Thuzar Wint Lwin won Miss Universe’s National Costume award today, an award she is unlikely to be taking home any time soon.
Despite losing her original costume in shipping, the 22-year-old contestant won the prize and became the top-ranked finalist from Southeast Asia at the pageant, which she used to remind the world of the death being meted out back home.
“Our people are dying and being shot by the military every day,” she said in a message recorded for the event which took place in the U.S. state of Florida.
Aptly titled, “Fearless Empress,” her traditional costume was prepared at the last minute by local members of Florida’s Chin community who scrambled to help after her original costume was lost in transit. Adorned with antique silver jewelry, colorful traditional handicrafts and handwoven fabrics, Thuzar sauntered down the catwalk before unfurling a banner that read “Pray for Myanmar.”
“It’s more than a costume. It’s a message, spirit and solidarity,” she later said of the costume on social media.
The pageant ended Sunday night, local Florida time, with Miss Universe Mexico Andrea Meza being crowned the winner.
Her return to Myanmar at this point is unlikely. Earlier this month, Thuzar slipped past Myanmar border security in a hoodie and sunglasses to appear inconspicuous to travel to Miami, Florida. She shipped her National Costume via DHL to avoid raising suspicions at customs.
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When the junta learned that she had left the country, it announced that she was wanted for arrest.
Throughout the pageant, Thuzar consistently used her global platform to speak out against the junta and received wide praise for her advocacy.
She joined the chorus of Myanmar celebrities, actors, influencers and athletes who have spoken out against the Feb. 1 coup. Thuzar participated in street protests, donated her savings and spread awareness through social media.
Thuzar told the New York Times that “it will not be safe for her to return,” and that she doesn’t know where she will go after the competition ends.
Despite that, she maintained a positive spirit after the competition, sending well-wishes to her fans back home.
“Myanmar, we did it. And it wouldn’t be possible if it’s not for your love and support. I’m blessed and thrilled that we made it together all the way today,” she wrote on Instagram.
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I would like express my sincere congratulations to Miss Universe Thuzar Wint Lwin for not only winning the best costume award – but for her bravery in the face of so many obstacles and willingness to use her immense platform to bring awareness to the plight of Myanmar pic.twitter.com/N1FZVzbth0
— Dr. Sasa (@DrSasa22222) May 17, 2021
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