A schoolgirl has lost her Miss World Fiji crown because she is too young to enter the global beauty pageant.
Torika Watters, 16, was last month selected by the Miss World franchise, with a judging panel that included New Zealand former model Rachel Hunter.
When she entered she was told she was eligible, despite being 16, by show promoter Andhy Blake.
But it was announced yesterday that her runner-up, Koini Vakaloloma, would instead represent Fiji at the Miss World pageant in Mongolia in four months.
According to Miss World regulation rules, delegates must be aged between 17 and 24. Miss Watters won’t turn 17 until next year.
In a statement to the Fiji Times newspaper, Miss Watters said: “Last week, Friday 4th May, Andhy Blake told me ‘Sorry, you cannot go to Mongolia. I thought that 16-year-olds could enter Miss World but I was wrong, they have to be closer to 17 … ,” she quoted Mr Blake as saying.
Miss Watters went on: “He opened his laptop and paraphrased an email from the Miss World HQ in which they had stated I was ineligible to compete on the grounds of my age.
“We then held a meeting in Bau apartments the next day at which he told me to officially inform the other girls that I would not be going.”
When asked about Miss Watters’ claim of such an email, Mr Blake said: “That’s not true.”
Miss Watters said she “was becoming very uncomfortable with the situation” citing “lies, deception, the lack of transparency and the lack of professionalism” as reasons for leaving Suva and the “entire pageant fiasco”.
“I would like to state that I have had no involvement in any of this underhand process and that I have been blind to this entire drama going on behind the scenes, I had no knowledge of any preselection or prejudging.”
Mr Blake said the decision to replace Miss Watters was made after discussions with her, her family and other contestants.
“We all agreed that Torika would go and represent Fiji to the Miss World 2013 competition in Bali when she would be better mentally prepared,” he said. “But right now Ms Vakaloloma will be Fiji’s rep to the Miss World Pageant.”
Mr Blake said he was not worried about criticism of the Fiji pageant as he was accountable only to the Miss World committee in London which he said was very happy with his work.
After Miss Watters, who is of mixed European/Fijian heritage, was crowned there were claims that she did not look “native” enough.
By Amelia Wade
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