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A Single “Selfie” Calls into Question the Meaning of the Miss Universe Pageant

If you’ve seen Miss Congeniality, you’re probably well aware of the ongoing joke that “I wish for world peace” is one of the pageant world’s most overused and utterly uninspired lines. But here’s the thing…while there certainly is room for improvement in this less-than-meaty response to “If you had one wish,” it really is a shame that goodwill has been knocked off its pedestal as an honorable aspiration for the future of our world.

It’s likewise a shame that unity and decorum couldn’t even be achieved on a small scale during this year’s Miss Universe pageant, an event intended (at least we hope) to inspire camaraderie on a global scale. Instead, we witnessed a major “you can’t sit with us” moment unfold when Miss Israel (Doron Matalon) snagged a photo alongside Miss Lebanon (Saly Greige) and two other Miss Universe contenders.

Due to the less-than-rosy relations between Lebanon and Israel, the photo received some immediate and very negative attention when it was released by Miss Israel on social media. We can’t place ourselves in Miss Lebanon’s shoes (or in this case—heels), so we certainly won’t try, but here’s what Miss Lebanon felt compelled to say in response to the criticism that was flung her way:

To all my supporters and Lebanese citizens, I would like to thank you indeed for your continuous support of Miss Lebanon at the Miss Universe contest … The truth behind the photo: Since the first day of my arrival to participate [in] Miss Universe, I was very cautious to avoid being in any photo or communication with Miss Israel ([who] tried several times to have a photo with me) … I was having a photo with Miss Japan, Miss Slovenia and myself; suddenly Miss Israel jumped in, took a selfie, and put it on her social media…this is what happened and I hope to have your full support in the Miss Universe contest.

Needless to say, Miss Israel was disappointed but “not surprised.” And we’re feeling a lot of the same, though we recognize that this is not a matter of “who” is wrong but “what” is wrong—with the state of our global community and with the triumph, once again, of hostility and anger between entire peoples.

Of course, in a perfect world, Miss Lebanon would have garnered enough support to boldly defend her actions as a means of holding sisterhood above political or social tensions. In an even more perfect world, a simple “selfie” would not have sparked such searing backlash at all, and Miss Lebanon would not have felt pressed (in front of a very global audience) to dissociate herself from any gesture of friendliness toward Miss Israel.

But it’s not a perfect world, and this less-than-impressive moment reveals just how far we are from it. Nevertheless, here at PI, we choose to accept this distance from “where we are” and “where we want to be” as a challenge, and a reason to keep working and praying for a world in which every Miss Something can be at ease among her sisters, not simply touting, but actually demonstrating the possibility of world peace.


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