Monday, June 4, 2012

A Crown at last

Good sense seems to have prevailed with ex Miss World Fiji, Torika Watters, finally handing  the crown to her incumbent, Koini Vakaloloma. This is after a few weeks ago it was reported that Watters was refusing to return the Miss Fiji crown. It was reported that he had notified the National Director of the Fiji franchise, Andhy Blake,  "I don't think it is right for you to ask me to return the prizes that I won and I am not going to do so." This caused quite a bit of a 'war of words' between Blake and Watters, and it even involved the Ministry of Tourism permanent secretary, Elizabeth Powell, who called on the two parties to try and sort their differences out amicably.
In a string of e-mails and responding to correspondence between Ms Watters and Mr Blake, which were copied to the media, Tourism permanent secretary Elizabeth Powell has called on the parties to settle their disagreement directly."If you do indeed have the best interests of Fiji and Fijians at heart as you profess, you are both strongly advised to immediately cease this verbal combat by media, email and internet," Ms Powell said.
But it would be interesting to see, as to what finally convinced Watters to return the crown. The Fiji Times reported that "A sombre smiling Ms Watters awaited the media at a press conference in Suva on Friday," so its safe to assume that she was not doing this out of her free will. FijiLive  reported that the crown was returned after "a successful reconciliation between the organizers and Watters."
After weeks of media controversy, its good to see that at least there seems to be some closure to this saga. But it will be interesting to see whether, this will indeed bring, any kind of real closure to this whole fiasco, or if it is just a publicity stunt to make it seem like that all is well in Tiara Land.
But despite all the smiles and 'reconciliation' people should not forget how it is we had so much drama and negative publicity during this event. Relevant authorities need to seriously scrutinise how this event was staged. There needs to better transparency all around, from the initial planning of the event, to how the pageant contestants are chosen to be part of the competition. And the same goes for during and after the event.
Since this is the first time the Miss World Fiji franchise is operating in the country, i guess there will be some bumps along the way. So the organisers of the event should look at the criticisms levelled at them as constructive criticisms, and try to build on and better their performance for next year. For the time being, we wish the current Miss World Fiji all the best in her Miss World quest.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Canada made pageant history, when a transgender contestant was allowed to contest the Miss Universe Canada contestant 2012. Jenna Talackova was originally disqualified . It was stated that
Miss Universe Canada, which is owned by Donald Trump and feeds its winner into the Miss Universe pageant, selected Talackova to be one of its 65 finalists for the 2012 competition, which will see its crown awarded May 19 in Toronto. Eligibility requirements for various feeders into the Miss Universe system indicate that a contestant must be female and never have been married or pregnant. The rules for Miss California, which feeds into Miss USA and then into Miss Universe, include the broad requirement that contestants "must be of good health and moral character."
 Sp under the criteria of the contestant " must be a woman" Talackova was ruled out. It was stated that  " Talackova had to have been born a female to participate. " This sparked outrage from sexual minority advocacy groups.
The group released a statement, saying, “The Miss Universe Organization should look to state non-discrimination laws and institutions including the Olympics, NCAA and The CW's America's Next Top Model, which do not discriminate against transgender women."
 It was also cited that this case was clearly a human rights issue, but it was not decided whether it fell under the issue of women's rights or transgender issues. It was argued that  because she was recognised as a woman in Canada, it was a woman's right issue, but transgender groups saw it as a victory for the transgender community. But irrespective of this, it still stands that a person not born a woman, was allowed to compete in a competition that clearly stipulates that you have to be a woman to enter into it.
I think its a win for everybody, irrespective of sexuality. I must commend the organising committee for their forward thinking, in that they have the forethought to in my opinion, take a bold step towards equality for all.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Age Factor

It seems like former Miss World Fiji, Torika Watters, is not the only pageant that has had to step down due to not meeting the age criteria of the world competition. Maire Hughes won the Miss World Ireland crown, only to have it taken away from her 3 days later because it was found that she was too old.  It's reported that Hughes will be 26 during the Miss World event in Mongolia, making her ineligible. Miss World competition stipulates that pageants have to be between the age of 17-25 during the world event.
 According to Independent Woman ,
organisers inadvertently discovered during a routine conversation that she is 25  and not 21 as originally believed.At a meeting to discuss her role and responsibilities as Miss Ireland, organisers were informed that Miss Hughes will be 26 at the time of the Miss World Pageant in Inner Mongolia, China, in August making her too old to compete.
 The pageant organisers had to contact the parent body officials  "to clarify the rules on the age of entrants." Like Watters of Fiji, Hughes claims that organisers did know about her age prior to the final crowning night.
But in a sensational twist, Maire claimed a Miss Ireland representative had been made aware of her age three days before the final."I made no attempt to conceal my age," she said. "I did notice that there was an age requirement and I made an inquiry with a Miss Ireland representative. In the course of a telephone conversation I was advised by one of the representatives that this was not a significant issue."
There are no reports as to whether, Hughes' claims have been verified, but  it seems like the show must go on and  runner-up, Rebecca Maguire, is now Miss World Ireland.

