First came complaints that the winner of the Miss World Fiji pageant looked too Western to represent her country. Then her age came under scrutiny. And now, with the 16-year-old’s crown lost, one of the judges says the contest was rigged from the start. The pageant has turned into a fiasco in this South Pacific nation of about 900,000. The pageant’s director is avoiding questions as fans of the fallen beauty queen, Torika Watters, flock online to support her. Watters was crowned Miss World Fiji last month by an international panel of judges led by New Zealand supermodel Rachel Hunter, winning the opportunity to represent the country at the world competition in China in August. Soon after, however, dozens of people posted messages on the Miss World Fiji Facebook page questioning whether Watters, who is of mixed racial heritage, represented Fijian beauty or was simply a mirror of Western ideals. Two weeks after she won, Watters wrote on her Facebook page, pageant director Andhy Blake told her she couldn’t compete for Miss World because she is too young. The international competition requires contestants be at least 17 years old, but Watters said Blake previously assured her “it was fine” because he had received a waiver for her entry from international organizers. Organizers of the Fijian event over the weekend announced a new winner: Koini Vakaloloma, 24. A message on the Miss World Fiji Facebook page Tuesday said that Watters had voluntarily stepped down and that reports connecting the decision with racism or her age were “untrue.” The Facebook page appeared to have been removed by Wednesday. Another of the six judges, Fijian fashion designer Hupfeld Hoerder, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Blake had pressured the judges to name Watters the winner.
Names in the news, May 17
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