Guyana barred from participating in Miss Universe pageant

-Hardat blames hate messages over last year’s contest, gives up franchise

Jyoti Hardat

Guyana will not be allowed to participate in this year’s Miss Universe pageant, according to the most recent franchise holder Jyoti Hardat, who says the country is being barred because of the “nasty emails” and “death threats” sent to the Miss Universe Organisation in the ensuing controversy over last year’s delegate.

Update: Guyana out of Miss Universe pageant due to lack of franchise holder

After being accused of running a rigged contest in New York, in favour of the crowned Queen Rafieya Husain, Hardat said she left the Miss Universe Guyana organisation and she also indicated to the international organisation she was no longer interested in the franchise. “I left the organisation since last year. I was no longer going to foot the bill and face defamation of character. I spent so much over the years trying to build something and people keep trying to crumble it,” Hardat told Stabroek News from New York yesterday.

According to her, it was in last November when she decided to relinquish the franchise for which she had paid a significant sum because of all the hate and defamation of character she faced. She explained that the franchise has to be renewed on an annual basis and she had indicated that she was no longer interested.

In January, Hardat explained, she was told by the Miss Universe Organisation licensing director that they were not allowing Guyana to participate in the pageant this year regardless of who the franchise holder is. According to Hardat, it was because “of the way people acted, all the hate mails received.” She also claimed death threats were sent to the organisation as well as to herself and Husain.

In a later statement, she said that the organisation decided that they’ll be working with new territories this year to give other countries a chance at the crown. “This seemed fair since I knew what they and myself had gone through, with the constant harassment,” she said in the statement.

A Guyana Times report said yesterday that they were informed by a committee member that Guyana was being barred because of all the complaints the organisation received against Hardat. The former franchise holder refuted this claim and said that none of the committee members were in a capacity to make such statements.

Asked if she was aware if anyone had indicated an interest in purchasing the franchise this year, Hardat said she was unware but noted that she was the only one who spent money for the franchise and running the pageant, while the other persons on the committee were just volunteers. She noted that the company was solely owned by her. She said she spoke to the Miss Universe Organisation and was informed of the hate mail it received, which was disrespectful to the organisation. She pointed out that the organisation has over 90 countries to deal with and was not prepared to allow one country to derail its plans.

“I have been footing the bill for three years, trying to make the organisation into much more and getting it up to standard with other countries. There are people who are racist and hateful and try to tear it down… So I made a decision not to renew the franchise…,” Hardat said to this newspaper.

Some of the contestants in the preliminary leg last year had complained bitterly about the pageant on US television and on social media. Three pageant volunteers had also made allegations on social media.

Chief among the complaints, which were lodged on a newscast of the New York television station WPIX (Pix11), an affiliate of the CW Television Network, was that Husain was a finalist in the Miss Guyana Universe the previous year, which should have excluded her from contesting. Some of the contestants also claimed that they did not receive their money’s worth from the US$2,500 registration fee that they were required to pay.

Responding to this claim, Hardat, who was herself a former contestant in the Miss Universe Guyana contest in 2014 before becoming the franchise holder, had stated that Husain was never a previous Miss Universe contestant, but rather a Miss Universe Guyana contestant and was therefore still eligible.

She had also refuted claims by the contestants that they did not receive their money’s worth for the US$2,500 entry fee. At that time, she had told Stabroek News that not all participants were able to pay the entire fee; in fact, only three of the fourteen entrants paid in full, she said. She had also said that the pageant ran at a loss, while some contestants, who did not turn in monies for tickets they were required to sell, made a profit from the GoFundMe pages they set up to assist with their preparations.

“That is it, I am done. I have the people and the resources that could have made it done,” Hardat said yesterday.

“There were girls who were all bitter, they were not prepared for the stage. You would move gracefully and walk away and try harder the next year, that is what Rafieya did,” she said.

She also maintained that she had an independent auditor who verified the results of the judges. The pageant was held for the first time last year in the US and Hardat said she had received permission from the Miss Universe Organisation to do so for last year only.

Hardat lost her sister Guiatree Hardat to domestic violence when she was murdered by her 38-year-old Guyana-born ex-fiancé – a policeman – in New York in 2007.

She had said this tragedy propelled her to join the fight to spread awareness and to educate others about domestic violence.

A small business owner, Hardat had said that she has used the pageant arena to expand her reach to focus on women, particularly in Guyana, and after becoming the new National Director of Miss Universe Guyana she started to slowly mould the pageant into more of a scholarship programme.