Has The Beauty Pageant Industry Been Normalising Sexual Harassment?

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Three beauty queens were allegedly sexually harassed at the Miss Earth pageant in the Philippines. When they raised the issue, the pageant employees only laughed.

It looks like the Me Too movement has finally reached the beauty pageant circuit. Three beauty queens have cried foul after a pageant sponsor sexually harassed them — read on to learn more about recent developments of the Me Too movement in beauty pageants.

When Miss Earth Canada Jaime VandenBerg arrived in the Philippines to compete at the Miss Earth International pageant, she was excited to come back to a country where she had nothing but good memories. But her experience at the Miss Earth pageant was far from what she had imagined — she, along with other candidates, was sexually harassed by a pageant sponsor.

In an Instagram post, VandenBerg detailed her experience with one of the pageant's sponsors. Since she came forward, two other candidates — Miss Earth England Abbey-Anne Gyles-Brown and Miss Earth Guam Emma Sheedy — have spoken out about the harassment.

Here's what we know from their posts.

1. For Jaime, harassment started on the second day of the pageant.

It all started on the second day of the pageant. A sponsor from the first night had somehow gotten her phone number and was calling her asking for her hotel and room number.

"I gave my phone to a team manager so that she could resolve the issue, but it did not work," VandenBerg said. "He showed up to almost all of my events telling me he could take care of my needs and asked for sexual favours in exchange to get me further in the pageant. I was disgusted."

Later, she ran into the sponsor at another hotel where some of the candidates were staying, and he continued to pester her about giving him her room number. "I was lucky I wasn't staying at that hotel," she wrote. "After so many strange calls, I recognised his phone number and was able to block it."

2. At a sponsored event at the Manila Yacht Club, the harassment got worse.

At the event the sponsor took a group of delegates into his yacht. Gyles-Brown described it as an "evening meal away from the team managers behind closed doors."

At the Manila Yacht Club, he had some girls take sultry photos, and told some girls that he would take them to Boracay, so long as they didn't tell anyone, said VandenBerg. A group of girls left the room because they felt uncomfortable, but the sponsor followed them and insisted that they dance with them.

3. The Miss Earth employees they approached were less than helpful.

At the yacht party, VandenBerg and Gyles-Brown approached their team managers to express their disgust, but they were only laughed at and told to "be nice" to the sponsor.

"Another official attendee of the night told me not to cry as I would ruin my makeup!" England wrote. "There was no respect or compassion shown to myself or Jaime. I felt traumatised by this experience and had many sleepless nights. I was 

"Eventually we were allowed to go and sit on the bus because we refused to go back to his yacht. Six girls and myself left because we felt unsafe at that event. I asked many times why more girls weren’t given the option to leave but, was never given an answer."

4. One pageant employee even gave Jaime some very victim-blamey advice.

"Miss Peachy, another employee of the pageant, spoke with me at an event about how it is important that we are friendly to the sponsors. She advised me that I shouldn't put myself in a position where I feel uncomfortable.

"While blaming the victim is never okay, it made me realise that in part she was right." Jaime says that her passport had been confiscated on the first day, and she felt like she couldn't leave. But during the pageant, her uncle passed away and her grandmother was hospitalised, and she realised that she couldn't stay any longer in that "unsafe situation". Some friends helped her get her passport back, and she left the pageant early.

5. Some candidates approached a pageant official about the issue, but nothing happened.

The night of the Manila Yacht Club event, VandenBerg and Gyles-Brown spoke on the phone with Lorraine Schuck, the Vice President of Miss Earth to raise their concerns.

"[She] assured them that Amado S. Cruz would not be at any other event," Sheedy posted. However, according to Gyles-Brown and Sheedy, Cruz kept appearing at Miss Earth events up until the coronation night.

However, in an interview with GMA News, Schuck said that she hadn't been approached by VanderBerg and Gyles-Brown.

6. VandenBerg and Gyles-Brown left the sponsor unnamed, but Sheedy identified him.

According to Sheedy, the alleged sponsor who harassed the candidates is a certain Amado S. Cruz, a CEO of a construction company. In her post, she said that he has been a problem for years.

From the reactions of the pageant officials, it looks like this kind of behaviour has been tolerated and normalised for years. Who knows how many other beauty queens have been subjected to harassment from men like Cruz?

The Me Too Movement in Beauty Pageants: Read the three beauty queens' accounts here:

 
 
 
 
 
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I left to compete at an international pageant in the Philippines about a month ago. I was so excited because I had been to the Philippines before and loved the country and the people; however, the experience with the pageant was not what I had expected. I left Miss Earth because I did not feel safe under their care. The second day of the pageant I felt uncomfortable because a sponsor from the first night was given my phone number, without my consent, and was calling me asking for my hotel and room number. I gave my phone to a team manager so that she could resolve the issue, but it did not work. He showed up to almost all of my events telling me he could take care of my needs and asked for sexual favours in exchange to get me further in the pageant. I was disgusted. He showed up to a hotel some girls were staying at and when I ran into him he continued to ask for my room number. I was lucky I wasn’t staying at that hotel. After so many strange calls, I recognized his phone number and was able to block it. At an event at the Manila Yacht Club he took all of the delegates in my group to his yacht and had some girls take sultry photos. Again, I was disgusted. Later in the pageant we had another sponsor event at the Manila Yacht Club and he was telling girls he could take them to Boracay, as long as we didn’t tell any one. A group of us left to sit out side as we did not feel comfortable. He followed us outside and was upset we were not dancing with him. The team mangers laughed and told us to be nice. Eventually we were allowed to go and sit on the bus because we refused to go back to his yacht. Six girls and myself left because we felt unsafe at that event. I asked many times why more girls weren’t given the option to leave but, was never given an answer. That night a few of us were given the opportunity to bring our concerns to Miss Lorraine, the woman in charge of the pageant. I went through almost two weeks of sexual harassment before I anything was done about it. I was told he would not be around any more, but I had advised Lorraine of several other issues that were not resolved. Miss Peachy, another employee of the pageant, spoke with me at an event about...

A post shared by Jaime VandenBerg (@missjaimeyvonne) on

 
 
 
 
 
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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 Managers 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

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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

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What do you think about these incidents and the Me Too Movement in beauty pageants?