The Straits Times/Asia News Network
Miss USA 2018 Sarah Rose Summers poses on stage during the 2018 Miss Universe national costume presentation in Chonburi province on December 10, 2018. (AFP/Lillian Suwanrumpha)
Miss USA 2018, Sarah Rose Summers, has come under fire just days before taking the stage in the ongoing Miss Universe contest for mocking fellow contestants Miss Vietnam and Miss Cambodia for their poor English language skills.
Summers, 24, has since apologized for what social media users called racism and bullying, saying that she "would never intend to hurt another".
She made the comments alongside Miss Colombia Valeria Morales and Miss Australia Francesca Hung in an Instagram Live video on Morales' account on Wednesday, Dec. 12.
The clip begins with Summers asking Morales and Hung: "What do you think about Miss Vietnam?"
She then goes on to say of her Vietnam counterpart H'Hen Nie: "She's so cute and she pretends to know so much English, and then you ask her a question after having a whole conversation with her and she goes (nods and smiles)."
Summers then laughs and calls Nie "adorable".
And when prompted by Morales, Summers again imitates Nie nodding and smiling.
The contestants then pointed out that Miss Cambodia Nat Rern also does not speak any English, and "not a single other person speaks her language".
Summers describes it as isolating and confusing, and adds: "Poor Cambodia."
Soon after the video surfaced, including on popular Instagram account diet _prada, Summers met with sharp criticism.
Instagram user potskzi said in a comment: "Miss USA and Australia just lost all of my respect... That's NOT what real beauty is all about."
On Thursday, Summers responded to the controversy with an apology on her Instagram account.
@MissUniverse is an opportunity for women from around the world to learn about each other’s cultures, life experiences, and views. We all come from different backgrounds and can grow alongside one another. In a moment where I intended to admire the courage of a few of my sisters, I said something that I now realize can be perceived as not respectful, and I apologize. My life, friendships, and career revolve around me being a compassionate and empathetic woman. I would never intend to hurt another. I am grateful for opportunities to speak with Nat, Miss Cambodia, and H’Hen, Miss Vietnam, directly about this experience. These are the moments that matter most to me.
She wrote: "In a moment where I intended to admire the courage of a few of my sisters, I said something that I now realize can be perceived as not respectful, and I apologize.
"My life, friendships, and career revolve around me being a compassionate and empathetic woman. I would never intend to hurt another. I am grateful for opportunities to speak with Nat, Miss Cambodia, and H'Hen, Miss Vietnam, directly about this experience. These are the moments that matter most to me."
Nat on Friday sought to soothe tensions online when she shared group photos taken with Summers, Morales, Hung and Nie, which show the five of them in smiles and hugging.
"I speak the language of love, respect and understanding. I love you, my sisters," she said.
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