A white girl representing South Africa was the most jarring thing for some beauty pageant watchers to witness this week.
When the blue-eyed former Miss SA Melinda Bam took to the Miss Universe stage at the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino in Las Vegas on Wednesday night, she triggered a social media buzz.
Her appearance sparked an avalanche of tweets, mostly from American viewers during the pageant, which was streamed live online at 3am local time.
@AlondraTeresa remarked: “When I saw Miss South Africa, I thought: ‘If she’s from Africa why is she white?’ #meangirlsreference.”
@omgitzvanessa wrote: (When) Miss South Africa? came on my mom was like: ‘Why is she white?’”
@Maaaaryx3 also wondered: “I cant believe Miss South Africa is a white girl.”
@xocinthia tweeted: “My dad asked why Miss South Africa is white if she’s from Africa?”
@Rachel_Keaunani commented: “Miss Universe! South Africa’s interview question should’ve been: ‘So if u’re from Africa why are u white?’”
Screamed @ThatMexipino: “Why isn’t Miss South Africa black!?”
The disbelief sparked a conspiracy theory of its own when @theROBbulanSHOW tweeted in protest: “Donald Trump hates Obama so much that he chose a white chick to represent South Africa in the recently held Miss Universe Pageant. #NoToRacism.”
@obaa_boni offered: “Miss South Africa being white isn’t surprising. Racism is rampant. Just pick an SA mag and it’s white women galore, even though SA is mostly black.”
Those who had a clue about South Africa were stunned by this uproar as @trashypope tweeted: “I can’t believe people are actually wondering why Miss South Africa is white.”
@MissY0uWish joined the debate and offered her knowledge (or lack thereof) of the country on the southernmost tip of the African continent: “Yes, Miss South Africa is white?.?.?.?blonde hair, blue eyes. Random fact: 90% of South Africans are white. Y’all are dumb.”
To make sense of the confusion, @linnyitssn stepped into the fray: “For those who think our (American) education system works, people are tweeting how miss South Africa can be white. Read a book for the love of God.”
South Africa has a sordid past in beauty pageants. During apartheid, it used to send two representatives,
one black and the other white to Miss World.
It sent only non-blacks to Miss Universe until South Africa was expelled.
In the recent past, white girls who represented the country at Miss Universe included Vanessa Carreira, who was placed third runner-up; Cindy Nell, who was the second runner-up; and Nicole Flint, who finished in the top 10.
The last South African to win Miss Universe was Margaret Gardiner in 1978.
» Miss Universe 2012 was won by Miss USA, Olivia Culpo. The first runner-up was Miss Philippines, Janine Tugonon; second runner-up was Miss Venezuela, Irene Quintero.
Bam only managed to get a spot on the top 10.
She was a crowd favourite and went into the finale at the top of the leaderboard of the influential globalbeauties.com website.