Who’s telling the truth?
After two contestants of the recently concluded Miss Earth pageant divulged that they were at the receiving end of unwanted sexual advances during the contest, Monica Aguilar (Miss Cuba) today said that there were no incidents of sexual harassment during the competition.
However, another contestant, Emma Mae Sheedy (Miss Guam), came forward today and alleged that her “bare backside” was grabbed by a sponsor during the national costume competition.
Aguilar and Sheedy, like other contestants, shared their Miss Earth experiences via Instagram posts on their personal accounts.
According to its official website, Miss Earth is a 17-year-old beauty pageant that aims to “promote environmental awareness.”
Held annually, its organizer is a Filipino-owned company called Carousel Productions.
Aguilar only had good things to say about the pageant. She wrote: “I have read the *testimonies* of several candidates complaining about [the] supposed sexual harassment. I can confirm [that] there was no sexual harassment in any shape or form.”
She said that some organizers invited them to go to Boracay but no one asked for any sexual favors from them (or at least from her).
Aguilar added: “Yes, some of the sponsors did ask us if we wanted to extend our visas to go to Boracay after the pageant but no one promised to get us further in the competition through ‘sexual favors.’ I don’t think an invitation to Boracay is sexual harassment!”
Aguilar also said she felt “safe” under the care of the team managers, the staff who acted as their guardians.
“I felt safe the entire month under the care of our team managers….They even made sure we had police escorts to go to the bathroom!!!” she wrote.
Aguilar’s statement echoes what Lorraine Schuck the Executive Vice President of Carousel Productions has said about the contestants being guarded by policewomen.
Aguilar also added that she appreciated that the team managers took their passports because it made checking-in to flights more convenient for the candidates.
Aguilar’s statement stands in stark contrast to the allegations of Jaime VandenBerg (Miss Canada) and Abbey-Anne Gyles-Brown (Miss England) who both said that a sponsor asked them for sexual favors in exchange for winning the title.
VandenBerg also alleged that her passport was confiscated without her permission and that she had to “fight” to get it back.
Sheedy’s (Miss Guam) experience, however, was not as pleasant as Aguilar’s. Like VandenBerg and Gyles-Brown, she said that she too was a victim of sexual harassment.
Sheedy wrote that one of the sponsors “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 [L]atino (sic) women dance for him.”
Sheedy also accused that sponsor of grabbing her butt during an event.
She wrote that the man “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.”
Sheedy also alleged that during an event at the Manila Yacht Club, that sponsor ensured that the contestants were separated from their security escorts and team managers, which made the women uncomfortable.
Because of this arrangement, the contestants decided to leave the venue and asked their team managers to bring them to their bus “which took over 20 minutes for them finally to do,” Sheedy said.
It was after the incident at the Manila Yacht Club that VandenBerg and Gyles-Brown spoke with Schuck over the phone, according to Sheedy. Schuck assured both women that the sponsor harassing the contestants would be barred from the pageant.
According to Sheedy however, the man was present “from the moment the pageant started until [the] coronation night.”
The issue has polarized netizens.
Posting on Aguilar’s Instagram account, a fan praised her for ignoring critics and defending Miss Earth.
Another fan who commented on Aguilar’s post said that if harassment did occur, then the contestants should file a formal complaint.
The fans commenting on Sheedy’s post were sympathetic to her. One fan said she was brave for speaking up.
Another assured her that Filipino pageant fans are standing behind her.