19-yr-old Papua New Guinean beauty queen shows resilience after being called ‘black and ugly’ on stage

Francis Akhalbey July 10, 2019
Miss Leoshina Kariha, a beauty queen and UNICEF Youth Advocate was called black and ugly at a beauty pageant in Tonga -- Photo Credit: UNICEF/2019/Kate Holt

What was supposed to be a worthwhile experience for 19-year-old Papua New Guinean Miss Pacific Islands beauty queen Leoshina Kariha turned out to be a nightmare after she was subjected to a colorism insult while taking part in a beauty pageant in Tonga over the weekend.

According to Yahoo News Australia, Miss Kariha, who was competing in the Miss Heilala beauty pageant was just about wrapping up her speech when someone allegedly from the VIP section of the crowd yelled: “You’re black and ugly – disgusting.” In the aftermath of the incident, a very well-known Tongan politician was pinpointed by local media outlets as the alleged perpetrator.

Miss Kariha, though pained by the ordeal was, however, unperturbed and took to Facebook to express gratitude to the people of Tonga for their warm reception and also called for unity in the Pacific.

“Thank you for all of your support. It was painful to receive the comment. But my chaperone and I have been welcomed here by the Ministry of Tourism and by the people and we’ve been embraced by them.”

She also affirmed she won’t allow the incident to stain the relationship her country has with Tonga.

“I will not let one comment from a single person destroy the very good relationship that the Kingdom of Tonga and my people of Papua New Guinea have,” she said. “And there really should be no division amongst Melanesians, Polynesians and Micronesians; we should be one united Pacific.”

A well-known figure in her country, UNICEF in Papua New Guinea announced Miss Kariha as their first ever Youth Advocate this year.

“UNICEF stands for the rights and wellbeing of children, youth and women. These are our groups of the population whose voices are not heard enough and more needs to be done with them and for them,” she said after her appointment. “They need to be involved in discussions that affect them, because they may be able to see how they themselves can contribute ideas and innovative ways of doing things to help themselves.”

Miss Kariha’s unfortunate incident wasn’t the only controversy of the pageant as the reigning Miss Heilala, Kalo Funganitao, called out organizers for mistreatment during her time as reigning queen when she took the stage together with her family to deliver her final speech, Yahoo News Australia further reports.

During her impassioned speech where she described her reign as “tormenting”, officials attempted to cut her off by turning off her microphone. Unmoved by the attempt and still going ahead with her speech, Deputy Prime Minister Hon. Semisi Sika reportedly told the organizers to play loud music to silence her.

Despite the noise, she still managed to get her words across alleging she had been “cheated, lied to” and “backstabbed.”

“Up until today I have experienced just how hard it can be to be a young Tongan woman,” she added, while also calling officials “unprofessional and rude” and screaming “enough is enough!”

The new Miss Heilala, Yehenara Soukoup from Hawaii was left with no choice but to crown herself after Funganitao stormed off the stage after her speech.

Last Edited by:Ismail Akwei Updated: July 10, 2019


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