Greece’s Miss Universe contestant Rafaela Plastira announced recently that she is withdrawing from the Miss Universe contest in protest against holding it in Israel, which she says occupies Palestine.
Plastira, from Trikala, central Greece, announced her withdrawal through Instagram, where she has also uploaded a photo with the Palestinian flag. “I cannot go up to this stage and pretend that nothing happens when people are fighting for their lives out there,” she said.
“It hurts me because I waited many years to make my dream come true…I love all the countries of the world, but my heart is with the people who are fighting for their lives in Israel and Palestine,” she added.
The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel welcomed her decision. Africa4Palestine, Africa’s largest pro-Palestine group, also hailed Plastira’s “heroic” stance.
“Her withdrawal is a courageous act and makes her a true hero of all who value human rights, justice and peace in the world”, the group said in a statement, urging Miss South Africa, Lalela Mswane, to follow suit.
Greece’s Plastira grateful for support for boycotting Israel pageant
Plastira took it to Instagram again on Tuesday to say how “beautiful” it is to see the love she received from her followers after she decided not to take part in the pageant, scheduled to take place in Israel in December.
“It’s so beautiful to see how much love and support and understanding I get from all of you,” she wrote.
“Palestine you are not only in my mind every day but you have the most beautiful place in my heart forever.” Plastira added that “my guardian angels are there when needed. I will always keep praying for all of you! I didn’t expect this love support.”
The Greek model said that she was disappointed in the Miss Universe pageant and that “humanity is above beauty pageants.”
“I finally see real souls with clean hearts. I feel it. I am disappointed in Miss Universe for this! It was a childhood dream for me but I really don’t care. I CARE about my people,” she said.
Her replacement, Katerina Kouvoutsaki, was swiftly announced for the pageant, but organizers last week named a new representative, citing “health reasons,” stating that runner-up Sofia Arapogianni would replace Kouvoutsaki at the event in Israel.
“As of today, the new Miss Universe Greece 2021 is Sofia Arapogianni. Our beauty queen Katerina Kouvoutsaki will not be able to represent our country, for the crown of the universe, for health reasons, which do not allow her to travel,” Star GS Hellas posted on Instagram.
Separate politics from the pageant, says reigning Miss Universe
The reigning Miss Universe, Andrea Meza, is calling for contestants to separate politics from the long-running beauty pageant ahead of the December 12 event, to be held at a resort in the city of Eilat in Israel.
Pressure has been mounting on some contestants participating in the pageant, which is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year, to drop out in solidarity with Palestinians.
“Everyone with different beliefs, with different backgrounds, with different cultures, they all come together and when you are in there, you forget about politics, about your religion,” Meza, who was crowned Miss Mexico last year, told The Associated Press ahead of a tour of Jerusalem’s Old City.
“It’s just about embracing other women.”