This beauty pageant has turned ugly.
Two former contestants said yesterday that they were sexually harassed during the Miss Earth pageant that was held in the Philippines in late October to early November of this year.
Beauty queens Jaime VandenBerg (Miss Canada) and Abbey-Anne Gyles-Brown (Miss England) wrote on their Instagram accounts that one of the sponsors of the competition asked sexual favors from them during the pageant.
Both women also said that they informed the pageant’s organizers about the harasser but they alleged that their complaints fell on deaf ears.
According to its official website, Miss Earth is a 17-year-old beauty pageant that aims to “promote environmental awareness.”
Held annually, its organizer is a Filipino-owned company called Carousel Productions. According to them, its “partner organizations” include the United Nations, World Wildlife Foundation, and UN Women.
Despite the pageant’s impressive credentials, VandenBerg alleged that it failed to protect her from a sponsor who allegedly harassed her during the contest. She alleged that the organizers failed to make her feel safe that she chose not to finish the pageant.
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I left to compete at an international pageant in the Philippines about a month ago. I was so excited because I had been to the Philippines before and loved the country and the people; however, the experience with the pageant was not what I had expected. I left Miss Earth because I did not feel safe under their care. The second day of the pageant I felt uncomfortable because a sponsor from the first night was given my phone number, without my consent, and was calling me asking for my hotel and room number. I gave my phone to a team manager so that she could resolve the issue, but it did not work. He showed up to almost all of my events telling me he could take care of my needs and asked for sexual favours in exchange to get me further in the pageant. I was disgusted. He showed up to a hotel some girls were staying at and when I ran into him he continued to ask for my room number. I was lucky I wasn’t staying at that hotel. After so many strange calls, I recognized his phone number and was able to block it. At an event at the Manila Yacht Club he took all of the delegates in my group to his yacht and had some girls take sultry photos. Again, I was disgusted. Later in the pageant we had another sponsor event at the Manila Yacht Club and he was telling girls he could take them to Boracay, as long as we didn’t tell any one. A group of us left to sit out side as we did not feel comfortable. He followed us outside and was upset we were not dancing with him. The team mangers laughed and told us to be nice. Eventually we were allowed to go and sit on the bus because we refused to go back to his yacht. Six girls and myself left because we felt unsafe at that event. I asked many times why more girls weren’t given the option to leave but, was never given an answer. That night a few of us were given the opportunity to bring our concerns to Miss Lorraine, the woman in charge of the pageant. I went through almost two weeks of sexual harassment before I anything was done about it. I was told he would not be around any more, but I had advised Lorraine of several other issues that were not resolved. Miss Peachy, another employee of the pageant, spoke with me at an event about…
She wrote: “The second day of the pageant I felt uncomfortable because a sponsor from the first night was given my phone number, without my consent, and was calling me asking for my hotel and room number. I gave my phone to a team manager so that she could resolve the issue, but it did not work.”
She also alleged that the sponsor asked for sexual favors.
She added: “He showed up to almost all of my events telling me he could take care of my needs and asked for sexual favours in exchange to get me further in the pageant. I was disgusted.”
VandenBerg said she reported the harassment to Carousel Productions’ Executive Vice President Lorraine Schuck. She also said that the “team managers,” members of Carousel who worked as their guardians, laughed off their concerns and told the contestants to “be nice.”
She said: “That night a few of us were given the opportunity to bring our concerns to Miss Lorraine [Schuck], the woman in charge of the pageant. I went through almost two weeks of sexual harassment before I (sic) anything was done about it. I was told he would not be around any more (sic), but I had advised Lorraine of several other issues that were not resolved.”
She also alleged that the pageants’ organizers confiscated her passport and other belongings without her approval. She wrote that she had to “fight” to get her passport back so she could leave the “unsafe situation” that she was in.
Shortly after VandenBerg’s post appeared, Gyles-Brown also posted on her Instagram account to say that she too was harassed during the pageant.
