Japan's Mixed-Heritage Beauty Queen Is on a Mission to End Racism

Ariana Miyamoto draws upon her own experience with bigotry to open a national dialogue.

Photo via Miss Universe Japan's Facebook page.

Ever since being crowned Miss Universe Japan, Ariana Miyamoto’s legitimacy as a winner has been called into question by critics who say a “haafu”, or a mixed-race Japanese citizen, shouldn’t qualify for the award. Miyamoto, who is half black, is using the opportunity to open up a national dialogue about racism in Japan. In fact, her early experiences with racism as a child were what motivated her to join the competition in the first place—she had been bullied in school, and a mixed race friend of hers had recently committed suicide. In an interview with the AFP, Miyamoto says she wants to do for Japan what Naomi Campbell did for the modelling industry.

“I didn't feel any added pressure because the reason I took part in the pageant was my friend's death. My goal was to raise awareness of racial discrimination,” she told AFP. “Now I have a great platform to deliver that message as the first black Miss Universe Japan. It's always hard to be the first, so in that respect what Naomi Campbell did was really amazing.”