- Mrs. World Sri Lanka can’t seem to catch a break
The biggest marital pageant in the world – Mrs. World – crowned its winner ‘Mrs. World 2021’ on 15 January in Las Vegas, the US, with Mrs. American World Shaylyn Ford being named this year’s winner.
Initiated in 1984, Mrs. World was the first beauty pageant of its kind for married women and has held special significance for Sri Lanka ever since incumbent Mayor of Colombo Rosy Senanayake famously won the title of the first-ever Mrs. World.
Over the years, however, beauty pageants have faced much criticism and have taken on a less significant role in popular culture. Pageants like Miss World and Mrs. World have long been contested, with some seeing them as a hangover from a far more patriarchal era, while others defend them for helping women of all ages to feel more confident and know their self-worth.
Despite the waning significance of beauty pageants in pop culture, there have been some moments of controversy that have allowed these events to surface on occasion, such as Steve Harvey’s infamous fumble at the Miss Universe pageant and Sri Lanka’s very own incident of crown snatching, which mirrored an incident in 2015 at the Miss Amazon pageant where the winner had her crown taken from her.
Following the announcement of the final winners, Mrs. Sri Lanka for Mrs. World 2021 Pushpika De Silva, who performed incredibly well overall, placing among the top six of the competition, made an announcement on her personal social media stating that she was the fourth place winner of this year’s pageant.
This announcement, which would otherwise have been wonderful news for Sri Lankans, was immediately shrouded in controversy and met with overwhelming backlash. It would appear that the Mrs. World pageant does not in fact award a fourth place winner, and only announces a winner, first runner-up and a second runner-up.
The other Mrs. World controversy
Mrs. World and Sri Lanka have seen more than their fair share of controversy over the last year.
Up until April 2021, it could be argued that for many Sri Lankans beauty pageants were barely a background blip in their periphery of cultural significance. However, the unceremonious and hilariously bizarre dethroning of the winner at the grand finale of the Mrs. Sri Lanka 2021 pageant was able to draw a significant number of otherwise uninterested eyeballs to the event.
For a quick refresher on the drama that ensued last year, at the grand finale held at the Nelum Pokuna Theatre, telecast live via Rupavahini, the previous title holder Caroline Jurie – who was the reigning Mrs. World 2020 and Mrs. Sri Lanka 2020 – rushed on stage, declared that the current winner De Silva was undeserving of the throne as she was a divorcee and thereby did not satisfy the rules of the competition, and proceeded to dethrone De Silva and place the crown upon the head of the first runner-up.
Despite this, however, it was later concluded that in line with a technicality, where her divorce was yet to be finalised, Pushpika De Silva did in fact qualify to participate in the competition.
The matter understandably became an infamous debacle – one that was reported on internationally as well, considering Jurie’s title. Jurie herself resigned from her position as the reigning Mrs. World 2020, with the runner-up taking over her duties. It was, on the whole, a rather sad day for Sri Lankans considering that the title was awarded to Sri Lanka for the first time after 35 years and, no sooner it came, it was gone prematurely engulfed in a scandal.
What’s the new story with Mrs. World 2021?
Following De Silva’s announcement that she had won fourth place, there were many opinions raised about the opposition and debunking that sprung up around it.
Leading the charge was veteran actress and former Miss Sri Lanka for Miss World 1975 Angela Seneviratne, who shared her thoughts with Brunch, asserting that what mattered here was not that De Silva did not win, nor all of the past controversies that followed her, but the simple fact that she had lied.
She shared her thoughts publicly only following Libby Crawford’s comment on De Silva’s post confirming that there was no such thing as a fourth place, with Crawford making this comment as a former authority at Mrs. World Inc., and who, according to Seneviratne, also appointed the current Sri Lankan National Director for the pageant.
Seneviratne shared that up until De Silva’s false statement, she was incredibly happy for her. “Our girl did well,” she said. “When she came into the top 15, I was almost certain she was going to win it and when they announced the top three, my heart fell as Sri Lanka was not there.”
Emphasising that “getting into the top six was an incredible achievement,” Seneviratne however noted that the issue here was that De Silva had proceeded to spread false information online. “I am against it. One should not mislead the public,” she said, adding: “It doesn’t pinch me that she is ‘fourth,’ it pinches me that she lied.”
Brunch also spoke to former Miss Sri Lanka for Miss Universe 2005 Rozanne Diasz, who shared her thoughts on the matter as well, stating that first of all, people should not be snooping into other people’s personal lives and that it was her belief that when someone represented Sri Lanka, we should respect them as they were now an extension of our country as a whole.
“Having been part of pageants, I know the challenges that are faced by the women who reach these heights. To get to the top five or six or 15 is a great achievement. With the limited resources and support that these women are given, it is no easy task; therefore, it should be greatly appreciated and we should offer our wholehearted support,” Diasz said.
When asked about De Silva’s statement on her ranking within the pageant, Diasz said: “It is just a statement. It is nothing to lose sleep over. If she believes she has come in fourth, and she would know the work she put in, it is her prerogative. I have no further comment on this.”
National Director decries controversy
On the morning of his return to Sri Lanka from Las Vegas following the conclusion of the pageant, Brunch was able to speak with Mrs. World Sri Lanka National Director Chandimal Jayasinghe, who shared his thoughts on their experience at the pageant and about the ensuing controversy.
Jayasinghe first noted that it was true that there was no official announcement of a fourth place and that the official announcement was only the top six. However, he then added that the pageant this year was somewhat different, considering the pandemic situation.
“Usually there would be around 58 to 60 contestants but this year it was only 41. There were four American contestants, and several other nationals, though representing different countries, were also those residing in America so Asian countries were at a slight disadvantage to begin with,” he said.
“Despite all the controversy that surrounded our contestant, she was very warmly welcomed and well respected. She was of course already quite well known by all, thanks to the incident, but it did not cast a shadow over her. She was a natural beauty as were many of the Asian contestants in comparison to some of the other contestants,” he added.
Jayasinghe noted that as one would expect, there was a lot of anxiety and mental trauma that De Silva had to endure in her journey to Mrs. World, asserting: “It is unfortunate that some Sri Lankans were unable to put aside their personal grudges and simply support someone who was representing their country at an international stage and doing it well.”
Addressing certain comments made by opposing parties regarding Mayor Senanayake choosing to accompany De Silva to the pageant when she hadn’t accompanied a single Sri Lankan contestant for the past 35 years, he said: “This year, as you would expect, Sri Lanka was in a precarious situation. Considering the actions that took place here under the banner of Mrs. World, it was necessary that she came with us to support us at this time. Madam Senanayake was the first-ever appointed Mrs. World. She is a significant figure of importance for the pageant and so she came along to clear the air and be a voice for Sri Lanka.”
Finally, Jayasinghe shared that if anyone remained in opposition and denied their achievement, then he challenged them to put in the time, energy, and money to achieve what they had achieved here.
“If you would like to oppose, then do it with your actions, not just your words,” he said, adding that he continued to be passionate about creating paths for Sri Lanka to shine on the international stage, harboured no ill will towards anyone, and simply hoped to keep doing better as the next opportunity comes their way.
De Silva herself was not available for comment and we were informed that she would be travelling until 24 January.
We’ve laid out some of the facts along with some opinions and people are more than able to come to their own conclusions. There is no doubt, however, that the matters surrounding this particular pageant – the mudslinging, rumours, and endless posts all over social media – are quite unpleasant. Especially when the world is watching us, should we not behave ourselves?