by Ric Galvez
Founder of Missosology
It seems unlikely that a Presidential debate will tackle an issue about beauty pageants but that is exactly what happened Monday night when Republican nominee Donald Trump sparred with Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
As the debate was about to reach its conclusion, Hillary, in her attempt to paint Donald as misogynist and racist, brought up the story of Miss Universe 1996 Alicia Machado. Hillary claimed that Donald called Alicia “Miss Piggy” because of her weight problem during her reign and “Miss Housekeeping” because of her Latina heritage. Donald was caught off guard and his interjection as Hillary recounted Alicia’s story was one of the awkward moments of the highly watched debate.
What exactly happened in 1996 is not something obscure for pageant enthusiasts. Alicia Machado won the Miss Universe 1996 in Las Vegas and she was highly regarded because of the beauty and intelligence that she exuded during the finals night. But her reign was beset with a problem – Alicia gained weight and this did not sit well with the organizers.
At that time, Donald just took over the Miss Universe pageant and it is understandable, from a pageantry point view, that the weight gain of Alicia should be a big concern. Instead of stripping away her title, the Miss Universe pageant subjected Alicia to a diet and physical regimen to ensure that she will back in shape. She was even covered by the press as she hit the gym.
Alicia finished her reign, passed on the crown and moved on to become an actress in her native Venezuela and in Mexico. It seems Donald Trump and the Miss Universe Organization handled the situation well. All’s well that ends well, they say. But what we saw from the outside was actually different from the inside, so claims Alicia Machado.
There is no doubt that Alicia Machado’s story was seized by Hillary’s campaign for political purposes. Alicia, who just obtained her American citizenship and plans to vote for Hillary on November, was not just mentioned in the debate by happenstance but it was deliberate. But as political as the situation can get, there is something that we can get from all of this. It does give us an inside peek on what was happening at Miss Universe under the Donald regime.
Alicia’s claim of name calling, of being shouted upon, of being intimidated by Donald Trump can be easily dismissed as hearsay. The problem though is that it is pretty much consistent with the Donald that we saw in public. Never had we seen in recent memory a US Presidential candidate who called women dogs, slobs and animals. Donald was caught on record saying pregnancy is an inconvenience. Of TV presenter Megyn Kelley, Donald said, “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes. Blood coming out of her wherever.”
Miss Universe is the most exciting and perhaps the most watched pageant in the whole world. If a misogynist racist once owned the pageant, can we then conclude that Miss Universe, during the Donald era, complicit in promoting superficiality and in demeaning women? Were winners of Miss Universe also subjected to the misogynist/racist attitude of Donald Trump? Were there other stories of humiliation of Miss Universe winners that we are yet to know?
Paula Shugart, President of Miss Universe Organization, once said, “We are such a small fraction of his [Donald Trump] business empire…so we’ve always operated as a stand-alone company.” This is the image of Miss Universe that Paula wanted the public to know during the height of uproar caused by Donald’s tirade against Mexicans. In a way, this could be applied in this case. Trump may had his brand stamped on Miss Universe but it is unlikely that he was 100% involved in everything. Alicia’s case was unique and had prompted direct intervention by Trump because of the weight problem.
Could there be more Miss Universe winners that were victimized by Donald Trump? We are yet to know as Alicia Machado’s story appears to be unique in the pageantry world. Her story however cemented that image of Donald as racist and misogynist. It looks like Miss Universe as an organization is spared from this as the problem is with Donald and not with the beauty pageant as a whole. Whatever politics, innuendos and rumors that will spawn out from this in the days to come, Perez Hilton words hold true today, “Thankfully, Donald Trump no longer owns this [Miss Universe] pageant!”