Miss Teen USA Has A Serious Diversity Problem That Isn’t Getting Any Better

The proof is in the (very white) pudding when it comes to Miss Teen USA’s serious diversity issues, and the recent discovery of the newly crowned Miss Teen USA’s racist tweets only compounds the severity of it. The pageant itself, which serves as a scholarship-fueled ode to the past, when women were expected to be slim, white, and blonde and intellectual merits were directly scaled to one’s ability to flex in a bikini, has already faced criticism for its overwhelming whiteness, but somehow it got worse.

The top five 2016 contestants all happened to be blonde and white and could easily be mistaken for members of the same suburban Aryan cult, an observation model Chrissy Teigen noted when she posted on Twitter, “Wow, how can we choose from such a diverse bunch.” Surprisingly, Miss Teen USA is slightly more diverse than other pageants run under the Miss Universe Organization umbrella, with black women winning the titles for both the 2012 and 2010 Miss Teen USA pageants. Still, the 2016 line-up featured 22 white, blonde women, and only seven women of color total.

Given the fact that the pageant already reeked of a lack of diversity, pageant winner Karlie Hay’s history of posting the N-word on Twitter only makes the pageant look worse.

Formerly Miss Texan Teen, Hay has already issued an apology for a stream of tweets from 2013 and 2014 in which she called friends the N-word, called herself the N-word, and generally utilized the word like casual slang. She claims her use of the word was due to a low peak in her life and that she has worked hard to grow out of it.

Rather than recognizing the serious issue of a pageant queen (a position supposedly leveraged on public grace and tact) blatantly using one of the most hurtful words in the span of U.S. history, the Miss Universe Organization defended Hay, following her weak string of faux-pology tweets, saying in a statement to The New York Daily News:

“The language Karlie Hay used is unacceptable at any age and in no way reflects the values of The Miss Universe Organization. As Karlie stated, she was in a different place in her life and made a serious mistake she regrets and for which she sincerely apologizes.”

The dark irony of this statement is that Hay’s allegedly accidentally racist past does in fact mirror the shaky past of the Miss Universe Organization, which banned black women from competing in one of it’s very first pageants in 1923 (but still featured them in a skit playing slaves) and didn’t crown a black winner until 1984, when Vanessa Williams was crowned Miss America but was later forced to give up her title because of the discovery of nude photos.

The explicit favoritism and defense extended towards Hay’s past racist remarks put in contrast with the continual discrimination faced by pageant contestants of color shows the Miss Universe Organization, and the Miss Teen USA pageant by extension, to be exactly as prejudice as it seems.

Hopefully the explicit race issues this year will open the door for more concrete changes. However, I’m not holding my breath for anything radical to come out of an organization fixated on commodifying and comparing female beauty.