. I am grateful for opportunities to speak with Nat, Miss Cambodia, and H'Hen, Miss Vietnam, directly about this experience. These are the moments that matter most to me."
Speaking to CNN on Friday, Miss Vietnam H'Hen Nie said that Summers "didn't mean anything" by it.
"Everyone in this competition, myself included, loves and respects one another," she stated, before clarifying that Summers had been particularly supportive to her.
"When she knew about my difficulties with (the English) language, she took an interest and showed me love. That's why she knows about that. Thank you Miss USA for taking care of me, showing me love and helping me recently," H'Hen Nie continued.
Miss Cambodia then proceeded to post the same Instagram photo as summers - another sign that all was well between the contestants.
"I speak the language of love, respect and understanding," she wrote in the caption. "My friendship and sisterhood in Miss Universe will forever be kept in my heart. Our experience have given us the opportunity to show and learn different cultures [sic]."