Even The Miss Universe Pageant Can’t Escape The Backlash Over Russia’s LGBT Laws

Yesterday Peter Young – the designer of the Miss California and Miss Teen California crowns and a longtime supporter of the Miss Universe Organization (MUO) – suggested that contestants who wanted to protest the anti-gay crackdown in Russia wear rainbow bikinis in Moscow. Today, Andy Cohen announced he is boycotting the entire event and will not return to host the Miss Universe Pageant (MUO) for a third time.

Cohen told E News reporter and co-host of the pageant, Giuliana Rancic, that he turned down the job, because he “feared for his safety.” On top of that he remarked that he didn’t “feel safe as a gay man stepping foot into Russia.”?(Source)

In short, the well-known and popular host of the event told the network he works for to take a long walk on a short pier. And he’s not the only one starting to raise a stink.

Silvio Nicolas Walters, the producer and director of the Miss Hispanidad International and official recruiter for The Miss Teen California pageant, wrote to me earlier today and said that he supports the idea of gay men associated with this event boycotting it.

Being a gay male myself, a pageant director, and a promoter of human equality, it is my duty to support a boycott, against Russia hosting the Miss Universe Pageant. Russia just simply does not deserve this privilege. [signed] Silvio Walters (Source: email)

Mr. Walters was very clear that the concern the MUO now faces is that they can not guarantee the safety of its LGBT staff, volunteers, contestants, and attendees when the Olympics — with all of their political muscle — can’t even get Russia to, at a minimum, do what Hitler did during the Olympics and PRETEND that all is normal. This is not normal.

Dan Savage was on Chris Hedge’s MSNBC show talking about the Russian vodka boycott. He made a brilliant point. He said that he was not comparing Russia’s treatment of gays to the way Hitler’s Germany treated Jews (and gays, and disabled, and Catholic, and ?Communist, and Socialist) in the 1940’s. No he said the better analogy is that this is the way Hitler treated the Jews in the 1930’s. BEFORE the whole world went to war. The point he was making is clear was that the last time the world stood by and let a nation demonize a minority group it plunged the world into chaos. We KNOW BETTER NOW. The time to act is when evil happens. That time is now.

I am reminded of my old Act-Up days. Silence Equals Death, and in this case that may very well be true. Even if Russia doesn’t arrest ONE person at the Miss Universe pageant. Even if they don’t harass ONE attendee, those people have already been victimized by fear of what “could” happen. And those of us who are gay and live in safety are supposed to watch the event KNOWING our brothers and sisters in Russia HAVE been victimized, HAVE been tortured, HAVE been murdered? How can we? Action Equals Life. And we must act.

While Peter Young still thinks that more can be accomplished by working within the system and Silvio Walters still supports the MUO the very real question now is: will the Miss Universe Organization support Andy Cohen, Peter Young, Silvio Walters and the hundreds of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender people who support them? If the answer is no, and this is purely my opinion, then there should be a new organization formed that does.

Move the show to Atlantic City. Move it to Paris. Move it to any country that won’t make the wearer of the crown ashamed that theirs is the one from the country that threatens to take children away from their gay parents. Or a country that considers publicly pouring urine over gay men’s heads some kind of cure? I didn’t make that up. There are images like this one that are being posted and bragged about on Russian anti-gay websites.

Russia anti-gay laws Miss Universe pageant rainbow bikinis
Image Source: The Daily Grind

And this one — as horrific as it is — is actually tame. There are videos and images that are so disturbing that at first I thought they must be faked. That this was some new sort of S&M fetish. But that is not the case. A country is going mad and we can either enable them by treating them as if they are not or we can help them by letting them know this is not acceptable. Do we need to wait for Putin to get tired of blaming the gays and move on to the Jews? Or the disabled? Or the Roma? Because that is the way this always goes.

In his email to me, Silvio Walters said:

Undoubtedly, the MUO is the most respected pageant in the world. Every year the entire world awaits with anticipation the announcement of the host country. This year I was excited to hear that Miss Universe was taking place in Russia.

But he went on to say that as Russia’s new laws became public, he began to think that Russia simply isn’t ready to host the Miss Universe Pageant. I agree. How many gays have to be beaten or killed BEFORE the world takes it seriously? How many anti-gay laws have to be passed BEFORE the MUO and the Olympics take it seriously?

The LGBTQ community needs to reach out to NBC and let the network know that if their cameras are on in Moscow we won’t be watching. We collectively may not represent enough of an audience to make much difference for the “big games” but if we refuse to watch Miss Universe be crowned in a nation of shame, that will matter.

The show already has fairly low ratings in the U.S., but it stays on because the groups that do watch have high discretionary income. Let’s not watch. ?If it’s not safe for Andy Cohen to go to the preeminent beauty contest in the world, the pageant is not living up to its principles and I have no need to participate in any way.

Don’t watch. If ?you’re involved with Miss Universe, follow Andy Cohen’s lead and don’t go.

Edited by Tiffany Willis and Jeromie Williams