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MANILA, Philippines – Netizens were left concerned after Miss Universe Philippines 2023, Michelle Dee, made a seemingly early exit during a guest appearance on the Mexican television show Venga La Alegria, alongside fellow Miss Universe contestants.
The viral video, which garnered more than 6,000 likes on X (formerly Twitter), was the subject of much online speculation. The video featured a number of Miss Universe contestants along with Anne Jakrajutatip, owner of the Miss Universe Organization, smiling and laughing as they posed for photos. In the video, Jakratutatip can be seen motioning for a woman behind the camera to come forward, after which staff are seen approaching Dee, appearing to ask her to accompany them as she was escorted from the line-up.
The Miss Universe Philippines organization released an official statement on Tuesday, November 21 to deny the allegations that Dee was unfairly removed from the line-up for discriminatory reasons and that Jakrajutatip instructed that Dee leave the stage. They said that the segment had concluded by the time the video was taken, and Dee, who was not feeling well due to the taxing schedule, excused herself from the program to drink water.
Recognizing her discomfort, the Miss Universe Philippines team stated that they decided it was best for her to return to the hotel and rest, considering her demanding schedule in the previous weeks. The statement concluded with well wishes for Dee’s speedy recovery: “Upon seeing her condition, the MUPH Team decided that it was best for her to go back to the hotel to get some rest. Michelle hopes to join the city tour today as long as she feels better. Please wish that she gets well soon.”
In a conversation with ABS-CBN News, Darick Cuevas of Miss Universe Philippines also clarified that the segment had already concluded when Dee exited the frame.
Shortly after the video made its rounds, Dee confirmed that it was her health condition that was taken into consideration in a series of text messages to her fans on her Instagram broadcast channel, Hey MMDVERSE.
In a posting by a fan account on X, Dee was seen expressing feeling “lightheaded” and announced her decision to go back to the hotel: “Suddenly felt so lightheaded so i’m going back to the hotel! Don’t feel so well after that first media guesting.” She followed up with a second message, which simply read: “Iykyk,” which means “If you know, you know.”
However, in the pictures that followed as reported by GMA Network, it was seen that the second message was seemingly unsent, with MMD’s next message: “Love, empathy & kindness over everything.” being the next message shown.
On the same day, November 21, Dee posted a cryptic message on her social media, saying: “Salamat. 🙏🏻 Alam niyo na bakit.”
(Thank you. You know why.)
Despite the clarifications, another English-subtitled video of Anne Jakrajutatip speaking in Thai with her arm around Michelle Dee making the rounds on X also sparked controversy. The video was interpreted by some netizens to mean that Jakrajutatip was making insensitive remarks about Dee, with the only discernible English words being “move on.”
Rhian Ramos, a Filipina actress and a close friend of Michelle Dee, expressed her discomfort with the situation, sharing a portion of the video to her Instagram story and stating her concern for her friend.
In Ramos’ story, the video was captioned: “I don’t like how this looks. My stomach is turning. Buti ma-respeto yung kaibigan ko, eh sila? Ewan. Kayo nalang ang humusga. Tap niyo for the full uncomfortable video.”
(It’s a good thing my friend is respectful, but what about them? I don’t know. You be the judge. Tap for the full, uncomfortable video.)
The incident has fueled heated discussions online, with some expressing dismay over the treatment of Michelle Dee and calling for a boycott of the Miss Universe Organization.
Despite this, a comment on Ramos’ IG post from someone claiming to be a teacher in Thailand said that Jakrajutatip’s comments were not directed at Dee and were misunderstood by Filipino fans. According to them, Jakrajutatip was expressing her intention to create a song titled Can’t Move On for Thai fans who couldn’t move on from the Miss Universe results.
In the same sentence, the commenter also expressed their doubts as to why Dee needed to be in the video in the first place.
Dee, who finished in the Top 10 of the 72nd Miss Universe pageant in El Salvador, marked the Philippines’ return to the semi-final round with her performance after last year’s early exit, with many believing that her performance merited a higher rank.
Despite this, Michelle’s remarkable achievements, including winning Gold in the “Voice for Change” category as well as the “Spirit of Carnival” award, highlight her remarkable dedication to representing the Philippines on the global stage. – with additional reports from Dana Villano/Rappler.com
Dana Villano is a Rappler intern.