The Ukrainian-born woman who was crowned Miss Japan last month amid controversy over her heritage has surrendered her title after a local magazine revealed she was having an affair with a married man.
Karolina Shiino offered a public apology on Instagram on Monday, writing: “I am truly sorry for the huge trouble I have caused and for betraying those who supported me.”
The scandal kicked off last week after the tabloid Shukan Bunshun first reported that Shiino had been having an affair with a married doctor. At that time, the Miss Japan pageant stood up for Shiino and insisted she had been unaware of the man’s marital status. But on Monday, organizers said they’d learned she had been lying and announced that she would be stepping down as Miss Japan.
Shiino said she’d misled the public about the affair because she was “unable to speak the truth due to confusion and fear.”
The 26-year-old, who moved to Japan when she was 5, won the Miss Japan title on Jan. 22, sparking a furious debate about Japanese beauty standards and whether a woman who is not ethnically Japanese should hold the crown. Shiino, for her part, said the beauty pageant win made her finally feel accepted in Japanese society after struggling to fit in her whole life.
“I don’t think it’s one thing that makes you Japanese. What I do know is that it’s a matter of the heart,” she told The Japan Times. “If a person thinks she is Japanese, then she is.”