A case of racism: Torika Watters – Miss World Fiji 2012
Torika Watters easily beat the competition because of her unusual and stunning picture perfect looks that left the judges awestruck and the audience wanting to see more of her. But instead they will be seeing runner-up Koini Vakaloloma in her place because of an age and race controversy that caused her to be stripped of the crown.
What followed the April 2012 Miss Fiji World competition was a travesty of justice. Complaints began trickling in from some of the local islanders that she did not look Fiji “enough.” As you can see in Torika Watters’ pictures, she is of mixed-race heritage, half native but half European blood. The mixture is what makes her so stunning, of course, but ethnic intolerance (i.e. racism) on the island was her demise.
Soon the trickle of complaints hit the radio and television airwaves, then the newspapers, and suddenly she was the top story in Fiji. Miss Watters took a hailstorm of racist abuse, and the pageant had to go out to defend her in public. Just imagine in this country if anyone dared complain about a Japanese-American representing the U.S. in a Miss World competition? That person would be justifiably ignored, if not scorned and ridiculed for racism. Not so in Fiji.
Behind the scenes her detractors apparently looked for a legitimate way to get rid of the controversy. They dug up the fact that Miss Fiji is a few months shy of her 17th birthday. At only 16 years of age when the pageant was held last month, she was technically ineligible to win it according to the letter of the rules.
In fact it is reported that Torika was cleared to participate in the beauty pageant by the pageant director himself prior to the event. She had asked director Andhy Blake directly about it, something he confirmed later in the press. According to the media reports, “Blake confirmed that he was under the impression Watters could compete, but was told later by organizers that contestants had to be at least one month away from turning 17 by the start of the pageant.” Read the full report here.
And yet the pageant decided she had to go anyway. Torika Watters was stripped of her Miss Fiji crown by the pageant organizers because of her ineligibility. She was replaced by the runner-up, another beauty named Koini Vakaloloma, who should not be blamed but is not the legitimate winner. What an easy solution to a cultural problem that the Miss World pageant in Fiji was unwilling to face. Sometimes you have to do the right thing. In this case they were not brave.
To make things worse, Miss Watters is not only picture perfect but also a model for young women on the island to emulate. She has not posed nude for scandalous pictures, been caught drinking or kissing lesbians, sneaked into the pageants as a transvestite, or any of the usual controversies that normally bring down a pageant winner or contestant. Except for a few bikini swimsuit pics in the gallery, she always poses modestly which leaves the viewer guessing wondrously at her measurements (which are unknown).
In fact she is a spokes-woman for a mental health awareness program on the island, showing that she is a compassionate, civics-minded woman at such a young age. She is approaching her last year of high school in her hometown of Nadi, Fiji, and already she is an accomplished dancer and guitar player. Torika loves surfing to clear her mind of troubles.
Her biography includes tragedy too, but through it Torika is turning into a model woman. Her father passed away leaving her and her three older siblings to be raised alone by her mother. The family came to Fiji when she was just 7-months old to start a new life, a life they thought would be full of hope and optimism.
Rather than show any sour grapes, the only thing she has said about the controversy was a note of recognition to Koini Vakaloloma, and another one of appreciation to her supporters. “Thank you to all the followers for all your support, You make me stronger. Vinaka Vakalevu! Love, Torika.” Vinaka Vakalevu means “thank you” in the native tongue.
But far from being bitter, Tokika has bowed away graciously promising not to challenge the decision. My guess is the vitriol already levied at her by an intolerant media and public in Fiji was enough for her. Who needs to fight the leadership that is suppose to be protecting women who are unfairly targeted in the pageant.[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xzFUW7Ko7CI%5D
- Torika Watters, Fiji Beauty Queen, Disqualified From 2012 Miss World Pageant For Age, Not Race [PHOTOS] (ibtimes.com)
- Miss Fiji dumped over age not race, says organizer (newsinfo.inquirer.net)
- Race, age questions fuel Miss World Fiji fiasco (todayonline.com)
- Torika Watters, Controversial Miss Fiji, Loses Crown Due to Age Requirement (thehollywoodgossip.com)
- Torika Watters: White Miss Fiji winner stripped of her title because she’s too young (dailymail.co.uk)
- Miss World boss to head to Fiji to tackle fiasco (thehimalayantimes.com)
- Schoolgirl loses Miss Fiji title because she’s too young (nzherald.co.nz)
- Race, age questions fuel Miss World Fiji fiasco (mysanantonio.com)
- Miss World boss plans Fiji trip after fiasco (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Racism in a beauty pageant? (dalehusband.wordpress.com)