LOOK BACK: The Miss Earth controversies

Alexa Villano
LOOK BACK: The Miss Earth controversies
The pageant has made headlines through the years, some of them for the wrong reasons

HONG KONG – The Miss Earth Organization found itself in the headlines this week, after 3 candidates took to social media to call out one of the sponsors of the pageant for alleged inappropriate behavior.

Miss Earth Canada Jaime VandenBerg, Miss Earth England Abbey-Anne Gyles-Brown, and Miss Earth Guam Emma Mae Sheedy accused the sponsor of sexual harassment, and said they raised their concerns to their team managers and to pageant executives, but these were left unresolved.

Prior to the allegation, the organization faced other controversies in the past. Here’s a look back at some of the issues the Miss Earth Organization faced and weathered through the years.

1. $4-million bribery allegation

In 2013, a Russian news agency report showed a video of the organization’s executive vice president Lorraine Schuck allegedly caught “selling” the Miss Earth crown. However, it was proven that she didn’t. The journalists, who used hidden cameras, had asked Schuck for an interview. Before the interview started, the journalists claimed they were envoys of Russian oligarchs and attempted to bribe her with $4 million for the Miss Earth crown. Schuck rejected the offer. 

2. Miss Afghanistan’s participation in Miss Earth 2003

In 2003, Afghanistan representative Vida Samadzai, who had been based in the US since 1996, made history when she represented the country in the pageant. Samadzai’s participation in the pageant was not well received by leaders of her own country, warning her of penalities for parading in a red bikini. 

3. The black veils in Miss Philippines Earth

In 2017, Miss Philippines Earth revamped its criteria process with the ladies wearing black veils during the preliminary judging of the figure and form. This drew mixed reactions from fans and pageant reporters.

Rappler’s contributing writer Voltaire Tayag wrote: ” [It] was totally inappropriate and sends the wrong message about women. The pageant justified their gimmick by alluding to the fact that only ‘figure and form’ was being judged. Unfortunately, this gimmick objectified women by emphasizing to the viewing public to simply look at the body of the candidate.”

The MEP organization later clarified the matter, saying: In the pre-judging portion of ‘Figure and Form,’ (which is separate from the swimsuit competition, by the way), the transparent veil served a double purpose – first, to place emphasis on the figure and form of the candidate, which was the criteria of focus for that specific portion, and second to introduce the girls with dramatic flair since it was the first in our series of prejudging.”

We honestly do not believe that the girls were objectified or that they felt objectified, remember we are working with millennials. They speak their mind and will no way allow themselves to be put on the negative side,” it added.

4. The resignation of Imelda Schweighart

The year 2016 would see the organization in the middle of many issues. During the pageant activities, Philippine representative Imelda Schweighart already caused a stir with her comments about Adolf Hitler and President Rodrigo Duterte during a discussion with Austria’s representative Kimberly Budinsky. (READ: Miss PH Earth Imelda Schweighart apologizes for comment on Hitler, Duterte)

But it wasn’t long before Schweighart would make headlines again after a video of hers emerged wherein she accused Miss Earth 2016 winner Katherine Espin of having plastic surgery. That same year, fashion designer Leo Almodal called her out for claiming that Espin’s gown was supposed to be the gown she was to wear for the finals night.

Schweighart eventually resigned from her duties as Miss Philippines Earth. (READ: Imelda Schweighart on stepping down, Miss Earth loss)

5. Karen Ibasco’s Miss Earth win in 2017

Philippine representative Karen Ibasco found herself being criticized for winning the country’s 5th Miss Earth crown. Some believed that her win was too early as the country won back-to-back titles in 2014  and 2015 courtesy of Jamie Herrell and Angelia Ong, respectively. (READ: Miss Earth 2015: Thoughts on winner Angelia Ong, back-to-back PH victory)

Despite criticisms, Karen, a Physics major, performed her duties and responsibilities very well. She traveled to many countries during her reign and spoke about environmental topics close to her heart. (READ: Miss Earth PH 2017 Karen Ibasco looks back on her reign before she passes the crown)

6. Salwa Akar gets dethroned by Miss Earth Lebanon organization

In the 2018 competition, Lebanon’s bet Salwa Akar found herself losing her Miss Earth Lebanon title after a photo of her and Israel’s Dana Zerik circulated online. The photo created buzz as both countries are technically still at war with each other. (READ: Lebanon’s Miss Earth 2018 bet stripped of title after photo with Miss Israel)

Akar later posted a statement, saying: “I don’t need a ‘title’ to be myself… I, the Soul, am peace…and I will finish what I started with or without your support and love…. God is always beside me, he knows me more than anyone and he knows what’s in my heart. Om Shanti.” – Rappler.com


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Alexa Villano

Alexa is one of Rappler's Lifestyle and Entertainment reporters, covering local entertainment news to a wide range of topics from beauty pageants to reality shows.