Looking into the sexual harassment allegations in Miss Earth beauty pageant

November 8, 2018 - 7:41 PM
Miss Earth 2018
Vietnamese model Phuong Khanh Nguyen won the Miss Earth competition for this year. (Philstar.com/Joven Cagande)

Three candidates of Miss Earth beauty pageant accused a sponsor of sexual harassment during their visit in the Philippines, but their allegations were questioned by pageant organizer Lorraine Schuck for the timing.

Vietnamese model Nguyễn Phương Khánh won the contest on November 3 at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Jaime Vandenberg of Canada, Emma Mae Sheedy of Guam and Abbey-Anne Gyles-Brown of England named a certain Amado S. Cruz who made them uncomfortable during the pageant.

Schuck responded in an interview that the organization had since taken actions over Cruz’s inappropriate acts.

Manila Yacht Club

Vandenberg, Sheedy and Gyles-Brown took to Instagram to share their stories. All narrated of a private get-together in a yacht at the Manila Yacht Club, where the sponsor in question supposedly made them uncomfortable.

Of the three, it was Sheedy who named Cruz as the sponsor they were referring to in their accusations.

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My side of the Miss Earth International Experience: – After a year and a half of preparation for my first beauty pageant; the Miss Earth pageant, I was excited to travel back to the Philippines for the 6th time. The hospitality of the Filipinos is not found anywhere else. The Philippines is like a second home to me. I joined the pageant to make a difference and be a role model to those around me. I enjoyed a majority of the pageant, but what I did not know, is that a specific sponsor from the Manila Yacht Club would change the way I see pageantry and sponsors. The sponsor who’s name is Amado S. Cruz became a problem for many of the delegates, including myself. To focus on ONLY myself, I was pulled aside multiple times to be invited to Boracay, private islands and into his house and insisted that I and “the latino women dance for him.” Amado S. Cruz grabbed my bare backside at the National Costume Competition where I was able to push him away, but he consistently told me not to tell anyone about any of the instances. At the Manila Yacht Club, Amado S. Cruz ensured that the team managers and security personnel were separated in another room, this is where he made many girls uncomfortable. A groups of us left the room because we felt uncomfortable, but Amado S. Cruz followed us and insisted that we stayed inside to dance with him. We asked our team managers to bring us to the busses, which took over 20 minutes for them finally to do. Later on that night @missjaimeyvonne and @Miss.Earth.England spoke on the phone with Lorraine Schuck, the Vice President of Miss Earth, who assured them that Amado S. Cruz would not be at any other event. From the moment the pageant started until coronation night, Amado S. Cruz was at every event and dinner he could physically get to. Since other delegates have posted, multiple other queens from past years have come out about the same behavior. I want to help put a stop to this sponsor being apart of the Miss Earth International Pageant because he has become a problem for years. #missearth2018 #missearth #MeToo @missearth

A post shared by Emma Mae (@erma101) on

Sheedy and Vandenberg also got invited into his house in Boracay Island, a premier beach destination that re-opened last month.

NOW READ! The statement of #MissEarth Canada 2018 Jamie Yvonne VandenBerg why she left during the #MissEarth2018 competition.#YvonneVandenBerg#PageantsFanaticBharbie Retubado

Posted by Yancy Pahayahay on Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Schuck said to GMA News, Miss Earth’s official partner, that the management had since dealt with this.

“Lahat naman ‘yon na-address n’ong October 14 pa. I found out about it tapos siyempre kung sino man ‘yong nag-sexual harass na sinasabi nila, bin-nan naman namin,” the former beauty queen said

Gyles-Brown was the one who told Schuck that she and other delegates were scared to report on harassment for fear that doing so will reflect badly on their pageant scores.

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My personal encounter @missearth. • It’s time to speak up about my personal experience. I have been in close contact with my national director and all incidents have been noted. I have worked very hard for my title of Miss Earth England and as I have previously mentioned I took 4 years to get to the top and win my place at the Internationals. I was elated to finally represent England over in the beautiful Philippines. My trip was a rollercoaster of emotions, stress and endurance and I did not leave the pageant as I was not going to miss out on the experience. I have many beautiful memories of my time here in the Philippines and many wonderful days. I met happy Filipinos who showed me such kindness and respect. I enjoyed 50% of my trip but the other 50% was over shadowed by feeling exploited, vulnerable, unnerved & sexually harassed as I was approached by a sponsor on many occasions who asked for sexual favours in exchange for the Crown. This happened at Manila Yacht Club on a sponsored evening meal away from the team managers behind closed doors. The sponsor also tried to find out what hotel and room I was staying in. Myself and Canada approached Team Manager to express our disgust only to be laughed at. Another official attendee of the night told me not to cry as I would ruin my makeup! There was no respect or compassion shown to myself or Jaimie. I felt traumatised by this experience and had many sleepless nights. I was not sure who had my personal details including my mob number and hotel room. It was not only myself and Canada who were approached on this night but other delegates who I believe are going to come forward and tell their side of the story. I approached Lorraine Schuck who is the Vice President Of Miss Earth she informed me that the sponsor would be removed from all contact with contestants but this did not happen. As other groups experienced the same issue. Myself and @missjaimeyvonne removed ourselves from this uncomfortable environment and sat on the bus away from further exploitation. This is one of many incidents we faced during our Miss Earth Journey! The said sponsor in fact show up at a prelim event and also attended the Coronation night

A post shared by 🌍♻️🌸Abbey-Anne Gyles-Brown🌸♻️🌍 (@miss.earth.england) on

Schuck then assured her that he will be banned from all the events. Their scores will also not be affected because he is not a pageant judge.

Concerning the name given by Sheedy on her message, Schuck clarified that Cruz was not a sponsor, but only hosted for their food.

“Hindi sponsor ang Yacht Club. Individual member ng Yacht Club ang nag-sponsor so tinatawag na rin nating sponsor kasi nag-host [siya] ng food ng girls,” she explained.

Schuck then criticized the models for making these events public. She said that they had been briefed to voice out their concerns to the management and to the police since they arrived here.

“Alam nilang dapat lapitan nila ang team manager. Bakit hindi nila ginawa? Bakit ngayon lang nila sasabihin ‘to?” Schuck said.

Many people supported the former beauty contestants for their bravery on posting these online. Some even apologized on behalf of the Filipino community in the comments section.

Screenshot by Interaksyon
Screenshot by Interaksyon

Other candidates

Monica Aguilar of Cuba confirmed that some sponsors asked them to go to Boracay with them, but such does not count as harassment.

“No matter where you go in life, these types of things happen, but it is your responsibility to say no and walk away,” part of her post read.

Her fellow candidate, Maria ‘Otulau ‘Aholelei of Tonga, wrote in the comments section that Aguilar cannot speak on behalf of everyone.

“I respect you and your opinions but your statement is showing how little faith you have towards the other delegates and their experience in the journey,” the Tonga model said.

Sexual harassment and beauty pageants

Beauty pageants exists in many countries including the Philippines.

While many people say that these contests bring self-confidence and empowerment, others argue that these are venues to objectify women and discriminate them.

A study released in 2017 also revealed that beauty pageants are among the common situations where sexual objectification of women is “socially sanctioned.”

“Sexual objectification of women is encouraged, promoted and socially sanctioned through a variety of ways, including, but not limited to, beauty pageants, cheerleading, and cocktail waitressing,” researcher Bhuvanesh Awasthi said.

Awasthi also wrote that “objectifying” body images will highly lead to sexual violence or assault because of the de-humanized perception of female bodies.