Bullied as "nognog" by Tagalog-speaking Miss Universe fans, Canada's representative, Nova Stevens, a civil war survivor and racial justice activist, returned the insult with a call for respect.
Stevens posted on Instagram screen captures of fans hurling insults at her in Tagalog. She did not identify them as Filipino, adding it would be "ridiculous" to think that all Filipinos are racist.
"With all that has been going on in the world ‘Black Lives Matter,’ ‘Asians are Human’ you would think this would bring us together. Instead, looks like some people are still stuck in their ignorant and racist ideologies," she said.
The six-foot tall model said the fan insults takes out the fun from her Miss Universe experience. "No one is saying you HAVE to support all contestants, all we’re saying is that you support your delegate without bringing others down. You don’t need to dim someone’s light in order for you to shine," she said.
Who is Nova Stevens?
As a kid, Stevens was sent to Canada by her parents for a shot at a better life. The family at that time had just fled the civil war in their home country, South Sudan.
Last month, Stevens reunited with her family, now based in Ethiopia, a journey that she documented on Instagram.
Stevens strikes an imposing figure with her bald head, long legs and dark skin. Should she win and succeed South Africa's Zozibini Tunzi, it will be a back-to-back crown for black women at Miss Universe. The Philippines' representative is Rabiya Mateo, an educator from Iloilo.
"The world is evolving, people are realizing that beauty is not exclusive to one specific group of people. The definition of beauty applies to all; because beauty can be seen in different shapes, shades and sizes. Please see the beauty that is in this world. We don’t need to look the same, we just need to treat eachother the same," she said.
For the final, Stevens tapped Dubai-based Filipino maestro Michael Cinco for her gown.
"All the girls competing have worked hard for this moment and deserve to have the best experience. Cheer for your girls with love and respect for the other delegates because they too are deserving of the Miss Universe crown. Spread love not hate," she said.
When the 2016 Miss Universe was hosted in Manila, Miss Canada Siera Bearchell was bullied for not having a conventional swimsuit body. Her story of overcoming an eating disorder and advocating body diversity which she communicated with much sincerity landed her in the Top 9, easily besting fan favorites.