When can beauty pageants turn ugly? When Middle East politics get involved.
A selfie featuring Miss Israel and Miss Lebanon smiling side by side ignited a raging debate between Israel and much of the Arab world over the weekend.
The picture, which appeared on Jan. 11 on the Instagram feed of Doron Matalon, Miss Israel, showed Miss Lebanon Saly Greige along with Miss Slovenia and Miss Japan smiling with the caption “Good morning from us!” The four contestants were together in Miami, preparing for the Miss Universe pageant Wednesday.
Miss Lebanon has since denied deliberately taking the selfie with Miss Israel. In a Facebook post posted on Saturday, Greige said she was posing for a photo with Miss Japan and Miss Slovenia when “suddenly Miss Israel jumped in, took a selfie, and put it on her social media.”
“Since the first day of my arrival to participate to Miss Universe, I was very cautious to avoid being in any photo or communication with Miss Israel (that tried several times to have a photo with me),” Greige wrote.
Responding on Sunday, Matalon took to Facebook saying that while the incident didn’t surprise her, it “still makes me sad.”
“Too bad you cannot put the hostility out of the game,” she wrote, even for the three-week competition, an event she called “an experience of a lifetime [where] we can meet girls from around the world and from neighboring countr[ies].”
This is not the first time beauty pageants have been caught up in political controversy.
Lebanon’s Daily Star newspaper reported in 1993 that another Miss Lebanon, Huda al-Turk, lost her title for being in a photograph with that year’s Miss Israel, according to The New York Times.
And according to multiple news reports, former Miss Lebanon Christina Sawaya pulled out of Miss Universe 2002 because she did not want to share the stage with Miss Israel.