Miss Universe cuts ties with Indonesia chapter after alleged strip searches

Women say all 30 finalists for Miss Universe Indonesia were unexpectedly asked to strip for body checks for scars and cellulite.

The Miss Universe Indonesia pageant was held from July 29 to August 3 to choose Indonesia's representative [File: Jonathan Bachman/Reuters]

The Miss Universe Organization has cut its ties with its Indonesian franchisee and will cancel an upcoming pageant in Malaysia after contestants accused local organisers of sexual harassment.

Six contestants of a Miss Universe Indonesia pageant recently filed complaints with police, accusing local organisers of asking them to strip to their underwear for “body checks” for scars or cellulite, in a room with about two dozen people present, including men.

Five of the contestants said they were then photographed topless.

The New York-based Miss Universe Organization decided to sever ties with PT Capella Swastika Karya –  the beauty company that runs the Indonesia pageant – and the company’s National Director Poppy Capella, it said in a statement late on Saturday.

“In light of what we have learned took place at Miss Universe Indonesia it has become clear that this franchise has not lived up to our brand standards and ethics,” Miss Universe said on the social media site X, formerly known as Twitter.

It also said it will cancel this year’s Miss Universe Malaysia as the Indonesian franchisee also holds the licence for that pageant. Arrangements will be made for the Indonesia 2023 title holder to compete in the Miss Universe pageant to be held in El Salvador late this year.

The Miss Universe Indonesia pageant was held from July 29 to August 3 to choose Indonesia’s representative to the 2023 Miss Universe contest, and was won by Fabienne Nicole Groeneveld.

Capella denied her involvement in the physical examination during the contest and said she is against any kind of “violence and sexual harassment”.

“I, as the national director and as the owner of the Miss Universe Indonesia license, was not involved at all and have never known, ordered, requested or allowed anyone who played a role and participated in the Miss Universe Indonesia 2023 process to commit violence or sexual harassment through body checking,” she posted on social media.

Hengki Haryadi, the Jakarta police director for general crimes, said on Sunday that the victims were forced to remove their clothes and were then photographed in a hotel ballroom.

“These victims feel forced to take off their clothes and pose inappropriately for body checking that traumatised them,” Haryadi said.

Police are still examining surveillance cameras from the scene. Investigators will interview the victims and provide psychological assistance, he said.

The Miss Universe Organization said there are no measurements such as height, weight, or body dimensions required to join a Miss Universe pageant worldwide, and thanked the Indonesian contestants “who have bravery in speaking out”.

“To the women who came forward from the Indonesian pageant, we are sorry that this was your experience with our organization,” it said.

Source: News Agencies