A Papua New Guinean beauty queen says she’s undeterred despite being pelted with racist insults during a pageant on the South Pacific island of Tonga over the weekend.
Miss Pacific Islands Leoshina Kariha, 19, addressed the “painful” comment in a video posted to her Facebook page Sunday, but said the incident did not overshadow that fact she’d been “welcomed” and “embraced” by the Tongan people during her time there.
According to New Zealand outlet RNZ Pacific, the teen beauty queen was in the island’s capitol of Nuku’alofa for the Miss Heilala pageant Friday when she was subjected to a racist slur from the audience. Kariha was concluding her speech when someone from the crowd yelled, “You’re black and ugly — disgusting.”
Several Pacific media outlets have reported that the slur came from a prominent Tongan politician, Yahoo News Australia reported. Others alleged the remark was shouted from a VIP booth, not the audience.
In her video, Kariha thanked the Tongan people for their support and said the “nasty” incident wouldn’t discourage her work going forward.
“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.”
The racist remark wasn’t the only controversy surrounding the Miss Heilala pageant, however. Conflict erupted after event organizers allegedly tried to silence the reigning Miss Heilala, Kalo Funganitao, as she gave an impassioned speech highlighting alleged mistreatment by pageant officials.
During her remarks, Funganitao described her time as the reigning beauty queen “tormenting” and was forced to shout after pageant organizers cut her mic off. Deputy Prime Minister Hon. Semisi Sika then reportedly told staff to play music in order to drown her out, Yahoo News Australia reported.
“Enough is enough, and I won’t tolerate any more fakeness,” Funganitao, a law student, screamed from the podium.
She also spoke of the isolation, cyber bullying and lack of support she’s received since being crowned Miss Hielala last year, adding that she and family had been “cheated, lied to [and] backstabbed.”
“If you have the guts to attack a person, as a group, in such a cowardly way, then you can deal with the consequences,” Funganitao continued, her family standing by her side. “It’s truly a miracle I did not give up this title a long time ago.”
Funganitao eventually left the stage and her successor, Yehenara Soukoup from Hawaii, was ultimately forced to crown herself.
Watch more in the video below.
Farewell message from Miss Pacific Islands. Leoshina Kariha of Papua New Guinea.
Posted by Ngaluope on Sunday, July 7, 2019