Torika Watters, Fiji Beauty Queen, Disqualified From 2012 Miss World Pageant For Age, Not Race [PHOTOS]
This year, beauty pageants are getting more scandalous than ever, with one contestant after another losing their crowns for disqualification. The latest? Fijian beauty queen Torika Watters was disqualified over the weekend, losing her title in Fiji for the 2012 Miss World pageant for being underage; there also were complaints about her mixed race.
According to pageant officials, Watters was chosen in April to represent Fiji in the Miss World competition. However, at 16, she did not meet the minimum age requirement of 17, Miss World Fiji pageant director Andhy Blake told the Fiji Times.
"The change is done because of the age criteria whereby Torika will be eligible next year," Blake said in a statement to FijiLive.
Torika Watters was replaced by first runner-up, 24-year-old Koini Vakaloloma.
According to a statement on Facebook, Watters said the "pageant fiasco" started when she asked Blake if her current age, 16, would be an issue in competing in the pageant.
"Andhy Blake first contacted me on FB [Facebook] on the 7th of March to invite me to be a part of the Miss World Fiji Pageant," Watters wrote. "I told him that I would not be turning 17 until next year 2013, and asked if that mattered he said it was fine as he had sought prior approval from the CEO of Miss World Julia Morley."
Watters said she was informed May 4 that she was ineligible because of her age.
"Andhy Blake told me 'Sorry, you cannot go to Mongolia. I thought that 16 year olds could enter Miss World but I was wrong they have to be closer to 17, Julia Morley has advised me to send the first runner up this year and says you can go to Bali next year.' He opened his laptop and paraphrased an email from the Miss World HQ in which they had stated I was ineligible to compete on the grounds of my age."
Watters said that she will not argue with the ruling, as she was "becoming very uncomfortable with the situation," and wants to "get on with my life."
"I had no intentions of doing anything sneaky or wrong and like the other contestants entered the competition for what I believed to be the right reasons - to be an Ambassador for Fiji and raise money for charitable causes."
A post of the Miss World Fiji 2012 Facebook states, ""Please be informed despite media reports - Miss Torika Watters was never stripped of her title. We wish her well in her future endeavors and offer an apology to her, her beautiful family and friends for any distress this competition would have brought upon her! She will always be the very 1st Miss World Fiji!!"
But her age wasn't the only controversial element of being crowned Miss Fiji for Watters. According to ABC News in Australia, Watters received an uproar of criticism for her race by indigenous people, with many claiming her mixed European-Fijian heritage did not represent Fiji accurately.
The Miss World Fiji Facebook page reportedly drew countless negative comments about selecting Watters to represent the country, many citing how Watters did not have a "buiniga," the colloquial term for the naturally frizzy hair indigenous to Fiji. The spokeswoman for the Facebook page told ABC News in Australia that there was "nothing but negative criticism and remarks from our own people" about Watters.
"While we appreciate a healthy discussion and feedback on our page, violent or racist comments will not be tolerated," the spokeswoman told ABC News.
Organizers of the pageant said complaints about Watters' race did not lead to her being stripped of the title. Watters added that she is "proud of my identity as a Fijian and have never considered my people as racists."
The Miss World final will be held in August and Blake added that Torika Watters may compete next year if she wishes to do so.
The latest debacle in the Miss World pageant comes after two other pageant contestants were dethroned. First, transgender contestant Jenna Talackova was disqualified in Canada from the Miss Universe competition after judges found that she was born male. The incident, which garnered global attention, prompted judges to reverse the ruling to allow her to compete in the pageant.
Shortly after, Miss Dominican Republic Carlina Duran was disqualified from the Miss Universe contest when judges learned that she was married.
View the slideshow to see photos of Torika Watters.