'Stop that!': Miss Universe Philippines bet blasted for ‘blackfishing’

·3 min read
Before and after photos of Miss Universe Philippines candidate Shaira Aliyah Diaz. (Source: Shaira Aliyah Diaz Instagram (left); Miss Universe Philippines Facebook (right)
Before and after photos of Miss Universe Philippines candidate Shaira Aliyah Diaz. (Source: Shaira Aliyah Diaz Instagram (left); Miss Universe Philippines Facebook (right)

In a video on March 19 (Saturday), pageant YouTuber Davonna Finley (better known as The Sovereign) criticized Miss Universe Philippines candidate Shaira Aliyah Diaz for featuring an unnatural skin color and hairstyle.

“I know what you’re doing and what you’re trying to go for right here. We know what you’re trying to do. It’s not working. Stop that. Stop it,” Finley slammed.

While discussing the then-newly released headshots of Miss Universe Philippines 2022 candidates, Finley noticed that Diaz, representing San Pablo, Laguna, wore a curly half wig that did not mix well with his real straight hair.

“[...] your own hair is a different texture from the hair that you have, [and it] is completely messing [it[ up, and I’m a black woman and one thing that we do know is hair,” the content creator said, highlighting the “mattedness” and “clumpiness” of the half wig.

She also emphasized how “the blending ain’t working. The shades aren’t color-matched. [Diaz’s] natural hair is lighter than the hair that is already there.”

During an editing addendum in the video, Finley aired her disappointment after looking further into Diaz’s Instagram and TikTok accounts. In images taken from Diaz’s social media handles, Finley noticed how the San Pablo candidate’s skin tone changed from light to dark, and her hair from straight to curly.

Shocked, Finley said that “[she] was not even sure that these were the same people.” That was until she noticed that all images had matching birthmarks, confirming that the images did feature only one person.

Clarifying that she had no issue with the wearing of hair pieces, Finley then slammed Diaz for her stylistic choices. She explained that “this is Miss Universe Philippines. There are so many eyes on you. You wouldn’t go out and just buy a new hair piece before you get up there.”

The dismayed Finley then lamented Diaz for “ruining her potential” before proceeding with the rest of the video. She added that she is “hurt” by the knowledge that “the woman herself is way more beautiful than what [Diaz’s] giving [Finley].”

Not in the eye of the beholder

“In the United States, we have a name for something like this,” Finley said near the end of her addendum. Although the YouTuber did not mention the word directly, a Cosmopolitan report speculated that Finley may be referring to “blackfishing.”

In a 2021 CNN article, journalist Wanna Thompson described blackfishing as an instance when White individuals (including celebrities and other public figures) try to look like Black people through whatever means possible. This includes excessive tanning and using clothes and accessories usually associated with specific races.

"People have no respect for Black culture – they think it's up for grabs and will take and participate in it and exploit it because it has been commodified. We see this on every social app, but more increasingly on TikTok,” Thompson said in the CNN story. She also explained that blackfishing is linked to cultural appropriation, which is defined as the disrespectful or exploitative adoption of one’s cultural customs or practices by a majority group.

Celebrities such as rapper Iggy Azalea and influencer Kim Kardashian were accused of blackfishing in the past. While the former landed in hot water after she seemed to have sported a darker skin tone for her “I Am The Strip Club” music video (though later denying the allegations), the latter was slammed for wearing Fulani braids (among other past accusations of cultural appropriation).

A 2019 KQED article added that persons who blackfish aim for Internet fame and business opportunities. One unnamed user was quoted in the story: “if these celebs really want to praise blackness, they should use their influence to help their black brothers and sisters gain equal rights and status.”

In light of the controversy, both Diaz and the organizers of Miss Universe Philippines 2022 have yet to comment on the allegations.

Reuben Pio Martinez is a news writer who covers stories on various communities and scientific matters. He regularly tunes-in to local happenings. The views expressed are his own.

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