Not the finest moment for fans from Malaysia nor the Philippines.
(Courtesy of missosology.info/Star World)
When Sheena Liam from Malaysia was declared the winner of the modeling contest (the show's second cycle), displeased fans from the Philippines took to cyberspace to air their discontent and made their sentiments unequivocally known. Fans of the two Filipino finalists, Jodilly Pendre and Katarina Rodriguez, descended on the show's Facebook page to make their views heard.
The exchanges started off in a "technical" manner: how Sheena never won Best Picture in the televised episodes (or what fans of the show call FCO for First Call Out), how Jodilly had 2 FCOs and numerous "almost" FCOs, how Katarina progressed from being criticized regularly to getting 2 FCOs herself, and why the judging process deviated from how it was done by its "mother" show, America's Next Top Model. (Sheena did win one FCO, but the episode was not aired, owing to the Malaysia Airlines tragedy.)
And then racism reared its ugly head.
Accusations of bias and politicking came in, heavily aimed at the producers and judges. The predominant theme of this cycle was "Visit Malaysia Year 2014" and many of the judges were from the host country, adding fuel to the perception that Sheena was a hometown choice. (It didn't help that one of judges of the show's finale started her critique with "as a Malaysian, I'm so proud of her," referring to Sheena.)
Then came the comments comparing Sheena to a fish, shrimp, and various other animals; Filipinos saying "let's give this to them, after all this isn't a beauty contest which we always win, this is the only time they get to win anything, have you seen Sheena's face?!? Ugh!"; others have said that they hoped it was Sheena who crashed in the Malaysia Airlines incident; Sheena's fans have retaliated by calling Filipinos sourgraping losers, and calling them "mostly maids and servants," and to just accept that Filipinos can never be the modern face of Asia.
There has been wholesale labeling of both Malaysians and Filipinos as "stupid" and the issue has definitely reached the show's producers because, one by one, two of this season's judges - Nadya Hutagalung and Joey Mead King - as well as Jodilly herself, and season 1's winner Jessica Amornkuldilok have made statements on the show's Facebook page, pleading for sobriety or explaining that it was a collective decision. (Nadya has since taken down her post since she was largely perceived to be "pro-Sheena" and received many negative comments on her post.)
It's a car crash, a train wreck, and I can't look away.
It's an incisive study into how we think of ourselves and others from the same region, and a validation of my stance that despite our best efforts to hide or deny it, we are racists. I raised similar points in an article I wrote after the FIBA games last year, and many comments denounced me as being unfair, saying that I was merely representing a personal view, that most Filipinos are friendly and that I was being anti-Pinoy for stating what I did.
After seeing the race-tinged comments, I knew I was right, my points were validated, and it's not only us, it seems there is a "hierarchy" of sorts in the Asian region, and many of our neighbors have voiced their low regard for us since the Filipinos they come into contact with are domestic workers/helpers.
The sad part is, if my points were in fact validated by this recent exchange of tirades, why don't I feel victorious?