Filipino pageant fans are the best in the world, right? Yes. But they can also be the worst. Just ask the reigning Miss Universe Canada, Nova Stevens.
The 26-year-old beauty queen published today, May 5, in her Instagram account a photo she says she has been receiving a lot of in her inbox lately. It’s a high-contrast black and white image from a recent fashion photo shoot that’s been overlayed with screencaps of several rude and downright racist comments from Filipino netizens. The comments are in Tagalog but come with English translations on the image.
“Over well done ang chicken, charge sa grillman.”
“Tostadong tostado na nga, NASUNOG pa.”
“Hindi sa hinihusgahan ko pero natatakot ako sa kanya, promise...parang hindi siya tao.”
“Akala ko engkangto.”
In the caption accompanying the image, Nova, who was born to an African family in Sudan, laments how “some people are still stuck in their ignorant and racist ideologies.” She adds that she is “really disappointed with some pageant fans from certain countries.”
She does explicitly state that she is not calling out Filipino fans in particular. It just happens that this particular image that she has received from several senders contains all-Pinoy comments.
“I was not sure of the language these comments are from until reading some of the comments,” she explains in an edit to her original post. “In case it’s not clear, I don’t think all Filipinos are racist.”
Rabiya Mateo, the Philippine delegate, chimed in in a video interview where she was asked about her reaction to the controversy. “It makes me really sad,” she quipped. “I saw the post of Nova earlier today and I really feel sorry [for] her because nobody deserves to be in that position.”
She noted that she has experienced bashing herself but hastened to say that “these hate speeches that we see online are not a reflection of who we are as Filipinos.”
She notes that Filipinos love pageants and are generally supportive of the candidates. Rabiya said that she has sent private messages to Nova, as well as to Thai candidate Amanda Obdam, to personally aplogize on behalf of the Filipino bashers.
Nova also issued an apology herself. In a follow-up post published in IG some ten hours later, she directly addressed her Filipino fans. “I’m sorry if my previous post caused you any harm,” she says. “My post wasn’t intended to incite more hate; rather shed light on the toxicity that sometimes hails from fans (from all over the world).”
The image she posted is another photo from the same series but instead of the off-color comments it contains messages of support from Filipino fans.
“Black beauty. Love love love from Philippines.”
“You are Beautiful. Love from the Philippines”
“Gorgeous. Good luck at Miss Universe 2020....wish you the best...be our Miss Universe 2020...Miss Universe Canada 2020.”
“Love you Nova. Sorry the more they hate you, the more you are deserving (of) the crown. Love from Philippines. Hope you notice. Hoping you will have a good days with Rabiya in future.”
Nova is only the second black Canadian in the history of the Miss Universe Canada pageant to win the crown. She was born in Kenya to South Sudanese parents who were feeling the Second Sudanese Civil War. They sent her to relatives in Canada when she was 6 years old to have a better life. She was reunited with her mother only last April 19.
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She had previously joined the competition twice, first in 2014 where she made it to the top 12 and then in 2018 where she cracked the top 20. She joined the pageant a third time after being inspired by the victory of the reigning Miss Universe, South Africa’s Zozibini Tunzi.
In the year between the two contests, Stevens was busy with the Black Lives Matter movement in Vancouver. She co-organized several protest marches including one that drew a crowd of 15,000 people protesting against racism and police brutality.
In the 2020 Miss Universe Canada pageant, Nova made a mark early in the competition with her introductory statement: “Good evening, I am Nova Stevens. I am a Canadian and a Black woman. As I stand before you, I want you to see me as a black woman. Yes. I want you to see color. Because seeing color does not mean you're a racist; instead, it allows you to see the struggles experienced by people of color. You've heard the news. You've read the stories. Innocent black lives have been lost to police brutality and hate crimes. We want you to see us. We want you to hear us. We want you to feel us.”
She might as well have addressed this to some Filipino pageant fans.