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  • Writer's pictureJuanita Ingram

Redefining Fairness: A Legal Perspective on Pageantry’s Inclusion Controversy

Updated: Mar 5

As an attorney with over two decades of experience, an author focusing on diversity, an award winning reality/unscripted Indie producer, voting member of the Television Academy Reality Peer Group, and TedX Talk speaker on topics of resilience - my journey through the realms of advocacy, law, entertainment, and pageantry offers a unique lens on the recent controversy surrounding the leaked video footage relating to one of the most notable pageant systems in the world.

*Please note that the Miss Universe Organization is not affiliated with myself or any organization I am associated with. Mrs and Miss are two totally different titles and totally different systems ; the trademarks are not owned nor governed by the same corporations.

This recent issue of performative inclusion strikes at the heart of Women's History Month and International Women's Day's call for "Inspire Inclusion," presenting a paradox in an institution that should epitomize fairness and diversity.

This year, amidst celebrations of inclusion and diversity, the Miss Universe Organization faces allegations stemming from a leaked video that challenge the integrity of its competition. Leaked video footage speaks for itself and allegedly suggests a contradiction in its public embrace of inclusivity—stating that while trans women, and those of varying marital statuses and ages, are welcome to compete, "they cannot win". This revelation, if accurate, appears to not only undermine the organization's commitments to equity but also implicates potential legal infractions. **It should be noted that these statements are being asserted to have been allegedly made in connection to the owner's reality TV show, however no further context of such statements have been provided.


"Mrs" vs "Miss" Pageant Genres

My decision to participate in Mrs. competitions was deeply influenced by the principle of seeking spaces where I am celebrated, not merely tolerated. As a married woman with nearly two decades of experience, I cherish the institution of marriage and embrace the roles of wife and mother with pride. These competitions offer a unique platform for women like me to showcase our journey, wisdom, and contributions, standing as a testament to the life we've lived and the values we uphold.

To me, the "R" in Mrs. symbolizes respect, recognition, and rejoicing in the wisdom that age brings. It's about acknowledging our accomplishments and using them to mentor, give back, and advocate for meaningful change. This stage of competition is not just about the contest; it represents a celebration of our life's journey, emphasizing the shift from receiving to giving, from personal gain to enriching our communities.

Winning the Mrs. Universe title with the World International system and becoming the first Black woman to do so was an immense honor that transcended personal achievement. It provided me with a significant platform to advocate for genuine diversity and inclusion, aligning perfectly with my lifelong commitment to these values.

The distinction between Miss and Mrs. competitions is profound. Miss contests often serve as gateways for young women to unlock opportunities, focusing on personal advancement and discovery. In contrast, Mrs. competitions are about leveraging our seasoned life experiences for giving back. I’ve never had a desire to compete with women 25 years my junior; it seems inherently unfair to compare my 46 years of wisdom, experiences, and accomplishments to a 26-year-old’s. I would hope that by now, I have achieved enough to feel fulfilled in life with no regret as I desire to mentor and inspire younger contestants, not fulfill some area of regret in my life by trying to compete with young women who could be my daughters. I have nothing to prove. While physically we may compete equally, the intellectual fortitude and insights I’ve gained over time give me an advantage that doesn’t align with the spirit of fair competition. However, this is merely my perspective and holds no sway over another woman’s choice to compete in a system that prides itself on inclusivity. And if you are going to open up the contest to all, it should be done authentically.


The Legal Landscape of Performative Inclusion

The essence of these allegations could be framed within several legal perspectives. Firstly, the notion of fraudulent inducement of contract emerges prominently (allegedly). Contestants, lured by the promise of a fair and inclusive competition, might find themselves ensnared in a situation where the foundational premises of their participation are allegedly built on deceit. This scenario posits that the organization knowingly made false representations that contestants relied upon to their detriment, encompassing expenses ranging from wardrobe and coaching to travel—often supported by a network of sponsors and national pride.

Miss Nepal was noted as voicing her opinion and concern via social media.

Moreover, the situation invites scrutiny under theories of false advertising, unfair competition, and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. These legal frameworks address the dissemination of false assurances and the failure to uphold the spirit of contractual engagements, resonating deeply with the alleged assertions at hand. Again, the video speaks for itself.

Additionally, the potential or alleged misappropriation of public or corporate funds accentuates the gravity of the controversy. Sponsors and governmental entities, operating under the belief they were supporting an ethically sound initiative, may face the harsh reality of having their investments diverted away from their intended purposes.

A Call for Authentic Inclusion - The Cloud

Beyond the legal implications, this controversy highlights the broader issue of performative inclusion within and beyond the pageantry world. My own advocacy and personal values, deeply rooted in the equitable portrayal of stories and the sanctity of marriage, underscore the importance of genuine representation and fairness. If pageant systems pledge inclusivity, they must uphold these values in practice, not just in rhetoric.

I stand in solidarity with others who have voiced their concerns about various aspects pageantry reform.

The contents and statements heard in that video could introduce a significant shadow over the achievements of pageant competitors, affecting both current participants and those from the past. It suggests that some winners might not have been chosen purely on merit, but rather to fulfill a diversity quota. In discussions with a colleague well-versed in pageantry, the concern was evident: no one desires to be seen as a token inclusion, winning or placing highly not through their own talents and efforts but as part of an agenda to project inclusivity. This situation unfairly clouds the true essence of competition and achievement. It's crucial for the integrity of the pageant system that all participants feel confident their success is earned through their own merit.


The controversy serves as a clarion call for the establishment of regulatory oversight in pageantry, ensuring that all competitors, irrespective of their background, are afforded a fair and unbiased opportunity to compete. It's a reminder that true inclusion requires more than superficial acknowledgments—it demands systemic change and unwavering commitment to equity and transparency.

In conclusion, as we navigate the complexities of inclusivity in competitive forums, let us not lose sight of the broader implications of these controversies. They are not merely about the fairness of a pageant but reflect ongoing struggles for justice, representation, and integrity in all spheres of society. As an advocate for diversity and inclusion, my hope is that this moment sparks meaningful dialogue and action toward not only reforming pageantry but also reinforcing our collective commitment to fairness and genuine inclusivity across all domains.


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