Three weeks ago, a stunning and uniquely beautiful young lady from Essequibo was adjudged the winner of the Miss Guyana Universe Pageant, which was held in New York for the first time this year. And while she is no stranger to the world of pageantry, Rafieya Hussain accepted the crown with humility as she prepares to possibly make history at the international pageant by attempting to place in the top 15, or even sealing the deal by winning the coveted crown.
Hussain, who is based in New York, has since dedicated all of her energy towards preparing for the November event, and appears intent on remaining focused on reaching what she said on social media was one of her “main goals” by making Guyana proud. Apart from her work in pageantry, the young lady is also notably involved in a lot of charitable projects aimed at bolstering the fight against domestic violence and suicide prevention. She continues to use her local stardom as a platform for advocacy and awareness whenever the need and opportunity arises.
But her quest for the crown has been anything but smooth and exciting for the most parts, since the announcement of her name back in August. Some would even argue that Hussain’s problem initially started when she entered the Miss Universe Pageant after creating an upset at both the local and international Miss World Pageant, where she placed and performed splendidly. Hussain competed but surprisingly did not win, despite her stellar performance. Soyini Fraser was announced winner, much to the dissatisfaction of many.
Now the tables have turned, and it would appear that controversy is surrounding Hussain’s win. It is widely being alleged that the judges had selected Sharise Victor as the winner of this year’s pageant. Two persons associated with the Miss Guyana Universe Organisation have since resigned out of so-,called “principle” following the purported dishonesty on pageant night. The first runner up, Victor and other delegates are moving to social media and telling their tales of disenfranchisement, mistreatment, and alleged robbery at the hands of the current Pageant Franchise Holder, Jyoti Hardatt. And while their claims appear serious in nature, a group of persons with known and unknown motives locally and in the US are clearly egging and cheering them on. What has become a recurring theme, however, in the diatribe of attacks against Hardat and the Organization is the subliminally coded messages directed at Hussain. She has been accused of all manner of things, from buying the crown and collusion to rig the results, right down to ‘wuking obeah’ on food given to the contestants during the training. The young lady has also been body shamed by persons who clearly have an agenda to sabotage her quest for the international crown. She has been the victim of cyber bullying and racism, as one person actually vowed to “send her into depression if she does not return the crown”.
The truth is, not a single judge has come forward disputing the ‘announced’ results of the pageant. None of the contestants have come forward to formally contest the results by lobbying either the franchise holder directly or the international organisation for a probe. Apart from inferences contained in coded statements, none of the hosts of the event has put out a bold statement challenging the validity of the results, the departure from agreed process, or the fact that they allegedly received three sets of papers. Also, why did these well-educated girls, who have the means to access all of the finances which they claimed were expended out of their pockets on the pageant from day one, continue to compete. They appeared to have had the foresight to predict that the pageant was not going to be fair. Why not save one’s honour and reputation by opting out if one believes in justice and fairness? That aside, why haven’t any of the girls formally sued Hardat and the organisation to recover costs and benefits contained in the contract? Why the delay if the intent isn’t to sabotage, discredit, and defame Hussain’s tenure.
Social media is not the forum to make allegations and put people on trial for mismanaging a franchise. Get more serious and demonstrate class by taking formal steps to achieve wider redress. But obviously something is amiss. Someone is bitter. Someone is eyeing the Miss Universe Franchise, and in order for it to change hands, strife and confusion must reign supreme.
In the midst of all of this, Hussain’s conduct, patience and sincerity to her duties are commendable. They speak volumes of her integrity and standing as a thick-skinned modern woman in the spotlight. What is, however, grotesque and regrettable is how these contestants are allowing themselves to be used as scapegoats in a personal battle between personalities gaming for the coveted franchise. After all, the allegations about rigged pageants and dishonest franchise owners is nothing new. Ask Derrick Moore, Pamela Dillion, Odinga Lumumba and Negla Brandis how many times people have tried to challenge the results of pageants they have held and the concocted tails that they tell the media. These persons have been tried and tested. Some, particularly Brandis, have passed with flying colours. Hardat will have to ride the storm, and be prepared to defend the integrity of her pageant, the terms of the contract she entered into, and the winner announced. If not, she will crumble. The public is waiting to hear her side of the drama.
The biggest victim in this ordeal is not those making wild accusations on social media after the fact and event has ended. Heavy is the head that currently wears the crown. And Hussain will have more hurdles to cross when she registers her bid in the quest to become the new Miss Universe.