Miss USA, Sarah Rose Summers, faced backlash after being accused of mocking two fellow Miss Universe contestants — Miss Vietnam, H’Hen Nie, and Miss Cambodia, Rern Sinat.
Summers later apologized for her actions in a statement on her Instagram page.
The incident was captured in a video on the Instagram account of Miss Colombia, Valeria Morales.
In the clip, Summers talks about Nie’s lack of English and imitates her in front of Morales and Miss Australia, Francesca Hung.
“She’s so cute, and she pretends to know so much English, and then you ask her a question after having a whole conversation with her, and she goes [smiles and nods],” Summers said, laughing.
Summers laughed again and added, “She’s adorable.” Morales then asked Summers to repeat her imitation, which she did.
She then turned her attention to Sinat, saying, “Miss Cambodia is here and doesn’t speak any English. ... Not a single person here speaks her language. Can you imagine? Francesca said that it would be very isolating, and I think yes and just confusing all the time.”
She added, “Poor Cambodia.”
Many social media users expressed outrage over the now-viral video.
“Miss USA, do you speak any other language than your native tongue English? How is that different from Ms. Vietnam and Ms.Cambodia only speaking their own language,” one commenter wrote. “Shame on the other two ladies who are agreeing with her. I hope they get disqualified soon.”
“Regina George, is that you?” the minds behind the fashion Instagram account Diet Prada said on Thursday. “This is basically what normalized xenophobia looks like. If she’s trying to show empathy, the condescending, intolerant tone tells a different story. A reminder that you’re participating in a competition in a country/continent where English is NOT the primary language.”
The account also pointed out a hashtag on Summers’ Instagram bio: #ifyoudon’thaveanythingnicetosaydontsayanythingatall.
Summers issued an apology for her comments on Thursday, saying that she simply “intended to admire the courage of a few of my sisters” and “would never intend to hurt another.”
@MissUniverse is an opportunity for women from around the world to learn about each other’s cultures, life experiences, and views. We all come from different backgrounds and can grow alongside one another. In a moment where I intended to admire the courage of a few of my sisters, I said something that I now realize can be perceived as not respectful, and I apologize. My life, friendships, and career revolve around me being a compassionate and empathetic woman. I would never intend to hurt another. I am grateful for opportunities to speak with Nat, Miss Cambodia, and H’Hen, Miss Vietnam, directly about this experience. These are the moments that matter most to me.
The Miss USA and Miss Universe organizations have not yet issued statements on the matter.