Miss USA group hugs Miss Cambodia & Miss Vietnam after backlash for mocking their English
She also stated that she realised her comments could be seen as disrespectful.
Half the population of the United States do not own a passport.
So, it is not surprising that one of their citizens is shocked to find out that the rest of the world speaks other languages.
But she really shouldn’t, because she is, after all, a Miss Universe USA.
Mocking contestants’ English
The American contestant for this year’s Miss Universe, Sarah Rose Summers, has come under fire for making xenophobic comments against her fellow contestants, Rern Sinat (nicknamed Nat) from Cambodia, and H’Hen Nie from Vietnam.
Specifically, she had mocked their poor English-speaking skills in an Instagram Live video that was first put up on Dec. 13 on the Instagram account grandslambeautyalliance.
Xenophobic video also featured Miss Columbia and Miss Australia
Summers is also accompanied in the video by Miss Colombia Valeria Morales and Miss Australia Francesca Hung, where they ridiculed the spoken English of Nie and Sinat.
When Morales asks Summers what she thinks of Miss Vietnam, Summers replies:
“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…”
At this point, Summers does a mock imitation of Nie’s smile, then laughs and adds, “She’s adorable.”
The video then moves on to Summers talking about Miss Cambodia and how the fact that she does not speak English is compounded by how “not a single other person speaks her language”.
Summers expresses amazement at Sinat’s situation, adding that it’s “isolating” and “confusing all the time”.
Summers then turns to Morales and notes how Morales speaks “great English” and how she also has other Spanish-speaking contestants to talk to.
The video concludes with Summers stating “Poor Cambodia”.
Multilingual backlash erupts against Summers
The video triggered a torrent of furious criticism in multiple languages on social media.
While AsiaOne also reported on Sinat’s reaction, highlighting that she had been “hurt” by the video.
The article highlighted that prior to being assigned a translator on Dec. 12, Sinat had to rely on Google Translate to communicate during much of the preliminary rounds in Bangkok.
The translator was provided at the request of her team in Phnom Penh as her own translator did not travel with her to Thailand.
Summers makes up with a group hug
The backlash eventually caused Summers to put up a post on her own Instagram on Dec. 14, showing her, Morales, Hung, Nie and Sinat in a group hug.
In her caption, Summers apologised after supposedly realising she “said something” which could “be perceived as not respectful”.
Summers then stressed that it was not her intention to “hurt another” person, and she was grateful for “opportunities” to speak to Nie and Sinat directly about their experiences.
View this post on Instagram
@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.
Apology criticised as not actually being an apology
Summers’ apology was criticised as being insincere, however.
An American news outlet, The Mercury News, pointed out that Summers had actually just issued a “classic non-apology apology”.
In stating that her comments “can be perceived as not respectful”, she was effectively blaming other people’s perceptions, instead of herself.
It was a sentiment that was also echoed by mrbrown himself.
— mrbrown (@mrbrown) December 14, 2018
The Mercury News also reported that it did not help that Summer’s mother was quoted by another American news outlet, TMZ:
“She in no way meant any harm. She doesn’t have a mean bone in her body. [Summers] was just recreating how Miss Vietnam acts when she doesn’t understand what someone is saying. She wasn’t trying to mock her.”
Top image screenshot from Francesca Hung’s Instagram