What started as a selfie with several Miss Universe contestants on a tour of South Florida has blown into a political storm across the world.
Miss Lebanon, Saly Greige, is facing backlash back home after she posed for a picture snapped by Miss Israel, Doron Matalon, according to the Beirut-based Daily Star.
Matalon posted the photo to Instagram on Jan. 11 of herself next to Greige, along with Miss Slovenia and Miss Japan. The picture shows the four smiling beauty queens in Wynwood with the caption “Good morning from us!”
But it wasn’t long before the Lebanese contestant started feeling the heat for posing with the Israeli contestant. Lebanon considers Israeli an enemy state and bans contact between the countries.
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Greige took to social media to defend herself against calls for her removal. She said Matalon jumped in and photo-bombed the three other beauty queens.
She posted Matalon’s photo to Instagram over the weekend — but cropped out the Israeli contestant.
“The truth behind the photo, since the first day of my arrival to participate to Miss Universe, I was very cautious to avoid being in any photo or communication with Miss Israel, who tried several times to take a photo of me,” Greige wrote on Instagram. “I was having a photo with Miss Japan, Miss Slovenia, suddenly Miss Israel jumped in and took a selfie, and uploaded it on her social media.”
Matalon also addressed the controversy on her Instagram account.
“It doesn’t surprise me, but it still makes me sad,” Matalon wrote on Instagram. “Too bad you cannot put the hostility out of the game, only for three weeks of an experience of a lifetime that we can meet girls from around the world and also from the neighboring country.”
Miss Israel also posted a photo with Miss France, Camille Cerf, to speak out against the recent terror attacks in Paris.
Representatives from the Miss Universe pageant, based this year in Doral, issued this statement on Monday:
“The Miss Universe contestants all live together during the three weeks leading up to the pageant. They have attended many local events around the Doral-Miami area. At an event with one of our charitable partners, Miss Universe Lebanon and Miss Universe Israel innocently ended up in an impromptu photo together, which was then posted on Instagram.
“The Miss Universe pageant has always been a celebration of different cultures, welcoming women from all around the globe. It provides an opportunity for the participants to see just how much they have in common. With 88 women from around the world coming together for the Miss Universe pageant, new friendships are forged and we hope that these relationships can make inroads for change in the future. It is unfortunate to know a photo of four smiling women from different parts of the world, working together at an event, could be misconstrued as anything other than what it is, a celebration of universal friendship, which the Miss Universe pageant is all about.”
Contestants from 88 countries are competing in the pageant, which will name Miss Universe 2014 next Sunday on a nationally televised broadcast from the arena at Florida International University.