‘Scandal’ rocks Miss Universe pageant as bets pose nude, but not RP’s Raj

Aug 20, 2010

Donald Trump defends organizers in contest’s new attraction

LAS VEGAS/MANILA – This year’s Miss Universe beauty contest winners will be known during the finals at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas on Monday, August 23, 2010 (Tuesday, August 24 in the Philippines) and already the contest, now on its 59th edition, is attracting controversies.

This as the 83 candidates were told to pose topless and in body paint, the first time in the history of the contest, triggering various comments, including criticisms among the conservatives Fortunately or unfortunately, the Philippine candidate, Miss Philippines Maria Venus Raj, 22, did not go topless and merely posed in a stunning white swimsuit to show the other titlists how to behave properly for the official glamour shoot of the 2010 Miss Universe beauty pageant. Will Miss Raj’s behavior be a plus factor or minus point for her as the contest final approaches? Many observers viewed the topless pose as a scandal but billionaire Donald Trump, who owns the Miss Universe franchise, defended the photo shoot, saying he has no problems with it.

“We are in a different age. They are a little bit sexy, but I’ll tell you what – everybody’s watching so I have nothing against it. The Miss USA pageant and the Miss Universe pageant just got renewed for three years by NBC. The ratings have been terrific. If you look at Miss America, it’s now off-network television – and we’re doing better than ever, so I really have no problem with it,” Trump was quoted as saying by The Insider.

Raj has remained the most popular Miss Universe candidate based on the official online survey sponsored by the Miss Universe Organization. “She opted to wear twopiece swimsuit,” said Carmela Garcia, PR assistant of the Araneta Group of Companies, which handles the annual Bb. Pilipinas beauty contest.

Critics said that the official photo shoot by photographer Fadil Berisha last Aug. 12 has gone too far, according a report of Manila Bulletin’s Robert Reguintina who has followed the contest for years.

One of those who criticized the act was Angie Meyer who has worked with the Miss USA contestants and the organization for several years. “It’s alarming that this has been turned into a playboy-esque masquerade,” Meyer told “When you bring nudity into the equation, the pageant no longer becomes about the entire
package of brains and beauty. Rather, the focus shifts to body image,” Meyer pointed out. Meyer added: “The notion that ‘beauty’ embodies absolute physical perfection is a frightening slippery slope, and quite dangerous for young women around the world to adhere to.” . She argued: “By asking these women to pose topless in their photos, the Trump organization (which, along with NBC, co-owns the Miss Universe Organization) is segregating their candidates into two
categories — the women willing to pose topless, and the ones who won’t.’’ “By implementing topless photos as part of the pageant process, they’re putting applicants in an extremely compromising position,” Meyer added.

Requintina also reported that a representative from the Miss Universe Organization told Pop Tarts that the women were in no way forced to pose topless and could opt for a more conservative shoot if they preferred. The representative also said that nudity was not an issue for many of the countries represented by the pageant. “The contestants who compete at Miss Universe are diverse as they represent more than 82 countries around the globe. Many of their cultures embrace nudity,” the representative said in a statement. “These photos are a form of artistic expression for each contestant, and we respect their desire to pose topless, or not. We feel the images captured are fashionable and cutting edge!” LaToya Woods, a Miss Universe contestant from Trinidad & Tobago, said she felt particularly “liberated” during the shoot with Berisha in which she wore ‘pasties’ to cover her nipples, according to Fox News.

“They exaggerated the curves of my body; it was, in no way, derogatory. It was an artistic expression. It expressed liberty, freedom, sexuality. That is what Miss Universe is all about,” she told Pop Tarts. Miss Haiti Sarodj Bertin, a lawyer, said that she did not feel comfortable taking her top off even for the sake of “art.” “Most of the girls are fashion models and some were topless, everyone posed as they felt comfortable. I wouldn’t go topless – but I had flowers painted on my legs. I love nature so that made me feel part of it all,” she said. Miss USA, Muslim- American Rima Fakih, told Access Hollywood that while she did indeed pose topless, the shots were only of her nude back.

“For me, I like to do the back,” she said. “I didn’t want to do the front for many reasons, and one of them being in respect, I’m Arab, I’m Muslim, and I didn’t want to disappoint many people.” Pageant officials assured the public that the broadcast will be familyfriendly, and, therefore, was not expected to be banned in more conservative countries, where udity could be in conflict with cultural values. Last year, the Miss USA beauty contest made headlines when contestants wore ultra-sexy lingerie for official promo photos. Various sectors described the photos as “racy.’’ Fakih won in the contest.

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