A Muslim woman competing in the Miss Universe Great Britain pageant has become the first to do so in a kaftan, telling the beauty contest organisers that she would not wear a swimsuit.
Muna Jama, 27, was invited to the finals of the competition when the pageant officials agreed that she could “wear a cover-up if she chose.”
According to the Metro newspaper, Ms Jama said: “I wouldn’t wear a bikini to a beach, so I’m not going to wear one in a competition to score points.”
Ms Jama walked on to the stage wearing a multi-coloured kaftan, large hooped earrings, a silver choker and black platform shoes.
On her Instagram feed she posted: “This moment has proved that I am capable of almost anything I set my mind to and limitations is a status waiting to be changed. I thank everyone who stood beside me and believed in my vision.”
The businesswoman had been invited to apply for Miss Universe GB two years ago, but decided against taking part as she was uncomfortable stripping down to a bikini for the swimsuit section of the contest, where the women walk up and down the stage, in front of a panel of judges.
On the Miss Universe GB website, Ms Jama wrote of her campaigning work as co-founder of Cloudless Research, a startup that tackles child abuse and the migrant crisis. She was drawn to their plight after volunteering to help refugees in Egypt and her home country of Somalia. “We aim to reduce the number of victims channelling the Mediterranean Sea through education and encouraging new legislations in the country of origin.”
Beauty contests have drawn criticism for objectifying young girls and women. The Miss Teen USA competition (for 15- to 19-year-olds) announced in 2016 that the swimsuit round would be replaced by “athletic wear”.
Miss Universe president Paula Shugart said in a statement: “This decision reflects an important cultural shift we’re all celebrating that empowers women who lead active, purposeful lives … and ... will help all of Miss Teen USA’s fans recognise these young women for the strong, inspiring individuals they are.”
Refusing to wear a swimsuit at beauty contests has a long history. In 1951, Miss Alabama and Miss America, Yolande Betbeze refused to wear swimwear at a public appearance. "To…go into Milwaukee in the middle of the winter and walk around a department store in a bathing suit,” she argued, “is not my idea of Miss America.”
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