The questions arises as to how it is that something like this was allowed to happen in the first place? It's reported that Hughes had to "beat off stiff competition from 34 other beauty queens to take the title." It just seems like such a waste of time, effort and money to have gone through all that and be left with nothing.
Hughes claims that 3 days before the finals, she notified organisers about her age, but why wait till that time? Did she herself not know about the age criteria for the Miss World pageant? If she didn't, then why not? You would think that contestants would familiarise themselves with the ins and outs and various criteria of the  event  before agreeing to participate. I mean I would, considering the amount of public scrutiny pageants receive.
And the fact that the organisers themselves did not know about the age limit and had to verify with the pageant parent body, is unacceptable. These are the kinds of details that need to ironed out and made familiar with, before staging such public events. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Race Relations

The stepping down of Torika Watters as our representative to the Miss World event in Mongolia highlighted how the overseas media tend to sensationalize the news. As mentioned in my earlier blog, many of them chose to focus on the issue of race as the reason for her stepping down. But reading through some of the news articles you quickly realise that there version of  "ugly race row" is confined comments on the Miss World Fiji Facebook page.
Racial division is deep-seated in Fiji's social and political history, and hundreds of hateful comments had to be deleted from the official Miss World Fiji Facebook page.
Really? "Hundreds" As a frequent visitor to that Facebook, i must admit that yes, there were some references to her looks, but not "hundreds". 
Hundreds of complaints had to be deleted and a pageant spokeswoman said on Facebook there had been "nothing but negative criticism and remarks from our own people" about the selection of Watters.
 Yes there, were negative comments, but there were more positive ones. And if these news outlets were more responsible, they would go to the Facebook page themselves and see  the comments for themselves.
 TVNZ   ran a news story that led with
The Miss World competition is meant to encourage world peace, but it's causing an ugly race row in Fiji.
Again their source is from Facebook comments!   ABC News ,, TVNZ, all ran these race factor stories, and they are basically saying the same things! They also seem to have the same sources, 'organiser of the event' and the 'uproar' seems to be confined to their Facebook page! 
There have been no attempts to get comments from relevant authorities, or the local media to see if there is an 'uproar' over Torika's race. Truth be told, majority of people even residing in Suva are not aware of the Miss World Fiji pageant, let alone who won it.I have to commend  International Business Times  for their story. An example of good journalism in my opinion, cause they were not swayed by previous news reports of the event.
It almost seems like that whoever is feeding the race issue is trying to draw attention away from how the pageant was conducted. But it's good to see that despite what the  overseas media (the few that are reporting on the pageant) is focusing on, the local media and public are beginning to scrutinize how the pageant was run.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Pageant Saga

The Miss Fiji World pageant has taken another twist since Wansolwara, broke the story about irregularities in how the eventual winner Torika Watters was chosen. The Fiji Times today reported that Torika has stepped down, paving the way for runner-up Koila Vakaloloma to represent Fiji in the Miss World competition in Mongolia next month. The Miss Fiji pageant has been rigged with bad publicity since Torika was crowned and it does not look like things will be changing anytime soon. In her press statement Torika says that

she "was becoming very uncomfortable with the situation" citing "lies, deception, the lack of transparency and the lack of professionalism" as reasons for leaving Suva and the "entire pageant fiasco" on May 7.
This is quite unfortunate as it seems like an Innocent girl has been caught in all this pageant drama. In her statement, Torika explains how she was approached by Andhy Blake via Facebook, which in itself is very irregular, because as the Director of the pageant one would think that he would remain neutral when it came to contestant recruiting.

Then there is the issue with Torika being 16 years old. Torika says that she was assured by Andhy that her age would not be an issue. When she was crowned Miss World Fiji, New Zealand media raised the issue that she was not eligible because Miss World criteria states that the contestants have to be above 17 years of age. Andhy replied to this by stating that Torika was a special case and that he had gotten special permission from the Miss World International to allow her to contest. Well today we still have to see prove of that, but the fact that the governing body had indicated that she is too young to participate is all the proof we need to tell that Andhy lied about that issue.
The pageant debacle is stirring up all sorts of stories in the overseas media, but The NZ Herald has been one of the few that have focused on the real reason Torika has had to step down. There has been widespread coverage that race is a factor here, but there really have been no signs of this Fiji. Yes there have been Facebook comments here and there, but

sparked outrage in Fiji

On the Miss World Fiji Facebook page, Andhy is denying  claims of predetermined winners and that there were no proper judging criteria to  guide how the eventual winner would be chosen. Andhy has hit back to say that the girls' stories were more important having a set of criteria. Again this logic does not make sense seeing that the winner will be subjected to a more strict and rigorous judging criteria when she participates in the international pageant. I don't think that the girls' 'stories'  alone will count for much there.

Now there are questions been raised about the financial side of the pageant, with questions been raised as to why some of the contestants have not been given their prizes yet. Also money that was raised for Mental Health awareness still have to be accounted for also.
Perhaps its time for the relevant authorities to step in and thoroughly scrutinise the Fiji pageant.