Last weekend’s Miss Universe pageant was embroiled in controversy amid allegations that the competition was rigged in favor of Miss USA, R’Bonney Gabriel, who ultimately won the competition.
Emily Austin, a sports commentator who served as a judge for the pageant, told Fox News Digital the accusations are “infuriating.”
“Being a judge, nobody would know more than me that it was completely not rigged,” Austin said.
The Miss Universe organization also addressed allegations that the competition was rigged in order to crown Gabriel Miss Universe.
“The false rigging allegations are absurd and distract from the incredible milestones our organization and the delegates experienced this weekend,” the organization said in a statement obtained by Fox News Digital.
Austin said Gabriel was chosen because she was “very well-spoken” and “beautiful.”
Many social media users did not agree with the choice, though. Austin said she received social media criticism that it was “clear” Miss USA won because many of the judges were American.
Gabriel’s victory at the Miss USA pageant also sparked controversy with many of the 28-year-old Houston native’s fellow contestants stating that they believed she was the beneficiary of “favoritism.” Many contestants walked off the stage after Gabriel’s win without congratulating her, breaking with beauty pageant tradition.
For her part, Gabriel denied the accusations in an October interview with E! News, telling the outlet that the pageant was “not rigged.”
“I would never enter any pageant or any competition that I know I would win,” Gabriel said. “I have a lot of integrity.”
Austin also said she has received criticism over the fact that a contestant from Russia was allowed to participate in the Miss Universe pageant.
“Where are your morals?” one social media user asked Austin.
But, as a judge for the pageant, Austin said she had no oversight into who participated, and was instructed to “take her country off of her dress.”
“We really put our biases to the side,” Austin said.
Ukraine’s contestant for Miss Universe, Viktoria Apanasenko, told The Daily Beast it was “terribly painful” to be at the pageant alongside Miss Russia. “I am more than grateful to Miss Universe for their support, but I am not sure the organizers understood what it felt like for me to be standing and smiling on the same stage with Miss Russia who was wearing a red dress, the color of blood,” Apanasenko said.
Austin also questioned where to “draw the line” in terms of which countries are allowed to participate and which are not.
“I don’t think countries like Venezuela or China are any better or worse,” she said. “Dictators are dictators so where do you draw the line of what countries participate and which don’t?”
Fox News’ Ashley Hume contributed to this report.
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