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My personal encounter @missearth. • It’s time to speak up about my personal experience. I have been in close contact with my national director and all incidents have been noted. I have worked very hard for my title of Miss Earth England and as I have previously mentioned I took 4 years to get to the top and win my place at the Internationals. I was elated to finally represent England over in the beautiful Philippines. My trip was a rollercoaster of emotions, stress and endurance and I did not leave the pageant as I was not going to miss out on the experience. I have many beautiful memories of my time here in the Philippines and many wonderful days. I met happy Filipinos who showed me such kindness and respect. I enjoyed 50% of my trip but the other 50% was over shadowed by feeling exploited, vulnerable, unnerved & sexually harassed as I was approached by a sponsor on many occasions who asked for sexual favours in exchange for the Crown. This happened at Manila Yacht Club on a sponsored evening meal away from the team managers behind closed doors. The sponsor also tried to find out what hotel and room I was staying in. Myself and Canada approached Team Managers to express our disgust only to be laughed at. Another official attendee of the night told me not to cry as I would ruin my makeup! There was no respect or compassion shown to myself or Jaimie. I felt traumatised by this experience and had many sleepless nights. I was not sure who had my personal details including my mob number and hotel room. It was not only myself and Canada who were approached on this night but other delegates who I believe are going to come forward and tell their side of the story. I approached Lorraine Schuck who is the Vice President Of Miss Earth she informed me that the sponsor would be removed from all contact with contestants but this did not happen. As other groups experienced the same issue. Myself and @missjaimeyvonne removed ourselves from this uncomfortable environment and sat on the bus away from further exploitation. This is one of many incidents we faced during our Miss Earth Journey! The said sponsor in fact show up at a prelim event and also attended the Coronation night
In her post, she wrote that she was sexually harassed by one of the sponsors who also asked sexual favors from her.
She said: “I enjoyed 50% of my trip but the other 50% was over shadowed by feeling exploited, vulnerable, unnerved & sexually harassed as I was approached by a sponsor on many occasions who asked for sexual favours in exchange for the [c]rown….The sponsor also tried to find out what hotel and room I was staying in.”
Echoing what VandenBerg wrote, Gyles-Brown said that the harassment was brought to the attention of the team managers who allegedly laughed off their predicament.
“Myself and Canada approached [t]eam [m]anagers to express our disgust only to be laughed at. Another official attendee of the night told me not to cry as I would ruin my makeup! There was no respect or compassion shown to myself or Jaimie [VandenBerg],” she wrote.
Guyles-Brown said the harassment, which left her traumatized and unable to sleep, also happened to other contestants. She also supported VandenBerg’s claim that Schuck was informed of the harassment but failed to protect them from it.
“I approached Lorraine Schuck who is the Vice President Of Miss Earth. [S]he informed me that the sponsor would be removed from all contact with contestants but this did not happen….The said sponsor in fact show up at a prelim event and also attended the Coronation night,” Guyles-Brown wrote.
In a phone interview with Coconuts Manila, Schuck said that she spoke with the sponsor who denied that he asked for sexual favors from the women.
The sponsor said that he was merely inviting them to Boracay but he wasn’t asking for anything in return.
Schuck said Guyles-Brown told her about the alleged sexual harassment over the phone after an event held in the Manila Yacht Club but that the contestant didn’t report the alleged harassment to the team managers, contrary to her post.
Schuck said: “I told her, ‘why didn’t you tell your team manager?’ I told her she should have talked to the team manager.”
According to Schuck, Guyles-Brown told her that she didn’t want to raise a fuss because she was afraid that she might lose “points” from the competition. Schuck said: “I told her that guy had nothing to do with the judges.”
Schuck then said she assured Guyles-Brown that the sponsor would no longer attend any Miss Earth events. However, Schuck said there was no way she could have stopped him from attending the coronation night because it was a public event.
Schuck also said that VandenBerg allegedly didn’t bring up her concerns about the alleged harassment.
“I got a different reaction. She’s a vegetarian and she did not like the food that was being served there. She also said that the use of plastic water bottles was not environmentally- friendly,” Schuck said.
Schuck said that they did everything to make VandenBerg and the other contestants feel safe.
“I don’t know what else we could have done to make her (VandenBerg) feel safe. There were policewomen who were with them because they were foreigners,” she said.
Schuck also said that Carousel’s team takes contestants’ passports only for safekeeping.
“It’s put in a safe. If they want it they can get it back but they have to sign a waiver that if they lose it it’s no longer our obligation.”
Of the two, Schuck was more surprised that Guyles-Brown posted about the allegations because she felt their phone conversation went well.
“I was shocked. [Our conversation] was so good,” she said.
Schuck was also quick to dismiss the pageant’s online critics.
“It’s making us (criticisms and controversies) even more popular,” she said.