The organizers of Miss Universe Barbados are firing back at critics of the choice of Shannon Harris as the winner of this year’s pageant, telling them to get on with it.
A number of Barbadians have turned to social media to express their disapproval of the 21-year-old, mixed-race international model, who, although born and raised here, they complained was white and should not represent the country.
However, National Director of the Miss Universe pageant Brian Greene told Barbados TODAY the “simply absurd” comments were inappropriate, and he called on those fuelling racist discourse to stop the chatter.
“Shannon was born and bred here; she was educated at Harrison College. Shannon is 100 per cent Bajan and has every right to be wearing the crown. We opened the pageant to all shapes, sizes [and] colours. As long as you are Barbadian you could enter . . . We had an incredible top five and a fabulous top three and now an amazing queen, and we are delighted to be working with the new queen over the next few months getting her ready for the [Miss Universe] pageant,” Greene said.
While some people felt Harris’ race should disqualify her, there were many who jumped to the young woman’s defence; something that did not escape Greene.
“The reality is that [it is] a small percentage of persons who have those negative feelings. A large section of people are so proud of our new queen. So I just plead with the public to move on and stop feeding the beef.”
Miss Universe Barbados’ Media Relations and Public Relations Consultant Gaynelle Marshall echoed Greene’s sentiments, adding that Harris deserved the crown and would make Barbados proud at the international pageant in January.
She too dismissed the critics, arguing that they were in the minority.
“I think social media has responded to itself [and] whatever perceived negative comment was made was soundly trumped by the Barbadian public. Shannon is a beautiful and very smart Barbadian who is more than capable of furthering the Barbadian brand and Barbados understands this and they agree. You will never get everyone to agree with everything in life but there is absolutely no doubt we have found our Miss Universe Barbados,” Marshall told Barbados TODAY.
Veteran broadcaster Vic Fernandes, a former promoter of the pageant, was at the centre of controversy after a white Canadian, Liz Wadman, was crowned Miss Barbados Universe in 1985, leading to the popular calypso, Miss Barbados, by The Mighty Gabby.
Today, Fernandes weighed in on the matter, telling Barbados TODAY he had “no difficulty with questions of race being discussed”, but not in the “absurd, ridiculous” context of who was qualified or suitable for a particular post.
“As long as mankind is around, we will always have issues around with regard to race, ethnicity, religion and those kinds of issues. Should we be having them? Not in my opinion . . . . Having said that, issues of race, religion and so on, those things will always be with us because it speaks to the prejudices that people have and it speaks to perhaps the baggage that they have.
“It’s unfortunate. Do we criticize [surfer] Chelsea Tuach for her great performances because she is white? We celebrate her, don’t we? We celebrate Akela Jones. Do we celebrate her because she is black, or because she is an outstanding athlete? The reality is that the judges have made a decision and that is their decision. To reduce it to a discussion of race is to me absurd, ridiculous and really does not speak well to us as a people,” Fernandes added.
Along with the coveted title which she won on Saturday night, Harris walked away with $115,000 in prizes, inclusive of the $10,000 crown. She will have one week of rest before her official preparations begin for the Miss Universe show in January.