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Case for mediation in beauty queen row

Trinidad Express / It is becoming something of a habit for beauty competitions to degenerate into bacchanal between promoters and their queens. The latest to fall victim are Miss T&T Universe franchise holder, Jenny Douglas and the winner of the Miss T&T Universe pageant, Yvonne Clarke.

What might have begun as miscommunication and misunderstanding has now snowballed to the point where Ms Clarke has been stripped of her title and replaced for the Miss Universe pageant in Las Vegas on November 26.

It is a pity that cooler heads did not prevail and that this situation was allowed to get so far out of control as to end one young woman’s legitimately-won dream to represent her country on one of the most prominent stages in the world of beauty pageantry. It is hard not to feel sympathy for Ms Clarke.

However much one might scoff at beauty pageants, or be ideologically opposed to what they represent, they have a large constituency of supporters, including many young women for whom they are a gateway to opportunity on a global scale. To have that dream snatched out of one’s hands must be heart-breaking.

Whether one is invested in beauty shows or not, however, internationally-broadcast beauty competitions of the stature of the Miss Universe and Miss World contests have the potential to affect all of us, to one degree or another, because they involve Brand T&T. The fact that these pageants are private initiatives makes no difference.

When a young woman is introduced on a global stage as “Miss Trinidad and Tobago”, the world sees her as representing her country and its people, whether she has their support or not. This role as beauty ambassador is what gives all of us a stake in the row between Ms Douglas and Ms Clarke.

Notwithstanding this, however, we do not share the view that the Government should have intervened in the row in support of one side or the other or to bail out Ms Clarke financially.

We do, however, accept that there is a role for moral suasion by the Government and, indeed, non-government interests, in helping the warring parties defuse the situation and resolve their differences in the interest of sending the first choice winner as our best representative to the Miss Universe competition.

Unfortunately, the parties have not had the benefit of wise counsel with the result that the differences between them have very quickly escalated into open confrontation with the franchise-holder opting to exercise her power to pull the plug on Ms Clarke’s hopes.

If there is still time to undo the damage, we urge the parties to enter a process of mediation. We do not need a repeat of the Miss World 2015 experience when a replacement representative took the stage in China without the support of a large segment of theT&T population who openly backed the winner who had been stripped of the title. Surely, every Miss T&T who takes the stage would like to know that the T&T public is behind them.

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