A 16-year-old schoolgirl who sparked outrage in Fiji after she won the country’s Miss World 2012 beauty pageant—thought because she did not look “native” enough—has been stripped of her crown.
Torika Watters—who is of mixed European/ Fijian heritage—beat a bevy of full-blooded indigenous women to win the title last month in a competition overseen by New Zealand supermodel Rachel Hunter and other non-Fijian judges.
Racial division is deep-seated in Fiji’s social and political history, and hundreds of hateful comments had to be deleted from the official Miss World Fiji Facebook page.
However, the reason given for Watters’ dethroning, announced yesterday in The Fiji Times, was not because of the ugly race row but her age.
Watters said Miss World Fiji pageant director Andhy Blake told her that the British-based Miss World organisation had informed him that contestants had to be at least 16 years and 11 months at the time of the pageant.
Blake had earlier said there was no age issue with Watters.
Watters said Blake had assured her she was eligible for the pageant when he handpicked her to enter the competition at the semi-final stage.
The schoolgirl told the Times she had agreed to relinquish her crown. She said she “was becoming very uncomfortable with the situation,” citing “lies, deception, the lack of transparency and the lack of professionalism” as reasons for leaving Suva and the “entire pageant fiasco” last week.
“I would like to state that I have had no involvement in any of this underhand process and that I have been blind to this entire drama going on behind the scenes,” Watters said.
Watters also addressed the race row. “I am proud of my identity as a Fijian and have never considered my people as racists,” she said.