Ah, Miss Universe. Land of beauty queens advocating for world peace. Never a feminist favourite, the pageant-to-top-them-all has fallen even further from favour following co-owner Donald Trump's abhorrent comments about women, Mexicans, Muslims and just about everyone else, made since he launched his terrifyingly successful Presidential campaign. The outrage even led to Trump's business partners NBC selling their shares and halting the screening of Miss Universe on their channels.
Against this backdrop, it is poetic and heartening to see a true celebration of the beauty of diversity emerge from one of the more than 190 countries that take part annually. Evita Delmundo, a 20-year-old entrant in the Miss Universe Malaysia contest who is from Sabah in Borneo, has hit headlines (and Instagram follow buttons) with her unique looks, as her face and body are covered in moles.
In an interview about the competition, Evita told Elle Malaysia that she has always dreamed of entering Miss Universe: "I feel like it's a good way for me to showcase my uniqueness and newfound confidence, and hopefully I can also inspire others". Her 43.4k Instagram followers suggest she already has. "Some of my Instagram followers have told me that I'm their idol or that they look up to me and see me as an inspiration," she says. "Knowing that I have such a positive effect on others really keeps me going."
Although Evita embraces her unique beauty now, it wasn't always easy. "I got bullied in primary school and the other kids would call me names like 'Monster' or 'Chipsmore' [a brand of chocolate chip cookie]," she reveals to Elle Malaysia. Asked if she ever considered having the moles removed, Evita explains that she did want to, at first: "But after seeking advice from doctors, I learned that it could be a risk to my health," she says, adding that she's now grateful she didn't change anything.
Following her audition, Evita is waiting for the Miss Universe Malaysia callbacks, which Elle Malaysia report are expected to happen at the end of July 2017. "Beauty is not just what's on the outside; it's not someone with the perfect face or the perfect body," Evita says when asked for her definition of beauty. "Beauty is who you are as a person and how you love yourself. It's never about perfection". If that isn't a winning pageant answer, we don't know what is.
Text Charlotte Gush
Photography via @evita_delmundo