Miss Pacific Islands Leoshina Kariha has responded to a racial slur yelled at her during a Tongan festival.
As the 19-year-old from Papua New Guinea was concluding her speech at an event for the Miss Heilala beauty pageant, a person reportedly yelled from the VIP booth: “You’re black and ugly – disgusting”.
Several local media outlets have reported that the slur came from a prominent Tongan politician.
Ms Kariha responded with a heartfelt video posted on her Facebook page where she described the comment as “painful” but that she had been “welcomed” during her time in Tonga.
“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, and there really should be no division amongst Melanesians, Polynesians and Micronesians, we should be one united Pacific,” Ms Kariha said.
The Tongan government and pageant officials have not commented on the allegations.
It’s not the only controversy surrounding the pageant. It’s also alleged that Miss Heilala organisers attempted to silence the reigning Miss Heilala, Kalo Funganitao, as she gave her final speech before the announcement of her successor.
Ms Funganitao began her speech by describing her time in the position as “tormenting”.
When the volume on her microphone was suddenly cut, Ms Funganitao continued her fiery speech by yelling, and it was then that Deputy Prime Minister Hon. Semisi Sika reportedly told staff to play music in order to drown out her speech.
As the background music grew louder, Ms Funganitao said that her and her mother had been “cheated, lied to, backstabbed” and that she “felt a lack of support from people who were supposedly put into roles to help me” since she was crowned last year.
She went on to say she found the officials involved in the event “unprofessional and rude”.
"Up until today I have experienced just how hard it can be to be a young Tongan woman,” the law student said, claiming that she had been cyber bullied by the public and other contestants.
“Enough is enough!” she said before embracing her family as she left the stage.
Her successor, Yehenara Soukoup from Hawaii, was forced to crown herself.
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