Miss Universe contestants use the stage to advocate for political, social rights issues

·2 min read

Multiple Miss Universe contestants used their platforms – and their outfits – to to share a powerful message with millions.

While wearing an outfit featuring the colors of Singapore's national flag during a pageant event on Thursday, Miss Universe Singapore Bernadette Belle Ong turned her back to unveil three words in red and white: "Stop Asian Hate."

Ong said in an Instagram post Friday that she wanted to "strong message of resistance against prejudice and violence."

Her statement comes after protests calling for an end to anti-Asian sentiments and hate crimes in the U.S. Researchers at California State University, San Bernardino, recently reporting a 164% spike in hate crimes against Asians in 16 of America's largest cities and counties.

Bernadette Belle Ong, Miss Universe Singapore 2020, on stage during the National Costume Show at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida on May 13, 2021.
Bernadette Belle Ong, Miss Universe Singapore 2020, on stage during the National Costume Show at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida on May 13, 2021.

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Miss Universe's Uruguay contestant, Lola de los Santos, sported a rainbow outfit and skirt in support of the LGBTQ community reading, "No more hate, violence, rejection, discrimination." De los Santos wrote in Spanish on her Instagram that she represented a message of love and equality for the community with her outfit during the National Costume Show on Thursday.

De los Santos has advocated for the LGBTQ community on her Instagram in the past and was a judge at Miss Trans Star Uruguay, a beauty pageant for transgender womenin the South American country.

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Lola De los Santos, Miss Universe Uruguay 2020, on stage during the National Costume Show at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida, on May 13, 2021.
Lola De los Santos, Miss Universe Uruguay 2020, on stage during the National Costume Show at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida, on May 13, 2021.

Miss Universe Myanmar Thuzar Wint Lwin unveiled her message using a scroll that read "Pray for Myanmar." She walked across the stage, bowed her head to the audience and then unwrapped the scroll on Friday.

Lwin wrote on her Instagram that the dress is one of Myanmar's ethnic costumes, specifically worn by Chin women, who live in the country's mountainous Chin State region, at traditional ceremonies.

In February, Myanmar's military junta seized power in a coup. Lwin protested alongside those against the military junta, writing on her Instagram: "For the heroes that sacrificed their lives in the fight for the freedom of our people."

Thuzar Wint Lwin, Miss Universe Myanmar 2020, on stage during the National Costume Show at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida, on May 13, 2021.
Thuzar Wint Lwin, Miss Universe Myanmar 2020, on stage during the National Costume Show at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida, on May 13, 2021.

Fans cheered on the contestants' looks, including 25-year-old New Jersey resident Rebecca Moore, who said she hadn't been a fan of the pageant until she came across photos of Ong's and De los Santos outfits. Moore said she is thankful these Miss Universe contestants advocated for underrepresented communities on such a large stage.

"It was beautiful to see these women take a stand and show solidarity in the midst of so much violence against these communities," Moore said. "I felt pride watching them promote these messages."

Follow Gabriela Miranda on Twitter: @itsgabbymiranda

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Miss Universe contestants share message against violence, prejudice

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