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C’mon, Miss USA, doesn’t America already look bad enough? Our country’s constantly teased overseas for being oblivious to geography and world history, and now she’s having to apologize after proving one stereotype right: that we assume everyone speaks English.
A video of the Miss Universe pageant in Thailand made the rounds on Instagram this week. It shows Miss USA, Sarah Rose Summers, delivering a shocked message to the camera as she huddles near her fellow contestants.
“Miss Cambodia is here and doesn’t speak any English, and not a single other person speaks her language. Could you imagine?”
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Regina George, is that you? This is basically like the most dramatic reality show, but condensed into 1 minute lol. @sarahrosesummers hopefully will prove that ignorance will not win you a @missuniverse title…whatever that means these days. This is basically what normalized xenophobia looks like. If she’s trying to show empathy, the condescending, intolerant tone tells a different story. A reminder that you’re participating in a competition in a country/continent where English is NOT the primary language. Cc: @francesca.hung @valeriamoralesd @rern_sinat (Miss Cambodia) • #sarahrosesummers #rernsinat #valeriamorales #francescahung #missuniverse2018 #missuniverse #missworld #missusa #missaustralia #misscolombia #beautyqueen #beautypageant #pageant #pageantlife #missamerica #wiwt #ootd #realityshow #meangirls #reginageorge #gossip #catty #lol #wtf #dietprada
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To be fair, Summers then goes on to lament how isolated and confused the contestant must feel, but her concern did little to mitigate the internet’s rising outrage at her ignorance and surprised tone.
“This is basically what normalized xenophobia looks like,” wrote the video’s poster, Diet Prada, a fan account that highlights injustices in the fashion industry. Another contestant originally apparently posted the original but quickly deleted it, Quartzy reported. Diet Prada’s version placed the damning clip alongside another of Summers praising Miss Cambodia and calling her “beautiful.”
A single incident may have been written off, but Summers later made fun of another competitor, Miss Vietnam, H’Hen Niê. “She’s so cute and she pretends to know so much English,” Summers says, before imitating how Niê smiles and nods not once, but twice.
Summers posted an apology Thursday alongside a picture of her hugging the two contestants caught up in the controversy. “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,” she wrote.
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@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.
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Alyse Stanley is a video game and culture reporter based in Virginia with words at Polygon and USGamer. When she’s not writing about memes, she edits Unwinnable’s monthly magazine. You can follow her on Twitter @pithyalyse.