YANGON, Myanmar – A dethroned 16-year-old beauty queen from Myanmar said Tuesday she won’t return her bejeweled $100,000 crown until pageant organizers apologize for calling her a liar and a thief.
May Myat Noe — the country’s first winner of an international beauty contest — lashed back at her accusers at a tightly packed news conference.
She said representatives of the Miss Asia Pacific World pageant lied about her age — saying she was 18 instead of 16 — and tried to pressure her into getting plastic surgery “from head to toe.”
Noe denied having breast implants as claimed by David Kim, director of media for the South Korean-based pageant. He said the surgery was provided free of charge, part of efforts to boost the teen into super-stardom.
Kim said Noe was stripped of her title last week because she was dishonest and unappreciative, and that she ran off with her tiara after learning of the decision.
Noe said she boarded a plane for Myanmar before getting word.
She said she did not intend to steal the crown, but also wasn’t going to give it back without a “sorry,” not just to her, but also to Myanmar.
“I’m not even proud of this crown,” she said after opening a blue box and placing the tiara on the table in front of her.
“I don’t want a crown from an organization with such a bad reputation.”
The pageant says the Swarovski tiara is worth more than $100,000.
Noe’s mother, who accompanied her on the trip to South Korea, cried when asked about the experience.
The Miss Asia Pacific World pageant, now in its fourth year, is no stranger to controversy.
In 2011, Wales representative Amy Willerton and several other contestants alleged that the contest had been fixed after a woman representing Venezuela was apparently named runner-up of the talent round before competing.
The argument with organizers — captured on video and uploaded to YouTube under the title “Confessions of a Beauty Queen” — was widely circulated in the pageant community.
Some of the contestants also accused officials of asking the women for sex in return for higher placement in the contest, and charged that the police called into investigate the allegations were bribed.
Those allegations were denied by Kim.
“It is not true that the girls were sleeping with the organizers or the director,” he said. “The police already announced that these were just rumours. We checked everything, the CCTV in the hotel, everything. It was just rumours.”
Myanmar, which only recently emerged from a half century of military rule and self-imposed isolation, started sending contestants to international pageants again in 2012.
Noe’s win was widely covered in local media.